Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Luxarazzi 101: Prince Jean of Luxembourg

Prince Jean, younger brother of the Grand Duke, is one of the more mysterious members of the Grand Ducal Family. Last year he often made headlines for his alleged implication in the Affair Bommeleeër. About time for us to shed some light on the life and work of one of the more unknown members of Luxembourg's royal family.

Prince Jean, his father and twin sister
Born on May 15, 1957, at Château de Betzdorf, Prince Jean is the second son of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. Apart from older twin sister Princess Margaretha, he has two elder siblings, Archduchess Marie-Astrid and Grand Duke Henri, and a younger brother, Prince Guillaume. Christened on the name Jean Félix Marie Guillaume, his godparents were his paternal grandfather, Prince Felix, and his aunt Princess Margrethe of Denmark, granddaughter of King Christian IX and wife of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma.

Prince Jean received his school education in Luxembourg, Switzerland and France, where he graduated with a baccalaureate. After finishing school, he attended language school at Bell School of Languages in Cambridge before entering the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in 1977, thus following his father's and brother's footsteps. He was commissioned into the academy as part of the Champion Platoon. After graduating in August 1978, he became a captain of the Luxembourgish army a year later.

Prince Jean with his siblings Princess
Margaretha and Prince Guillaume
The prince continued his education at the University of Geneva (1978-82) and the Geneva-branch of the Webster University. After finishing his studies, he joined New York-based W.R. Grace as a financial analyst working in the Finance, Planning & Analysis Division. For six months he worked for the Grace Commission introduced by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to find waste and inefficiency in the US Federal government. After a few years in the United States, Prince Jean returned to Europe in 1985 and started an MBA at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, which he finished in December 1986.

A few weeks earlier, on September 8, 1986, Prince Jean had become the father of a daughter. The birth of little Marie-Gabrielle was not announced to the general public. Seemingly out of the blue, he renounced his rights to the Luxembourgish throne on September 26 citing business reasons instead and thus involuntarily giving breeding grounds for rumours of a possible implication of his person in the Affair Bommeleeër.

Prince Jean, his former wife Hélène
and their three oldest children
For some reason, many people started to claim that Prince Jean had not only forfeited his right to the throne but also his title and style. This, however, has never been correct. He had always remained His Royal Highness Prince Jean of Luxembourg, Prince of Nassau, Prince de Bourbon-de Parme. However, he chose to be known as Jean Nassau in his business life. Something perfectly within his rights considering that "Nassau" was his legal last name just like it was for the entire Grand Ducal Family at the time. (Note: The legal last name was later changed into "de Nassau".)

On May 27, 1987, Prince Jean married the mother of his daughter, Hélène Suzanne Vestur, who was born in 1958 as the daughter of François Philippe Vestur and wife Cécile Ernestine Buisson. At the time of their wedding, the couple gave an interview to French magazine Point de Vue in which they were asked their favourite names for future children. Hélène Vestur named "Marie-Gabrielle" as her favourite girl name.

Little Marie-Gabrielle soon became the big sister of three boys. Constantin was born on July 22, 1988;  Wenceslas on November 17, 1990; and Carl-Johan on August 15, 1992. All children were born in Paris where the family lived. They did not enjoy a royal style and title but instead bore the last name "Nassau". Hélène Vestur once told in an interview about the naming of her children, "Marie-Gabrielle evokes our French roots; Constantin our Mediterranean blood; Wenceslas is for our Slavic soul; and Carl-Johann's name comes from the Nordic countries."

Prince Jean and his wife Countess Diane
On September 21, 1995, Grand Duke Jean raised his only untitled grandchildren and daughter-in-law to the rank of Counts and Countesses of Nassau. Nine years later, Prince Jean's children were further elevated and became Royal Highnesses and Princes and Princess of Nassau in November 2004. By that time, Prince Jean and Hélène Vestur had divorced and consequently she was not made a Princess and also ceased to be a Countess of Nassau.

On March 18, 2009, Prince Jean married Diane de Guerre, a descendant of the Wolff-Metternich family through her mother. She became a Countess of Nassau upon the change of the Luxembourgish house laws in 2012.

After finishing his education in December 1986, Prince Jean joined the American consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton in early 1987 and specialised in the financial sector. He continued to work in real estate, in structural finance and in international developments in central Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa during the 1990's. In 1997, he was hired by Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux, after the merger of Compagnie de Suez and Lyonnaise des Eaux, a leading French water company. He served as Vice President and Director in charge of international development of Suez as well as head of strategic development of Degrémont.

The children of Prince Jean
In 2006 the prince took over WSSA (Water & Sanitation South Africa) and created MEA AQUA, a company specialised in water services and management solutions for Africa and the Middle East. In more recent years, they have also become involved in Australia. In 2008, he also created MEA ENERGIA, dealing mainly with renewable energies; and MEA POWER for more traditional energies. MEA ENERGIA also works with large forest entities such as the Congo Basin.

Prince Jean has been the President of the Chambre de commerce belgo-luxembourgeoise en France twice, most recently between 2009 and 2013. He is a member of the board of the MIP, a business school based in Paris and a board member of a number of financial institutions, such as Banque Degroof Luxembourg, EFG Bank and EFG International, Ecofin (hedge funds in the utilities sector) and Mobicash.

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