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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Prince Albert II

Aired October 26, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, the son of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier in his first primetime interview since ascending to his late father's throne. Prince Albert of Monaco for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're in New York tonight with Prince Albert, His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco. He is here for the Princess Grace Foundation, the 2005 awards gala. I will be honored tonight.

The reason we were taping today for broadcast tonight is I'm honored to be the emcee this evening. Mikhail Baryshnikov will be the inaugural recipient of the Prince Rainier Award for his outstanding contributions to the arts. What is -- explain this foundation, good to see you again.


You know my mother during her lifetime was unable to set up a foundation for the arts. She always had that idea and did help the arts in many other ways but never was able to set up her own foundation, so we did it in her name after her passing.

And, we've been able to help over these 23 plus years pretty close to 300 young kids in theater, dance and film, giving scholarships, apprenticeships, fellowships in all these fields.

In recent years we've also recognized playwrights and set designers. And, as you know, a great example of someone that we've helped and who has been very successful was Tony Kushner, the celebrated playwright.

KING: Angels in America.

ALBERT: Exactly. So, I'm extremely proud of how the foundation has developed over the years and we're very happy to present this inaugural award in memory of my late father to Misha Baryshnikov.

KING: No a bad choice.

ALBERT: No, he's great and my mother loved dancing and -- and was very -- and admired Misha very much and he's been an incredible performer.

KING: I'm honored to be the emcee. I was even honored to be asked to make one of the recommendations as to who should get this. The committee asked me for my thought and I said Baryshnikov right away. Was your father very involved?

ALBERT: Yes, you know, he didn't come every year to the foundation's awards night but he followed very, very closely and gave his input on a very regular basis.

KING: And the awards are financial grants to young artists in all these fields?

ALBERT: Yes. There's a -- we have obviously an advisory board who picks and who goes through and makes a selection of the most deserving kids with the best projects or how the foundation can best help these most deserving kids and they're all very, very talented and we're all very proud of them.

KING: You ascended to the throne in July.


KING: And then there's another event on the 19th. Give me the differences.

ALBERT: Well the...

KING: Are you now, you are now the head the state, right?

ALBERT: Well, yes. As soon as my father passed away I became the next head of state, so there was obviously a ceremony in July because I didn't want to -- I didn't think it was right to wait for a longer period of time.

We did it coming out of the mourning period but I thought that it would be too heavy to do all these ceremonies that would take probably three, four days, so we did the most, a simplified version of an accession ceremony with the Monegasque people and to give some sort of entertainment and to have everybody at the same place at the same time.

KING: And what happens on the 19th, my birthday by the way, what happens on the 19th?

ALBERT: Well, happy birthday in advance. The 19th will also be National Day. That was the date that was picked by my father years ago and it's been the National Day for 55 years, so I didn't see myself changing that. But there will be -- it's an enthronement ceremony so there are different ceremonies on different days and a lot of award ceremonies, medal ceremonies too.

But it also happens to be -- and there's a military parade. I'm sorry, I was almost going to forget that and that evening on the 19th is the reopening of the Monaco Opera House and so we have a...

KING: Has it been reconstructed?

ALBERT: It's been not completely reconstructed. It's been -- we have to do all the backstage over again because it was -- they were very -- our opera house is 125 years old, so we had to redo a lot of the -- a lot of the facilities and sort of reconstruct all the decor inside and the upholstery and all that.

KING: Your Highness is it a coronation? Is it called a coronation?

ALBERT: I didn't want to -- you can call it a coronation but there's no actual...

KING: You're not a king?

ALBERT: There's no actual crown, no, so it's not -- so that's why there's a marked difference between it.

KING: Why aren't you a king?

ALBERT: Because the title of prince was recognized and given to us by the king of France and so, you know, to make a difference between it we're not the same territory and not the same size as France even in those days. Therefore, it was -- it was mutually accepted by the then lord of Monaco that the title of prince was accepted.

KING: You're no longer a part of France in any way though right?

