Liechtensteiners Celebrate Throne Heir’s Wedding
VADUZ, Liechtenstein (AP) _ Liechtenstein’s heir to the throne wed his longtime sweetheart today in the biggest wedding celebration the tiny principality has ever witnessed.
Prince Alois appeared nervous as he awaited his bride, Duchess Sophie of Bavaria, who wore a long white satin dress.
Monaco’s Prince Rainier III, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and the presidents of Austria and Switzerland were among those invited to the Roman Catholic ceremony at the parish church of Vaduz.
Pope John Paul II sent a personal message with his best wishes and two rose crowns and a pendant for the happy couple.
Women in traditional costume, boy scouts and hundreds of well-wishers gathered along the garlanded streets. The center of the normally sleepy capital village was closed to traffic.
It was a typically Liechtenstein affair. Admiring but well-behaved crowds. No hype or hysteria. Official stamps and photographs were sold, but not a tacky souvenir T-shirt or mug was in sight.
″I came here because everybody’s here,″ said Bettina Walch, clutching a blonde infant in her arms and enjoying the early morning sunshine.
And indeed, the principality’s entire population of 29,000 was invited to the post-nuptial celebrations. Foreign tourists and dignitaries also flooded in to join the party, which was set to be even bigger than when the reigning prince, Hans-Adam II, married 26 years ago.
After the official ceremony, a day and night of concerts, dance, a torch- lit procession and fireworks display were scheduled.
″Who was getting married?″ asked Japanese tourist Yukiko Yoshida. ″Ah, how beautiful,″ she exclaimed when told it was the heir to the throne.
While members of Japan’s ancient Chrysanthemum throne remain aloof and glorified, and while Britain’s royal household has been dogged by marital intrigues and tabloid gossip, Liechtenstein’s royal family seems to have struck a balance between dignity and the popular touch.
Alois, 25, (Al-oy-ees) followed the example of his father, Hans-Adam, in attending local schools. When at home, he mingles unnoticed with the crowds and admits that he has sometimes been stopped at border customs posts by guards unaware of his identity.
He said in an interview with a local newspaper that, after obtaining a masters degree in law, he wanted to gain business experience abroad before assuming more royal duties from Hans-Adam, who is now 48.
Sophie, 26, is a direct descendant of Bavaria’s last king. She says her main priority after finishing studies in history and English literature is to raise a family.
The couple, who met seven years ago at a birthday party of a mutual friend, has asked well-wishers not to send personal gifts but instead make donations to a charity helping young victims of the war in former Yugoslavia.
Liechtenstein, nestling in rolling hills and sheltered by the Alps, has an unreal quality.
The capital Vaduz, with a population of less than 5,000, has no railway station or airport. Taxes are low and income is high. There is no army and little crime.
The principality emerged from an impoverished rural-based community after the World War II to become a thriving business center, aided by secretive banking laws and mailbox companies.
Hans-Adam has helped Liechtenstein break away from the domination of neighboring Switzerland and steered it into membership of both the United Nations and a huge European free trade pact.