Happy Birthday, Prince Albert!


He’s celebrating his 60th birthday and he’s the father of 3-year-old twins, but Monaco’s Prince Albert isn’t slowing down.

“Haven’t you heard? Sixty is the new 40!” he tells PEOPLE.

Having just returned from a family break with Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, the royal dad is quietly marking his milestone birthday on Wednesday before setting off for the U.S. and an oceanographic adventure.

He will attend a ceremony at Monaco’s Cathedral alongside his wife, Princess Charlene, and “then we’re just going to have a small party,” he says. “Family, a handful of friends.”

The royal couple have decided to postpone celebrating their separate landmarks (Princess Charlene turned 40 on January 25) and are hosting a joint “Happy 100th” celebration (60 + 40) for the public this summer.

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On Saturday, Albert will fly to Florida to attend a private charity event, and on Sunday he’ll unveil a plaque in New Orleans dedicated to his great-great grandmother, Princess Alice. From there, he’s off to join the M/S Yersin off Colombia for a Monaco Explorations sail to the Galapagos Islands.

Prince Albert’s mother, Grace Kelly, wasn’t the first American woman to marry into Monaco’s royal family. That unique distinction belongs to Princess Alice.

Alice Marie Heine was an unconventional and controversial royal figure. She was born in New Orleans to a wealthy Jewish German-French family in 1857, and after the Civil War, her family returned to France. At age 18, she married the 7th Duc de Richelieu, had two children and was widowed by age 22.

42nd International Circus Festival In Monte-Carlo : Day Four
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A decade later, the young Duchess of Richelieu encountered soon-to-be divorced Prince Albert I on the island of Madiera.

“If the view of Madeira moves me so,” Albert I wrote after, “it is because it was there that my destiny was forever changed . . .There in 1879, I met Alice, Duchess of Richelieu, and soon thereafter we began the affectionate courtship that led to our marriage.” The couple’s union was opposed by Albert’s father, forcing them to wait a decade to marry.

Upon Charles III’s death, they wed in 1889. Once settled in Monaco, she and Albert I had a cantankerous relationship.

While Albert I, “the explorer-prince” continued his ocean explorations, absenting himself from Monaco for months at end, Princess Alice – with her husband’s consent — made use of the principality’s casino-driven economy. Believing Monaco could be a center for the arts, she threw financial large support to the new Opera House, its ballet and theater.

After a prolonged affair, amid great public embarassment, the couple separated in 1902. They never divorced, however, and after Albert’s I’s death she served as Monaco’s dowager princess until her own 1925 death. She is buried in Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery.