Monday, September 8, 2014

Royally Speaking with Valentin of Royalement Blog

In today's edition of Royally Speaking, I talked to Valentin of the Royalement Blog about his interest in the Grand Ducal Family as well as other monarchies. Even though his blog is in French, it's still worth checking out even if you don't speak the language as his picture collection includes a lot of treasure troves, but enough from me...

Along with us, you are one of the few bloggers who has (one of) their main focuses on the Grand Ducal Family. How did you get interested in them in the first place?
Prince Felix greets his future daughter-in-law
I have been interested in royal families since I was very young, at least 9 years old. But it was the Belgian royals that I knew best. I stood naturally aware of what was happening in the other European monarchies, but nothing more for several years. In 2009, I had the occasion to buy a large stock of photos. The stock included some of the Belgian royal family, but the majority came from Luxembourg. Taken during the eighties and the nineteens, they showed public activities and more private events. With this purchase, I wanted to know more about the Grand Ducal Family. And since that time I have continued to develop my Luxembourgish collection. My interest for the Grand Ducal Family is fueled by the family's good relationship to the Belgian royal family since the end of the 1920’s. Grand Duchess Charlotte was chosen to be the godmother of Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium in 1926 and her husband Prince Felix was the godfather of Prince Albert of Belgium in 1934, the future King Albert II. And naturally the relationships are very close since 1953 and the wedding between of Princess Joséphine-Charlotte and Hereditary Grand Duke Jean.

I always like reading your posts on lesser known members of the family or past events, which is the single most interesting story you ever came across when reading about the Grand Ducal Family?
It isn’t a particular story around one member that I have in memory. But I find very interesting the life of the Grand Ducal Family during the WWII and the attitude of Grand Duchess Charlotte, a period for the whole family characterized by the greatness, the exemplarity but also the tragedy. We can mention the figure of the resistance played by Grand Duchesse Charlotte, the acts of Prince consort Felix and Hereditary Grand Duke Jean in the military fields, the engagement in the British Red Cross of Prince Charles and Princesses Elisabeth, Marie-Adelaide and Marie-Gabrielle. But also several deaths: Princess Sophie (spouse of Crown Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony) in 1941, Dowager Grand Duchess Marie-Anne in 1942 in New York City and Prince Anselm of Thurn and Taxis, son of Princess Elisabeth (widow of Prince Ludwig Philipp of Thurn and Taxis), killed in action in 1944 in Ukraine. I think likewise about Princess Antonia and her daughters who have experienced the concentration camps because her husband Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria was opposed to Nazis.

Photo: JFK Presidential Library & Museum
If you could write a book about one of the Luxembourgish royals (past or present), who would your book be about?
It’s difficult to answer this question… Naturally, Grand Duchess Charlotte would certainly be a good choice: a young lady who succeeded a controversial sister’s reign, a wife and a mother of six children, a catholic women who received a Golden Rose by Pope Pius XII, who achieved an enormous popularity after WWII and embodying the resistance of the invaded Grand Duchy, the meetings with important people like Roosevelt, Kennedy, de Gaulle or Churchill, the decision to abdicate after a long reign of 43 years, and a retreat surrounded by her beloved children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. An absolutely true story which can be a good scenario I guess. However, there exists few sources in French about the Grand Ducal Family – one reason that explains why it’s so interesting to study this family – and I think I’d like to publish a general book on this subject. On my point of view more unknown and discrete (extended) members of the Grand Ducal Family merit also several pages!

Which royals and nobles you do not cover on Royalement Blog do you find most interesting and why?
I have some interest for the past monarchies in Eastern Europe with ex-kings or pretenders to the throne who made their triumphant return after the collapse of the USSR. There are now republics in south-eastern Europe which have given a semi-official or official status to their former royal families, like in Montenegro where the pretender to the throne has a salary equivalent to that of the President of the Republic. In these families, my preference goes to Albania and the very sympathetic Prince Leka II who is also a special counsellor of the President of the Republic. For several months, I have now been interesed in the royal families in Asia and the Pacific: Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, Cambodia, Tonga, etc. We don’t really talk about these monarchies, so I wanted to discover them more by myself. I find it interesting because it’s very different to our European monarchies, with a dose of the exotic and where the history is often confused with the myth. I’ve recently dedicated a blog to this royal area, Monarchies en Asie et au Pacifique.

Last but certainly not least, if you could invite six royals (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would find an invitation in their mailbox?
Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Hohenberg
(Photo: Tom Wagner / Cour grand-ducale)
- Queen Fabiola of Belgium because I’ll have many questions for her and I think she'd answer a few of them honestly. She has a strong personality (sometimes a bad temper) but a real sense of humor.
- Princess Claire of Belgium who is very sympathetic, natural, elegant, with always a particular attention for everyone and she seems to be the only Belgian royals who have good relationships with all members of the Belgian Royal Family.
- Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg because we have almost the same age and… I must admit that I find her very charming.
- Princess Elisabeth of Luxembourg, Duchess of Hohenberg by marriage, died in 2011, a discrete great lady who was apparently the memory of the Grand Ducal Family and she spent a lot of time researching the family archives.
- Crown Prince Leka I of Albania who was a fascinating character to me: very tall, dressed simply, always armed (he was regularly threatened with death by the regime of Enver Hoxha), who had a life with lots of twists.
- King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan because I dream to visit this beautiful country and it would be nice to meet the King (the youngest in the world) and the beautiful Queen Jetsun Pema. A royal couple between tradition and modernity.

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