On This Day: Death of Luxembourg’s Grand Duchess Charlotte

  July 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm by

Thirty years ago, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, who reigned the small European nation for 45 years, passed away at the age of 89.

“A great lady has entered history, after preserving, leading, strengthening and inspiring our country for so long. She has taken a definitive place in our hearts and memories,” the then Prime Minister, Jacques Santer, said in a statement after the Grand Duchess’s death, which occurred in the late afternoon of July 9 at her home Fischbach Castle, was announced.

Charlotte, born in January 1896, was not meant to be Luxembourg’s monarch. She was the second of six daughters born to Guillaume IV of Luxembourg and his wife, Infanta Marie Anne of Portugal. After he took the throne, as it was clear he would have no sons, Grand Duke Guillaume changed the succession and named his eldest daughter, Marie-Adélaïde, his heir.

But the First World War wrecked havoc on Marie-Adélaïde’s reign (she took the throne in 1912), and she abdicated in favour of her sister in January 1919. Charlotte was weeks away from turning 23. As a result of the previous Grand Duchess’s image, a referendum was held after Charlotte took the throne to determine if Luxembourg would keep their monarchy: almost 80% of the population voted ‘yes’.

On November 6, 1919, Grand Duchess Charlotte married her first cousin, Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma. The marriage would produce six children, two sons and four daughters, and raised members of the Grand Ducal Family borne from the marriage to the style of Royal Highness.

The most decisive event of her reign was the outbreak of the Second World War, which saw Luxembourg invaded by the Nazi German forces. Grand Duchess Charlotte, her family and her government fled the country, first to France, then to England and then the US and Canada. Charlotte gave encouraging broadcasts to her people via the BBC, and upon her return in April 1945, was received by a cheering crowd and a Prime Minister who pronounced, “Madame, we love you!”

The Grand Duchess abdicated on November 12, 1964 and her elder son, Jean, become Luxembourg’s new Grand Duke.

Her funeral took place on July 13, and she was interred in the Grand Ducal Crypt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City, alongside her husband who died in 1970.

Filed under Historical Royals, Luxembourg
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