Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Last Audience **

More than 50,000 people have gathered in St. Peter's Square to attend the very last general audience to be given by Pope Benedict XVI. Among those attending this historic event are The Hereditary Grand Duke, The Hereditary Grand Duchess and Prince Félix. There has been no public confirmation concerning the attendance of any additional members of the Grand Ducal Family or Prince Félix' fiancée Miss Claire Lademacher.

Photo: Hola
 It is known that the future Pope Emeritus will retire to Clementine Hall to hold one last private audience with monarchs and leaders of the political and civil sectors. There is speculation that the Grand Ducal Couple will take part in a private audience with the Pope Benedict because of the confirmed reports that there will be a last audience with monarchs  

Pope Benedict, who was elected in 2005, announced his resignation earlier this year. His reign will officially end tomorrow at 8pm. Following his resignation he will be know as The Pope Emeritus and will reside at the newly renovated Mater Eccelsiae. The last pope to resign was Pope Celestine V in 1294. One hopes that The Pope Emeritus will enjoy a retirement that is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, St. Celestine. He had sought to spend the rest of his life in pious solitude. Unfortunately, his successor saw him as a threat and had him imprisoned. He died just 10 months later and was canonized in 1313. 

Wort has a livestream of the General Audience.

* Update: You can re-watch the last audience here, here you can see a picture of Stéphanie, Guillaume and Félix. Hola has more pictures.

Sources: Wort, Rome Reports, The New York Times

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grand Duke's Brothers Appearing in Court

If you do not only follow the Grand Ducal Family but also other news related to Luxembourg, you might already know that today was the first day of the judicial hearings in the Affär Bommeleeër about a series of bombs that exploded during the mid-80's in Luxembourg.

Among the people due to appear in court were the Grand Duke's brothers Prince Jean and Prince Guillaume, other witnesses included the current prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker and his predecessor Jacques Santer. None of the witnesses had to give their testimonies today and are not due to appear before Easter.

A video of the two princes and several others arriving can be found at RTL, pictures at Wort and Tageblatt.

Source: Wort

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Château de Berg

Château de Berg, Schloss Berg or Schlass Bierg are the names of the very same castle located on the westside of the town of Colmar-Berg in central Luxembourg in the country's three official languages.

The first mentions of the estate, or the Lordship of Berg(he) respectively, go back as far as 1311. In the following centuries, the Lordship often changed as a result of divisions of the estate due to inheritance.

There are some mentions of an even older castle by the same name nearby but the origins of the Château de Berg that would eventually end up in the hands of the Grand Ducal Family can be found in the 15th century. In the 18th century, the castle got a baroque make-over.

The old Château de Berg (Vermoncken, 1874)

In 1820, Baron Alphonse Claude du Pasquier, a Luxembourgish nobleman and industrialist, and his father-in-law Joseph de Blochhausen bought the Château de Berg. Ten years later, the Belgian Revolution broke out and ended with the secession of the southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. 

While Belgium got a new king from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the House of Orange-Nassau continued their reign in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as King-Grand Duke in personal union.

Due to the division of the two territories, the protestant rulers slowly but steadily lost their control over the Fortress of Luxembourg and thus King William II of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg decided to look for a suitable residence in the Grand Duchy in order to appease the traditionally Catholic population.

In 1845, he bought the Château de Berg from the Pasquier family. Three years later, the castle was recognised as the exclusive home of the Grand Duke by the new constitution. Between 1850 and 1879, the castle, under the reign of Grand Duke William III, got yet another make-over, this time in neo-gothic style. During the same period of time, the castle was inhabited by Prince Henry of the Netherlands, brother of William III and governor of Luxembourg.

When William III died without leaving a male heir in 1890, the House of Orange-Nassau became extinct in male line and the throne of the Grand Duchy passed to another branch of the House of Nassau, the Nassau-Weilburg's.

The new Grand Duke Adolphe purchased all the Dutch private estates from the Dutch crown in 1891, among them the castle in Berg. The same year his son and heir who would later become Grand Duke Guillaume / Wilhelm IV moved into the castle, two years later he married Infanta Maria Ana of Portugal. Five of the couple's six daughters, among them Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde and Grand Duchess Charlotte, were born there.

Demolition of the old castle (1906)

In 1906 after ascending to the throne a year earlier, Grand Duke Guillaume / Wilhelm IV demolished the old castle to replace it by a building better suited to the needs of the time. A year later, the construction of new castle started. The inspiration for its architecture were taken from Schloss Weilburg in the former Duchy of Nassau and home of the family for a long time. While the plans came from Munich-based architect Max Ostenrieder, the works are actually largely carried out by Luxembourgish architect Pierre Funck-Eydt. The main feature of the new castle is a 65m high dungeon.

In 1911 the construction of the castle is completed and the family moved into their new home on 15th September. Berg subsequently became the primary residence of the Grand Ducal Family. Between 1921 and 1929, all the six children of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix were born there.

The new Château de Berg

In 1934, Grand Duchess Charlotte sold the Château de Berg to the state at an underestimated price. While the castle remains an official residence of the Grand Ducal Family, the state now covers all the costs.

The acquisition of castle included the building itself as well as an surrounding area of eight hectares with large sheds, stables, greenhouses, dependencies, namely two garages, laundry room with iron,
orangery (cold greenhouses), central electric diesel engines, fourteen staff houses and about one third of the furniture of the castle. The state paid about 20 million francs, while experts had evaluated a price of 22 million francs just for the estate alone.

The furnishings of the castle included porcelain, furniture, silver and a grand chandelier that were part of the historic dowry of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, the first wife of Grand Duke Adolph of Luxembourg.

The proceeds of the sale were used to meet the operating expenses of the House of Nassau-Weilburg. Urban legend says that Grand Duchess Charlotte had to sell the castle as well as parts of the Grünewald estate to cover the costs of her husband's alleged gambling addiction or that he lost the Grünewald himself at a casino. This, however, is not true as shown by government documents.

During the Second World War, Luxembourg was occupied by Nazi-Germany and so was the castle. In May 1940, civil administration moved into the castle and later one of the National Political Institutes of Education for Girls, an elite school. During this time, many alterations to the castle were made and caused a lot of damage. Large parts of the furniture and art collections were either destroyed or stolen and sold.

The castle today (Photos: Cour grand-ducale (right), Guy Binsfeld (left))

After the war, lengthy restoration and renovations took place. Out of personal preferences, Grand Duchess Charlotte decided to make the Château de Fischbach - about which we are going to talk about at a later date - her primary residence even after the completion of said renovations.

Since 1948, Article 44 of the Luxembourgish constitution states, that "The Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg and the Château de Berg are reserved for the residence of the Grand Duke."

Grand Duke Jean and his family moved into the castle when he ascended to the throne in 1964. He and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte lived there until the summer of 2002 when they moved into the Château de Fischbach and Grand Duke Henri and his family into the Château de Berg. About two years beforehand, the castle had undergone renovations once again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Audience for the Grand Duke

This morning, Grand Duke Henri welcomed Jean-Claude Mignon for an audience at the palais. Since January last year, the French politician is the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He is currently on a working visit in the Grand Duchy. A picture can be found on the website of the cour.

Source: CGD

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg

On 16th February 1991, then Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa welcomed their fourth child and only daughter into the world. The little girl, who was born at the Maternité Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, was named Alexandra. By birth she is a royal highness, a Princess of Luxembourg, a Princess of Nassau and a Princess de Bourbon de Parme.

The newborn Princess Alexandra
with her mother
As Princess Alexandra is celebrating her 22nd birthday today, it is time for an instalment of Luxarazzi 101 about Luxembourg's beautiful princess.

On March 23rd, she was baptised with the names of Alexandra Joséphine Teresa Charlotte Marie Wilhelmine at the parish church in Fischbach. Later a reception at the Château de Fischbach was held.

Her godparents are Prince Michel de Ligne, son of Princess Alix of Luxembourg and thus a cousin of Grand Duke Henri, and Archduchess Maria-Anna of Austria, oldest daughter of Archduke Rudolf and wife of Prince Piotr Galitzine. The Galitzine's used to live in the Grand Duchy for a couple of years.

She was named Joséphine for her paternal grandmother Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, Teresa for both her mother and her maternal grandmother Maria-Teresa Batista Falla, Charlotte for her paternal great-grandmother Grand Duchess Charlotte, Marie in honour of the Virgin Mary as it is a custom of several Roman Catholic dynasties in Europe and Wilhelmine as the female version of Guillaume / Wilhelm, a name shared by most other male and female members of the Nassau family.

Photo: Cour grand-ducale
Princess Alexandra is the godmother of her nephew Prince Gabriel, the oldest son of Prince Louis and Princess Tessy.

She attended the local primary school in Angelsberg, which is close to both Colmar-Berg and Fischbach. She finished off her education at the Lycée Vauban, a French school in Luxembourg City, from where she graduated with honours in 2009. The multi-lingual princess is fluent in Luxembourgish, French, English and Spanish; she knows German and Italian as well.

Also in 2009 upon her 18th birthday, she became a member of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau, which is a novelty for a Luxembourgish princess. While all male members of the family are born members of the order, it was not common for female members of the family to become members; exceptions being female head of states themselves and wives of the (future) head of states. Alexandra's aunts, Princess Marie-Astrid and Princess Margaretha, are only members of the lower Order of Merit of Adolphe of Nassau, which Alexandra also is like all born princesses of the family.

Photo: Roland Miny Pressphoto
Since the change of the law of succession in 2010, Princess Alexandra is third in line to the throne behind her older brothers Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Prince Félix. She remains the only female in line as the change only applies to the descendants of Grand Duke Henri.

After obtaining her baccalaureate in Luxembourg she went to Italy for a while to study in Rome.

Princess Alexandra is a keen tennis player but also enjoys alpine skiing and water-skiing among other sports. When she was younger she practised rhythmic gymnastics, dance and swimming. She likes literature as well.

We usually get to see the princess for the big events in Luxembourg such as the National Day or the Octave of Our Lady of Luxembourg, though she also accompanies other members of the family to smaller events every once in a while. Most recently she accompanied her parents to Paris for the blessing of the bells. Before Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume got married Princess Alexandra also often acted as his +1 at different events, both at home and abroad.

Photo: Christian Aschman /
Cour grand-ducale
Only rarely she ventures out of the palais for official events all on her own. Following the example led by her aunts and uncles, Princess Alexandra and her brother are expected to make their own living. Much like her father's siblings they will slowly fade into the background over the years.

Nevertheless, Princess Alexandra is the patron of the Lëtzebuerger Déiereschutzliga and the Fondation Lëtzebuerger Blannevereenegung.

In 2010 Princess Alexandra started attending a Catholic small town university in Western Ohio where she studied social sciences and psychology. Though she recently seems to have changed schools, she remains situated in the United States.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Over €150,000 For Good Causes

Last September's wedding of the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple has raised 157.810 euros to fund social projects by the Fondation du Grand Duc et le Grand Duchesse. The majority of the money will be used to support projects helping elderly people in Luxembourg as well as social entrepreneurship. Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie thanked for all the donations.

Sources: Wort, Fondation de Grand Duc et la Grand Duchesse

Luxarazzi 101: Wedding of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa

It's Valentine's Day! And thus time for the second edition of our mini look back series, today it is the wedding of the Grand Ducal Couple we are looking at.

Engagement day: the couple with their parents as well as Prince Henri's sisters
It took Luxembourg by surprise when on 8th November 1980 then minister of state Pierre Werner announced the engagement of Hereditary Grand Duke Henri to Maria-Teresa Mestre, daughter of José Antonio Mestre y Álvarez and Maria Teresa Batista y Falla.

Nothing was known about the relationship between the heir to the throne and the Cuban-born Swiss citizen who had met four years earlier. The couple had met while attending the University of Geneva where both had earned degrees in political science earlier that year.

Hereditary Grand Duke Henri had given his future wife made of gold with a cabochon ruby, similar in the looks department to the ring his father had given his mother on the occassion of their engagement.

The wedding portrait

The couple chose February 14th as the date for their big day. As they told reporters later on, they did not know that this day was actually Valentine's Day. This might sound strange to some ears but in fact Valentine's Day still isn't as big as it is in other parts of the world and it certainly wasn't very well known in the early 1980's. A more important factor was actually an upcoming state visit and the couple was given the choice whether they wanted to marry before or a few weeks after; they decided that they did not want to wait any longer and so February 14th it was.

