8 AUGUST 2005

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Monaco's new sovereign, Prince Albert, made his debut as the official host of the glittering Red Cross Ball in Monte Carlo this weekend, ably assisted by his two sisters, the Princesses Caroline and Stephanie.

Although the trio regularly accompanied their father, Prince Rainier, to the Ball, this year's edition was the first since the death of the prince, who had ruled the principality for more than 50 years, in March.

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One of Monaco's main social and charity events, the Red Cross Ball has frequently been an indicator for royal watchers of relations within the Grimaldi family, with the absence of one of the three siblings often being taken to signify a temporary rift in relations. This year, though, Albert, Stephanie and Caroline united to continue their father's charity effort.

All three opted for white-based eveningwear, in contrast with the dark mourning of recent months. Stephanie was in a floaty, flower-printed frock accessorised with large diamond drop earrings, while Caroline opted for a figure-hugging creation with small black bows at the shoulder, and Albert sported an elegant white dinner jacket.

Guests at the coveted event pay around 1,000 euros per ticket and are treated to lavish entertainment including a gourmet dinner and a spectacular firework display - at Monte Carlo's chic Sporting Club. This year the stage entertainment was headed up by US singer Anastacia, who performed her set in jeans and a ruffly top but changed into a multi-coloured evening gown to mingle with the royals.

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Prince Albert flanked by his sister Princess Stephanie, in white, and US singer Anastacia, who performed at the high-profile fundraiser
Photo: AFP
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Elegant in a figure-hugging Chanel creation, Princess Caroline was accompanied by her husband, Prince Ernst of Hanover
Photo: AFP