Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Updated Cour Grand-Ducale Website: A Review

Yesterday the Cour Grand-Ducale relaunched their website. The revamped version of the website contains many improvements. It also maintains a few of the less than stellar attributes of previous versions. I have decided to review the website instead of just writing the usual piece noting that it is updated. I wanted to highlight the good, the bad and my pet peeves.

First and foremost, I draw your attention to the updated and yet still outdated biographies of Prince Sebastien and Prince Louis.

Prince Sebastien now has his first patronage. He is the patron of the Fédération Luxembourgeoise de Natation et de Sauvetage. Although, he is no longer eligible for U18 rugby and I understand he no longer a student at the International School of Luxembourg. When adding new information to a biography it should be standard protocol to ensure that other sections remain accurate. If providing current details of the Prince's life is undesired it should still be standard protocol to change the sentence structure to indicate past tense instead of present tense. 

The Fédération Aéronautique Luxembourgeoise is now under Prince Louis' patronage. This is a good fit for Louis given his education, his flight skills and skydiving.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the site yesterday was the new color scheme. The website is now adorned in the colors of the Nassau dynasty: orange and blue. I am sure that more than a few of the frequent readers of the website are/were unaware that these particular colors were chosen because they are historically associated with Nassau-Weilburg dynasty. After navigating to the symbols section I was disappointed to find that no explanation of these colors is offered. If flags had been covered in the symbols section I feel that most readers would be able to understand the color usage. My quarrel isn't really about unexplained colors. I just feel that the stage was set to provide a bit of historical information that wasn't provided. Back to flags, I'm not sure why the symbols section omitted flags. Isn't the flag an important symbol? The Grand Duke has a personal standard. If you happen to see The Grand Duke's car parked on your street or flying past you behind his police escort, you will see a miniature version of this standard (specifically called a "car flag," I believe) attached to the car flag pole. It doesn't actually wave in the wind, as you can see from the picture. If actually waved it wouldn't be easily identifiable, which I think is the whole point of a diplomatic car flag. The historic flag of the House of Nassau-Weilburg would have been right at home in this section. But, I guess, the flag isn't really associated with the family in Luxembourg anymore. I also think that this would have gone a long way toward explaining why male members of The Family often wear orange and blue striped ties. I sincerely doubt that these sometimes horrific ties are chosen because they are fashion forward. Once you understand these colors you can actually appreciate and admire these frequently worn blue and orange ties.

The second thing I noticed was that the website now only shows past events of this year. The previous versions of the website archived photos and information about past events. I think it is unfortunate that you can no longer locate this information using the official website.

One of my favorite new sections on the website is the agenda. This addition is long overdue. As someone who blogs about the activities of The Grand Ducal Family, I am delighted that the Cour Grand-Ducale now provides an advance schedule for the month at hand. Although, I do feel that as June (Happy Birthday Prince Felix) is now half over that it would be a great time to provide the schedule for the first 2 weeks of July. Alas, beggars can't be choosers. Unfortunately, the agenda section will only carry a selection of events. It will  not be a court circular style complete listing of future engagements.

I think that whomever updated the website was really after my own heart when they included the new publications section. While the list isn't really exhaustive (I can think of a few missing titles) it is certainly helpful to anyone seeking to learn more about Luxembourg or The Grand Ducal Family.

One new part of the website that I found interesting was the listening aspect. When you click Ecouter by the sound icon a friendly sounding lady will read the entire page to you - in French. Each word is highlighted as it is spoken. This great for anyone attempting to improve their French. A lot of other Luxembourg based websites also have this function (Wort, for example). However, it is new to the website and I think it is a good addition.

The interview and speeches section of the website remains an important resource. Unfortunately, the interviews listed as "the last ten interviews" aren't really the last ten interviews. I can think of five unlisted interviews that are more recent. Once upon a time, you could actually search the interview and speech sections using a search box. Several months ago this wonderful tool was removed from the website and has not returned in the current incarnation. One theme that runs throughout the entire website is that only Henri, Maria Teresa and Guillaume are relevant. I fail to see why the speeches and interviews of Guillaume and Grand Duke Jean are not included. Since great pains are taken to promote Guillaume's activities as Hereditary Grand Duke, shouldn't his speeches and interviews be included? I know that he gives speeches, because I've heard him give one. It was a fine speech that would have been right at home in these sections.

There is now a FAQ section (two questions so far), but no simple function to submit other questions. Part of the FAQ is the pictureless information about the all, too, brief open season of the Grand Ducal Palace. There is an exhibit at the palace this summer entitled The Dynasty Through Stamps and you haven't provided any further details? How big is the exhibit? Is this thirty stamps or five thousand? When you say "the dynasty" do you mean after the dynasty arrived in Luxembourg or will you also have stamps from Nassau? Why is this not on the LCTO list?

My initial pet peeve when viewing the website is that everything is still all French. In a nation with three official languages doesn't it make sense to have the website of the first family in each of those three languages? I'm not asking for an English language section. And, I do understand that French is the administrative language of The Grand Duchy. But, but, but, the monarchy isn't just government it is for the people. If you give your Christmas speech in more than one language you could provide your biography in Luxembourgish and German.

