by Lucy Lethbridge SIX MONTHS after she wrote a letter of appeal to the Pope, "from the depth of my heart", Princess Caroline of Monaco has succeeded in making her three children legitimate in the eyes of the Church, a Vatican spokesman announced this week.
The children are the offspring of Princess Caroline and Stefano Casiraghi, whom the princess married in a civil ceremony in 1983.
In 1983 the princess was still awaiting a Vatican decision on her 1982 request for an annulment of her first marriage. She had married Philippe Junot in 1978 but had a civil divorce from him in 1980.
Casiraghi was killed in a boating accident in 1990. The children's legitimacy is assured by a decision signed by the pontiff himself.
The 1983 civil marriage was not recognized as valid by the Church although the Vatican spokesmen have said that they were in no doubt, that had Casiraghi lived to see the annulment, the couple would have married in a church.
Although illegitimacy has no effect on a child's standing in the Church, under Monaco's laws a child who is illegitimate according to Church law is ineligible for royal succession.
Princess Caroline was granted an annulment of her first marriage last June, after 10 years of study by two papally appointed commissions.
The second commission, which issued the definitive decision, confirmed the ruling of the first panel, declaring that the first marriage did not exist from the beginning because of "insufficient consent."
When the annulment request was made, the Code of Canon Law gave the Pope. rather than through a local marriage tribunal, the authority to decide cases involving the son or daughter of a Catholic head of State.