We were waiting at a ceremonial dinner, or perhaps a cocktail of charity, dress and hair of a princess, surrounded by billionaires or members of the elite. She came in pants, hair down at a village festival with Mass ritual speech of the mayor, cocktail, and girls who waddle reciting the compliment learned by heart. For his first official engagement, Princess Charlene chose La Turbie, a village of 3200 people just above Monaco. She came to celebrate the feast of St. Michael. Rainier and Albert have visited La Turbie often in the past, but as the prince was attending to other official duties that day, his wife offered to represent him. In La Turbie, the princess’s parents live there, and the village is not far from Roc Agel, the country home of Grimaldi’s.
A La Turbie, her attendance was supposed to remain secret. But, given the parade of people in their Sunday best, which walkers towards the church on Thursday morning, the whole village knew. While others believed otherwise. “Is Sarkozy coming? ” asked a bystander, impressed by the pomp – flags, and clusters of notable costumes – made for the occasion. The church is packed. Father Caesar Penzo, chaplain of the royal family, has also made the trip. The town welcomes Princess Charlene in the square then she dips her hand in the holy water and makes the sign of the cross. The princess, converted to Catholicism before his marriage, smiles. She sits in the front row next to her parents, Michael and Lynette. They have unobstructed views of the the ceremony.
After the Mass, there is a reception in the hall. But first, Princess Charlene asked to make a detour on foot through the narrow streets and to the local school. Children, less intimidated than adults, are waiting in yelling: “Charlene! Charlene! ” Smiling and happy she kisses each little face that passes in front of her and even starts the conversation in French: “What’s your name?” “Who’s your friend?” In the yard, she found the little Stella, one of the bridesmaids of marriage.
In the reception room decorated with balloons and flowers, there are crowds, and you have to push chairs to make room for latecomers. After the welcome by the Mayor, Princess Charlene gets up to make her first official speech. “I’ll speak French to you I am sorry if it is not so good,” she apologizes, before moving onto English: “I speak on behalf of my family, to say how we been well received here. I wish you all a happy Saint-Michel!” Then a local singer goes on stage to begin “The hymn to love,” Charlene, very comfortable, listening to the city fathers tell him the story of La Turbie and its links Monaco.
In his honor, the congregation rises for the National Anthem – as Charlene knows by heart. But when it comes around “La Marseillaise” is his father, Michael Wittstock, who sings in English, with all the power that gives it its template rugby player. He has taught children at school in Rhodesia, says he to his fellow diners, before carving out a great success by linking with “Alouette, nice Alouette.” For over a year they moved into the village in a quiet villa, Charlene’s parents were adopted. Michael and Lynette know only few words of French and Turbiasques little more than English, but it does not matter: everyone speaks their language in great actions, and everyone seems to understand. “We like it here, it’s more casual than Monaco and the people are very welcoming,” Mike slips.
Two days earlier, the local coffee shop – “my second home,” he says with a laugh – the regulars saw it land, a barbecue under the arm. The freezer of Wittstock had suffered a power failure, and it would be a shame to ruin the “boerewors”, typical sausages they had brought back from South Africa, he said. If Charlene is a vegetarian, his father remains in effect committed carnivore. Mike has installed a barbecue on the terrace of the café, and after a discussion with gestures on the best way to cut tomatoes and onions, regaled the assistance of its grilled, served with a spicy sauce of the house that estourbi taste of the natives. More lively discussion ensued about the merits of rugby and the Springboks and the team of France, and now in full Wittstock-Mania La Turbie.