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Peter Mikelbank
November 02, 2017 11:41 AM

Prince Albert is explaining that mustache.

It’s been two months since the royal dad debuted the distinctive facial hair alongside his wife, Princess Charlene, and their nearly 3-year-old twins at Monaco’s annual end of summer picnic  — and if you haven’t seen it, he tells PEOPLE exclusively, “you only have a few more weeks to form an opinion.”

While his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all sported a variety of facial hair combinations in decades past, Prince Albert, 60, has never publicly done so. So why now?

Stroking his upper lip, he explains, “this year is the bicentennial of the carabiniers, the palace guard.”

The principality’s guard force has long been well-groomed and distinctively dressed with plumed helmets, dark summer tunics and all-white winter uniforms.

Prince Albert, Princess Charlene and Leonardo DiCaprio on Sept. 28 in Monaco.
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“Between the Napoleonic period and almost until the end of World War I, it was mandatory in most French regiments to wear a moustache as a sign of authority,” says Albert, who showed off the look at the 2017 Princess Grace Awards gala kick-off event in Los Angeles last week. “It showed authority or bravery.”

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To celebrate their 200th anniversary, the carabineri  — all trained military recruited from the French military — have chosen to pay tribute to their forefathers by growing moustaches. The idea struck a chord of camaraderie with Albert, who did his own military service in the French Navy.

“As their honorary colonel I said, ‘If you’re sure you’re all going to it, I’ll do the same!’ ”

“We’re almost at 95% moustaches now among the carabinier corps or will be by [Monaco’s] National Day [on November 19]. So you’ll see alot of ‘staches on parade in front of the palace.”

How does his wife feel about his patriotic look?

“It’s not a hugely popular venture.”

Prince Albert, Princess Charlene, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques at the annual picnic in Monaco on September 1.
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As for his children, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques, “They kind of looked at me in a strange way when they saw it starting to appear. They still gave me a kiss though, and now they tend to think it’s a little funny.”

With that sort of lackluster approval, the stache’s days are clearly numbered.

“November 20,” he says with an impatient nod. “The carabineri have almost talked me into saving it until the last official event, a gala dinner on December 8th. But I don’t think I can wait that long.”

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