Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Clarification (sort of) on the new succession changes...Princess Alexandra still not in line..

I was doing my usual daily news/blog surf when I saw that Trond Isaksen has written on his blog that the Cour Grand-Ducale informed him that the order of succession remains unchanged by the 20 June 2011 (16 September 2010) decree. It was further noted that the order applies from 20 June 2011 and is not retroactive. The implication of all this is that Princess Alexandra does not occupy the number three place in succession to the throne.

After reading the full text of the decree in connection with the information provided to Mr. Isaksen, it seems that Princess Alexandra and other females remain discriminated against on the basis of gender. Despite the intent of the new changes being to provide gender equality, the new changes to the succession only grant gender neutral rights to the female descendants of The Hereditary Grand Duke, Prince Felix and Prince Sebastien. It also does not appear to grant primogeniture rights to the female descendants of Prince Guillaume (Henri's brother who remains in the line of succession) or his sons. The decree seemingly only applies to future births. No living female has garnered any rights from this action. Hardly a step in the direction of equality.

The Cour Grand-Ducale's interpretation of the decree seems to directly contradict the actual text of the decree. The text of the decree states that any future case of succession would be strictly gender neutral. It also quite clearly states that the order applies to the descendants of The Grand Duke, without specifically excluding the descendants of past sovereigns. Last time I checked, Princess Alexandra was a descendant of Grand Duke Henri. If Guillaume and Felix renounced their rights preceding a marriage that would not receive consent or even failed to produce any legitimate children, the throne would pass to Prince Sebastien not his older sister Princess Alexandra. While it is unlikely that neither Guillaume nor Felix will fail to produce children it remains a very real possibility. One must keep in mind that the fertility of their future wives is also a concern. History is full of cases of third, forth, or fifth children inheriting thrones simply because the older children didn't produce legitimate heirs or predeceased their siblings. History is also full of cases of cousins, nephews and uncles inheriting thrones.

This interpretation shows an extreme lack of foresight. The horrible accident suffered by Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla before Grand Duke Jean's abdication should be evidence that not even the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg is excluded from random tragedy. Not to far away in Belgium, The Grand Duke's late uncle, King Baudouin married a lovely woman. Their marriage remained childless despite many pregnancies. I really don't like the idea of making a supposedly gender neutral succession alteration that skips Princess Alexandra. Particularly, because to be really gender neutral we now require a great deal of hoping and praying that tragedy and fertility issues do not plague her elder brothers and their future families. There is no legal reason to exclude Princess Alexandra. Her younger brother has probably never even entertained the possibility that he would become Grand Duke. This exclusion of Princess Alexandra is very puzzling and bothersome to me. It is also interesting to note that if Grand Duke Henri were to have another daughter, no matter how unlikely, that new daughter would have a place in the succession while her older sister Princess Alexandra would not.

In a constitutional monarchy the order of succession to the throne should be a purely constitutional matter. It should not be possible for any constitutional monarch to unilaterally alter the succession. I sincerely hope that whenever the Chamber of Deputies gets around to making succession a direct constitutional provision (not a provision that simply passes the buck to the sovereign) that succession will be very clear and concise. I hate the thought of a constitutional amendment that excludes the possibility of female succession outside of the lines of Guillaume, Felix and Sebastien. The family has - thirty one - members whom are styled Royal Highness Prince/ss (only four of those by marriage), but only seven people have confirmed rights of succession!

I would also point out that Prince Louis renounced his rights of succession for himself and his descendants on 22 August 2006. Contrary to reports in the Luxembourgish media, no part of the new succession arrangement restores any rights to those who have lost them through their own renunciation. Prince Louis and Prince Jean have not regained their rights. It has been discussed in depth that while their own renunciations may be valid the renunciation of their children's rights could be a violation of applicable EU and Luxembourg civil law. The European Union rarely permits a parent to renounce the inheritance of their unborn or minor children. Succession rights are an inheritance by their very nature, and succession is a legal matter in every constitutional monarchy. However, strictly speaking based on the interpretation provided by the Cour Grand Ducale and the text of the decree Prince Louis, Prince Jean and their descendants remain excluded from succession. That is unless The Grand Duke privately alters the succession again. At which point, the people of Luxembourg cannot realistically expect to be informed until another 10 months have passed.

The spirit of the decree and the original press release seem to include all of Henri's children, with the exception of Prince Louis, in the revised succession. Either The Grand Duke was very poorly advised on the succession changes and truly left Princess Alexandra out or someone responding to inquiries with the authority of the Cour Grand-Ducale is not completely aware of the specifics of the succession changes. Take your pick, both are sad situations. My vote is on he latter.

I am sorry to be so opinionated on the matter. I simply find making a press release and providing further clarification stating the new gender neutral succession rules will be implemented beginning with Grand Duke Henri's descendants - while excluding his daughter - is perfectly ridiculous. Furthermore, excluding Princess Alexandra from the succession and refusing to grant Princess Tessy the dignity of being more than a footnote on the official website really makes me question whether the Grand Duke's commitment to equality is really genuine.

The information released has been so confusing and argued in so many different directions by persons with knowledge of law and the historical documents related to the succession that I am no longer even certain that Luxembourg is a monarchy. ;) The Cour's interpretation differs greatly from my own. How is this new decree even valid without a counter signature? I have a lot of legalistic issues with the decree and how the Cour wishes for it to be interpreted. 

Sources: LegiluxTrond Isaksen's Blog and Luxembourg's Constitution.


  1. Thank you for the very interesting read. Until now, I was under the mistaken impression that Princess Alexandra was now included after her elder brothers in the succesion. I wonder why they didn't make it so this could be the case.

  2. I really think that the intention of the decree was to include all of The Grand Duke's children, with the exception of Prince Louis. Either the person who responds to inquiries is very poorly informed about what is really going on or The Grand Duke was very poorly advised on this matter. 

    The decree and the press release actually seem to indicate that Alexandra is now included as are future daughters born in The Grand Duke's line. I cannot fathom why someone responding with the authority of the Cour Grand-Ducale would contradict the decree!