Friday, January 31, 2014

Learning Factory Opened

Photo: Thomas Holzer / L'essentiel
Today, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie visited Foetz in southern Luxembourg to open the country's first Learning Factory. The couple was accompanied by ministers Étienne Schneider, Claude Meisch and Carole Dieschbourg. In the newly opened facility employees of different companies shall acquire new skills such as how to reduce carbon emissions while increasing the competitiveness of their company. The Learning Factory is paid for by both the state as well as numerous Luxembourg-based companies such as ArcelorMittal, Enovos, Schneider Electrique, Creos and Sudstroum. As it always happens when royals cut ribbons to open something, the Hereditary Grand Duke and the Hereditary Grand Duchess afterwards got a tour of the facilities.

Source: L'essentiel

Friday Flashback: Olympic Glory

Photo: Liechtensteiner Vaterland
Princess Gina and her grandson Prince Max welcome home their country's medal winners from the 1976 Winter Olympics which took place in Innsbruck, Austria. Hanni Wenzel, who later went on two become a double Olympic champion, won a bronze medal in the giant slalom and Willi Frommelt took another bronze medal in the slalom.

With its nine medals in Olympic history, Liechtenstein has, in fact, won more medals per capita than any other nation. Not surprisingly for the only nation to lie entirely within the Alps, all of the medals were won in alpine skiing. The above mentioned two bronze medals were actually Liechtenstein's first Olympic medals but started some kind of streak that lasted throughout the following three Olympics: At the 1980 Lake Placid Games, Hanni Wenzel won two gold and one silver medal with her brother Andreas winning another silver medal for the Principality. Liechtenstein's athletes took home another three bronze medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics through Andreas Wenzel, Ursula Konzett and Paul Frommelt.

While a medal drought started after that, Liechtenstein has a real shot at winning another medal or two in Sochi as alpine skier Tina Weirather as had a very successful season thus far winning two races just before Christmas and finishing another seven times on the podium this season. Princess Nora, who is an IOC member, will be in Sochi for the Games while other attendance of the Princely Family hasn't been confirmed yet. And by the way, the Princely Family actually counted an Olympian amongst their own for a long time: the late Prince Constantin (1911-2011) competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics in, you guessed it, alpine skiing.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: 2007 Amsterdam Auction of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's Jewellery

A Point de Vue picture of jewellery supposed to be sold in a cancelled auction in 2006
The recent auction of former property of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte has caused quite some interest and revived an old topic when it comes to the Grand Ducal Family, the proposed and later cancelled auction of some 200 pieces of private property of the late Grand Duchess in 2006. After her death in 2005, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's husband and children decided to put most of their wife's/mother's personal jewellery as well as other distinctive pieces such as a set of 12 gilt silver and enamel tea spoons with a tea strainer and sugar tongs and a collection of 15 fans up for sale.

The proposed auction caused a public outcry in the Grand Duchy. Old stories of a strained relationship between Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa resurfaced and rumours of tensions between the siblings and in-laws evolved. In addition, the finances of the Grand Ducal Family as a whole as well as judgement by individual members (or lack thereof) were questioned. In the end, Grand Duke Henri cancelled the auction stating that he had underestimated the strong symbolic value these properties had to the people of Luxembourg and that he had simply wanted to share his mother's legacy with his siblings.

While the first sale was officially cancelled and saved some of the most prominent pieces, most jewellery still ended up on the auction block and with all the interest in the recent auction, we thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the other auctions that followed the cancelled one. During the course of this and the upcoming weeks, we will have a look at three different Sotheby's auctions that included some of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's jewellery. Let's start off with an auction titled "Property from Aristocratic Families including Coaches from a Royal Stable" held in late October 2007 in Amsterdam.
Among the pieces included in the auction was a amethyst and diamond brooch formerly belonging to Luxembourg's late Grand Duchess. Consisting of a wonderfully deep coloured rectangular amethyst surrounded by circular-cut diamonds, the brooch was estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 euros. In the end, it sold for 1,750 euros. The brooch came in a fitted case by Josef Netter & Co.
Also sold was an emerald and diamond flower brooch. Believed to be of French origin, the brooch is made out of a central diamond weighing 1.38 carats surrounded by pear-shaped emeralds set en tremblant to create movement. The central element is surrounded by brilliant-cut diamond leaves and a baguette diamond stem. Estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros, the brooch fetched 6,850 euros.
Made by Parisian jeweller Verger & Cie, this aquamarine and diamond pendant, as well as an unpictured fine chain and an unpictured bracelet, were also included in the auction though it did not sell. Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wore this pendant consisting out of a fancy-cut aquamarine enhanced with three brilliant-cut diamonds at each cardinal site during the early years of her marriage; see here. The three pieces were estimated to be worth between 3,000 and 4,000 euros.
Also included in the auction was a pair of pendent diamond earrings, each designed as an articulated line of brilliant-cut and single-cut diamonds terminating into a brilliant-cut diamond weighing respectively 1.98 and 1.86 carats. Estimated between 9,000 and 14,000 euros, the earrings sold for 14,650 euros.
Estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros, this brooch fetched 4,750 euros for the unknown seller. Designed as a butterfly, the body is set with cabochon turquoises and the wings are adorned with another few cabochon turquoises as well as rose-cut diamonds. The brooch, whose fitting can be unscrewed, is believed to have been made in the 1900s.
One of the less noticeable pieces being sold was a pearl pendant consisting of a grey and a white pear-shaped cultured pearl on two circular-cut diamond tassels. After having been estimated to be worth between 5,000 and 7,000 euros, the piece already found a new owner for 4,000 which is a little odd but anyway.
The seventh and final lot of the former property of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte consisted of a bracelet, a pair of earrings as well as a brooch or pendant including a fine chain. Each of the clusters is made out of three circular-cut emeralds alternating with circular-cut sapphires set around brilliant-cut diamonds. The lot sold for 4,750 euros after originally having been estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 euros.

