Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Future Title of Princess Tessy of Luxembourg

Earlier this evening, the cour grand-ducale announced that Prince Louis and Princess Tessy would divorce after ten years of marriage and two children together. Almost immediately, we were asked about a few more details. We will address the ones regarding titles, styles and names in a moment, but first let us express how sad we are for Prince Louis, Princess Tessy, Prince Gabriel, Prince Noah and all involved. I am sure we all wish the family well during this trying time, especially the young princes. Here on Luxarazzi - and I hope everywhere else out there - we will refrain from any speculation about personal matters and respect the privacy of everyone involved. We hope that they can find the long-term happiness apart that they couldn't find together and remain friends for the sake of their sons.

Prince Louis married the former - and probably future - Tessy Antony on September 29, 2006, at the parish church of Gilsdorf after a legal wedding at the palais grand-ducal. The couple had become the parents of a boy, Gabriel, about half a year earlier. He was soon followed by a brother, Noah, in September 2007. On August 22, 2006, a little more than a month before his marriage, Prince Louis renounced his succession rights to the Luxembourgish throne. The decision was made as not to give an advantage to any future children. His oldest son, Gabriel, would not have been able to inherit succession rights anyway as he was born out of wedlock. At the time, Princess Tessy was simply known as Tessy de Nassau taking the legal last name of the Grand Ducal Family. Accordingly, her sons were known as Gabriel de Nassau and Noah de Nassau.

The decision of Louis' wife and son only having the last name "de Nassau" and neither title nor style wasn't without precedent in the history of the Grand Ducal Family yet a decision against the Arrêté grand-ducal of September 21, 1995, which reorganised the styles, titles and surname of the Grand Ducal Family. The decree's Article 3 states, "The Princes of Our House who have entered into a marriage without the consent of the Head of the Family, along with their spouse, bear respectively the title of Count and Countess of Nassau. The descendants of these unions are qualified in the same way."

According to the 1995 decree, Prince Louis should have henceforth be known as Count Louis of Nassau and his family as Countess Tessy of Nassau and Count Gabriel of Nassau. However, Tessy was denied the usage of the title via a press release of Grand Duke Henri (while Louis remained a Prince of Luxembourg). On national day 2009, the Grand Duke made the announcement that Tessy de Nassau would be elevated to the rank of "Her Royal Highness Princess Tessy of Luxembourg". Her and Prince Louis' sons would henceforth be known as "His Royal Highness Prince Gabriel of Nassau" and "His Royal Highness Prince Noah of Nassau", just like any other grandchildren of the Grand Duke by children who are not the heir to the throne.

There should have been an official decree to go along with the press release allowing Tessy and her sons the usage of their titles and styles. However, we have never been able to locate said decree. (Unless there was some weird retroactive consent-giving going on like it happened in Belgium with Prince Amedeo.) There definitely were decrees in 1995 and 2004, respectively, that elevated the wives and children of Prince Jean and Prince Robert firstly to the rank of Counts and Countesses of Nassau and then Princes and Princesses of Nassau. Both decrees are publicly available. If there was no decree published along with the press release elevating Tessy, Gabriel and Noah, one would have a very good argument to question the validity of their titles and styles in the first place. (Yes, even the Grand Duke as Fountain of Honour cannot make title elevations by press release.)

In addition to the Grand Duke's signature, an act creating new titles of the nobility of Luxembourg also needs a countersignature by a member of the government as per Article 45 of the constitution, which says, "All provisions of the Grand Duke require the countersignature of a responsible member of the Government." Both the 1995 and 2004 decrees include the countersignatures, as do all other acts related to a title or the validation of a foreign title be they issued by Grand Duke Adolph, Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duke Jean or Grand Duke Henri.

Speaking of countersignature... In 2012, a new House Law was introduced (which actually lacks the countersignature - but that is another topic for another day...), The Bylaws - again, lacking countersignature - concerning the House Law stipulate that "In case of a legal separation, a divorce or remarriage after death, the wives [of a member of the House] lose the style and title conferred upon them." (Article 4b) The same Article also states that "The use or the conferral of a style or title in the individual case cannot deduce either rights from the membership of the House or Family or consent to the marriage."

You would be right in thinking now that Princess Tessy will soon cease to be a princess and become Tessy Antony again, as she was known prior her marriage. However... This wouldn't be the Grand Ducal Family if there wasn't a twist to it: Tessy was elevated to the rank of "Her Royal Highness Princess Tessy of Luxembourg (* and the titles that go along with it)" in 2009. The House Law was introduced three years later. So, without knowing the exact wording of the decree creating her a Princess, you can't be entirely sure if the House Law actually is applicable to her case. There were a few instances - gender neutral succession, anyone? - in which the cour specifically stated that the House Law would not be applied retroactively. So it is questionable if it will be in the case of Princess Tessy's future title and style as the current ones were created prior to the introduction of the House Law.

If a decree actually exists somewhere and specifically mentions "Tessy de Nassau" being created "HRH Princess Tessy of Luxembourg etc." yet fails to mention the event of a divorce and what happens to her title in said event, one could make a serious case, that Tessy can actually keep her title. (Assuming that the decree is countersigned.) Looking back at the decrees of 1995 and 2004, both included a stipulation about divorces et al and what happens with titles and styles in the case it does happen.

For example, Article 4 of the 1995 decree reads as following, "In case of separation from the spouses, in case of divorce, in case of remarriage after death, the titles conferred to the spouses of the Princes of Our House by virtue of the present decree are lost." It is by this stipulation that Countess Hélène of Nassau, first wife of Prince Jean, reverted to her maiden name Hélène Vestur after her divorce. And despite all what we just wrote, we would still assume that the case of Princess Tessy will be handled in the same way, unless otherwise stated by the cour grand-ducale.

You could even make the case that one part of the 2012 House Law was written with Princess Tessy specifically in mind. Article 4b says, "In case of a legal separation, a divorce or remarriage after death, the wives lose the style and title conferred upon them." Tessy's title isn't based on the House Law, according to which she would also be a Countess of Nassau (while her husband could have kept his title as Prince of Luxembourg, in difference to the 1995 decree). Rather it is based on a (non-existent?) decree, so in her case it has been an actual "conferral of the title" instead of under the rights of another part of the same Article saying that "the members of the Grand Ducal House and the Grand Ducal Family, in all their official and private functions which may concern them, bear [...], those who conducted a marriage without the consent of the Head of the House, the family name "zu Nassau" ("de Nassau") as well as their previous title. The wives and legitimate offspring of this marriage bear their first name and the family name "zu Nassau" ("de Nassau") as well as the title Count or Countess of Nassau."

As you can see, you can make many cases on this matter. The most likely one, following precedent, is that Princess Tessy will soon be known as "Tessy Antony" again. In Luxembourg, a woman who is part of a mutual consent (no-fault) divorce cannot retain her husband's surname without his consent. Yet you can also see that there are many twists and turns in this explanation and the way the Grand Ducal Family has handled these matters in the past, so you never really know.

One thing is for sure though, Princess Tessy has been a real asset to the family and we hope that she continues to very much be a part of the family no matter what the future and the title question holds, much as it has been the case with Hélène Vestur.

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