Prince Albert in Manila, on his way to Tubbataha
HUMBLE, down-to-earth and a passionate environmentalist.
That is how His Serene Highness, Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, is described by Fortune Aleta Ledesma, Monaco’s consul general to the Philippines.
“His humility is something else,” she adds. “When he talks to you, he gives you his full attention. That’s how he respects other people.”
The prince is expected to discuss marine conservation and other environmental concerns with President Aquino when he arrives today for a nine-day official visit. He will also be visiting the Tubbataha Reefs National Park and other sites in Palawan.
Prince Albert will be arriving by private jet from Brazil, where he chaired the Monaco Blue Initiative, a forum for the protection of marine biodiversity, through the Prince Albert II Foundation, which he established in 2006 “to address our planet’s alarming environmental situation.”
For his efforts toward environmental conservation and climate change research, the prince received the United Nations Global Advocate Award last year.
This is not Prince Albert’s first visit to the Philippines, though it is his first as head of state of the Principality of Monaco.
He first came to the Philippines in 1999, representing his father, the late Prince Rainier, upon the invitation of then President Joseph Estrada.
“He enjoyed his stay here,” recalls Ledesma. “He visited Corregidor, he went to Subic where the Aetas showed him how to start a fire. He visited the International Rice Research Institute. Most of all he enjoyed his stay at Amanpulo in Palawan. He loves the Filipinos because there are many Filipinos who work in his household.”
The prince also developed a taste for Philippine mangoes and fresh mango juice, she says.
Now 58, the prince is also an avid sportsman, representing Monaco in three Winter Olympics in the bobsleigh event, and holds a black belt in judo. He is the patron of AS Monaco FC, Monaco’s football team, and is also a car enthusiast.
Older Filipinos, however, may better know him as the son of the iconic American Hollywood star Grace Kelly, whose storybook romance with Prince Rainier III made her Princess Grace after their wedding in 1956 put Monaco on the world map.
According to Ledesma, the American-educated Prince Albert was very close to his mother, who is perhaps best known for the roles she played for director Alfred Hitchcock, including classics such as “Rear Window,” “To Catch a Thief” and “Dial M for Murder.” Kelly died tragically in 1982 at the age of 52 following a car accident.
Among wealthiest royals
Slightly smaller than Forbes Park at 2.2 square kilometers, with a population of only 35,000 (the equivalent of a small barangay in the Philippines), the Principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. Only Vatican City is smaller.
About 8,000 of the inhabitants are Monegasques or natives of Monaco; the rest are French and Italian. Located in the French Riviera along the Mediterranean coast, it is only a few kilometers from France’s border with Italy.
But it is also one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with the highest gross domestic product per capita. Prince Albert himself is considered one of Europe’s wealthiest royals, with personal assets amounting to $1 billion, by some estimates.
He succeeded Prince Rainier III after the latter’s death in 2005. He married former South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in 2011. The royal couple celebrated the birth of twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella in December 2014. Prince Jacques is now the heir apparent to Monaco’s throne.
Old World charm
Relatively insulated from Europe’s current woes with terrorism and the refugee crisis, Monaco has retained much of the Old World charm that made it a favorite setting for sophisticated action and adventure films, including two of the James Bond movies set in the famous Monte Carlo Casino.
The country is also host to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, one of the premier events in world motorsports.
Prince Albert’s sister, Princess Caroline of Hanover, has also visited the Philippines, primarily for Virlanie Foundation, a French nongovernment organization working with Filipino street children, which she supports through the World Association of Children’s Friends (Amade) and other philanthropic organizations.
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