Especially the last few lots of auction include a few pieces of jewellery that seem quite familiar. It's entirely possible that those lots also include jewellery formerly owned by Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. To be honest, we can't tell anymore if they seem familiar because they were worn by ladies of the Grand Ducal Family or because we have looked at thousands and thousands of Sotheby's auction lots over the past few days and weeks so that previously unfamiliar jewellery now has become familiar.

As with all of the auctions following the cancelled one, it is not entirely clear who the seller of the above six lots of jewellery was though we can be rather sure that they are to be found among the descendants of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte with the prime suspects being her husband, Grand Duke Jean, and her five children, Archduchess Marie-Astrid, Grand Duke Henri, Princess Margaretha, Prince Jean and Prince Guillaume. Of course they have every right to do with their mother's property as they please though to be perfectly honest, these "secret auctions" do leave a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth considering the statement made when the original auction was cancelled in 2006.

Princess Sibilla in Germany

Photo: Stadt Hof
The always lovely Princess Sibilla visited Germany in her function as member of the jury of the Luigi Micheletti Award this week. The Luigi Micheletti Award is a European prize for innovative museums in the world of contemporary history, industry and science. Princess Sibilla and her fellow jury member Wim van der Weiden paid visits to both the FC Bayern München Erlebniswelt, Germany's biggest football club museum, in Munich as well as the refugee and displaced persons section of the Museum Bayerisches Vogtland in the town of Hof in north-eastern Bavaria. The Micheletti Award will be given out in April this year.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's Making (Baby) Headlines

The French and English editions of Wort - see here and here - ran a story about the possible birthplace of Prince Félix and Princess Claire's baby. Not very surprisingly the cour grand-ducale stated: "There are no rules or laws that oblige the princesses to give birth in the country [Luxembourg]." As soon as Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie have a baby of their own, Félix and Claire's little one will be in a similar situation to another Luxembourgish princess born outside of the Grand Duchy, Princess Charlotte. The daughter of Prince Charles, brother of Grand Duke Jean, and his wife Princess Joan was born in New York City.

Curiously, the French version of the article states that the cour grand-ducale has said that "the baby will be Luxembourgish as German law does not recognise dual citizenship". As we have talked about before, Princess Claire remained a German citizen even after her wedding and while the cour is right about the difficulty of acquiring the German one as an additional citizenship or an additional citizenship to the German one, it is an entirely different story for a child born of a German parent.

A person born of a parent with German citizenship at the time of the child's birth is a German citizen, neither the place of birth nor the nationality of the other parent matter in this case. Félix and Claire's baby will have dual Luxembourgish and German citizenship from the moment of his or her birth. This multiple citizenship is not a problem for German law in case of jus sanguinis, the right to nationality based on parentage. People who are Germans on the basis of descent from a German parent do not have to apply to retain German citizenship by age 23 like people born of non-EU/Swiss foreign parents in Germany.

Whether Prince Félix and Princess Claire will 'claim' German citizenship for their baby by seeking a German passport is a totally different question. The baby will, however, be a German citizen from the moment he or she is born until he or she gives up their German nationality. If the baby is born in France like Wort speculates, he or she will also be eligible to apply for French citizenship between 13 and 16 upon request by the child's parents and if resident in France continuously since age 8, between 16 and 18 upon request by the child and if resident in France with at least 5 years' residence since age 11 or at 18, if resident in France with at least 5 years' residence since age 11.

Source: Wort, Die Bundesregierung

Luxarazzi 101: Prince Jean and the Affair Bommeleeër

The Affair Bommeleeër and an alleged involvement of the Grand Duke's brother, Prince Jean in the case remains a story of interest for many. Back in June last year, we already wrote about the story in relation to the secret service scandal that had just broken and ultimately led to new elections and a new government for the Grand Duchy. This time around, we are solely going to focus on the alleged involvement of Prince Jean.

Last year, the so-called Bommeleeër (bomb planter) trial started. At the center of the trial are two members of the Brigade mobile de la Gendarmerie (BMG), an elite police unit, accused of being responsible for 18 bombings that shook Luxembourg between May 1984 and April 1986. The accused Josh Wilmes and Marco Scheer are alleged to have carried out the bombings with two other now-deceased colleagues. The alleged aim of the bombings was to achieve increased funding for law enforcement. Whether Wilmes and Scheer actually are among the bombers remains unclear. 

