Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco are stateside for the first time as a married couple. The other royal couple was in New York City this week to attend 29th annual Princess Grace Awards, in honor of Albert's late mother, screen starlet Grace Kelly.
While they were in town, the Prince and Princess stopped by NBC studios for a congenial shakedown from Matt Lauer, who hasn't forgotten the persistent rumors that Charlene Wittstock tried to flee Monaco days before her wedding.
Charlene married the notorious playboy in a civil ceremony on July 2, followed by a lavish reception the next day. The wedding weekend was plagued with skepticism about the marriage, with some believing that the 53-year-old Albert was under pressure to produce an heir to the throne with his 33-year-old girlfriend of five years.
On Today, Matt Lauer dug right in to the touchy subjects.
Much has been made of the fact that you were a little older when you got married, Lauer said. My age, so I don't want to make it sound too old...It may be awkward to ask this with your bride next to you but why this time, why now, why this person?
I guess it's just a question of timing and feeling that it's right and...the heartfelt thing to do, Prince Albert replied.
Did you feel the pressure though from within the palace and from the people of Monaco to settle down? Lauer asked.
A little bit, a little bit from the family, but mostly outside the family, was the Prince's reply.
Lauer then turned his attention to Charlene, addressing the former Olympic swimmer's feelings about having her personal life thrust into the spotlight.
You have married into the Grimaldi's....was there any way you could prepare yourself for the level of attention that surrounded you, especially in the days prior to the wedding?
I think I kind of went into Olympic mode...I was in the zone, Charlene said. And I don't think anything was affecting me at that time. Obviously there were a lot of things going on at the time...I just ignored it and really focused on what that day meant to the two of us.
Lauer was not interested in ignoring anything.
Did you hear the rumors? he asked. People were saying you were reluctant...There's always jitters. Every bride and every groom has jitters.
But people were saying you were particularly reluctant about getting married. Set the record straight for me.
Why would we go through all this effort to have this fantastic...couple of days, and have our most intimate, dearest friends for us to be reluctant?, Charlene offered, along with a fake-sounding laugh.
So there was no runaway bride? Lauer asked.
No, no...not at all, Charlene said, while looking at her husband.
Days before the other royal wedding, Charlene had reportedly tried to board a flight to South Africa, but was intercepted at the airport. Some reports claimed that her passport had been confiscated on the orders of her groom-to-be. (Click here for the full story.)
Lauer pressed on.
There were details involved that were unusual, for rumors.
I think they were part jealousy, part people that were envious, Albert said. They did not like the fact that we were finally together, he added, without specifying exactly who they were.
It was also a wonderful opportunity to write on something with a negative spin, Charlene said, because people would buy the magazines or listen to all the negativity.
Lauer moved along to the wedding day itself. (Actually it was the day after their wedding day --- a church wedding followed a civil ceremony.
On the day of your wedding, much was made of your expressions, Lauer said, alongside clips of an indeed somber looking bride and groom at the altar. Some people said you were more serious than a bride and groom in bliss should be. Was there pressure?
Were you feeling the weight of all those stories on that day, and if so, how do you get that day back-that's unfair.
That is unfair, Albert said. Turning to Charlene, he added, I thought I paid attention to you and smiled at you many times...but maybe that's not enough for some people.
Is it enough for you? Do you believe the Charlene wanted to go through with the marriage?
Watch the full interview here: