Saturday, March 2, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Prince Robert of Luxembourg, His Family and Wines

Today it is time to look at one of the lesser known but very interesting members of the Grand Ducal Family: Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the Grand Duke’s cousin.

Prince Robert as a baby
with his parents and his
sister  Princess Charlotte
Prince Robert Louis François Marie was born on 14 August 1968 in Luxembourg; he is the second child and only son of Prince Charles, the fifth of six children of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix and thus younger brother of Grand Duke Jean, and Joan Douglas Dillon. The couple had married on 1 March 1967 in Sutton Park, Guildford, Surrey in the United Kingdom, after many years of fighting for their love. Six months later they welcomed their daughter Princess Charlotte.

Joan Dillon was the first commoner to have married into the Grand Ducal Family, though her family background was far from being common.

The daughter of U.S. Treasury Secretary Clarence Douglas Dillon, who had also acted has his country’s ambassador to France for many years, and wife Phyllis Chess Ellsworth had formerly been married to James Brady Moseley. At the time of her first wedding Joan was only 18 years old; two years later the marriage was divorced and, in 1963, annulled by the Pope. From her first marriage she has another daughter.

Prince Robert spent the first eleven years of his life in the Grand Duchy, where he lived at the Château de Fischbach together with his parents, sister and grandparents, Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix. He visited the primary school in Belair. In 1977 at the age of only 49, Prince Charles died following a heart attack while on holiday at the Villa Reale d'Imbarcati near Florence, Italy.

Prince Robert went on to attend school in the United Kingdom and graduated from the Catholic boarding school Worth School in West-Sussex. Afterwards, he studied literature and philosophy at the University of Oxford as well as Georgetown University in the United States. The prince is fluent in Luxembourgish, French, German and English.

Wedding of Prince Robert
and Julie Ongaro
(Photo: Corbis)
It was in the United States that he came to know his future wife Julie Elizabeth Houston Ongaro, daughter of urologist and Harvard professor Dr. Theodor Ongaro and artist Katherine Houston. The two met for the first time in Dark Harbor, Maine in 1987 where Prince Robert's family owns a summer house.

The couple married on 29 January 1994 in Boston, Massachusetts, where Julie grew up. As Prince Robert apparently did not ask for consent to his marriage, his wife was simply known as Julie Nassau for many years. Funnily, because the prince did not ask for consent, he never seems to have lost his place in line to the throne. The couple has one daughter, Charlotte (* 1995), and two sons, Alexandre (* 1997) and Frederik (* 2002), who do not have succession rights.

In November 2004, Grand Duke Henri upgraded the wife and children of Prince Robert to princes and princesses of Nassau with the style of royal highnesses via the same Arrêté Grand-Ducal that elevated the children of Prince Jean.

Prince Robert and his wife worked as screenwriters for a couple of years; it started in 1992 when then Julie Ongaro tried to write a historic screenplay about Don Juan. As her future husband was full of caustic critique at times, she challenged him to write it with her. According to the prince they then "developed a partnership where we would talk and write".

Once they were finished they sent their screenplay to Hollywood and were soon signed by CAA (Creative Artists Agency), a prominent entertainment agency and considered Hollywood's leading talent agency. Their script was even considered by Steven Spielberg though it never made it into a movie.

Prince Robert at the
Château Haut Brion (Photo:
Domaine Clarence Dillon)
In 1935, American financier and Francophile Clarence Dillon, grandfather of Prince Robert’s mother, had bought the Château Haut Brion, one of the most famous French wine estates. Wine making on the estate goes back as far as the Roman times but the real history of the estate starts in 1533, when Jean de Pontec bought the title to the domain of Haut Brion.

In 1787 Thomas Jefferson fell in love with the wines of Haut Brion describing it as “the very best Bordeaux wine”. When Jefferson ordered dozens of bottles of the wine, Haut Brion became the first recorded first growth wine to be imported to the United States.

During the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, the Haut Brion was one of only four wines deemed to be Premier Grand Cru. Though another one was added in the 1970’s, Haut Brion remains the only First Growth wine to not come from the Médoc region but from Graves.

In 1975, Princess Joan took over as the new president of the estate. Three years later, after Prince Charles’ death, she married Philippe de Noailles, Duke of Mouchy. Since then she usually became known as Joan Dillon, Duchess of Mouchy. From 1979 to 2003, Duke Philippe worked as the managing director of Domaine Clarence Dillon. During the management under the Duke and Duchess of Mouchy the company grew bigger by acquiring the neighboring Château la Mission Haut-Brion.

Already at the age of 18, Prince Robert had become a member of the board of the Domaine Clarence Dillon, but only got more involved in the company after returning to Europe in the early 1990's. In 1997, he became a full-time member of the management team and in 2002 he took over as managing director from his stepfather. In 2008 he succeeded his mother as the president of the estate.

Prince Robert and Princess
Julie at the wedding of the
Hereditary Grand Duke
(Photo: RTL)
In 2005 he launched a new Bordeaux wine brand named Clarendelle, which is not as expensive and already available at about €20. Two years ago, he added the Château Tertre Daugay, former First Growth of Saint-Emilion to the portfolio of the Domaine renaming it Château Quintus.

His wine ventures are the primary reason why Prince Robert occassionally appears on the blog as he travels around the world to promote his wines. Sometimes his visits make it into the mainstream media and that is when we report about it. Apart from his wine business, he does not have any official appearances.

Nevertheless, we get to see him and his lovely wife for major family events such as the weddings of his cousin's children Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Archduchess Marie-Christine or the silver wedding anniversaries of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess or Princess Margaretha and Prince Nikolaus.

Prince Robert and his family quietly live in Geneva, Switzerland. His mother divides her time between Paris and Luxembourg, while his sister Princess Charlotte is married with children and lives in London where she manages an art and cultural center.


  1. "Three years later after Prince Charles’ death, she married Philippe de Noailles, Duke of Mouchy."  I believe that Joan remarried on 3 August 1978, only one year after Prince Charles' death on 26 July 1977.

  2.  You are right, but the last references year was 1975 when she took over the presidency of the Domaine and three years later - one year after Prince Charles' death - she married the Duke of Mouchy. Sorry, if that is/was confusing.

  3. Robert was born on August 14th NOT on August 22nd!