ALBERT: No. A lot of people do make that mistake that well because of our very special relationship with France and it's a very good, friendly and cooperative relationship but it's not -- we are not France. We're an independent sovereign country and that's very important to Monaco.

KING: Like France were you opposed to the war in Iraq?

ALBERT: Well, we had to, you know, follow -- it's very -- diplomacy works in very strange ways that obviously we took an attitude that was -- that would be acceptable by our neighbors and by also our friendly ties with the United States.

KING: So you were pro?

ALBERT: Well, I think we were pretty much in the middle. We understand the reasons for the war but, you know, we couldn't participate in any way in the effort for the war.

KING: Our guest is His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. When we come back we'll talk about the death of his father and other affairs of state. He is here for the Princess Grace Foundation, the 2005 awards taking place tonight in New York. We'll be right back.


KING: Prince Albert is our special guest. He was last with us in November of 2004. Your father was ill at that time. He passed away in April of 2005. Tell me about the last days.

ALBERT: Larry, it was obviously a very, very moving time and very, very tense and sad time for all of us. We tried to be close to our father in every way possible and tried to help out and we were still hoping that he would come out of it up to the very last moment.

KING: What was the cause?

ALBERT: Well, you know, it was -- it was pretty much what the medical bulletins said every day. It was an acute respiratory difficulty and unfortunately they were able to maintain him stable for a long, long time but then he just got exhausted.

KING: Was he conscious?

ALBERT: He was -- that's a very -- and this was I think a very difficult point to have come across that he -- he was maintained in an artificial sleep but he would respond at least for a very long period of time for many days. He would respond to touch and to -- and could feel the presence in the room but he looked as though he was asleep and he was maintained in an artificial sleep.

KING: The whole family there at death?

ALBERT: Yes, we were all -- we were all united around his...

KING: Having never been present at something like that and I think it doesn't matter whether you're a prince or a king or bus driver what's it like?

ALBERT: You know it's -- it's a very, very moving and very emotional experience and I think it's the same for everyone who has lost a parent who was not well.

KING: Did you know it without them having to tell you?

ALBERT: we sort of knew in the last few hours that unfortunately the outcome might not be the one we had hoped for.

KING: Now unlike the bus driver you are now, it's a total different role for you and even though you know it's coming and it's eventually going to happen what was it like when it happened? You are now head of state.

ALBERT: Yes. You know I tried to concentrate more. Yes, I knew it was coming but it's not that I changed overnight, you know. I tried to stay focused and to concentrate on keeping everyone in the family well and making sure that everyone was -- my duties were first to my family and then to whatever official duties I had. And in the first few days obviously they were -- there were a lot of things that were coming my way.

KING: That you were responsible for right?

ALBERT: Yes but hopefully, but thank God I had a lot of very good people around me that could help.

KING: But also you're automatically treated differently aren't you?

ALBERT: Yes but I don't know it didn't really... KING: Set in?

ALBERT: It didn't, yes, it didn't really, you know, and I still sometimes when I'm referred to as the head of state or as the sovereign prince I still sort of look around, you know. It's very -- it's very, very strange but, you know, I've accepted it and I try to make it work in the best way possible.

KING: You know you have a great friend here in the form of Secretary Lehman (ph).


KING: Who was on this program when your father passed, discussed what it was like and their friendship. How did their friendship begin?

ALBERT: Well, you know, we have family ties with John Lehman because he's on the other side of...

KING: Grace side.

ALBERT: Yes. His grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister. So, it happened very naturally I would say. He would -- he studied partly in Europe and so he would come over and visit us very regularly. And so, and obviously we'd see him over here too but he was always wonderful, not only in family circles but he would give very -- he's always been a very good advisor.

KING: Smart guy.

ALBERT: Whenever I had a question I knew who to turn to.

KING: What was the funeral like?

ALBERT: You know that's also very -- you'd like something like that to be a lot more intimate and to be able to share it with your family and loved ones and friends and it was -- but obviously to do it in a meaningful way a lot of people wanted to be a part of it and it had to have mixed sort of a family -- a family affair with the...

