Newlyweds Prince Albert and Princess Charlene (photo) of Monaco sealed their wedding in a civil ceremony Friday with a kiss on the balcony of the royal palace. Albert, 53, and his 33-year-old South African bride officially tied the knot in the throne room of the palace, a day ahead of a religious ceremony to be attended by some 3,500 guests. Wittstock, 33, wearing a sky-blue outfit, was the first to say “Yes” when asked by the president of the Council of State, Philippe Narmino, who was officiating, whether she consented. At the end of the 20-minute ceremony the couple shared a brief kiss, which they repeated later to the cheers of thousands of Monegasques, who had been invited to watch the proceedings in the palace courtyard. About 90 dignitaries, including Albert’s sisters Princesses Caroline and Stephanie and the ambassadors of France and South Africa, packed the throne room for the first royal wedding in Monaco since Prince Rainier III married Hollywood star Grace Kelly in 1956. … On his first day as Pentagon chief, Leon Panetta said his top priorities are preserving U.S. military power despite budget cuts, defeating al-Qaida, stabilizing Afghanistan and forging a “real and lasting partnership” with Iraq.
Panetta huddled Friday with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after taking the oath as the nation’s 23rd secretary of defense, signaling that he intends to follow the example of his predecessor, Robert Gates, in building ties with the military brass. He said he would, like Gates, put a premium on advocating for the needs of troops and their families. “Rest assured that … I will fight for you,” he said in a Fourth of July video message to U.S. troops worldwide.