While the prosecution has sought to prove that the two elite policemen were behind the attacks, the defense has argued that those responsible were members of the NATO-led Stay Behind network. A possible Stay Behind involvement was supported by a statement of the son of a former German intelligence officer who coordinated the missions in Germany as well as the Benelux countries during the 1980's. Similar attacks happened during the same time in Italy to create the conditions for a political shift to the right. Curiously according to state attorney Robert Biever, no fewer than 88 from a total of 125 pieces of evidence disappeared in the course of the investigation of the two accused. The list of witnesses summoned to give testimonies in front of the criminal court reads like the who is who of Luxembourgish society: former prime ministers, government and secret service officials, historians, policemen, and two members of the Grand Ducal Family, Prince Jean and his younger brother Prince Guillaume.

Rumours about a possible involvement of Prince Jean in the bombings started sometime in the 1980's. The exact reason for those rumours -- Do rumours have a reason? -- is hard to find these days. The rumours, however, were fueled by two occurrences, the statement of a Luxembourgish police officer and Prince Jean's renunciation of his rights to the throne.

On September 26, 1986, the cour grand-ducale suddenly announced that Prince Jean, the second of three sons of Grand Duke Jean, had renounced his rights to the Luxembourgish throne citing "business reasons". Earlier that same month, Prince Jean had become the father of a little daughter named Marie-Gabrielle but little did the Luxembourgish public know about the happy news. Prince Jean wasn't married to the mother of his daughter, Hélène Vestur, and the pregnancy and birth kept a secret.

Photo: Point de Vue
When asked by Point de Vue which baby names she liked, Hélène stated at the time of their wedding in 1987, that she would like to call a daughter Marie-Gabrielle. Only when the couple's second child, a boy named Constantin, was born, a girl suddenly appeared with the family in Point de Vue pictures. That girl was Marie-Gabrielle. Neither she nor Constantin held a title after their births but only the surname 'Nassau'. Only in 1995, Prince Jean's children and wife were elevated to the rank of Counts and Countesses of Nassau and Marie-Gabrielle, Constantin, Wenceslas and Carl became Princesses and Princes of Nassau in November 2004.

The Luxembourgish public did not know about the real reasons for Prince Jean's renunciation of his rights (the birth of his daughter) and thus speculated whether there might have been others than "business reasons", an explanation that never seemed very convincing to most.

In May 1987, former policeman and founder of the BMG Ben Geiben - himself implicated to have been involved in the bombings - held a lecture about terrorism. After the lecture Geiben, another high-ranking policeman named Marc Zovilé and Henri Roemer, at the time consul in Paris, met for dinner. During the dinner, Zovilé told Roemer about the rumours of a possible involvement of Prince Jean in the bombings. Asked why he repeated these rumours, Zovilé stated during the trial last November that he had simply wanted to inform Roemer as the Grand Ducal Family regularly spent time in Paris. What Zovilé's motives were and whether he had tried to falsely implicate Prince Jean to draw attention from others remain unclear. The fact, however, that a high-ranking official repeated the rumours gave a whole new impetus to the story.

The fact that Zovilé had told the rumours to Roemer and Geiben soon reached the ears of the cour grand-ducale and Zovilé and his boss Aloyse Harpes were summoned to the palais. The court marshall of the time, Raymond Hastert, was furious and told the two policemen that rumours told by a high-ranking official have a much heavier weight than rumours on the street.

For the next twenty years or so, the rumours of a possible involvement of Prince Jean as one of the bomb planters lingered in the Grand Duchy but only gained momentum in 2005. Meanwhile, the police and prosecution weren't successful in finding those behind the bombs and so TV station RTL started an own investigation.

On November 9, 2005, RTL broadcasted a programme about the Affair Bommeleeër during which an anonymous witness claimed to have seen a well-known person at the junction of the Rue de l'Europe and the Route de Trêves near Findel Airport at 3am exactly 20 years earlier. At 10pm that same day, a bomb exploded about 450 meters from where the anonymous person, who later turned out to be Eugène Beffort, had seen the well-known one. Beffort, however, refused to reveal the identity of the person to TV cameras, but only did so in a meeting with prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker five days later.

Beffort, who died in 2012, claimed to have seen Prince Jean sitting in a car and to have reported the car and its license plate to the police. In 2005, Beffort further told prosecutors that shortly after the attack on Findel Airport, two policemen came to his house threatening him to never tell anyone again that he had seen Prince Jean near the airport during the night prior to the bombings; otherwise it would have dire consequences for him.

According to statements of the prosecutors, it is doubtful how believable Beffort's statements are as he changed a few details, such as Prince Jean's hair colour as well as the colour of the car, numerous times. Beffort also said that he was on the way to his job to work overtime though he only arrived there hours later at 7am. There was no evidence to be found about two policemen visiting Beffort after the Findel attack or of them continuing to put pressure on him not to talk about an involvement of Prince Jean in the following years. Lastly, nobody knows whether Beffort actually called the police after the attack on November 9 as nobody can remember a call and the tapes have been deleted a long time ago.

Photo: Luxemburger Wort /
On December 9, 2005, Prince Jean was scheduled to give a statement to the police. About a week prior to that, he and prosecutor Robert Biever, however, met up at Prince Guillaume's house in advance of Jean's questioning to to have an off the record briefing discussion. Apparently, the meeting was organised by the then minister of justice Luc Frieden. Biever is also present during the questioning of Prince Jean by the police as the prince had apparently refused to talk to the police without the prosecutor present. While nothing about this is wrong per se, it is not common and probably wouldn't have happened for a non-royal, not well-connected person.