KING: State involvement.

ALBERT: ...decorum that was suitable for a man of his stature.

KING: He was a very loved and liked figure. You always liked seeing him. Why do you think that was? What was his -- what were those qualities?

ALBERT: You know, he was a very generous man in many ways. He came off as being sort of to some people as being cold or standoffish but I think it was more shyness than anything else.

KING: He was shy?

ALBERT: Yes. A lot of people are surprised by that but he was shy and expressed it in a different way but he was very sensitive to what other people -- how people would react to him or how they would approach him but deep down he had wonderful human qualities.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll talk about other things dealing with His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with a good guy Prince Albert II of Monaco, His Serene Highness. During the course of all this one would think you're coming into your own, the death of a parent. You're about to ascend, you do ascend to the throne in the midst of all the mourning period.

The former flight attendant Nicole Cost (ph) announces in a cover story in (INAUDIBLE) Match in early May that she had had a 22-month- old son by you. The name is Alexander. How did you react when that broke?

ALBERT: Well, obviously, Larry, when an event like this that is strictly in the private realm and it concerns your private life when that is made public it's sort of a shock and you do feel betrayed in many ways and...

KING: Did you feel it was coming?

ALBERT: I felt as though it would come out at some point.

KING: Is there nothing private about a head of state?

ALBERT: You know it's very funny. A lot of people asked me, even you know people that know me quite well said is it possible to have a private life? It is but you have to be so careful in how you carry out your private life, where you do it and who you see and when, you know, because it's -- and sometimes and it certainly has happened at different periods of my life where I, you know, I would forget to be careful or cautious, you know.

But sometimes you know you want to live a relatively normal life and so you try to go about your -- and to try to pursue your interests or to go on holiday wherever you like to but then it catches up to you at some points.

KING: Were you supporting the boy?

ALBERT: You know and I've always said this, he will be very well taken care of.

KING: You didn't know about him up to then?

ALBERT: I did know about him but that also happened in a very kind of strange way but he will have everything he needs and I will see him as often as possible but, you know, and anything else is just my concern or concerns my private life.

KING: Was this blackmail of any sort? Did she say to you unless you do something with this financially I'm going to go to the press?

ALBERT: I had already taken care and pledged support and had already started supporting but I think the lure of recognition and of, you know, being in the public eye was a great -- was very appealing to her.

KING: Does he ascend to the throne?

ALBERT: No, he's not because the law says that it's a direct descendant of a legitimate union, so a marriage, so whatever siblings come out of that marriage will be in line for the throne.

KING: All right, so he's an heir to the money. I mean he has money coming to him. What happens if you never marry?

ALBERT: I haven't envisaged that concept.

KING: If God forbid something happened to you is he prince?

ALBERT: Well, then we will have to -- we will have to review this.

KING: But you're going to get close to him, I mean you want to be close to him?

ALBERT: I've already seen him and I will see him when the time is right and when I've been able to work out ways to see him in a private way.

KING: He's how old now two and a half?


KING: I'm told in another interview it is suspected that you might have other children. Did you say that?

ALBERT: I didn't really say that.

KING: Let's clear it up.

ALBERT: It came out in a very -- in a wrong way and I don't anticipate, I don't think and I don't know of any other case. I know that I've read the papers like everybody else and a lot of people can make claims and it's easy to make claims now that this story is out.

KING: Well, because you're single and you're 47 there were always these rumors about being gay. I guess you, of course, heard that.


KING: Did those allegations now go away? This seemed to completely contradict that and changed your image.

ALBERT: Yes, but I never thought I'd have to go through this to wipe those things out and I've addressed these. I don't know why no one has ever picked up on it because in different interviews over several years I have completely dismissed these allegations. I don't know why they keep coming.

KING: Friends have told me that you've always dated.

ALBERT: Yes. I kissed my first girl when I was 13.

KING: Do you want to marry?

