Prince Albert of Monaco will attend a ball of a charity’s Yorkshire branch - following in the footsteps of his famous parents. Suzanne McTaggart exclusively reports.
PRINCE Albert of Monaco will be the guest of honour at a glittering charity ball at Harewood House, the YEP can reveal.
The 53-year-old Prince and his fiancee Charlene Wittstock will attend the 50th anniversary ball of the Yorkshire branch of the Variety Club’s Children Charity on Sunday, September 4.
The event will be the couple’s first public engagement as husband and wife – and comes nearly 40 years after the Prince’s parents, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, attended the charity’s ball at the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds.
During a two-day visit to West Yorkshire in 1972, the Royal couple visited Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and enjoyed a civic reception at Leeds Civic Hall, joining famous friends including Cary Grant, Michael Caine and Sacha Distel at the Ball de Monaco on October 26.
At the time, the ball was billed in the YEP as the “most glamourous social occasion the city has ever seen” and also involved a fashion show by famous Paris couturier Balmain – the first time he had shown his designs in this country.
The event marked the first time Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, previously known as Hollywood film star Grace Kelly, had visited the UK as a married couple.
David Wilson, current chairman of the Yorkshire committee of the Variety Club, said: “We want to make this year a really special one that we can look back on with pride, safe in the knowledge that we have raised much needed money for so many special children that deserve all the help that we can give them.”
Prince Rainier and Princess Grace married in a lavish ceremony on April 19, 1956, which was watched by millions of people all over the world.
Their first child, Princess Caroline, was born in January 1957, with Prince Albert following in March 1958 and Princess Stephanie in February 1965.
The couple’s visit to Leeds in the 1970s was prompted by a letter from Mr Peter Stone, then chairman of the Leeds section of the Variety Club, who wrote to their Serene Highnesses asking them to attend the ball.
They politely refused – but Mr Stone then approached the Consul-General for Monaco in London, Mr I S Ivanovic, who persuaded the Royal couple to attend.
The couple arrived in Yorkshire on October 26, 1972, where they were met by a Rolls Royce at Doncaster station and chauffeur-driven to lunch at Nostell Priory.
From there, they went to Pinderfields Hospital, where Princess Grace gave out packets of sweets to more than 160 children.
The couple then went to a civic reception at Leeds Civic Hall, where they exchanged medallions with the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Ald Albert Smith, while Princess Grace accepted flowers from six-year-old Joanne MacLeod.
That evening, their Serene Highnesses attended the Ball de Monaco at the Queen’s Hotel, which cost £60 per couple and aimed to raise between £8,000 and £10,000 for the Variety Club in Yorkshire.
Guests enjoyed a meal of duck pate with Grand Marnier served with hot croissants; stuffed fillets of sole served with mushrooms and grapes in white wine and cream sauce; ice cream souffle with black cherries; petit fours, coffee and lots of champagne.
Princess Grace tragically died in a car crash in 1982 and Prince Rainier passed away in 2005, but Prince Albert is continuing the family’s association with Yorkshire’s Variety Club by attending the Golden Jubilee Ball.
Since the Yorkshire committee formed in 1961, it has raised millions to make a difference to the lives of sick, disabled and disadvantaged children throughout the region.
Over the years, the Variety Club in Yorkshire has funded several major appeals, including a large donation to build the children’s day hospital at St James’s in Leeds.
* For details about the Variety Club in Yorkshire, visit: www.varietyclub.org.uk/yorkshire