During the questioning, Prince Jean told the police that Beffort couldn't have seen him at 3am on November 9, 1985 near Findel Airport as he did not spend that day in the Grand Duchy but instead was hunting in the forests of Loir-et-Cher near Orléans in France. To support his statement, Prince Jean gave the police a letter by his then fiancée Hélène Vestur in which she wrote that she would rather like him to spend the weekend in Paris with her. According to prosecutor Marc Weis, Prince Jean's alibi is supported by the organiser of the hunt Louis Giscard d’Estaing, former politician and son of former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. By contrast the lawyer of the accused, Gaston Vogel, states that Giscard d'Estaing stated that Prince Jean only arrived for the hunt on November 9. This inconsistencies are the main reasons for Prince Jean summoned to appear in front of the court. Prince Guillaume shall support his alibi and likely also talk about the off the record meeting prior to the interrogation of his brother.

During his interrogation, Prince Jean was also able to give the police information about his whereabouts for some of the other bombings happening between May 1984 and April 1986. For quite a number of them, he wasn't even within the Grand Duchy. In addition, a few other indicators provided by journalists over the years have been disproven by the prosecutors. Prince Jean did not have a close relationship with Ben Geiben, he did not write a threatening letter to his father Grand Duke Jean in 1978 - that was either Grand Duke Henri or Prince Guillaume but not Prince Jean - he did not learn how to handle explosives while at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, he did not have firing practices at the Grand Ducal villa in Heisdorf as the shooting range in the basement had been deconstructed after the family purchased the house, and he also did not receive 70 or 87 Luxembourgish francs to renounce his rights to the throne. Some have also alleged that the prince was involved with the Anti-Communist League but that is no prove to that story either. Thus, it seems that Prince Jean neither had the knowledge to be the Bommeleeër nor a reason to blackmail his family with bombs to give him money. And I hope that he was smarter than to get involved with a Stay Behind organisation.

After already appearing in court in the beginning of the trial and previously stating that they are willing to testify, Prince Jean and Prince Guillaume have now been summoned to appear in court. They were summoned on request of the lawyers of the accused to be questioned about the inconsistencies of the hunting alibi and the meeting at Prince Guillaume's house. It's interesting to note that one of the lawyers is Gaston Vogel, a man who could probably only be described as Grand Duke Henri's and the monarchy's biggest critic. Prior to Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume's wedding, Vogel wrote a letter to them prime minister Juncker protesting about the costs of the wedding and threatening to found a republican party. While I'm not sure if he still wishes to do so, lawyer Vogel has also stated in the past that he would like Hélène Vestur and Louis Giscard d’Estaing to appear in front of the court.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

About Grandfathers and Granddaughters

Photo: Katja Stuppia / CSI-Zürich
Last weekend, the CSI Zürich, an international horse show, took place in (surprise, surprise) Zürich. Amongst the many events held during the course of the weekend was the LGT Private Banking Challenge and as the chairman of the board of the board of trustees of the Princely Family-owned bank, Prince Philipp was on hand to hand out the prize and it seems to me like he was accompanied by his granddaughter Princess Theodora. 

To be perfectly honest, the last part is a guess on my part as the last picture I have seen of the daughter of Prince Alexander and Princess Astrid is several years old, however, I see certain resemblances to the young girl above. It also doesn't seem like the world's most far fetched idea that a grandfather would take his nine year old granddaughter to a horse show. In addition, I have no idea who the girl next to Prince Philipp would otherwise be if not his granddaughter Princess Theodora.

Source: CSI Zürich

Monday, January 27, 2014

Olympic Farewell and Other News

Photo: Michael Zanghellini / Liechtensteiner Vaterland /
Today, Hereditary Prince Alois officially sent off Liechtenstein's delegation for next month's Winter Olympics. Four athletes - namely alpine ski racers Tina Weirather, Marina Nigg and Marco Pfiffner as well as cross country skier Philipp Hälg - will be representing the Principality in Sochi. We'll be having a closer look at Liechtenstein's (rather successful considering the country's size) Olympic history in this week's Friday Flashback. More pictures of today can be found at Vaterland.

In addition, the Hereditary Prince received Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, for an audience at the Schloss. Mr Baird was on a short visit to Liechtenstein today after participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos during the last few days.  Pictures can be found on the government website and at Volksblatt.

Sources: IKR, Vaterland

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte's Rubies

Anno 1953 when Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium tied the knot with Luxembourg's Hereditary Grand Duke Jean it was another day and age, a day and age in which a princess about to the marry the heir to a throne would be showered with jewellery by those near and dear to her as well as some unexpected sources such as companies, colonies and more. From her father, King Léopold III of Belgium, the bride received a set of rubies consisting of earrings and a brooch in floral designs as well as a bracelet composed of three lines of oval rubies spaced by collet-set brilliant-cut diamonds and highlighted with brilliant-cut as well as baguette diamond links mounted in platinum. (At least that is what they were described as during the proposed auction in 2006 while Christophe Vachaudez writes in his book Bijoux des reines et princesses de Belgique that the brooch and earrings were gifts by Grand Duke Jean.)
Made by French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte wore the pieces of her ruby set both individually and in it's entirety many times during her life, especially during the early years of her marriage when it was still normal for royal ladies to bust out the bling on a regular basis for events during the evening hours while it usually only gets a spin for gala events these days. The flower motif used was a very popular during the 1950's and Van Cleef & Arpels made the same earrings and brooch also with other stones such as sapphires. Like most of her personal jewels, the ruby set ended up as part as of a proposed auction in 2006.

