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Princess Caroline marries German

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MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Princess Caroline of Monaco married her longtime German lover Prince Ernst of Hanover on Saturday in a private civil ceremony, her father Prince Rainier announced.

The marriage, which took place secretly, was performed by Patrice Davost, president of Monaco's Council of State.Only the immediate families of the bride and groom and eight guests were present to witness the marriage, which took place in the family's imposing 250-room medieval palace.

Caroline's Grimaldi dynasty has ruled the tiny principality from the castle for the past 700 years.

The wedding took place on Caroline's 42nd birthday. It was her third marriage and the second for Ernst.

Conspicuously absent from the guest list was Caroline's sister, Princess Stephanie, 33. No explanation was given.

Stephanie, who had a baby girl born out of wedlock in July and has two children from her first marriage, divorced her second husband, former bodyguard Daniel Ducruet, in 1996 after he was photographed cavorting poolside at a Riviera villa with a former Miss Topless Belgium.

Caroline is one of Prince Rainier's three children. Prince Albert, his heir apparent, is 40 but the white-haired Rainier, 75, has said he wants Albert to marry before turning over power.

There had been no advance public announcement of marriage plans, though French newspapers had reported a wedding might be imminent as Caroline was said to be three months pregnant.

Prince Ernst, 44, and his Swiss wife of 16 years, Princess Chantal, were divorced in London in September 1997. The couple had two sons, Ernst, 15, and Christian, 13.

The great-grandson of German Kaiser Wilhelm II, Ernst left school at 15 to work on a farm after a row over smoking and the length of his hair.