Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Princess' Right to the Throne

Princess Charlotte with her brothers, from left to right,
Prince Paul-Louis, Prince Jeand and Prince Léopold
(Photo: Guy Jallay / Luxemburger Wort /
In 2010, Grand Duke Henri changed the law of succession to the Luxembourgish throne to make it gender neutral. The change was communicated around national day a year later in 2011. Those who have been around long enough in the royal watching community will remember that things were a bit messy back then: First, Princess Alexandra had succession rights, then she didn't, and then it turned out that she indeed had them after all. The question of another Luxembourgish princess was much less discussed around that time: Princess Charlotte of Nassau, only daughter of Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla.

Prince Guillaume is the only of the Grand Duke's siblings to possess succession rights to the Luxembourgish throne. Archduchess Marie-Astrid's and Princess Margaretha's rights have only ever been very theoretical to begin with: Prior to 2010, females in the Grand Ducal Family were never in the line of succession per se but only allowed to succeed if there was no male member of the family with succession rights left. This was the case for both Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide and Grand Duchess Charlotte. The fifth child of Grand Duke Jean, Prince Jean, renounced his rights to the Luxembourgish throne a few weeks after the birth of his daughter Marie-Gabrielle, who was born out of wedlock. As for the other two male-line members of the Grand Ducal Family: Prince Robert married without consent and at least can't pass on a right to the throne - it's debatable whether he still has them himself - and Princess Charlotte never really had them, similar to her cousins Marie-Astrid and Margaretha.

The décret grand-ducal of September 16, 2010, states the following:
We Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau

after inspection of the “Nassauischer Erbverein” of June 30, 1783, as well as changes and amendments, mainly by the family bylaw concerning the house law of May 5, 1907,

after the approval of the agnatic council

declare and command:

Art 1) The furthermore unchanged "Erneuerter Nassauischer Erbverein"  of June 30, 1783, is amended and supplemented as follows

a) Article 24, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 1 is replaced by the following

"1) The order of succession in every possible way, in which the right of the first born child without exception is to be respected,"

b) Article 24, Paragraph 2 and 3 become Paragraph 2 and are replaced by the following

"Regarding the order of succession (Paragraph 1), We felt called upon, in case of death or abdication of a reigning Grand Duke, not to limit the right to succeed to the throne to the male line, but to introduce primogeniture regardless of gender, to confirm and to substantiate, so that the inheritance of the throne will go and remain with the oldest child of a reigning Grand Duke. The order of succession will be applied for the first time to Our descendants."

c) Article 26 is replaced by the following
"If the head of the house dies without marital heirs of the blood, his siblings and their descendants inherit the throne and the Grand Ducal entail in order of the firstborn child, as long as they are in the line of succession. If the head of the house has no siblings, this is valid for his next-related house- or family members. "
There is also an additional Article, part of the bylaws concerning the House Law, giving female members of the Grand Ducal Family the right to vote in matters concerning the family council. However, the further Article (much like the one above) does not fail to mention, that it is first applied to "Our [Grand Duke Henri's] descendants". The changes were confirmed by the new version of the Nassauischer Erbverein, published in 2012. Only Article 24 is slightly reworded:
As far as it concerns the order of succession (Paragraph 1), the right to inherit the throne after the abdication or the death of a reigning Grand Duke has the first child, regardless of gender, of him. This order of succession is applied for the first time to Our descendants.
Once again, there is no fail of mention, that the changes apply for the first time to the descendants of Grand Duke Henri. Apart from the Grand Duke himself, there is only one other member of his generation passing on succession rights, his youngest brother Prince Guillaume. Prince Guillaume has three sons: Prince Paul-Louis, Prince Léopold and Prince Jean. However, he also has a daughter: Princess Charlotte. While his three sons have had the right to succeed to the Luxembourgish throne since their birth, his daughter Charlotte apparently still doesn't. (I say apparently as you never know with the cour grand-ducale, see the case of Princess Alexandra above. Plus, the cour has failed to answer the question thus far even after being asked repeatedly.)

I don't think anyone expected Grand Duke Henri's sisters to ever gain succession rights but why exclude Princess Charlotte? I doubt the young princess cares very much - after all she would only be tenth in line to the throne as of now with lots of cousins and brothers of child-having age ahead of her, which means that she would likely drop further down the line in years to come - but wouldn't have been as easy to apply the changes to the line of succession to all descendants to prince's house able to succeed to the throne?

Thinking this further, it actually means that we have two different succession rights in two different lines of the Grand Ducal Family. While the line of Grand Duke Henri practises absolute primogeniture (meaning that the first born child regardless of their gender is called upon to succeed to the throne), the line of Prince Guillaume practises a semi-salic law, which allows women to succeed only at the extinction of all the male descendants in the male line. In the future, this will also apply to further descendants of Prince Guillaume's line. Any grandsons in male-line will find their place in the order of succession (provided that their parents' marriage received the Grand Duke's written consent), while granddaughters will remain excluded. However unlikely and heaven forbid, but if Grand Duke Henri's line were to die out, Luxembourg would be back to the same old law of succession practised prior to 2010 giving no right whatsoever to women as long as a male relative is alive.

See our translations of the Family Pact (2012) and the bylaws concering the house law for further information on legal matters in the Grand Ducal Family.

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