As they were personal property, the Grand Ducal Family had of course every right to sell the late Grand Duchess' jewellery but what they probably didn't expect was the public backlash the planned sale received. Old stories of a strained relationship between Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and her daughter-in-law Grand Duchess Maria Teresa resurfaced and rumours of tensions between the siblings and in-laws evolved. In addition, the finances of the Grand Ducal Family as a whole as well as judgement by individual members (or lack thereof) were questioned. To cut a long story short: Everything that a reigning royal family does not want to have questioned was suddenly a point of discussion and resulted in the cancellation of the auction. While the cancellation saved many other prominent pieces of the Grand Ducal Family which we regularly see to this day, it did not save the rubies from ending up on the auction block. Just like a number of other smaller pieces of jewellery, the rubies were sold at later points in time, just in quieter fashion like last week.

In January 2009, the ruby set popped up at a Sotheby's jewellery auction in Switzerland. Described as the property of a European collector, the brooch was sold at a price of 14,800 euros (estimated between 11,800 and 18,500 euros) and the earrings, estimated between 15,100 and 21,700 euros, found a new owner for 22,200 euros. Estimated between 36,800 and 50,000 euros and also described as the property of a "European gentleman", the bracelet did not sell.

A few months later it was put up on auction in Geneva again, this time by a "European lady". After the estimation had been lowered to between 23,400 and 36,800 euros, it did sell at a price of 57,870 euros. In difference to the first auction in which it failed to sell, the royal provenance of the bracelet was mentioned this second time around. Some pieces of the set were purchased by Van Cleef & Arpels and are now part of the jeweller's collection.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bommeleeër Case Continued

Already in June last year, the cour grand-ducale issued a statement saying that Prince Jean and his younger brother Prince Guillaume are willing to appear in court to make their witness statements in the Bommeleeër case. The two younger sons of Grand Duke Jean already appeared in front of the judges at the very beginning of the trial early last year when all called witnesses were asked to do so. Based on article 510 and following of the Code d’instruction criminelle, princes and princesses as well as other dignitaries of the Empire - it was written in 1812... - did not need to appear in front of court.

Now the constitutional court has also ruled that the princes shall testify in the case after being charged by the criminal chamber back in June to determine whether the princes, as members of the Grand Ducal Family, can actually be summoned as witnesses. This might not be of such a great importance in this case as Prince Jean and Prince Guillaume had already agreed to appear in court but will likely also mean that in any future case, a member of the Grand Ducal Family will not be able to refuse to appear in court based on the 1812 law.

As a sidenote, I'm pretty sure that the last paragraph of the Wort article which is the base for this article is faulty. To the best of our combined knowledges, there have never "been claims implicating [...] Prince Guillaume with the bombings". He is merely one of the persons - and the only one of them asked to appear in front of the court, I believe - who can confirm his brother's alibi.

Source: Wort

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Flashback: Golden Memories

Photo: RTL
Then Hereditary Grand Duke Jean, a now former member of the IOC, awards Josy Barthel with his Olympic gold medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Barthel, the surprise winner of the 1500 metres track event, remains the only Luxembourgish athlete to have won an Olympic gold medal. 

In addition, the Grand Duchy has won three silver medals by weightlifter Joseph Alzin at the 1920 Antwerp Games and by alpine skier Marc Girardelli in the giant slalom and super-G events at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume will be attending this year's Winter Olympics in Sochi but it's highly doubtful that Luxembourg's only competitor will add to the medal count.

Bhutanese Royal Visits Liechtenstein

Photo: Kuensel Online
Between January 14 and 19, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, younger brother of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and heir presumptive to the Bhutanese throne, was on a visit to Liechtenstein. The Bhutanese prince visited on the invitation of Prince Philipp and also obviously met Prince Hans-Adam during his stay. During the course of his visit, Prince Jigyel took part in a workshop which somehow had to do with The King's Challenge, a social venture that aims to build social capital and mobilise development funds for the purpose of environmental conservation, cultural preservation and youth engagement in Bhutan. The workshop might have been organised by LGT Venture Philantrophy.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Another Day, Another Award *

Photo: Jeannot Mersch /
Yup, it's that time of the week again in which you get to read about yet another award handed out by a member of the Grand Ducal Family. Sometimes it feels like the late fall and winter months are all about that in Luxembourg. Today, it was time for the Hereditary Grand Duke to carry out his award-giving duty.

On and off since 1992, the Fondation Kannerschlass has annually given out the Prix Janus Korczak which recognises special achievements in the social sector. This year's award goes to the Association nationale des Victimes de la Route (ASBL), which in line with its name supports victims of road accidents and their families. They offer a wide range of help starting with psychological and social support through to administrative support. The ASBL also tries to do prevention work by educating young drivers for example.

