Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Grand Duke Henri changes rules of succession

The grand ducal court of Luxembourg yesterday announced that Grand Duke Henri on 16 September last year changed the rules of succession laid down in the Family Pact of 1783 so that gender neutral succession will apply to his descendants. The press release does not say explicitly whether this change is retroactive, but if so the Grand Duke’s only daughter, Princess Alexandra, overtakes her younger brother in the succession. Apparently the old rules will continue to apply to those in line of succession who do not descend from Grand Duke Henri.
However, according to the newspaper Wort (external link) the Luxembourgian parliament is due to pass a reform whereby succession to the throne will hereafter be a strictly constitutional issue and no longer regulated by the Family Pact, thus in reality rendering Grand Duke Henri’s reform superfluous.
With these changes introduced in Luxembourg, gender neutral succession now applies in Sweden (1980), the Netherlands (1983), Norway (1990), Belgium (1991), Denmark (2009) and Luxembourg (2011). In Britain, Spain and Monaco sons still come before daughters, whereas Liechtenstein is alone in excluding women altogether from the succession.
That rule once also applied in Luxembourg and was the reason why the union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg was dissolved in 1890, when King/Grand Duke Willem III died and was succeeded on the Dutch throne by his daughter Wilhelmina and on the Luxembourgian throne by his distant cousin Adolph, former Duke of Nassau. However, Grand Duke Adolphe’s son, Guillaume IV, fathered six daughters but no sons, which caused the rules of succession to be changed in 1907 so that women would be allowed to succeed if there were no male members of the dynasty. This means that until now Princess Alexandra would only become have been able to inherit the throne if there were no male male-line descendants (of approved marriages) of any of the six daughters of Guillaume IV, whereas the new rules (given that they are in fact retroactive) make her third in line of succession following her elder brothers Guillaume and Félix.

See also
29 June 2011: Clarification regarding Luxembourgian succession: Changes not retroactive
11 July 2011: Update on the Luxembourgian succession: Princess Alexandra IS in line to the throne


  1. Thank you for this summary, which is far more coherent than the various English-language news articles on the subject.

    However, the facts are still confusing: If this Family Pact is something that the grand duke can alter unilaterally, then why (if I understand the grand ducal court's explanatory memorandum correctly) did Grand Duke Henri only initiate the reform process in 2009 after announcing plans to do so in 2004? Then, why did that process take until 2010, and why was it only announced in 2011?

    For that matter, what process exactly is needed, and why is it that some reforms are still in the process of being finalized (cf. the memorandum)? It all seems short of details.

  2. I am afraid that I am not able to answer your questions about why the process has taken so long and why the changes have only been announced now. I can only offer you some guesses and theories.

    Apparently Grand Duke Jean altered the house laws without announcing it at all, which seems very strange, and one possible explanation why Grand Duke Henri now announces his changes might perhaps be that he wants to show that the reforms due to be passed by Parliament will not be something "forced upon" the grand ducal house, but something corresponding with the changes he has already made.

    The press announcement is indeed much too short in detail. The succession law of 1907 gave the Grand Duke the authority to alter the house laws on his own, but if Parliament goes ahead in making the succession to the throne a strictly constitutional issue, as Wort says it will, the Grand Duke will obviously lose this authority.

    I suppose Parliament's actions may also be seen in relation to the events of 2008, when Grand Duke Henri refused to give his assent to the bill legalising euthanasia and the Grand Duke consequently was deprived of his right to sign bills into law.

  3. I was recently rereading some articles on the Luxembourgish succession reform, which led me to the decree published in Mémorial B. Now, the decree itself is dated 16 September 2010, but it was published on 23 June 2011. I thought I'd ask you, do you know which date is the one on which the new rules came into effect?

    1. That is a good question, but as the grand ducal court has not been exactly crystal clear about this process I am afraid I cannot say for sure.


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