Prince Albert of Monaco has been aware of his princely responsibilities since, he says, "the age of 2." Then hinting that he may be exaggerating just a bit, he flashes a shy and engaging smile. Actually, he adds, "it's always been in the back of my mind, but I never let it bother me."
Of the three children of Prince Rainier III and the late Princess Grace, Prince Albert is the most like his mother, the late Grace Kelly. He has her fair coloring, her blue eyes, her composure, her gentleness. "I'm pretty poised," he reflects, sitting back on a velvet sofa in his suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. "It takes a lot to really get me aggravated. I'm not temperamental."
His accent is American, and often so is his choice of words. Wearing a navy blazer with the insignia of the Monaco Yacht Club and white trousers, he looks like a well-mannered yuppie and much younger than his 27 years.
"I was jogging this morning," he says, noting that no one recognized or bothered him. The attention of the media has "been worse for my sisters (Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie)," he says. "It's been awful for them. But I manage to avoid a lot of it. I was less accessible to the European press because I was away and my sisters were in Paris."
The relationship between the siblings is good, he says, even though he remembers those "occasional fights when we were growing up."
How does he feel about being one of the world's most eligible bachelors? "I guess OK. I appreciate it, but it's kinda scary."
At the moment, he does not seem very concerned about the need to marry and produce a male heir (the line of succession in Monaco passes through the male). He has been quoted as saying that his family has not put any pressure on him to marry. And he does have the example of Prince Charles, who did not take a wife until he was 32.
There doesn't appear to be one special person in his life, but he has been seen with some rather spectacular dates. More often, though, he seems to find safety in numbers; when seen at New York and Monte Carlo discos he's usually in the company of a few men and women.
At the moment of his birth, Prince Albert automatically became heir to his father, ruler of the tiny principality of Monaco on the Mediterranean. But so far His Serene Highness Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre has managed to lead a fairly normal life. While attending Monte Carlo's Lycee Albert, he remembers, "I walked to school from the palace." After finishing high school, "I took a literature course in England. And then I decided to go to the United States."
His parents agreed with his decision, "but it was basically my idea. I had always wanted to spend more time in the U.S. I looked around and settled on Amherst (a Massachusetts college.) I was looking for a smaller school. I would have been lost in a large university. The classes (at Amherst) were small, and we got individual attention." He majored in political science, lived on campus and joined a fraternity (Chi Psi) and found the whole college experience "great fun," he says.
He received his bachelor's degree in May of 1981 (both his parents attended the commencement) and then began preparing for his future occupation. In New York, he joined the prestigious Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank. In Paris, he worked in the marketing division of Moet & Chandon.
He also worked at the advertising agency of Wells, Rich, Greene Inc., where the chairman is family friend Mary Wells Lawrence. He found the advertising business "fascinating and high pressure."
"Last spring," he continues, "I was back in New York. I tried my hand at different things, and I think it's been good for me. Now I'm back in Monaco helping my father out. I'm in charge of the Red Cross and different sports programs." At the Red Cross, he explains, "I'm in charge as my mother was. She took over from my father, and it was always dear to her heart. We have one major event (the Croix Rouge Gala) on the first Friday in August, and we get tremendous response.
"I'm also in charge of the yacht club and this year organized the transatlantic Monaco to New York race. The winning ship should reach New York Sunday but, unfortunately, I won't be there. But I will be in New York on Friday, and Mayor Koch has declared it Monaco Day."
Prince Albert is also vice chairman of the Princess Grace Foundation/USA, which raises money for scholarships for talented young artists. "My mother created the Princess Grace Foundation in Monaco, but it has slightly different aims," he explains. "It runs the ballet school, and its charitable aim is to help the needy and to support local craftsmen. She had always told us that she wanted to expand it and create a foundation to help young artists. But she never got around to it, so we decided to do it. It was started three years ago on the anniversary of her death, and it's been in operation for two years."