Tomorrow, Hereditary Prince Alois and Hereditary Princess Sophie are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary which opens us the chance to have a look at their engagement, nuptials and celebrations surrounding it.
|Photo: Fürstenhaus / Corbis|
When the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein announced the engagement of their oldest son, Hereditary Prince Alois Philipp Maria, with Duchess Sophie Elisabeth Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria on 12 January 1993, it was a match made in noble heaven. He, the heir to the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, and she, the great-great-granddaughter of the last Bavarian king, Ludwig III. Consequently, their wedding was a very royal affair, however, combined with the Liechtenstein tradition of heavily involving the whole population.
Not too much is known about the couple's relationship before they tied the knot. The couple, simply known as Sophie and Louis to family and friends, had firstly met seven years earlier at the birthday party of a mutual friend. At the time of their engagement, Duchess Sophie lived in Southern Bavaria and Hereditary Prince Alois in Salzburg, Austria, where he was attending university. Their engagement, which was sealed with a ring made of a sapphire and two diamonds, was announced by the groom's parents via the press office of the government on 12 January and already a day later, the future Hereditary Princess was introduced to Liechtenstein officials during the traditional New Year's reception at Schloss Vaduz.
|Photo: Seeger Press|
Appropriately, their wedding celebrations kicked off in very royal fashion with a reception at Schloss Nymphenburg on 25 June. The Baroque palace is located in Munich and was the main summer residence of the Royal Family of Bavaria before the end of the monarchy in 1918. Today, it is owned by the state of Bavaria but the Wittelsbach family still have apartments at the palace; the former ruling family of Bavaria probably got (one of) the best deal(s) of all ousted German families...
Anyway, the reception hosted by Sophie's grandfather, the Duke of Bavaria - we might want to talk about the 'in Bavaria' and 'of Bavaria' matter at a later date - wasn't your usual kind of reception but a reception including gowns and tiaras, also known as my favourite kind of event. While the fashion was very 90's (the bride-to-be was wearing Jacques Fath) and not much to talk about, I can tell you that Sophie is wearing a diamond floral tiara of the Bavarian collection, her mother Duchess Elizabeth is sporting a diamond and pearl tiara and her future mother-in-law, Princess Marie, the Kinsky Palmette Tiara.
Their very illustrous guest list included the who is who of German-speaking royal- and nobility, family, friends and relatives as well as representatives of the church, economy, politics - including the then prime minister of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber - science, art and culture.
A day later, they had yet another ball, alas without tiaras and hosted at Schloss Vaduz in Liechtenstein, where they welcomed official representatives of the Swiss cantons St Gallen and Graubünden as well as the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. Again, numerous representatives of politics, church, culture and economy as well as all consular and diplomatic corps were invited, as were former teachers and school friends of the Hereditary Prince.
On 27 June, the municipalities of Liechtenstein organised a celebration including a field mass in Bendern and two days later another reception was held. On 1 July, a bridal soirée for friends and family was held and on the 2nd an exhibition about the Wittelsbach family was opened at the Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum. In the evening, the Bavarian State Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel played a tribute concert with pieces of Mozart and Schumann in Vaduz with all profits going to the Liechtenstein Red Cross.
Generally, the couple had ask the people to make donations to the victims for the ongoing war in former Yugoslavia, especially for child victims in Zagreb, instead of giving them presents. Contributors included the Liechtenstein government which made a donation of 500,000 Swiss francs.
And then the big day finally arrived. In the morning of 3 July, people gathered in front of the cathedral St Florin in Vaduz to view the arrival of the royal guests, which included Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte as well as Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria Teresa from Luxembourg as well as Prince Rainier of Monaco plus representatives of the reigning families of Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. (The Liechtenstein's traditionally have close to no ties to the Skandinavian families and only rarely attend their events.)
All in all there were about 500 guests of which only 370 found a spot in the cathedral while the rest had to watch Vaduzer-Saal while the average Liechtensteiner could watch it in a large tent located in the city centre or simply from home.
The members of the Liechtenstein and Bavarian families processed by foot from the nearby government building to St Florin. Hereditary Prince Alois was accompanied by his mother, Princess Marie, and Duchess Sophie was led up the stairs and to the altar by her father, Duke Max in Bavaria.
The bride wore a dress made of Duchesse satin made by Atelier Lissy-Wiwa of Wildenwart, a tiny village in Bavaria where Sophie had spent part of her life. The four to five metre long train had it's greatest effect while walking up and down the stairs in front of the cathedral though I imagine that it must have been quite a challenge despite the carrying aids for the train bearers.
Duchess Sophie's veil was made out of ancient Brussels lace which had been refurbished in Belgium prior to the wedding. She anchored her veil with the Douglas floral tiara belonging to her mother's family, who is a born Countess Douglas, which has also been worn by three of Duchess Sophie's sisters at their weddings. Made in France in the late 19th century, the tiara consists of diamonds set in silver.
The wedding was celebrated by the bishop of Chur Wolfgang Haas, dean Hans Baumann, Vaduz priest Franz Näscher, Father Ferdinand Kinsky and Father Christoph Neipperg, the latter two - in case you hadn't noticed - are of very noble descent.
The armada of bridal children included the Hereditary Prince's cousins Princess Maria-Anunciata and Princess Marie-Astrid, daughters of Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha, and their cousins princes Guillaume, Felix and Louis of Luxembourg as well as 22 girls from the eleven municipalities of Liechtenstein.
While Hereditary Prince Alois chose his sister Princess Tatjana, cousin Count Franz Kinsky and Count Friedrich of Nostitz-Rieneck, Duchess Sophie opted for her sister Duchess Marie-Caroline in Württemberg as well as the Hereditary Count and Countess of Waldburg-Zeil as her witnesses. Other family members were also incorporated in the church service.
The music used for the wedding service was written by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger, a nod to both Liechtenstein and Bavaria as the the Liechtenstein-born Rheinberger was the court conductor of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
|Photo: Historischer Verein für das Fürstentum Liechtenstein / Corbis|
After the wedding service, which took about one and a half hours, the newly-wed couple left the church and the wedding party proceeded back to the government building from where they went, via car and a tour through Vaduz, back to the castle where a lunch for about 100 guests was hosted. But the celebrations were far from over.
Following the official celebrations came the part which would classify as typically Liechtenstein where a Princely wedding always includes a public festival for the entire population. Under the slogan "Europe in Liechtenstein" a fun fair was held in the Städtle of Vaduz. In the afternoon hours, the Hereditary Princely Couple visited the festival to receive congratulations and small gifts by the people of Liechtenstein. The newly weds also paid a visit to the local retirement home.
In the evening, a torchlight procession from the castle to the Städtle consisting of the newly-weds, scouts, music and national costume groups was held. The night cumulated in a 30 minutes fireworks display over Schloss Vaduz.