Paris – Princess Charlene of Monaco gave birth on Wednesday evening to a girl and a boy who will be named Gabriella and Jacques and become the first and second in line to the throne, the palace said.
Gabriella was born two minutes before her twin at the Princess Grace Hospital Centre in the principality on the Riviera, the palace said.
Although he was second to appear, Jacques is now first in line to succeed his father, Prince Albert II, because royal male offspring are given preference in Monaco.
Charlene and the babies are doing well, the palace said.
The births were welcomed with 42 cannon shots – 21 for each baby – as well as 15 minutes of church bells and the sounding of ship horns from the harbour.
The 30 000 residents of the city-state were encouraged to celebrate the births of the princess and prince as they do the National Day holiday with flags and bunting.
A royal birth had been eagerly awaited since the July 2011 wedding of Charlene, now 36, and Albert, now 56. The palace announced they were expecting in May.
The children are Charlene’s first and the third and fourth for Albert, the son of the late prince Rainier III and US-born actress Grace Kelly.
He has two children from previous relationships – 22-year-old daughter Jazmin and 10-year-old son Alexandre. But because they were both born out of wedlock, neither are recognised as heirs to the seat of the more than 700-year-old Grimaldi dynasty.
Albert met Charlene Wittstock, a South African former champion swimmer, at a swim meet in 2000.
She has appeared seldom in public in the past six months, and many observers had said before that she often looked unhappy.
Albert said in a November interview that he expected the births before Christmas, but Gabriella Therese Marie and Jacques Honore Rainier appeared earlier than he was prepared for. He had said mid-December.
Before the births, Albert’s sister Caroline, 57, and her oldest son, Andrea Casiraghi, 30, had been next in line to the throne.
Jacques will receive the title Marquis of Baux, and Gabriella will be the Countess of Carlades.
The palace is to set a date for the people of Monaco to attend the public presentation of the twins.
A public holiday will also be declared on that day, it said.