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Monaco, Mon Amour

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SHE WENT TO NICE TO POLISH HER French and ended up having a leçon de coeur, royal style. It’s way too soon for Grace Kelly fantasies, but suffice it to say that Tallahassee, Fla., native Helen Willis enjoyed a swell July with Monaco’s heir apparent, Prince Albert. Willis, 19, a junior and a dance major at Manhattan’s Marymount College, met the Prince, 33, at a disco in Monaco and the two hit it off immediately. Next came a private dinner, then a day in the sun on his speedboat, the Mozambo, with friends. The 5’10” Willis was Albert’s date to Texas socialite Lynn Wyatt’s Riviera birthday bash, oozing her southern charm midst the likes of Roger Moore, Andrew Lloyd Webber and photographer Helmut Newton. Her parents, Lee Willis II, a lawyer, and Katharine, quickly got the news that Albert is a prince of a guy. “She said he’s been just perfect,” says Katharine. “She said, ‘He reminds me of Daddy’—not his age but his manners. She says he’s so polite.”

Willis, one of seven Marymount students on a summer study program, grew up in Tallahassee. She attended private school from kindergarten through eighth grade and was a cheerleader for a time in middle school but gave it up to focus on dance. She has taken lessons since she was 3. “She’s really well rounded,” says her mother. “She’s a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor.”

One insider cautions against taking the fling too seriously, pointing out that Albert dates around. (Past flames include Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah and American actress Lydia Cornell.) Last week he made a trip to the U.S., and Helen, whose studies abroad ended the week before last, was headed to Spain to visit another college chum before returning to school in mid-September. But as an only daughter (she has an 18-year-old brother, Lee), she was always called Princess by her father. And as Helen told her mom, “Albert is charming.”