Monaco to bid farewell to Rainier
Prince Rainier's reign in Monaco spanned more than half his life.
CNN's Chris Burns looks at Ranier's children.
Rainier dies after suffering heart, lung and kidney failure.
MONACO -- Mourners are set to arrive at Monaco's royal palace to pay their final respects to Prince Rainier III in a funeral that will combine royal pomp, solemn Catholic ceremony and tight security.
Rainier, who died aged 81 last Wednesday of lung, heart and kidney failure, was Europe's longest-serving monarch.
More than 1,300 police officers from the tiny Mediterranean principality and neighboring France will provide security for the 55 heads of state, royals and other dignitaries expected to attend the funeral on Friday.
Among mourners expected at the service in the 17th century Palatine Chapel in Monaco's royal palace are French President Jacques Chirac, King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Norway's Queen Sonya, Spain's King Juan Carlos and Danish Crown Prince Frederik.
The guests will then be escorted via a 17th century marble staircase to present condolences to Rainier's son and heir, Prince Albert II, and his daughters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie.
The details were released by the palace in a statement Thursday.
From the palace, VIPs will walk to the nearby 19th century Monaco Cathedral, where Rainier will be buried alongside his late wife, former Hollywood star Grace Kelly, who died in a car crash in 1982.
Rainier and Kelly were wed in the cathedral in 1956 -- a union that became the tiny Mediterranean principality's claim to fame.
In accordance with the late monarch's wishes, 10 soldiers from the Prince's Company of Carabineers will carry his coffin out of the palace via the Gate of Honor shortly before noon (1000 GMT), crossing a square filled with up to 3,000 mourning Monaco residents, before reaching the cathedral.
A band will play Beethoven's Funeral March -- music chosen by Princess Caroline -- and a battery will fire a 36-gun salute for the man who did so much to put Monaco, less than a square mile in area, on the map.
Archbishop Bernard Barsi will lead a 90-minute religious ceremony in the cathedral, which will be broadcast on live television.
He plans to say that Rainier "has entered the shadow of death: May the light of the Savior now rise upon him," according to The Associated Press.
Only Rainier's close family will attend his burial Friday night in a private ceremony.
On Sunday, Prince Albert said the principality had been orphaned by the death of his father, and urged its people to unite in mourning "this great prince."
In a televised address to the nation Albert hailed Rainier as a dedicated father and praised his long rule. (Full story)
"The sad moment we could not bring ourselves to believe in has come. The principality has lost its sovereign prince, my father, who watched over its destiny for 56 years," Albert said.
Meanwhile Thursday Monaco's palace said the health of Prince Ernst August of Hanover, the husband of Princess Caroline who was taken to hospital more than a week ago with acute inflammation of the pancreas, was improving.
Ernst August is Caroline's third husband and has often made media headlines for his fierce temper. Her second husband was killed in a motorboat accident in 1990.