Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reliving Guillaume and Stéphanie's Civil Wedding

Time flies! It's already two years ago that HRH Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg married the lovely Belgian Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy. While the civil ceremony on October 19 was a sober ceremony, the gala dinner that same evening and the church wedding a day later were splendid occasions which brought an enormous 'royal mob' to the tiny Grand Duchy.

I was in Luxembourg those two days and I have fantastic memories of it. Everything was right those days: a relaxed atmosphere in combination with glittering, splendid occasions and the weather was great.

Immediately after the announcement of their engagement in April 2012, I decided that I would travel to the Grand Duchy to see it all with my own eyes. I live in the Netherlands and for me, it's a five hour journey by train, so travelwise, it was a no-brainer. And after all: I'm a royalty geek, so I had to be there, period. I booked a hotel and I made train reservations and with great anticipation I looked forward to the wedding.

The ladies at Luxarazzi asked me to write about my experiences of those days: of course I will! In this piece I will write about the day of the civil wedding, the next piece will be about the following day, when the religious wedding took place.

Friday October 19, 2012

It was an early day for me. I got up around 6 AM to catch a train at 7 AM. I wanted to be in Luxembourg City around noon, because in the afternoon, the civil wedding would take place in the Hôtel de Ville. Earlier civil weddings of members of the Grand Ducal Family took place at the Palais (such as the weddings of Guillaume's parents and grandparents), so no chance for the public to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds. This time it would be different and I wanted to make sure that I would get to see something.

As planned, I arrived at the station around noon and from there, it was a short walk to my hotel at the Avenue de la Liberté. After freshening up and dropping my luggage, I walked to the city centre. I walked across the Pont Adolphe and I was stunned by the beauty in the valley below! Immediately, I fell in love with the beauty of this city and this country.
(I took many pictures from the bridge, but I will try to keep it as royalty related as possible!)
I had never been in Luxembourg before, but as the city is very compact, it's very easy to find your way around. I walked past the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, where preparations for the religious wedding the next day were in full swing.
I had some time left, and I decided to walk around a little before going to the Place Guillaume II (named after King Willem II of the Netherlands, who was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg), which is called Knuedler by the Luxembourgers, for the civil wedding. I walked past the statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte and past the Palais Grand Ducal. I was amazed by the fact that everything was very quiet: there were many flags, but beside that you wouldn't have guessed that a royal wedding was about to take place around the corner. Being in London for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the contrast couldn't have been bigger. It was a nice change!
I was at the Knuedler an hour and a half before the civil wedding would take place at the Hôtel de Ville. I was surprised that there were not many spectators yet. Well, lucky me!
Slowly more spectators arrived, but it still wasn't overly crowded. I think everybody who was there had a good view. School children with flags lined the route from the Palais to the Knuedler. Finally I saw Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, Countess Stéphanie, the Grand Duke, Grand Duchess, the bridal couple's siblings and brothers- and sisters-in-law walking towards the Hôtel de Ville. It took some time, as the couple gave the children along the route much attention. It was a very happy, relaxed atmosphere and the soon-to-be princess seemed at ease.
During the civil ceremony, I decided to act like a real tourist and explore the city a bit more. I walked a few hundred metres from Place Guillaume II and then suddenly, I was in a beautiful and very quiet part of town. I walked a bit further and I had an amazing view of the old city and the sky line! (Really: visit Luxembourg some time, you won't regret it!)
After my walk about town, it was time to get back to business: there was still some serieus royalty watching to do. I went back to the route between Place Guillaume II and the Palais: there were few people lining the route. At the Rue du Cure (the street opposite the Palais) I saw a very funny, older man. He had flowers in his hand and he was already quite vocal. He seemed like someone who could easily attract the attention (and flowers are almost never denied by royal ladies), so I decided to stay around him in the hope he would get the couple near him, so that perhaps I could get the change of congratulating Guillaume and Stéphanie myself. After some waiting (reminder: good royalty watching means having lots of patience), the family members walked by.
Then something really funny happened: the old man with the flowers shouted "Stéphanie, Stéphanie!" to one of her sisters. The whole bunch laughed and someone told him that he was mistaken and that she was on her way!
A little later, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess walked back to the Palais. The older man congratulated them very loudly, to which the Grand Duchess replied: 'Merci!'.
After some more waiting (the couple really took their time to speak with all the well wishers), Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Princess Stéphanie (she only became Hereditary Grand Duchess after the religious wedding the next day) finally walked by. And then happened exactly what I hoped for: the old man next to me shouted to the couple, they came to him, Princess Stéphanie accepted the flowers and after that, I had the chance to shake hands with the couple and congratulate both Guillaume and Stéphanie in person. It was an honour! Naturally, I don't have pictures of this moment suprême (you have to believe me!) as I wanted to have both my hands free!

