Friday, December 23, 2016

Luxarazzi 101: Princess Alix of Luxembourg, Princess of Ligne

Moving along to the third profile of our series on the children of Grand Duchess Charlotte, we'll get to know a little more about the youngest child, Alix, the Dowager Princess of Ligne. Alix Marie Anne Antoinette Charlotte Gabrielle was born on August 24, 1929, at Château de Berg. She was the sixth and last child of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Consort Felix. The baby princess was baptised at the Salle des Chevaliers of the castle she was born in. Alix's five siblings are Jean, Elisabeth, Marie-Adelaide, Marie-Gabrielle, and Charles.

Alix as a child
Like several of her brothers and sisters before her, Alix was the subject of a series of stamps issued in 1931 which raised funds for the Catholic charity Caritas. Alix's early childhood was quiet and largely uneventful, revolving mostly around family life at Château de Berg. She was initially taught at home, while her eldest siblings attended school in Brussels. She celebrated her First Holy Communion in 1938, along with her brother Charles.

Alix was just shy of her eleventh birthday when her family's life was dramatically disrupted by the Second World War. Alix, along with her siblings Jean and Marie-Gabrielle, their parents, and the Dowager Grand Duchess fled Luxembourg on May 10, 1940, following the German invasion. The family had just a few hours' notice to pack and prepare before fleeing the country. While riding together in one car, the three siblings were barely able to avoid incoming bands of German soldiers on multiple occasions, but were luckily never captured or harmed.

The family joined Marie-Adelaide, Elisabeth, and Charles in Belgium, where they were attending school and staying with the prince consort's sister Zita. The entire Grand Ducal Family, along with Zita and her children, were able to flee Belgium through France, Spain, and finally to Portugal.  However, it was feared that staying in Portugal did not provide enough distance between the Grand Ducal Family and the conflict. 

Felix and his children bade Grand Duchess Charlotte a tearful good-bye in Lisbon. Alix and the rest of the family made their way to the United States via the USS Trenton, an American cruiser sent by President Franklin Roosevelt. They stayed in Long Island, New York, for several weeks while searching for a new home; the United States government was willing to give only temporary asylum to the family so as not to violate their then-neutral status in the war. 

In the fall of 1940, Alix and her family moved to the Canadian province of Quebec, settling first in Montreal. The Canadian government had granted long-term asylum to the family and the dominance of the French language in Quebec provided the grand ducal children with continued education in one of their mother tongues. Alix and her sisters joined their aunt Zita and her family further north in Quebec City, attending the College of Jesus-Marie de Sillery, a Catholic girls' school associated with Laval University. 

Alix (second from right) with her family as a young woman
Alix and her family later moved to the United Kingdom, where the Grand Duchess had settled.  During the remainder of the war years, Alix appeared occasionally at private and official events honoring the family and the Grand Duchy.  She was present at a mass for her grandmother, Grand Duchess Maria Ana, who died in New York in July 1942. She also accompanied her siblings Marie-Gabrielle and Charles in 1944 at a 700th anniversary celebration of Luxembourg's Freedom Charter held in New York.

Alix was the only one of her siblings (aside from Grand Duke Jean, who had participated in the liberation of the Grand Duchy) not to drive a truck or ambulance on her return to Luxembourg. The British Red Cross had donated a large amount of food and supplies to the Grand Duchy to be carried via convoy by the family. While the rest of her siblings insisted on driving the vehicles as a part of the convoy, Alix was still too young. Instead, Alix returned to the country with her parents and brother Jean on April 14, 1945. The family flew into Luxembourg City on General Dwight D. Eisenhower's private plane. 

Despite being the youngest child in the family, Alix was the first to marry. In 1949, Alix met Antoine, the 13th Prince of Ligne, at the wedding of his sister Yolande to Alix's cousin, Archduke Carl Ludwig of Austria. An engagement between the couple was announced from the Château de Beloeil (the home base of the Ligne family) on April 18, 1950.

Born in 1925, Antoine was the youngest child and second son of Eugene, 11th Prince of Ligne (then the Belgian ambassador to India) and his wife Philippine, who were known for hiding many Belgian Jewish children in Beloeil Castle during World War II. The Lignes are one of the oldest and most prominent Belgian noble families. Antoine, who had served in the British and Belgian Royal Air Forces during the war, received multiple decorations for leadership and bravery.

Alix and Antoine on their wedding day
The couple was married in Luxembourg City on August 17, 1950, a week before Alix's 21st birthday. There was a great interest in Alix's wedding within the Grand Duchy, as it was the first major event to be held there since the end of the war. The civil ceremony was conducted first at the palais grand-ducal by the Emile Hamilus, Mayor of Luxembourg City. Alix and Antoine were married religiously by Monsignor Leo Lommel at the Notre Dame Cathedral later the same day. Thousands of spectators crowded to streets hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple as they walked the streets following the religious wedding.

The couple settled at the groom's home in Belgium. Antoine was still serving in the Belgian Air Force at that time, which he continued to do until retiring in 1955. In the meantime, the couple was also busy raising their growing family. Alix and Antoine became parents to seven children, all of whom were born at Beloeil with the exception of Antoine, who was born at Château de Berg.

- Michel (1951-)
- Wauthier (1952-)
- Anne (1954-)
- Christine (1955-)
- Sophie (1957-)
- Antoine (1959-)
- Yolande (1964-)

In 1957, Antoine began a 17-month scientific expedition in Antarctica as part of a project launched by the International Council of Scientific Unions during the larger International Geophysical Year.  Antoine was a photographer, pilot, and member of the meteorological team in the Belgian group. While the expedition was a success with the creation of the King Baudouin Base, the group was marooned after the plane was damaged by ice during an away mission. Although the group did not experience serious injury, they did have to attempt to reach the base again on foot amidst the dangerous Antarctic weather. Fortunately the Belgian team was rescued by Russian scientists, and Antoine returned to his family in 1959.

Antoine succeeded his childless older brother Baudouin as Prince de Ligne in 1985, the same year Alix's mother Charlotte died. Alix spent her time as Princess de Ligne organizing various charitable events, particularly those benefitting ill or disadvantaged children. She also explored her longtime interest in floriculture by hosting various flower and plant exhibitions at Beloeil Castle and elsewhere in Belgium. Alix also spent a large part of this time celebrating the weddings of her children and subsequent births of twenty grandchildren. She enjoyed traveling as well, with and without Antoine, to Luxembourg, South America, and to the family's vacation home in Mallorca. 

Alix (front right) at her granddaughter's wedding
(Photo: Violaine le Hardy de Beaulieu)
The 2000s were unfortunately difficult years for Alix. Antoine died suddenly of a heart attack at Beloeil on August 21, 2005, after experiencing chest pains the day before. This came as a surprise to Alix and her family as he had been fully active in the days preceding his death. Alix was unfortunately in Bavaria at the time and was unable to make it to her husband's side before his death. Alix's sister Marie-Adelaide died two years later in 2007, followed by Alix's grandson Pedro of Orleans-Braganca's tragic death in the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447.

Alix's public appearances are now infrequent due to her age, but she does still attend some family events.  She was seen at the memorial service for her sister Elisabeth in 2011, the wedding of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Stephanie de Lannoy, as well as the funeral of Stephanie's mother (also named Alix), both in 2012. She was also present at the wedding of her granddaughter, Alix de Ligne, to Guillaume of Dampierre in June 2016. Alix still lives at Beloeil Castle. She has nineteen surviving grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. 

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