Over the years here at Luxarazzi we have talked in great detail about the long and full life of Grand Duke Jean. However, the siblings of Grand Duke Jean have led interesting lives of their own both in and away from Luxembourg. Today we'll learn more about Princess Marie-Gabrielle of Luxembourg, the third sister of Grand Duke Jean. Marie-Gabrielle is the Dowager Countess of Ledreborg-Holstein and also godmother of Grand Duke Henri.
|Marie-Gabrielle as a child
Marie-Gabrielle Adelgunde Wilhelmine Louise was born on August 2, 1925, the fourth child and third daughter of Grand Duchess Charlotte and her consort, Prince Felix. She had five siblings: Grand Duke Jean, Princess Elisabeth, Princess Marie-Adelaide, Prince Charles, and Princess Alix. Marie-Gabrielle spent her early years at Château de Berg, where she was privately educated with her siblings. The artistic flair seen in some members of the Grand Ducal Family appeared in Marie-Gabrielle during her childhood. Like her siblings, Marie-Gabrielle was raised in the Catholic faith, which has been very important to her throughout her lifetime.
Marie-Gabrielle, along with her siblings Jean and Alix, their parents, and the Dowager Grand Duchess Maria Ana fled Luxembourg on May 10, 1940, following the German invasion during the Second World War. Marie-Gabrielle was fourteen at the time. During this frightening trip, Marie-Gabrielle - riding in a car along with Jean and Alix - was barely able to avoid incoming bands of German soldiers on multiple occasions, but was luckily able to escape the country. 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 former Austrian Empress. The entire family, along with Zita and her children, were able to flee Belgium through France, Spain, and finally to Portugal.
Felix had requested and received temporary asylum in the United States from President Roosevelt, as well as transport on the naval cruiser the USS Trenton. Marie-Gabrielle embarked for the United States with her father, siblings, and grandmother on July 15, 1940. Grand Duchess Charlotte stayed behind in Portugal for the meantime, joining her family later. The Grand Ducal Family was greeted the following week at the White House where they attended a luncheon with the President.
After a few weeks' stay in the United States, Marie-Gabrielle and her family settled in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The move was necessary in order not to violate the then-neutrality of the United States; Canada was already involved in the war. Additionally, the grand ducal children could continue their education in the French language (of which they were more familiar than English) in Quebec. Marie-Gabrielle and all three of her sisters joined their aunt Zita's family in Quebec City, where they attended the College Jesus-Marie de Sillery, a French language girls' school associated with Laval University.
|Marie-Gabrielle (second from right) with her family,
Long Island, New York 1940
The Grand Ducal Family returned to Luxembourg on April 17, 1945. The now 19-year-old Marie-Gabrielle, along with her siblings Elisabeth, Marie-Adelaide, and Charles, drove in the convoy of ambulances and trucks donated to the country by the British Red Cross. The convoy carried emergency food, personal care items, and medical supplies to aid in the recovery of the Grand Duchy's citizens.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Marie-Gabrielle was a student of sculptor Auguste Tremont (whom we have discussed before in relation to the animal sculptures he designed at Château de Betzdorf, Cathédrale Notre-Dame, and the Luxembourg Town Hall). Marie-Gabrielle exhibited her sculptures several times under the name "Mademoiselle de Clervaux" in both France and Luxembourg. She also served as a patron of the Salon de l'Art Vivant à Differdange, an art exhibition in the Grand Duchy.
In 1947 Marie-Gabrielle attended the wedding of her cousin, Jacques of Bourbon-Parma, to Danish countess Birgitte of Holstein-Ledreborg. Birgitte was part of a branch of the family who had converted to Catholicism in the 1860s. It was there that Marie-Gabrielle became acquainted with the bride's brother, Knud. Knud was deeply interested in agriculture and forestry, and had spent time studying and working in the field in various parts of Europe. When Marie-Gabrielle returned to her sculpture and Knud to his agriculture, the two kept up a correspondence and love blossomed between them. The couple's engagement was publicly announced on August 24, 1951.
Marie-Gabrielle and Knud were married civilly on November 5, 1951, and religiously the following day, which happened to be her parents' 32nd wedding anniversary. The civil wedding was conducted by Alfred Wagner, the mayor of Colmar-Berg, at Château de Berg. The religious ceremony, conducted by Monsignor Leo Lommel, took place at the Colmar-Berg parish church. Marie-Gabrielle wore the Diamond Vine Leaves Tiara as her wedding tiara, as did each of her sisters.
|Marie-Gabrielle and Knud
on their wedding day
Marie-Gabrielle became the Countess of Holstein-Ledreborg immediately as Knud's father had died a few months before the wedding. Marie-Gabrielle and Knud settled at Ledreborg Castle, the seat of the Holstein-Ledreborg family, an 18th century property on the Danish island of Zealand. The couple became parents to seven daughters born between 1952 and 1962:
- Monica (1952-)
- Lydia (1955-)
- Veronica (1956-)
- Silvia (1958-)
- Camilla (1959-2010)
- Tatiana (1961-)
- Antonia (1962-)
Knud managed the family finances and affairs, while also involving himself in local politics. The Ledreborg-Holstein family remained in close contact to the Luxembourg Grand Ducal Family during the following years via family events such as wedding, christenings, funerals and many more inbetween. Along with the future King Albert II of Belgium, Marie-Gabrielle served as godparent to Grand Duke Henri in 1955.
In 1984, Marie-Gabrielle and her family received communion from Pope John Paul II. The following year, Grand Duchess Charlotte died, which hit Marie-Gabrielle very hard. In response, Marie-Gabrielle made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia (now part of Bosnia and Herzegovina), where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared multiple times since 1981. Although the Catholic Church has not yet taken an official stance on the situation, the site is one of the most popular in Europe for pilgrimage. Marie-Gabrielle claimed to be affected greatly by these experiences within her faith. Her youngest daughter Antonia later made the same trip to Medjugorje; soon after this pilgrimage, Antonia joined the Emmanuel Community, a Catholic lay society with members dedicated to simplicity and celibacy.
|Marie-Gabrielle (second from left) with siblings Alix, Jean,
Elisabeth, and Marie-Adelaide
In 1990, Knud retired from active management of Ledreborg Castle and the family holdings. The properties are now managed by Silvia, the couple's fourth daughter. Knud and Marie-Gabrielle continued to live at Ledreborg, making occasional appearances at official and family events in Luxembourg.
Following Knud's death from cancer in 2001, Marie-Gabrielle has sadly lost her sisters Marie-Adelaide (2007) and Elisabeth (2011) as well as her fifth daughter Camilla (2010). Her public appearances are now rare due to her advanced age. Marie-Gabrielle recently celebrated her 91st birthday, and now has a total of fourteen surviving grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren (at least last time we checked).