Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review: "The Nassaus of Luxembourg" by Kassandra and Sabrina Pollock with Arturo E. Beéche

There's a new book out on the Grand Ducal Family: Earlier this year, published "The Nassaus of Luxembourg" by Kassandra and Sabrina Pollock with Arturo E. Beéche mainly focusing on the lives of Grand Duchess Charlotte and her five sisters.

When Team Luxarazzi first heard about the book, we were thrilled to bits. An up-to-date English-language book about several members of the Grand Ducal Family?! That sounded like heaven. Something further enhanced by a statement of the authors: 

"This book's concept began with our frustration over the lack of English language sources available on the six beautiful Nassau sisters of Luxembourg, their descendants and the families they married into. We, however, wanted to know more. Thus, we braved our way through whatever foreign language materials we could find, and as we learned more about the princesses' lives our interest grew to include the account of their parents' courtship and eventual marriage, a union which is one of the more touching but tragic of history's untold royal love stories. Nor would the narrative of the sisters' lives be complete without an explanation of how their grandfather came to inherit the Luxembourg throne. We hope you enjoy our effort..."

In the end, I suppose, our expectations were simply too high. Though admittedly the quality between the different parts of the book varies greatly. "The Nassaus of Luxembourg" consists of an introduction and eight chapters (A New Dynasty - Grand Duke Adolphe; The Sickly Heir - Grand Duke Guillaume; A Grand Duchess Maligned - Marie Adelaide; A Beloved Grand Duchess - Charlotte; A Popular Princess and Aunt - Hilda; A Tragic Crown Princess - Antonia; A Giving Princess - Elisabeth; A Spared Princess - Sophie), followed by notes, bibliography and index.

While we thought that the book would put its focus on the lives on the six daughters of Grand Duke Wilhelm, it turned out that it basically covers the Nassau family including the siblings of Grand Duke Adolph, the present day descendants of the sisters, as well as the 23 Bourbon-Parma siblings of Prince Felix. Of course this isn't bad per se but as the book only covers 211 pages excluding notes, bibliography and index, you can guess how thorough it can be. To Nichole and I, the book did not include a lot of new information, apart from a few anecdotes and stories around Princess Antonia and her family (which clearly make the best chapter of this book).

Due to the way it is structured, we would probably recommend this book to readers who don't know much about the Grand Ducal Family generally and would like to get a bit of an overview but not to anyone doing serious research or wanting to delve deep into the family's history. However, the book contains a number of factual errors; here just three examples:
- Page 34: "Thirty-five years later in 1947, his [Grand Duke Wilhelm's] daughter Charlotte had her father's remains returned to Luxembourg, where he was interned in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City." (-- Correction: Grand Duke Wilhelm remains interned in the crypt of the castle church of Schloss Weilburg in Germany.)

- Page 88: "She [Princess Anita of Hohenberg] has labored tirelessly to regain possession of Konopiste, a beautiful estate the Czecjoslovakian [sic] goivernment [sic] ilegaly [sic] epropriated [sic] from her grandfather after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. [-- Correction: The fact that it is her sister, Princess Sophie of Hohenberg, who has worked to regain Konopiste is the least of this sentence's problems, I believe.)

- Page 115: "Since they [Prince Jean and Countess Diane] only married civilly, given Prince Jean's previous marriage, Madame de Guerre does not have a title. (-- Correction: Marriage and titles in the Grand Ducal Family are based on consent and not whether a religious wedding took place. The former Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy became Princess Stéphanie of Luxembourg on the day of her civil wedding as her marriage received the Grand Duke's consent. Much the same applies to the former Claire Lademacher who became Princess Claire of Luxembourg on her civil wedding day based on her father-in-law's consent to her wedding. In difference, the former Tessy Antony became Tessy de Nassau upon her civil wedding as the Grand Duke did not give the required consent. This did not change even though she religiously married Prince Louis. It is true that the former Diane de Guerre did not enjoy a title right after her marriage because it did not receive the Grand Duke's consent. However, she became a Countess of Nassau in 2012 on the basis of the changed bylaws concerning the house law.)
These and a number of other factual errors make it difficult to even recommend "The Nassaus of Luxembourg" to beginners. Someone not familiar with the topic would need to be extremely cautious and double check information provided as not to start out learning mistakes. We're aware that you should never take information provided in a book for granted and that many other books on various subjects also contain mistakes but in this case we are able to identify them and there were a shocking lot. (And that's not counting those twelve mistakes already corrected on a piece of paper delivered together with the book.)

A few other things that bugged us about the book were the mispelling of names, using Wikipedia as a source of information, or being quite judgmental at times. (E.g. stating that someone was "an unlikable man" -- While this might very well be true, shouldn't you give examples of someone's behaviour and then let the reader decide instead of giving them a prefabricated opinion?!)

Turning to something that is nice about the book: Its abundance of pictures. The text is interspersed with lots of older (and some newer) pictures of the Grand Ducal Family and their relatives. While many of the pictures will seem familiar to those interested in the history of the Nassau family, there are a number of pictures that aren't as readily available but instead new (to us at least).

If you would like to get your own impression of the book, "The Nassaus of Luxembourg" written by Kassandra and Sabrina Pollock together with Arturo E. Beéche, you can order it via Amazon. (Note: We are part of the Amazon Affiliates Program.) The hardcover book published by contains 240 pages and costs about $48.95.

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