By BRIAN FRIEDMAN
Friday was a royal watcher’s bonanza, with wedding vows, an official visit — and poignant reminders of princesses past.
Monaco’s Prince Albert II took the plunge with Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock of South Africa, marrying her in a civil ceremony ahead of a religious service Saturday. His father, Prince Rainier III, wed Hollywood actress Grace Kelly in the tiny country 55 years ago.
British royal newlyweds Prince William and Kate — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — won raucous cheers from an estimated 300,000 people while touring Ottawa on Canada’s national holiday. It was their first official visit abroad after their widely watched wedding in April.
And admirers of the late Princess Diana gathered at the gates of Kensington Palace in London to leave tributes to her and share their memories on what would have been the 50th birthday of “the people’s princess.”
Kathy Martin of Australia who left a tribute at the gates said both Grace and Diana were icons who died in car accidents at a young age — Grace in 1982 and Diana in 1997.
“They’ll be remembered as princesses — beautiful, radiant princesses,” Martin said.
Diana also was on the minds of some Canadians in the crowd greeting her son, William, and his wife.
“Happy Birthday Lady Di. Canadians love you,” read one sign held up during the Canada Day celebrations.
The red-and-white-clad crowd chanted “Will and Kate” frequently during their appearance on Parliament Hill to mark Canada’s 144th birthday on the second day of the royal visit.
Kate was similarly attired in Canada’s colors, wearing a cream dress by the London designer Reiss, complete with a maple leaf brooch, and a brilliant red hat topped with a maple leaf. Queen Elizabeth II loaned the brooch to the duchess for the tour; the queen wore it in 1951 as a princess on her first visit to Canada.
William, who wore a blue suit and a red tie, thrilled the crowd as he spoke in English and French for the second day in a row and drew loud cheers when he referred to his grandmother as “the queen of Canada.”
He also reminded the crowd how Kate’s grandfather “held Canada dear to his heart” after training in the province of Alberta as a young pilot in World War II.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the royal couple as “the world’s most famous newlyweds.”
Their other stops in Canada include Quebec City and Calgary before traveling to Los Angeles on July 8.
In sun-splashed Monaco, residents of the principality cheered as Prince Albert and his new bride appeared at a palace window, waved and kissed shyly after exchanging vows in the civil ceremony.
Albert’s sisters — Princess Stephanie and Princess Caroline — were among an audience of several dozen inside the throne room, the red silk-walled hall where Grace and Rainier once took their vows. Rainier died in 2005.
Wittstock wore a silken blue jacket with ankle-length palazzo pants, an outfit press handlers said was made by fashion house Chanel, while Albert wore a sober dark suit and white tie.
Saturday’s Roman Catholic ceremony will also take place in the palace, followed by a gala dinner by famed chef Alain Ducasse. The guest list included the kings of Spain, Sweden, Lesotho and Belgium; the presidents of France, Iceland, Ireland, Lebanon, Malta, Germany and Hungary; opera singers, models and race car drivers.
Wittstock swam for South Africa at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, while Albert has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1985 and competed in five Winter Olympics as part of Monaco’s bobsled team. They met at a 2000 swimming competition in Monaco.
Albert, 53, acknowledged having fathered two children out of wedlock — a now-teenage daughter with a California woman and a son with a flight attendant of Togolese origin.
Before the wedding, the 33-year-old Wittstock said she wanted children of her own.
“I love children and have always wanted to have children of my own,” she said on BFM television, sitting next to Albert with a close-lipped, tense smile. “We’ll see in the next couple of months or years.”
Associated Press Writers Jenny Barchfield in Monaco; Rob Gillies in Ottawa, Ontario; Charmaine Noronha in Toronto, and Matt Dunham in London contributed to this story.