Wednesday, 5 January 2011

On this date: Grand Duke Jean turns 90

Today is the 90th birthday of Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, the small nation’s former head of state. Grand Duke Jean reigned over the country from 1964 until his abdication in 2000.
Grand Duke Jean is the eldest child of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix and was educated in Luxembourg, Britain and Canada. In 1942 the exiled Hereditary Grand Duke, as he then was, joined the British Army and served in the Irish Guards. As Grand Duke he would become Colonel of the same regiment.
On 4 May 1961 Grand Duchess Charlotte appointed him Lieutenant of the Realm, which meant that the Hereditary Grand Duke assumed the regency until his mother abdicated on 12 November 1964.
In 1953 he was married to Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium, an arranged marriage which by all accounts turned out to be very happy. The couple had five children and were able to mark their golden wedding anniversary in 2003. Sadly the Grand Duchess died from cancer two years later.
By then Grand Duke Jean was no longer on the throne. Following the example set by his mother he decided to leave the throne to his eldest son Henri and announced his impending abdication at the end of 1999. The abdication was set for 23 September 2000, but due to a car accident in which his youngest son, Prince Guillaume, was nearly killed, the abdication was postponed till 7 October 2000. Despite relinquishing the reins of government to his son, Jean kept the title of Grand Duke.
Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte maintained close ties with many royal families around Europe and the world and were always welcome guests at royal events abroad. They continued to attend some such events after the abdication – such as the funeral of Queen Ingrid of Denmark in 2000, the wedding of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway in 2001 and the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain in 2002 – but in later years the Grand Duke has more or less withdrawn from public life.
His entering his tenth decade today will however be marked with a concert which is expected to be attended by Grand Duke Jean and his extended family, including his brother-in-law the King of the Belgians.

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