ALBERT: I would like to at least have a relationship and hopefully that will develop into something lasting and meaningful.

KING: Do your subjects want you to marry?

ALBERT: You know there's been different pressures from different people, not necessarily -- and not from my family.

KING: Some of the people of Monaco.

ALBERT: Yes and they've expressed it at different times but they've -- they haven't done that in a while so but I'm sure that they -- if you asked them ...

KING: They want you to. Do you think it's going to be hard because of your position to get a relationship? Your father got a relationship when he was prince with one of the most famous women in the world. Do you think it will be hard for you?

ALBERT: It will be hard and it will be hard to have privacy or intimacy but hard doesn't mean impossible.

KING: How do you deal with lack of privacy emotionally? You're a very outwardly well contained person it would seem all the times I've been with you. I would say you're well within yourself. How is it like inside?

ALBERT: Thank you. I go through different motions and emotions like everybody else does and I think I'm a -- I can be a very emotional and I know I'm a very sensitive person so obviously I'm affected by a lot of situations in life but, you know, I've learned as other people with the same sensitivity I'm sure do. You deal with things and you learn to deal with things.

KING: Your family rally around you?

ALBERT: Yes, they've been very supportive.

KING: We'll be right back with Prince Albert. He's here for an auspicious occasion, the Princess Grace Foundation 2005 awards taking place tonight in New York. I'm honored to be the emcee. We taped this earlier today for broadcast tonight.

It's his first primetime interview since ascending to the throne and Mikhail Baryshnikov will be honored as the inaugural recipient of the Prince Rainier award for outstanding contributions to the arts; more on lots of things after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with His Serene Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco. Do you enjoy pomp and circumstance, like do you look forward to the 19th of November?

ALBERT: I don't know how I'm going to answer this. I don't look forward to a lot of it, but I think the most meaningful parts will be well -- I know they're well-planned and that they will be well- received by everyone. But I'm not usually very -- I understand, and there should be some decorum and symbolic ceremonies, but having to go through them and plan them and articulate them is a very tiring and hard process.

KING: As a child, did you have a stuttering problem?

ALBERT: You know, yes.

KING: Sometimes in your speech ...

ALBERT: Yes, I have been asked that, yes. Well, because I always try to look for the best possible word and sometimes it doesn't always come. But yes, I did have a bit of a problem as a kid. And I don't know how it came about, what emotional trauma.

KING: You're not uncomfortable in a public situation, are you? Speech, let's say you have to make a speech.

ALBERT: You know, I've also learned to deal with that. It wasn't easy at first. I did my first speech when I was 17, well, my first formal speech. So I've had time to deal with it, and to adjust to it, but I can't say I'm like gung-ho on public speaking or interviews for that matter.

KING: You're doing quite well. Did your father set a good example for you on running things?

ALBERT: You know, he gave me great advice, and he was very -- and I thank him a lot for involving me with the administration of Monaco and with some very sensitive issues, and associating me with his decision process. And so nothing is in sight, so the position has come surprise to me. These were all issues that I either knew about or knew how to deal with or knew who to go to, to help me deal with them.

KING: All right. You have pledged to end Monaco's image as being financially and ethically lax. First, what do you mean by ethically lax?

ALBERT: You know, I think ethics can cover a range of different things, but I think we have to go back to -- we have to deal with this image of Monaco as not a transparent place in which to do business. And ethics have a lot to do with this on the way we or the government of Monaco, conducts business and how we allow people to -- especially in the financial sector, that's been under a lot of scrutiny, these past few years, and that we will not tolerate any wrongdoings. Both in money laundering or any other illegal financial transaction.

KING: The image was that you could get away with things by going through a Monaco bank or ...

ALBERT: It was grossly exaggerated. There were several reports that came out, especially about five years ago, that did a lot of finger pointing at the fact that we would -- that we had not been very strict on all of these issues, and so it wasn't completely true but, you know, there was certain elements that, unfortunately, were, and so I want to totally wipe out this image that Monaco equals a lax behavior.

KING: How much clout do you have? Is it a democratic society?