Which brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves about all of the versions of the website. I positively hate how the website only focuses on Henri, Maria Teresa and Guillaume. Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla are actively engaged with many organizations to the benefit and prestige of their house. Even Princess Marie-Astrid is a socially engaged woman who receives little or no credit. Henri's siblings are relegated to mere footnotes in Grand Duke Jean's biographical section. In my opinion, this is a pretty poor repayment for years of service. I really do understand that the theme is keeping the focus on the "senior" members of the family. Although, it is worth noting that some of the excluded members of the family fulfill more activities and engagements than those who hold prime focus. One thing that strikes me is that this also serves to remind us that in ten years time (or whenever Guillaume has a wife and children) Felix, Alexandra, Louis, Sebastien and their families will also be irrelevant, forgotten and barely recognizable to the general population. Like the families of Henri's sisters, aunts and cousins: they will not even be welcome to participate in the Octave, National Day events, or attend state banquets. I very, very strongly dislike this trend. I know that members of The Family have private lives and work for their living. It does not mean that they cannot also still receive recognition for their patronages or humanitarian activities. What is the point of even having a patronage if your own house will not make note of your activities for the organization? These actually make Luxembourg and The Family look good. Even in nations with a strong public desire to decrease the size of their royal families you will find that the "junior" members of the family still attend state banquets, national holidays, continue to have their social work covered and receive note on the websites of their family.

This brings me to my final point and my absolute biggest pet peeve. For a long time I really disliked Princess Tessy. The reason I didn't like her was because The Family and the Cour Grand-Ducale really didn't provide any information to make her likable. And, they still don't. She may be a princess now, but, she still seems to be just "that girl" who got pregnant by a teenage prince and married him after he gave up his succession rights with no title for her or their children. They have titles now and enjoy a prominent place at events.

Unfortunately, it takes more than a title, a tiara and a nice hat to alter perception. One could argue that these are indicators that The Family valued Louis' family. It is great that you've accepted her but it takes more than giving her a title and throwing the occasional tiara on her head to make people outside of your family see her value. Trust me, you need to be concerned with what people outside of your family think on this matter. You're supposed to represent a whole nation of people. You can't just live in a bubble! Just last year, I met many wealthy, educated and well connected Luxembourgers. They discussed Luxembourg and The Grand Ducal Family. Their opinions were not particularly favorable concerning Tessy. It really isn't even Tessy's fault. The problem is that she is relegated to a mere three lines in Louis' biography or as the occasional name on a picture caption. Other than the fact that she is a wife, mother and now a princess not a single redeeming quality is listed. She is actually an intelligent and nice woman with her own interests. I'm very sorry to say that in the modern world it really does take more than being married with children to create respect. I do not mean to offend married women or mothers. But, I think that we can all agree that Tessy should be more than just Louis' +1.

After reading the very brief biographies of Alexandra and Sebastien I am convinced that Tessy has ample interest and achievements to fill a section at least the size of those entries. I'm just saying that her military service and continued educational endeavors could be noted. Her interests in animal welfare, scuba diving, surfing and physical fitness are also interesting. In my opinion, she is far more interesting than some of the fashionistas in other monarchies.

There is also a nice new press section. While I do know some bloggers who receive press information from the Cour Grand Ducale, I am not one of them. I have to go looking for information. Simple requests for information are politely rebuffed. There are no ads on this blog. No revenue is generated here. This is 100% free almost-always-positive publicity. This blog has a higher reader rate than some publications have subscribers. That is 2011 and the digital/social media world at your doorstep. I don't get paid for generating interest in The Family or Luxembourg and your Prince Charming wasn't really even nice to me. I do this because I like The Grand Ducal Family and I'm passionate about Luxembourg. So, could you give me a freaking break! And, could you give Tessy one, too!?!

You can now provide your feedback and thoughts concerning the Cour Grand-Ducale website. I would just ask that if you arrive there after reading this post that when it asks how you arrived there that you do list this blog as having sent you there. Don't be shy! They won't know how to improve the site if you don't guide them.

And, there you have it. A little less positive than usual but that 6:22am tweet from the Cour Grand-Ducale on my Andriod reminded me that I need to check my twitter settings and that I should provide constructive criticism about the new website. Naturally, you are all free to disagree with my very long review. ;)

I do apologize for any spelling and grammar mistakes contained in this entry. 


  1. I completely agree about Tessy. She needs her own biography! I'm actually pretty surprised that they didn't give her one with this new update.

    Thinking about how the rest of the family will become obsolete once Gui is married with children makes me very sad. I really hope that Gui will change that tradition and continue to invite his siblings to events, and maybe then Luxembourg (and the cour) will recognize their achievements and contributions.

  2. 1) I had a mini-freak out when I couldn't access the blog for a bit. I figured it was just a mishap and I'm glad it wasn't permanent.

    2) "I sincerely doubt that these sometimes horrific ties are chosen because they are fashion forward. Once you understand these colors you can actually appreciate and admire these frequently worn blue and orange ties."

    No. Sorry, may just be me, but knowing didn't make me want to yank them off and feed them through a shredder any less.

    3) Very concise and well thought out review/critique. Hopefully it won't fall on deaf ears.

  3. I wonder if they aren't giving Tessy her own biog because she will be irrelevant when Gui marries.  Honestly, I'd have hoped his siblings would be of some use at least until his children got older.