Obituary: Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg (1921-2019)

+ HRH Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg (1921-2019)
Photograph (c) Grand Ducal Court/Vic Fischbach

The Grand Ducal Court has announced that Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg passed away at 12:25am this morning (Tuesday, 23 April) following a recent illness. He was surrounded by his family. Grand Duke Jean celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday on 5 January of this year. A state funeral will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, 5 May, at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Luxembourg.

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg surrounded by family on his 98th birthday
Photograph (c) Grand Ducal Court/C.Piscitelli

On Saturday, 13 April, the Grand Ducal Court stated that Grand Duke Jean had been hospitalised with a pulmonary infection. Three days later, on Tuesday, 16 April, the court released a positive update: “The condition of the state of health of His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean is favourable. His Royal Highness remains under observation at hospital.” However, at 5:30pm on Easter Sunday, the court released a more somber statement: “The state of health of His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean has significantly deteriorated. The whole of the Grand Ducal Family is gathered at the bedside of Grand Duke Jean.” At 6:00am this morning, Grand Duke Henri made the following announcement: “It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of my beloved father, His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean, who has passed away in peace, surrounded by the affection of his family.

Communiqué from the Grand Ducal Court on Grand Duke Jean’s health
Born on 5 January 1921 at Schloß Berg, Prince Jean Benoît Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d’Aviano was the eldest child of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg (1896-1985) and Prince Félix of Bourbon-Parma (1893-1970), who had married in 1919. Jean’s godfather was Pope Benedict XI. He was followed by five siblings, four sisters and one brother: Princess Elisabeth of Luxembourg (1922-2011), who married Duke Franz Ferdinand of Hohenberg (1927-1977) in 1956; Princess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg (1924-2007), who wed Count Karl Josef Henckel von Donnersmarck (1928-2008); Princess Marie Gabrielle of Luxembourg (b.1925), who married Count Knud Johan Holstein til Ledreborg (1919-2001); Prince Charles of Luxembourg (1927-1977), who married Joan Douglas Dillon (b.1935) in 1967; and Princess Alix of Luxembourg (1929-2019), who married Antoine Prince of Ligne (1925-2005) in 1950.  
Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix of Luxembourg with their children

Most of Jean’s childhood was spent at Schloß Berg. After receiving his primary and secondary education in Luxembourg, Jean studied at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire, from 1934-1938. Between 1938-1940, the hereditary grand duke was privately tutored at the Grand Ducal Palace.

When troops from Nazi Germany invaded the Grand Duchy on 10 May 1940, Grand Duchess Charlotte, her entire family, and her government left Luxembourg for France: they briefly stayed in Paris and then in the South of France. As the Third Reich’s reach became more menacing, the Luxembourg family and government made their way to the United Kingdom by traveling through Spain and Portugal. Grand Duchess Charlotte and her government made their base in London; the rest of the Grand Ducal family, the children and Prince Félix, were sent to Canada. It was there that Hereditary Grand Duke Jean attended the Université Laval at Quebec, where he studied Law and Political Science. 
Exiled: Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix in London, 1941
On 29 November 1942, Prince Jean volunteered for service in the British Army. He initially trained with the Irish Guards at Coulsdon Common. Jean completed his officer’s training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; by 1944, Prince Jean was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Irish Guards. On 10 September 1944, Jean arrived in Luxembourg City, which his father had already reached with the American 5th Armoured Division earlier that morning. On that day, the balcony appearance at the Grand Ducal Palace of the Hereditary Grand Duke and Prince Félix was greeted with immense enthusiasm by their countryman. On 14 April 1945, Grand Duchess Charlotte returned to her country. Prince Jean was released from the Irish Guards on 26 June 1947. His service was recognised by receipt of the 1939-1945 War Medal, the 1939-1945 Star, and the French Croix de guerre.
Prince Jean in his uniform as a 1st Lieutenant in the Irish Guards
At the Cathedral of Luxembourg, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean married Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium (b.11 October 1927) on 9 April 1953. Joséphine-Charlotte was the only daughter of King Léopold III of the Belgians (1901-1983) and his first wife Queen Astrid (1905-1935; née Sweden). The couple were second cousins once removed, both being descendants of King Miguel I of Portugal (1802-1866) and his wife Princess Adelheid of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg (1831-1909). The godmother of the Belgian princess was her mother-in-law, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte’s union was not a love match at the start, but their marital bonds stood the test of time. Both of Joséphine-Charlotte’s brothers, Baudouin (1930-1993) and Albert (b.1934), eventually reigned as King of the Belgians.

Jean of Luxembourg and Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium on the occasion of their wedding


On 28 April 1961, Grand Duchess Charlotte appointed her eldest son as her “Lieutenant-Representant.” The Lieutenancy is an institution unique to Luxembourg, wherein the Grand Ducal powers are delegated to the Lieutenant. Hereditary Grand Duke Jean took his oath as Lieutenant-Representant on 4 May 1961. On 12 November 1964, Jean became the Grand Duke of Luxembourg when his mother Charlotte abdicated the throne after a reign of forty-five years. In their new roles as Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte visited the main towns of the districts of the Grand Duchy in 1965. 

After a reign of thirty-six years, Grand Duke Jean abdicated on 7 October 2000. He was succeeded by his eldest son and heir Henri as Grand Duke of Luxembourg. After the abdication, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte made their home at Schloß Fischbach. 
In their nearly fifty-two years of marriage, Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg became the parents of five children. First came Princess Marie Astrid (b.1954), who wed Archduke Carl Christian of Austria (1954) in 1982. Then arrived the current Grand Duke Henri (b.1955), who married María Teresa Mestre y Batista (b.1956) in 1981. Twins Prince Jean and Princess Margaretha (b.1957) were the next to arrive. Jean firstly married Hélène Vestur (b.1958) in 1987, and after their divorce he remarried Diane de Guerre (b.1962) in 2009. Princess Margaretha wed Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein (b.1947) in 1982. The benjamin of the family, Prince Guillaume, was born in 1963; he married Sibilla Weiller (b.1968) in 1994.

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess with their children
Photograph (c)

Having battled with lung cancer, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg passed away on 10 January 2005 at Fischbach. The grand duchess was seventy-seven years-old. Jean has been the centre of the Grand Ducal Family since then. The Grand Duke is now reunited with the Grand Duchess. 

Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg
Photograph (c) Grand Ducal Court
Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte attending King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden’s 50th Birthday in 1996
Photograph (c) Raymond Reuter

Grand Duke Jean at the funeral of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte on 15 January 2005
Eurohistory sends its condolences to the Grand Ducal Family and the people of Luxembourg. The Grand Duke is survived by his five children, twenty-one grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and his sister Marie Gabrielle. May His Royal Highness Rest In Peace.

Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte on the day of their son Prince Guillaume’s wedding in 1994 to Sibilla Weiller
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