Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

As is often the case with the most successful monarchs, Luxembourg's Grand Duchess Charlotte was never meant to rule in the first place; it was only her sister Marie-Adélaïde's meddling in politics during the First World War* that brought about the abdication which would usher Charlotte onto the throne in the first place... Once there, though, she would remain for forty-five years, until abdicating - retiring, really - in favour of her son Jean in November 1964.

PhotobucketBorn at Schloss Berg on this day in 1896 to the future Guillaume IV and his Portugese wife Marie Anne, Charlotte's life changed forever in November 1905 when her father succeeded to the grand ducal throne following the death of his own father Adolphe. Seeing as His Grand Ducal Highness had six daughters - and seeing as the only male in the family who could conceivably inherit was the product of an unsuitably morganatic marriage - the succession law was changed in 1907 to accommodate the situation. Marie-Adélaïde became the first female ruler of that country in February 1912, as well as being the first ruler of the Grand Duchy born there since 1296. It was the same law that allowed Charlotte to succeed her sister in January 1919; Charlotte's heirs have ruled ever since...

The first challenge of Charlotte's reign came that September, when a referendum upheld the Grand Ducal monarchy and approved a new constitution, severely curtailing her powers in the process. Wisely, she chose to obey the will of the people, proceeded not to meddle in politics, and was rewarded with loyalty and popularity for it, quelling nascent revolutionary tendencies in the country into the bargain. Two months later, in November, she married her maternal cousin Felix of Bourbon, Prince of Parma, and with him would have six children: Jean, Elizabeth, Adélaide, Gabriele, Charles, and Alix.

Exiled in London during World War Two, like other monarchs-in-exile Charlotte became a potent symbol of resistance for her people during the valiant battle against Fascism thanks in part to the radio**; upon her return she had another generation in power before stepping aside in favour of her son. She died of cancer at Schloss Fischbach in July 1985 and was interred in the Ducal crypt of Notre-Dame Cathedral in the city of Luxembourg.

*And possibly her chumminess with the country's German occupiers during that war...
**During which time she came to be known as the 'propagandist in pearls'!

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