ALBERT: We ensure that the Democratic process is respected.

KING: Can you say -- can you issue edicts?


KING: Can you change with a stamp this financial laxity?

ALBERT: We've already -- we have -- the text are already in place, and we have, and we have had, but it wasn't running in a proper way, but we already have a service in the government that keeps track of financial -- you know, opaque financial transactions.

KING: Would you say, your highness, that you're going to be hands-on?

ALBERT: Yes. I'm not -- but being hands-on doesn't also mean or doesn't necessarily mean a control freak. And I want to be able to rely on good people, and on valuable people that will help me implement these things.

KING: In an interview with Laman (ph), you said that the old palace system was, quote, "very heavy," that your father was overly protected by advisers because they knew he didn't like meeting people, and they feared his temper. It's been reported that one of the first steps you took was to ask for the resignation of all palace counselors. True?

ALBERT: Yes, but I think that's true for any entity.

KING: The new president asks the cabinet to resign.

ALBERT: Yes, so that I don't think I was too much off the mark there, but I thought it was the right thing, or the right attitude to have, to ask whoever was in place to submit a resignation. Obviously, I haven't accepted everybody's resignation, but I want to be able to put in place the people I feel are up to that position.

KING: Did your father have a bad temper?

ALBERT: He could have a bad temper at times. And it would flare up very quickly, but then it would come down almost equally as quickly.

KING: Did his close advisers cause them to be shy about giving him bad news?

ALBERT: Not only advisers but also family.

KING: Yes. We'll be right back with his is he serene highness, Prince Albert of Monaco. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with His Serene Highness, Price Albert of Monaco. Did your father discuss the throne with you?

ALBERT: You know, he gave me advice, and you know -- said yes, you should always keep this in mind or keep that in mind, and don't -- but people push you around or try to invade your, obviously, invade your privacy but that take too much of your time on this issue or this issue. But, he never said -- you know, you will have this, or this is ...

KING: Someday it's yours.

ALBERT: Someday it's yours. He never really said that.

KING: In a profile in the National Post suggests that you had a zeal for reform. That you muzzle any old American culture and outlook. You went to school in the United States, worked on Wall Street, that you really want to change the way things work. Is that true?

ALBERT: You know, I'm not going to implement reforms just for the sake of reforms. But those aspects of -- or the domains where Monaco is lacking a certain stability or certain structure, obviously, I will look at, and I will try to improve things. You always have to try to see things in any position of leadership.

KING: We discussed it in the past, you are very pro-environment, right?


KING: With global warming seemingly around us, weather changing, hurricanes -- does this further enhance your thoughts?

ALBERT: Absolutely. I mean it only confirms that these -- that the concerns that I also shared with my father are paramount now. And we have to act or we have to try to propose different ways of slightly changing our lifestyles, so as not to make human impact on the environment a irreversible -- and some people say it is, but I think there's still time -- if we make the adequate changes that we will be able to have less of an impact on the environment.

KING: The legendary writer, Phillip Wylie, said when you talk to man about generations not yet born, you're talking in one ear and out the other. You think that's changing? ALBERT: I think it is. I think people are getting -- have more of a consciousness that things are not right and that we've -- we are by all human activity and also other things that spin off from that -- have a much bigger impact than anyone had ever imagined. So, I think people are conscious of that and that minds are starting and opinions are starting to change and move in the right direction.

KING: Prince Albert's going to do something next year, I would doubt any of us has done. We'll ask about it -- it's called a grabber -- we'll ask about it when we come back.


KING: Prince Albert is our guest. Next year, probably in April, Prince Albert will go by dogsled to the North Pole. He'll start from the Russian base of Borneo, 60 miles away from the north pole. Why?

ALBERT: Because, a, because...

KING: It's there.

