Saturday, January 5, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg

92 years ago today on January 5th, 1921, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg gave birth to her first child, a little boy named Jean Benoît Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d'Aviano, who would one day become Grand Duke Jean I of Luxembourg. He was named in honour of John (Jean) the Blind, Bohemian King and Count of Luxembourg of the House of Luxembourg. Being the first child of Charlotte and her husband Prince Felix de Bourbon de Parme, Jean had five younger siblings: princesses Elisabeth, Marie-Adelaide, Marie-Gabriele and Alix and Prince Charles.

Together with his siblings
Growing up in the Château de Berg, Prince Jean was educated in Luxembourg before he went on to attend Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, a Catholic boarding school. Some of his grandchildren would later follow these footsteps.

In 1939, on his 18th birthday Prince Jean was named The Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a title he would hold until he succeeded his mother on the throne many years later. A year after Hereditary Grand Duke Jean reached maturity, German troops invaded Luxembourg in the course of the Second World War in the morning hours of May 10th 1940.

Being warned beforehand, the grand ducal family as well as most members of the government were able to flee the country the night before. The family then lived in Paris, France for a short time before they had to flee yet again, via Spain and Portugal they arrived in the United States where they thought refugee, before the Hereditary Grand Duke went to Canada to study law and political science at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Return to Luxembourg
After two years in Canada, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean went to the United Kingdom to join the Irish Guards as a volunteer to be able to fight in the war. After being trained at the Royal Military College in Aldershot, he was commissioned into the Irish Guards as a Lieutenant in March 1943 and in 1944 promoted to captain. Many years later in 1984, then Grand Duke Jean would become Colonel of the Regiment of the Irish Guards; three of his grandsons, namely Josef, Alexander and Wenceslas serve or have served time in this very regiment.

On June 11th, 1944, Luxembourg's Hereditary Grand Duke landed in the Normandy. As part of the 32nd brigade of the Guards Armoured Division, he took part in the Battle of Caens and the Liberation of Brussels. On September 10th, he crosses the Luxembourgish border for the first time since he and his family had to flee years earlier. Together with his father Prince Felix, he is greeted by the cheers of the masses and carried on the shoulders of the Luxembourgish citizens. Just a few days later, he goes back to his brigade with which he stays until the end of the war. On April 14th, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean comes back to Luxembourg upon the return of his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte.

Jean and Josephine-Charlotte
On April 9th, 1953, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean married Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium, oldest child and only daughter of Leopold III of Belgium and his wife née Princess Astrid of Sweden.

The couple went on to have five children: Princess Marie-Astrid (*1954), Grand Duke Henri (*1955), twins Prince Jean and Princess Margaretha (*1957) as well as Prince Guillaume (*1963).

During his lifetime he was given many honours and awards like orders and honourary doctorates. Between 1951 and 1961 the then Hereditary Grand Duke was a member of the State Council. He held numerous patronages, was the highest scout of the Luxembourg Boy Scouts Association and a member of the International Olympic Comitee.

With his family
On April 28th, 1961, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean was appointed as Lieutenant Representative by his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, meaning that he assumed most of his mother's constitutional powers. Upon Grand Duchess Charlotte's abdication on November 12th, 1964, he ascended to the throne as Grand Duke Jean I. of Luxembourg and took the constitutional oath before the Chamber of Deputies later that day. He would go on to reign the Grand Duchy for 36 years.

On Christmas Eve 1999, Grand Duke Jean announced his plans to abdicate in favour of his oldest son Henri. With a delay due to a heavy car accident of Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla, Grand Duke Jean finally officially abdicated on October 7th, 2000. Two years before he had already created his oldest son his Lieutenant Representative.

Grand Duke Jean on his 90th
birthday together with his
son and grandson (Photo:
SIP/Luc Deflorenne)
In 2005, Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte died suffering from lung cancer quietly at the couple's home the Château de Fischbach, where Grand Duke Jean continues to live.

At the tender age of 91, the grandfather of 21 and great-grandfather of three, still carried out engagement every once in a while. Matters of enviromental conservation, plant and animal protection have always been close to Grand Duke Jean's heart. He is also interested in music and photography. During his younger years he enjoyed skiing, hunting, fishing, swimming and other water sports.

Just a few days ago, Grand Duke Jean was present for the religious wedding of his grandson Christoph's wedding in Nancy.

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