I was still impressed by the fact that I had been able to meet the newlyweds when I went to the next stop: Hotel Le Royal. I had some hours left before I wanted to be back at the Palais in the hope to see some guests arrive for the gala dinner that evening. I read on the internet that Hotel Le Royal was one of the most exclusive hotels in the city. I figured that some guests would stay there and I decided to take a look. When I approached the hotel I immediately saw two familiair faces: King Simeon II and Queen Margarita of the Bulgarians left the hotel to take a stroll. I took some pictures of them (I felt quite the paparazzo). I had the urge to walk to them and have a little talk, but I didn't want to disturb them: I didn't feel comfortable doing it, so in the end, I didn't. It was funny to see that they could walk around completely unnoticed by the other pedestrians.
Nothing more happened at the hotel. There was some police and some other people in front of the hotel but I did not see any more royals. As I was very hungry by then, I decided to eat something and after that to get back to the Palais to, hopefully, see something as the Grand Duke would host a gala dinner that evening.

When I arrived back at the Palais, there was already a small crowd. Opposite the entrance of the Palais, a lot of photographers had assembled. I was glad: that would mean that the royals wouldn't enter the Palais hidden from the public.

I didn't have to wait long before the first car with police escorte arrived: it was the Prince of Orange in his gala uniform and sash with a very glittering Princess Máxima of the Netherlands. I was very happy: the gala dinner had turned out to be a very stunning event!
It got darker and my pictures of that evening are not that good: I only have a simple camera. I will post some of my best pictures, but I apologize beforehand for the quality! I hope you like them anyway: at least they give an impression from a spectator's point of view.
Archduke Carl Christian and Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria.
Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein.
King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians.
The groom's brothers: Princes Félix, Louis and Sébastien of Luxembourg.
(Then) Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium.
Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway.
King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway.
Archduke Lorenz and Archduchess Astrid of Austria-Este.
Get off that bus! King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, Crown Prince Pavlos and Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece and King Simeon II of the Bulgarians.
The Duke and Duchess of Bragança.
 Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu of Romania.
 Crown Prince Alexander II and Crown Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia. To the left: The King and Queen of the Bulgarians and the Princess of Hanover.
Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, the Prince of Preslav and the Princess of Turnovo.
Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg (I am no expert on jewels, but I immediately recognized the tiara of Sibilla's great-grandmother, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain!).

I also saw, amongst others, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, the Prince and Princess of Venice and Prince Laurent and Princess Claire of Belgium arrive. I made some pictures of them too, but they are too bad to show you! Many more royals attended the dinner, but I guess that some of them stayed in the Palais and not in hotels, so that's why I didn't see them.

I didn't leave before I shortly met Netty, Stefan and Hein, some well known names in the world of royalty watching. It was very nice to have met them.

After that, I went back to my hotel to get some sleep. It would be an early call the next morning, because I really wanted to get a good spot at the Notre-Dame for the religious wedding!

To be continued!


  1. Very enjoyable. Thank you! It's fun hearing a first hand account of all the proceedings.

  2. Thank you for sharing your memories and photos. I remember thinking how lovely it would have been to be there in person as I watched proceedings online.

  3. Oh, this is just fantastic - thank you so much for telling your story. This still ranks as my top most beautiful royal wedding (in my lifetime anyway) and I'm looking forward to reading the second half post!

  4. I did enjoy it very much as well. I think being there for a wedding live gives you such much more insight into the feel of the occasion than watching it at home and Arjan has such a nice way of sharing it. Too bad I wasn't able to go due to various reasons.

  5. I have to agree with you about it being one, if not the most beautiful wedding though I guess I'm biased :D

  6. Thank you so much, I'm so glad you appreciated it! Writing about it and going thought the pictures really brought me back to those days!

  7. You're welcome!
    And this is my favourite royal wedding as well. As I wrote: I was in London for the 2011 royal wedding, but this one was better!

  8. My pleasure! My advice: try to go to a big royal occasion for at least one time! :-) It's very special and very different from viewing it on tv or online.