Also honoured, though apparently not with a special award, was the Action Luxembourg Ouvert et Solidaire – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (ALOS-LDH) for their human rights work.

Since 2003, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume has been the patron of the Association nationale des Victimes de la Route. His uncle Prince Guillaume and aunt Princess Sibilla, who survived a horrible car accident in 2000, are honorary members of the association and have attended many of their events in the past.

First pictures can be found at MyWort.

Former Property of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte Sold *

Photo: Sotheby's
Today, Sotheby's London sold a cabinet formerly belonging to the late Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, mother of Grand Duke Henri. The Italian ebony and hardstone inset cabinet-on-stand from the second half of the 19th century fetched £152,500 after originally being estimated between 40,000 and 60,000 GBP. (Convert it into the currency that's most convenient for you here.)

The cabinet was described as featuring an "architectural break-front upper structure incorporating a clock with brass chapter ring, flanked by gilt bronze statuettes of Roman soldiers, above an arrangement of drawers and retractable compartments, the panelled sides with inlaid brass banding, the front overall elaborately inlaid with shaped pietre dure and marble plaques including lapis lazuli, bianco, rosso e giallo antico, alabaster and onyx; supported on an ebonised sphinx stand".

Sotheby's describes the cabinet as "property of a European ruling family" and mentions Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte as a former owner by bequest. The original owners of the piece were Prince Philippe of Belgium, Count of Flanders and his wife née Princess Marie-Luise of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the great-grandparents of the Belgian-born Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. See the cabinet standing in the Salon d'Audience of the Count and Countess of Flanders here.

Photo: Sotheby's
Another lot described as the "property of a European ruling family" did not mention Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte but it seems rather likely that the demi-parure consisting of a necklace and earrings were also formerly her property. Estimated between £15,000 and 20,000, the lot did not sell.

Made circa 1860 and consisting of gold and coral, the cameos of the necklace and the pendants of the earrings feature depictions of classical deities and maidens respectively. The original owners of the demi-parure were King Miguel of Portugal and his wife née Princess Adelheid of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg; "thence by descent". Among their descent is the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg through numerous ways. Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte was a great-great-granddaughter of the couple and considering that the only other piece in the auction description as "property of a European ruling family" also came from Luxembourg, we think that it is pretty likely that this one comes too.

The third lot described as "property of a European ruling family" and to formerly be owned by Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte includes to Italian statues from the late 16th or 17th century. It is believed that the statues of Mars and Venus either come from Venice or Padua and were created by someone in the circle of artist Tiziano Aspetti (1559-1606). The statues are made out of "bronze on ebonised wood bases with bronze herm mounts and inlaid with lapis lazuli".

It's entirely possible (and suspected by us) that some other pieces in the auction that do not have a clear provenance description are also Luxembourgish property. As we've mentioned many times before, most of the property included in the original auction that was cancelled due to public outcry was still sold just in a quieter fashion.

Source: Sotheby's Lot 48, Sotheby's Lot 47, Sotheby's Lot 217

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Something About Us: "Luxarazzi - The Royal Detectives At Work"

As you might have already seen, the English version of the webpage of Luxemburger Wort, the Grand Duchy's biggest newspaper, now features an article about Team Luxarazzi - Check it out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Luxembourgish Royals to Attend Winter Olympics

On February 7th, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Russian city of Sochi will kick off with an official opening ceremony and then run until the 23rd. While a bunch of other heads of states have cancelled any possible appearances, it seems that most royals will go anyway. According to information of Tageblatt, Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume are expected to travel to Russia for the Games. (No word on any other possible Grand Ducal guests.) As the Grand Duke is a member of the International Olympic Committee, this news does not come as a surprise. With the Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume also in attendance, this means that Grand Duchy will have a royal to athlete ratio of 2:1 as cross country skier Kari Peters is the only Luxembourgish athlete who was qualified for the Olympics.

Source: Tageblatt

Luxarazzi 101: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's Emerald Bracelet

As we are running a little thin on the tiara front and there are so many other beautiful pieces of jewellery out there that are often overlooked, we thought we'd broaden one of our Luxarazzi 101 categories a little to also include other jewellery owned by our regularly featured players a.k.a. the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg and the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. Today, let's talk about a (number of) bracelet(s) that have adorned the wrists of many Grand Ducal ladies. For simplicity's and distinction's sake we are are going to name them Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's emerald bracelets.
Paintings by Vladimir Hau and Carl Ferdinand Sohn
The first lady to wear the bracelet (to the best of our knowledge) wasn't a Grand Ducal lady in our usual sense of the word but a Grand Duchess nonetheless. Of course I am talking about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, first wife of (Grand) Duke Adolph. (You might remember her from the Russian Orthodox Chapel in Wiesbaden that Adolph built for her.)

On the left, you can see a miniature of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna painted in the year 1843 by Vladimir Hau. That same year, she firstly met the young Duke Adolph of Nassau while he was on a visit to the Russian court in St. Petersburg. On January 31, 1844, the couple tied the knot but that wasn't their happily ever after as Duchess Elizabeth died at the age of 19 after giving birth to a stillborn daughter on January 28, 1845, almost exactly one year after their wedding. In 1847, Carl Ferdinand Sohn was commissioned to turn the miniature into a painting which you can see on the right. The fact that the miniature was the model also explains why both of the pictures look rather similar apart from the obvious age difference.

