FOR FANS OF ROYAL POMP, THE very private and wildly overdue wedding of Princess Stephanie of Monaco and her former bodyguard Daniel Ducruet, the father of her two children, was a bit of a bust. True, the July 1 ceremony represented for Stephanie a victory in a long clash of wills with her father, Prince Rainier. But it was a disappointment for the 400 gawkers huddled in the heat in front of Monaco’s cream-colored town hall waiting for a glimpse of the bride, who never appeared. Though the couple had slipped in the back door for the 25-minute civil ceremony, the crowd booed when they realized the party would slip out the same way. “This is an insult!” shouted one. “Who does [Ducruet] think he is, Kevin Costner?”
Instead of the traditional wave to the crowd, the new Monsieur and Madame Ducruet, wearing Cartier wedding bands, led their 30 guests, including their children, her father and siblings Princess Caroline and Prince Albert, through an adjoining garden to Clos Saint-Martin, the tangerine-colored villa where the couple have been raising their out-of-wedlock offspring, Louis, 2, and Pauline, 1.
Neither officially announced nor admitted, the simple ceremony was all Stephanie, 30, had wanted during the three years it took the former wild child to wangle her father’s permission to marry. Had she wed without it, she would, under Monegasque law, have lost her hereditary rights, meaning both her title and and her financial inheritance. In her effort to get Rainier to crack, Stephanie reportedly told him, “Daddy, I only want two things: to marry the man I love and to have you at the wedding.”
That blessing was the hard part. It was only six months ago that Rainier, 72, acknowledged Ducruet, 31, a French-born former policeman and palace bodyguard who now owns his own security company. Divorced and twice tried for physical assaults during traffic incidents in France, Ducruet is also the father of another illegitimate child, Michael, born to former girlfriend Martine Malbouvier 11 months before the arrival of Louis. As one American family friend said at the time of Louis’ birth, “The situation drives Rainier up the wall. Love may be blind, but this is stupid.”
Stephanie herself had long given her father cause for worry. She was in the car crash that killed her mother, Princess Grace, 13 years ago, and rumors persist that Stephanie was driving. Always rebellious, the princess was a model, a swimsuit designer and a pop singer before launching her own fragrance, Stephanie, in 1989—a scent that is still on the market. She ran through barely savory suitors as fast as she goes through espadrilles, among them Rob Lowe, Paul Belmondo (son of French actor Jean-Paul), Alain Delon’s son Anthony, record producer Ron Bloom, L.A. nightclub owner Mario Oliver and businessman Jean-Yves LeFur, to whom she was briefly engaged in 1990. “If I shock people,” she said five years ago, “tough luck.”
But the relationship with Ducruet, which bloomed during a trip to Portugal in 1991, when the bodyguard was photographed physically covering his subject on a chaise longue, seems to have brought Stephanie a measure of stability. “He loves me for myself,” she has said. “I am the one who counts, not what I represent.” Convincing her father of Daniel’s merits involved some hardball family politics: Following Louis’s birth, she began to decline invitations that didn’t include Ducruet, including her father’s May 1993 birthday lunch. Father and daughter reconciled the next month, but Ducruet remained “not fully accepted” by Rainier, Prince Albert explained last summer. “My father is trying to protect Stephanie and is still not comfortable with this guy’s intentions. He thinks there’s a hidden agenda somewhere.” Only after double-bypass surgery last November did Rainier give Stephanie and Ducruet permission to wed. He attended the ceremony when Stephanie’s children were baptized in April, the first time in three years that the entire Grimaldi clan was seen together. “This young man has put my daughter back on the right path,” Rainier reportedly said at the time.
Still, even on the hot, dry wedding day, the quality of mercy was somewhat strained. The Catholic Rainier apparently did not press for a church wedding because the groom was divorced. And though Rainier and Caroline toasted the couple at the private reception at Clos Saint-Martin right after the ceremony, they skipped the celebratory lobster dinner for 60 of Stephanie’s friends on a rooftop terrace at Loew’s Hotel. (Prince Albert came with a blonde date he declined to identify, who reportedly had been with him at a Rolling Stones concert in Paris the night before.) The couple danced, laughed, cut a raspberry wedding cake and released two doves from a cage. “The princess was effusive and happy all night,” said Loew’s staffer Jacques Provence. “Everyone danced with everyone, and nobody did anything outrageous—thank God.”
JOEL STRATTE-McCLURE in Monaco