Europe's longest-ruling monarch PRINCE RAINIER III of Monaco died today (06MAR05) at the age of 81 after a five-week battle with breathing, kidney and heart problems.

The Prince, whose family have ruled the tiny Mediterranean principality for seven centuries, was admitted to hospital on 7 March (05) suffering a lung infection, but was later moved into intensive care and put on a respirator when his condition worsened.

He died this morning at the Monaco Cardio-Thoracic Center, surrounded by his three children PRINCE ALBERT, Princess Stephanie and PRINCESS CAROLINE.

Albert was asked to take over the regency of Monaco from his father last Thursday (31MAR05) after a crown commission deemed Rainier too ill to perform his royal functions.

And the 47-year-old has now been officially named as the head of state, despite his late father's public desire for him to marry and provide an heir before his succession.

Rainier became internationally famous in 1956 when he married ACADEMY AWARD-winning superstar Grace Kelly, who became PRINCESS GRACE OF MONACO.

American Kelly died in a car crash in 1982 after which the prince lived alone.

06/04/2005 09:19