In both paintings Elizabeth is wearing a bracelet featuring a large emerald surrounded by diamonds. The stones are attached to a plain gold-coloured band. If you look closely at the miniature on the left, you can see that she is wearing a similar bracelet on the right wrist as well. (By the way, Team Luxarazzi is positive that we have also seen Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wearing a snake bracelet looking very similar to the one worn by Duchess Elizabeth though we are still on the hunt for photograpic evidence.)
Photos: Eduard Kutter / Raymond Reuter / PPE
It appears that the bracelets stayed within the Ducal Family of Nassau that later became the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg even after Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's death. Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa have all stepped out wearing a bracelet featuring three emerald stones surrounded by diamonds set on a plain gold band which looks suspiciously similar to the one worn by Grand Duchess Charlotte's grandfather's first wife.

The half-hidden bracelet on Duchess Elizabeth's right wrist in the miniature above does seem to feature more than just one dark-coloured stone. It also does not seem unthinkable that more emeralds and diamonds were added to the bracelet worn by her on the left wrist either: According to Point de Vue (and thanks to Valentin of the Royalement Blog) the bracelet in its current setting was created in the 1920's at Grand Duchess Charlotte's request based on three "square" emeralds. Whatever the answer to the question, I think we can safely assume that the bracelet worn by Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa is indeed originally of Russian provenance.

(FYI, Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa are all wearing the Emerald Art Deco Tiara. The diamond ring of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa's right hand seems to be featuring the central diamond of the Belgian Scroll Tiara. About some of the other jewellery worn we are going to talk at a later date.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Export Award With The Hereditary Grand Duke **

Photo: CCBLR
Earlier today, the Chamber of Commerce and the Office du Ducroire handed out the Export Award 2013-2014 and Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume was among the guests for the event. The award is given out in cooperation with the agencies Luxembourg for Business and Luxembourg for Finance which will likely sound familiar to you if you are a regular follower of this blog or the Grand Ducal Family in general. The award is usually given to small and medium-sized enterprises and aims to stimulate business development and Luxembourg's economy by encouraging domestic SMEs to promote their goods and services to foreign markets.

Other pictures are now available at Wort, Manuel Dias, the cour grand-ducale and Chronicle which leads to the old, old question what the heck Guillaume sees in these awful yellow ties he keeps buying.

Source: Export Award, Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce for Russia and Belarus 

President On A Visit

Photo: Information und Kommunikation der Regierung, Vaduz
This week, the Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj is on a visit to Liechtenstein and this morning he was received for an audience at Schloss Vaduz by Prince Hans-Adam II and Hereditary Prince Alois. Mongolia and Liechtenstein establised diplomatic relations in 1998 and together the three gentlemen talked about how those relations currently are and how to enhance them.

I do kinda love that the official press release by the Liechtenstein press office does not make any mention of Prince Hans-Adam whatsoever but he was quite obviously there and so I included him in the description cause I have my doubts that the Hereditary Prince and Mister Elbegdorj threw the Principality's head of state out before starting the conversation. Looking at the pictures by Vaterland, however, I was maybe wrong afterall and they did indeed throw the Prince out. Volksblatt's photos do not give an awful lot of more clarity either and so the mystery remains. A video can be found at 1FLTV.

Source: IKR, Montsame

Sunday, January 19, 2014

At The Operetta...

Photo: Liechtensteiner Vaterland /
Last night the Princess Marie was a guest at the premiere of a new theater production by the Operetta Balzers, one of Liechtenstein's two operetta stages. The operetta in Balzers has a long tradition going back to the 1940's and since 1977 new productions alternate with the operetta stage in Vaduz. New to the repertoire this year is Carl Millöcker's "Gasparone" which premiered last night under the watchful eye of the Principality's first lady. FYI, the other lady and the girls in the pictures are wearing traditional Liechtenstein costumes if you hadn't guessed so already.

More pictures of reception after the premiere are available at Vaterland.

Source: Volksblatt, Vaterland, Tourismus Liechtenstein

Special Olympics

Photo: PD / Liechtensteiner Vaterland /
Over the course of this weekend the 5th edition of the Special Olympics European Winter Games took place in Liechtenstein. Yesterday and today about 350 athletes from various European nations competed in alpine and cross-country skiing events for the medals. The sporting events were hosted by the Principality's winter sport regions of Malbun and Steg. Already on Friday an opening ceremony including a torch relay, speeches and a procession of the teams of the participating countries took place. As founder of the Liechtenstein branch of the Special Olympics, Princess Nora was a natural guests on all three days.

More picture of the opening ceremony can be found at Vaterland. Volksblatt does seem to have pictures as well though I can't get them to load properly but maybe you have more luck.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Prince Philipp of Liechtenstein

One of the most low-key yet surprisingly active members of the Princely Family is Prince Philipp. Most times he makes it onto our little blog is in relation to his travels for his job as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the LGT Group but the younger brother of Prince Hans-Adam II hasn't always been involved in the family business and today we are going to shed some light on all of that.

