Monday, September 14, 2009

Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg

Above, we see HRH Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, with his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, and eldest son and heir, Prince Guillaume. Born April 16, 1955, Henri is the eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte (originally a Princess of Belgium). He is the nephew of Belgian kings Baudouin I and Albert II. Upon his father's abdication, Henri succeeded to the throne of Luxembourg on October 7, 2000. Internationally, he is probably best known for the constitutional crisis sparked by his courageous refusal, on conscientious grounds, to sign a euthanasia bill passed by Parliament in 2008. 

During his youth, Henri studied in Luxembourg and France, where he obtained his baccalaureate in 1974. After military training at Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom, he attended the University of Geneva, specializing in economics and political science. He graduated in 1980. Meanwhile, he traveled extensively, and, over the next 20 years, would head a number of economic missions throughout the world. From 1980-1988, he served on Luxembourg's Council of State.

In 1981, Henri married Miss Maria Teresa Mestre, a Cuban-born, fellow political science student at the University of Geneva. The couple have five children: Guillaume (b. 1981), Felix (b. 1984), Louis (b. 1986), Alexandra (b. 1991), and Sebastien (b. 1992). Sadly, although Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte had originally favored the match, she would later clash with her daughter-in-law. In 2002, (after Jean's abdication, but while Josephine-Charlotte was still alive) Maria Teresa, the new Grand Duchess, hosted a press conference, portraying her mother-in-law as harsh and authoritarian.

Personally, I find this episode extremely unfortunate. In my opinion, the dignity and prestige of the royal family require mutual respect and (at least) outward harmony, and personal conflicts ought to be kept behind closed doors, not broadcast for all to hear. Furthermore, nobody is perfect, but Josephine-Charlotte was a dutiful wife, mother, and royal consort, who overcame many tragedies and traumas to fulfill her role with dignity and grace. Especially in her old age, I think she deserved more consideration.

To return to the Grand Duke- he is the patron of many public ventures, in a wide variety of cultural, scientific, athletic, economic and humanitarian fields. Notably, he is a member of the Mentor Foundation, established by the World Health Organization, and aiming at combating drug abuse among youth. With his keen interest in nature conservation, he is also a Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands. Since 1998, he has served on the International Olympic Committee. In his spare time, Henri is fond of literature, classical music, swimming, sailing, water-skiing, tennis, hunting and fishing. In addition to the native language of Luxembourg, the Grand Duke speaks French, English, and German. He is certainly an intriguing figure from a tiny, sadly often forgotten country.


MadMonarchist said...

I must have missed that little episode but I fully agree with you. That, I think, was Queen Elizabeth's biggest problem with the late Diana. Everyone has their problems but it does no good to sensationalize them in public for all to see. It is more admirable for royals to endure their own difficulties with dignity and civility. Of course, the two ladies in question here came from different worlds and different generations which I'm sure added a whole other degree of difficulty to it.

May said...

Yes, they certainly came from very different backgrounds, which probably led to alot of mutual misunderstanding.