On so on an icy, sun clear Saturday morning, the wedding bells rang as the wedding of the heir to the throne went underway. Before the religious wedding at the Cathédrale Notre Dame, Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and Maria Teresa Mestre tied the knot civilly at the palais grand ducal. The wedding were officiated respectively by Camille Polfer, former mayor of the city, and by Jean Hengen, then archbishop of Luxembourg. Four officiating kings and queens and no less than 700 official guests had been invited to the wedding.

On the occassion of her wedding Mlle Mestre became a Princess of Luxembourg, a royal highness and was to be styled as the Hereditary Grand Duchess.

With the choice of her wedding dress designer, the new Hereditary Grand Duchess sparked a trend within the family as both her new sister-in-laws would also opted for Balmain for their dresses about a year later. The fur-trimmed gown featured intricate patterns all over the dress.

For the occassion she borrowed the Congo Diamond Necklace Tiara from mother-in-law, it was the same tiara that Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte hat worn for her wedding. She wore diamond earrings that she lend to her own daughter-in-law Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie for her wedding last year.

Photo: Cour grand ducale / Guy Wolff
Parts of the wedding dress were recut into a new outfit for Our Lady of Luxembourg, Comforter of the Afflicted and given to the statue on the occassion of the wedding of the couple's oldest child Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume in September last year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stephanie and Guillaume Coined

Literally. Today Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie welcomed the president of the Luxembourg Central Bank (BCL) Gaston Reinesch and Serge Kolb, its director, at the palais to officially unveil the commemorative coin for their wedding. The design of the coin has been known for months.

Photo: Cour grand-ducale
As for the most asked question at the time, why the heck is the Grand Duke photo bombing the coin? He has to, it's the law in Luxembourg that the reigning Grand Duke must appear on all coins.

The coin can be purchased starting tomorrow at the BCL main offices in Luxembourg. Other retailers will probably sell it online afterwards. A corner card presentation pack is available for 10 euros, the coin in a novelty wooden presentation box costs 45 euros.

Wort covered today's event.

Source: Wort

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Visit to the Air Rescue

Last Thursday on February 7th, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie visited both the aviation as well as the emergency medical care facilities of the Luxembourg Air Rescue (LAR). They are a private, humanitarian organisation with the aim to save human lives in Luxembourg, the Greater Region around Luxembourg and worldwide through the operation of its helicopters and air ambulances. They also participate in humanitarian missions and are exclusively responsible for the transportation of organ transplants in France.

More information about the LAR can be found on their website, a picture of the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple on the website of the cour. Wort also has an article about the visit.

Source: CGD, LAR

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Asian Adventures

We recently already reported that Prince Robert, the Grand Duke's cousin, had visited Bangalore to promote his wines. He stayed on the Indian subcontinent for a little while longer and also visited New Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, Prince Robert stopped in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur for a brief visit.

Ss a side note, no matter what the The Star tries to tell you, Prince Robert is in fact not the Crown Prince of Luxembourg; shocking, I know. He is the second child and only son of Prince Charles of Luxembourg, Grand Duke Jean's younger brother, and Joan Douglas Dillon, who was the first commoner to marry into the Grand Ducal Family. His maternal family are the owners of the world-famous Domaine Clarence Dillon.

Sources: The Star Online, Indian Wine Academy

Friday, February 8, 2013

Grand Duke Visits Exhibition *

Yesterday evening, Grand Duke Henri attended the opening of an exhibition about the winners of the Prix Grand Duc Adolphe since 1946. As the name suggests, the price was created by Grand Duke Adolphe in 1905 on the initiative of his wife, Grand Duchess Adélaïde. Every year the art award is given to one or more artists exhibiting at the Salon Artistique of the Cercle artistique de Luxembourg. The Grand Duke was accompanied by the culture secretary Octavie Modert. A video can be found at Wort, pictures on the website of the cour and on the website of the fabulous Mr. Dias.