Baby Prince Philipp with his
mother and older brother
(Photo: Historischer Verein)
The sounds gunshots and peal of bells announced the birth of the second son of Prince Franz Josef II and Princess Gina, who had been born in the morning hours of August 19, 1946 in Zurich, to the Principality's population. Five days later, the little prince was baptised and given the name Philipp Erasmus Alois Ferdinand Maria Sebaldus. As per tradition in the Princely Family (though not observed by all) he has only one godparent, his maternal grandfather, Count Ferdinand of Wilczek.

Prince Philipp and his four siblings were the first children of the Princely Family to actually grow up in Liechtenstein as their father was the first Fürst to make the country his main residence. They were joined by many cousins who had come to the Principality during or in the aftermath of the Second World War. Prince Philipp as well as his brother Prince Hans-Adam and Prince Nikolaus have been described as being particularly close to their maternal grandfather who lived with the family in Vaduz and whose wife had died while giving birth to her second child who also did not survive.

For the first three years of his education Prince Philipp attended the local primary school Ebenholz in Vaduz. Together with his older brother Prince Hans-Adam, who had just finished fourth grade, he was then sent to Vienna where the brothers attended the Schottengymnasium, the traditional school of the Princely Family. At some later point in time the brothers changed schools again and moved to Switzerland where they went to the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz. The prestigious boarding school is one of the only places in the world where you can obtain the Swiss Matura and the German Abitur simultaneously. Prince Philipp left the school in 1966 after having obtained both. Besides German, he is fluent in French and English.

With his parents and brother Nikolaus
(Photo: Point de Vue)
Being interested in arts and an avid painter, he then attended the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg the summer after finishing school. In autumn he enrolled at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn, at the time the de facto German capital, to study history.

During the early 1960's, he first met his future wife née Isabelle Fernande Ghislaine Guillemette Elisabeth de l'Arbre de Malander through mutual friends in Brussels while still being teenagers; they met again at a ball in Vienna given in honour of the 18th birthday of Princess Nora by her parents. Born on November 24, 1948 as the youngest child of Jean de l'Arbre de Malander and his wife née Guillemette Grassal, Princess Isabelle was the first commoner to marry into the main line of the Princely Family though one could argue that she was noble in all but name.

Growing up in her family's Château de la Cruce near Ronse, the goddaughter of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians was educated at home until the age of 15 when she entered the Institut Sacré Coeur in Brussels. After finishing school, she studied music and classical ballet before taking classes in archaeology at the Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire. The couple's engagement was announced in June 1970 and they tied the knot on September 11, 1971 at the Abbaye de la Cambre in Brussels. At the time of their wedding, Princess Isabelle spoke Flemish, French and English as well as enough German to charm Liechtenstein's dignitaries during receptions hosted in their honour (or so the newspapers say).

Philipp and Isabelle with their sons
(Photo: Point de Vue)
After their wedding, Prince Philipp and Princess Isabelle moved to Basel in Switzerland where he pursued a degree in social sciences graduating with a thesis on Liechtenstein's economic history in the 18th century. During their time in Basel the couple's first son Alexander was born in 1972. He was followed by princes Wenzeslaus (*1974) and Rudolf (*1975) who were both born in Uccle, a muncicipality of Brussels just like the children of Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha a few years later. Prince Philipp is the godfather to his nephew Hereditary Prince Alois and his niece Princess Anunciata.

After short stints in Vaduz and London where Prince Philipp worked for the Hambros Bank, the family moved to Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt north of Paris in 1975. For the following years, Prince Philipp worked in trade financing for the Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild. In 1979, he became chairman of the supervisory board of Liechtensteinische Landesbank (LLB) which is owned by the Liechtenstein state and two years later he became firstly involved in the Princely Family's own bank.

In 1981, Prince Philipp became a member of the board of directors of LGT Bank and was appointed its chairman in 1998. He held the position until 2006 when he was replaced by his nephew Prince Max. Between 1990 and 2001 he also worked as the chairman of the board of directors of Liechtenstein Global Trust. Until 2006 he was also the chairman of the board of directors of LGT Capital Management (since 1999) as well as the chairman of the LGT Group Executive Committee (since 2001). In addition, Prince Philipp also held the position of CEO and President of the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation until 2012 when he handed over his post to another one of his nephews, Prince Constantin. But nevermind, he still holds the position of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the LGT Group.

Photo: Abaca
Together with one of his cousins, Prince Michael, Prince Philipp founded the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation, a liberal think tank, and is a governor of the European Financial Forum in London. He is also a honorary member of the Ludwig von Mises Institut Europe, which also follows the Austrian school of economics, as well as a member of the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation of Archaeological Research Abroad. In more charitable functions, he is the honorary president of the Fondation Saint-Luc of the Université de Louvain, the patron of the Friends of the Tarabai Desai Eye Hospital in India as well as the honorary president of the Amis du Liechtenstein en Wallonie. In addition to a few other charities, both Prince Philipp and Princess Isabelle are patrons of the Brain Trust. Though he does not have any official role in the Principality, Prince Philipp occasionally accompanies economic and trade missions.

These days he splits his time between Vaduz, where he works, and France, where he and Princess Isabelle still have their primary home. In addition the couple does seem to do a whole lot of travelling as due to their low-key-ness (yes, I just made that word up) I'm pretty sure that we only cover a fraction of their travels and events.