ALBERT: It's there. B, because it's also a commemoration of my great, great grandfather's Prince Albert I, his arctic expeditions 100 years ago. He did four different expeditions, not right to the North Pole but in the Arctic Sea mostly around Spitz Bergen, which is the main island in the Spalbard Archipelago, that's between Norway and the North Pole. And so he had scientists with him. And they made some incredible studies on marine life, on hydrography, on topography, on oceanography which was then a very young science.

KING: Why dogs?

ALBERT: And so, and everything seems to point -- although he didn't expressly write it in any one of his writings -- that he wanted to go to the North Pole, but everything seems to point that he -- that was his secret dream.

KING: So you want to do what he didn't do.

ALBERT: So, I want to try to do what he didn't do. And at the same time, obviously, raise awareness on environmental issues that are impacting the arctic region.

KING: Why dogsled?

ALBERT: Why dogsled? Because I didn't want to -- I don't have time to do the whole trek from either Northern Canada or Siberia, that would take months to, by foot, to reach the North Pole. And by doing it from Borneo Station, which is the closest station to the North Pole, and with dogsleds, because I've had the privilege of doing some dogsledding, up in the north of Sweden, these past few years, that that would be the fastest and most interesting way of doing that trek.

KING: Is there a point there that says, North Pole? Is there a pole? ALBERT: Well, there is -- obviously, there's a geographical pole and there's a magnetic pole. And the difference is very significantly, from year to year. But we're going to try to go to the geographic pole. And obviously, we'll have the right instruments with us that will tell us when we're there. But I doubt there -- and there is no -- because it's frozen seawater there. -- so and it keeps shifting and keeps moving all the time.

KING: It will rotate.

ALBERT: So I'm afraid there's no flag pole there that says you're at the North Pole.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with His Serene Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco. I asked a little about sports. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with his Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco.

Tomorrow night we'll be in Washington with a major show on politics with political stories bursting all over the place, who can tell what might happen. But we'll be on top of that scene tomorrow night. And Jennifer Aniston will be a special guest Friday night. She's single, by the way.

I know you're a big sports fan. Lance Armstrong.

ALBERT: Um-hum.

KING: France, the criticism, drugs, what's your read on it?

ALBERT: You know, I'm sorry this whole story came out. But -- and I'm privileged to know Lance, and to admire all of his -- all of his achievements. And I was there when he finished his seventh Tour de France.

I think cycling has a lot of problems. There are a lot of unfortunate doping issues that are in every sport, it seems especially rampant in the sport of cycling. I don't think, knowing Lance, that he would now, after his, after all that he's been through with his health, that he would, you know, go to that extent to further jeopardize his health.

So whatever he, whatever medicine or prescription that he had to take care of his cancer problems, well, then if that's -- then if that's considered doping then we have to look at it in a different way.

KING: Would you come on strong on drugs and sports overall?

ALBERT: I think I've always been among those -- and among fellow members on the International Olympic Committee that have taken a very strong stance against drugs in sports. And I think unfortunately, it's a very difficult and long battle to fight. And they're constantly -- there are new drugs that keep coming out. And it's hard to keep pace and hard to test these new drugs coming out.

KING: What do you think of the selection for London for 2012?

ALBERT: I think London's going to do a wonderful job.

KING: You wanted Paris?

ALBERT: Well, Paris was -- had a very good bid, too. And obviously with the ties we have with France, it would have been also a wonderful place to celebrate the Olympics. But I think London -- and we also knew that, even if some of us were favoring other candidates, we knew that the London bid was very, very strong. And I'm sure that they will -- they've already committed to meet all the commitments that they made in the bid book and it will be a wonderful Olympics.

KING: I hope we have a great event tonight. We're honoring a great guy in Baryshnikov. I look forward to many hours more with you, microphones and socially. Great having you with us.

ALBERT: Thank you very much, Larry.

KING: His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco in New York tonight. The Princess Grace Foundation, the 2005 awards for outstanding contribution to the arts. And the inaugural recipient is Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Tomorrow night we're in Washington with a major program on politics. Anderson Cooper has the night off. Aaron Brown carries on alone with NEWSNIGHT. See you tomorrow.

We'll turn it over to Aaron. Good night.