Source: Cour grand-ducale

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Grand Ducal Couple to Visit Austria

A Luxembourg trade delegation will be visiting Austria from 15th to 17th April 2013, the visit will be headed by no other than the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess. For more information about the state visit and the background have a look at Wort and Luxembourg for Business.

Source: Wort

Luxarazzi 101: Wedding of Princess Marie-Astrid and Archduke Carl-Christian

During the early 1980's there was a little royal wedding boom going on in the Grand Duchy; within about 13 months three out of the five children of Grand Duke Jean and the late Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte got married. Over the next few weeks we will take advantage of their wedding anniversaries to selflessly indulge ourselves in memories of their weddings.

Our little mini series of Grand Ducal weddings starts with the couple that is celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary today: Princess Marie-Astrid and Archduke Carl-Christian of Austria.

Engagement day: the couple and their parents

In November 1981, the oldest child of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and the second son of Archduke Carl-Ludwig and Archduchess Yolande, née Princess de Ligne, announced their engagement. Both being descendants of Robert I, Duke of Parma and Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal, they are second cousins.

Princess Marie-Astrid was given a a sapphire and diamond engagement ring by her future husband. The couple's sons Archduke Imre and Archduke Christoph also gave their wives similar rings on the occassions of their engagements. (Though there is some confusion on Archduchess Adélaïde's part as she was actually wearing a ruby ring on her wedding day while a sapphire ring at their engagement party.)

Wedding portrait
Princess Marie-Astrid and Archduke Carl-Christian married civilly at the palais grand-ducal and religiously at the Cathédrale Notre Dame on 6th February 1982. They were civilly married by the former mayor of Luxembourg City Lydie Polfer, the religious ceremony was conducted by Jean Hengen, the late former archbishop of Luxembourg.

While the event at the palais was a rather private affair within the closest family circle, the religious wedding was a full blown state occassion. In attendance were an empress, three queens, a king, a few future head of states and countless royal, imperial and other highnesses. Their wedding party included the groom's cousin Archduchess Catharina, daughter of Archduke Rudolf and his second wife née Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede, as well as Duchess Helene and Duchess Elizabeth in Bavaria, daughters of Duke Max in Bavaria and his wife née Countess Elizabeth Douglas.

The bride wore a dress designed by Parisian couture house Balmain. The dress is said to have been inspired by a painting of Marie-Antoinette by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Having examined a few of those paintings, it seems the the flower embroidery on the dress might have been the inspired part.

Princess Marie-Astrid anchored her veil with the Congo Diamond Necklace Tiara that had also been worn by her mother, the then Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium, on the occassion of her wedding as well as by Maria-Teresa Mestre at her wedding to then Hereditary Grand Duke Henri a year earlier.

The bride also wore pearl earrings belonging to her mother. Twenty-six years forward, Princess Marie-Astrid's oldest daughter Archduchess Marie-Christine wore the same earrings at her wedding to Count Rodolphe de Limburg-Stirum.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prince Robert in India

News from one of the lesser known members of the family: Prince Robert, the Grand Duke's cousin, recently visited Bangalore, India, to promote his wines. The prince says that India is one of the most important markets for wine nowadays and also reveals that he backpacked through India and Nepal when he was younger.

Prince Robert, who is the son of the late Prince Charles of Luxembourg, and his family are the owners of the Domaine Clarence Dillon that includes the famous wine estates Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion.

Source:  Livemint

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Blessing of the Bell *

Photo: Francois Guillot / AFP
Yesterday afternoon, nine new bells were blessed by the Archbishop of Paris at the Cathédrale Notre Dame in the French capital. Eight of them during a ceremony at 11am, another bell called Marie, the centre-piece of the new bell installations, was consecrated during a religious service at 5pm and Luxembourg's very own Grand Duchess was the patroness of the Bourdon Marie. For the occassion Grand Duchess Maria Teresa was accompanied by the Grand Duke and their only daughter Princess Alexandra.

All the bells that are now being restored on the occassion of the 850th anniversary of the cathedral were taken down, broken and melted in 1791 and 1792 during the French revolution. The great bell Marie, named in honour of the Virgin Mary, weighs six tons and was made in the Netherlands.

More pictures can be found at AFP, a video at Wort.

Source: Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, Wort