Monday, September 11, 2017

Luxarazzi 101: Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg, Countess Henckel of Donnersmarck

In the last of our series of biographies on the children of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix, we will be covering the life of Marie-Adélaïde, the third child and second daughter. Marie-Adélaïde Louise Therese Wilhelmine was born on May 21, 1924, at Château de Berg. Marie-Adélaïde was named in honor of her aunt, the former Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde, who had died four months before her niece's birth. The little princess was baptized five days after she was born, with her maternal grandmother Dowager Grand Duchess Maria Ana serving as godmother. Her godfather was Louis of Bourbon-Parma, a younger brother of Prince Felix.

Marie-Adélaïde (far right) as a child
with her family
Marie-Adélaïde's childhood was spent mostly at Château de Berg. Her life during this time was largely stable and happy, being educated by private tutors alongside her siblings. Marie-Adélaïde later attended a boarding school in Brussels with her sister Elisabeth and brother Charles.

Shortly before Marie-Adélaïde's 16th birthday, she was spending time with her aunt Zita, the former Austrian Empress, at the latter's home of Château de Ham in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium. Zita's 48th birthday celebration was held on May 9, 1940, at the castle. She and her nine children lived close to the school attended by Marie-Adélaïde, Elisabeth, and Charles. The following day the country was invaded by German troops. After meeting up with her parents, grandmother, and remaining siblings, Marie-Adélaïde fled Belgium via motorcade through France, Spain, and finally Portugal.

During the family's flight to Portugal, Prince Felix had requested temporary asylum in the United States from President Roosevelt. The President agreed due to the seriousness of the situation, the good relationship between the two countries, and the fact that the Grand Ducal Family included several children. However, because the United States was still a neutral country in 1940, the family would only be allowed to stay for a limited time.

Marie-Adélaïde and her family spent a few weeks in the United States before making a more permanent home in Montreal, Québec, Canada. As she and her siblings were not fully fluent in English, their education would need to continue in their native French, the official language of this part of Canada. All six of the grand ducal children were enrolled in school further north in Quebec City - Jean at Laval University, Charles at the Jesuit College, and Marie-Adélaïde and her sisters at the Collège Jesus-Marie de Sillery, a girls' school associated with Laval. The girls lived with their aunt Zita and her family while attending school. Along with her sister Elisabeth, Marie-Adélaïde completed high school while living in Quebec.

Marie-Adélaïde as a young woman
While living in Canada, Marie-Adélaïde appeared periodically in public. She accompanied her sister Elisabeth to the Women's National Exhibition of Arts and Industries in New York in October 1941, where the two were guests of honor at a party associated with the Luxembourg exhibit.  

Marie-Adélaïde lived in Quebec for two years. Meanwhile, Grand Duchess Charlotte had established herself and the Luxembourg government-in-exile in Britain, where the rest of the family joined her. Marie-Adélaïde attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart School (now known as the Woldingham School) in Roehampton along with her sister Elisabeth.

While in Britain, Marie-Adélaïde and her siblings became involved in activities with the British Red Cross. She also served with her sister Elisabeth as a member of the Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC), a women's group whose members served as ambulance drivers and as chauffeurs for official government business both in Britain and in combat areas around the world. In preparation for her role in the MTC Marie-Adélaïde learned the basics of map reading, vehicle maintenance, and some first aid training.

Marie-Adélaïde returned to Luxembourg with her family on April 17, 1945, just a few weeks before her 21st birthday. Marie-Adélaïde, along with her siblings Elisabeth, Marie-Gabrielle, and Charles, entered the Grand Duchy driving in a convoy of ambulances and trucks donated to the country by the British Red Cross. The convoy carried medical supplies, food, and other basics desperately needed by the citizens of Luxembourg who welcomed the family home with open arms.

Later that year, Marie-Adélaïde began serving as a patron of the Harmonie Grand Ducale Marie-Adélaïde, a musical group which formed at the beginning of the reign of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde in 1912. The younger Marie-Adélaïde continued her support of the group for many years, well into her marriage and departure from the Grand Duchy.

Marie-Adélaïde and Carl Josef
at the time of their engagement
Marie-Adélaïde's love life became a hot topic in the press during the early 1950s. A rumor circulated in 1950 that Marie-Adélaïde had fallen for a young American GI. A 1952 vacation in France with the Belgian royals prompted talk of an engagement between Marie-Adélaïde and the young King Baudouin of Belgium. Although the two families were indeed close, Marie-Adélaïde was several years older than Baudouin, making a marriage unlikely.

During the 1950s, Marie-Adélaïde attended a variety of events within and associated with the Grand Duchy. She was present during Margaret Truman's 1951 visit to Luxembourg when Margaret was a guest of then-American ambassador Perle Mesta. Marie-Adélaïde was also present at the 1953 ceremonial unveiling of the statue of Grand Duke Adolph, her great-grandfather. She studied for a time in Paris during the 1950s as well. In 1956, Marie-Adélaïde served as a godmother to Maria-Esméralda of Belgium, the daughter of Leopold III, former King of Belgium, and his second wife Liliane Baels. Marie-Esmeralda carries the name Adelaide as one of her christening names in honor of her godmother.

Marie-Adélaïde was the last of the grand ducal daughters to marry. Her engagement to Count Carl Josef Henckel of Donnersmarck was announced on December 17, 1957. Carl Josef was part of a family known for its staggering wealth made through mining and another branch of the famiyl was actually given the title of Prince by the German Kaiser. Marie-Adélaïde was 33 at the time of the announcement and her groom 29. A wedding date was not publicly known at the time, but was expected to take place in the spring of 1958. 

Marie-Adélaïde and Carl Josef
before their religious wedding
On April 10, 1958, the couple married in Luxembourg City. As required by law, the couple married first in a civil ceremony held that morning at the Grand Ducal Palace. The religious service was held later in the day at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City. Several of Marie-Adélaïde's nieces and nephews - Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg, Wauthier de Ligne, and Monica of Holstein-Ledreborg - served as child attendants at the wedding. In a newspaper report of the event, Marie-Adélaïde's vows were said to have been "drowned out" by the music of the Radio Luxembourg Symphony Orchestra, the church organ, and the choir.

The new couple made their home at Schloss Wolfsberg in Carinthia, an area in southeastern Austria, and later in Switzerland. Marie-Adélaïde and Carl Josef were parents to four children:

- Andreas (1959-)
- Felix (1960-2007)
- Heinrich (1961-)
- Charlotte (1965-)

All four children were born in Luxembourg - Andreas and Felix at Château de Berg, Heinrich at the Grand Ducal Palace, and Charlotte at Château de Fischbach. Two of the children later married into the noble Houses of Meran and Hohenberg.

Marie-Adélaïde died on February 28, 2007, in Carinthia. Her death was the first among the children of Grand Duchess Charlotte since Charles' death in 1977. Her funeral was held on March 9 at Wolfsberg, where she is buried in the family crypt. Her funeral was attended by the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, along with Grand Duke Jean. Eight months to the day after her death, Marie-Adélaïde's son Felix died of lung cancer.

Karl Josef married again on December 21, 2007, to Claire Barclay-Hoess. He died on April 16, 2008, in Malta, four months into his second marriage. Marie-Adélaïde has eight grandchildren, one of whom has been born since her death. Her eldest granddaughter Laura carries Marie-Adélaïde as two of her middle names in honor of her grandmother. Marie-Adélaïde's children and grandchildren are seen occasionally at Grand Ducal Family events.

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