Monday, 11 July 2011

Update on the Luxembourgian succession: Princess Alexandra IS in line to the throne

Following the rather unclear press statement from the Luxembourgian court about the changes to the succession announced on 21 June I asked the grand ducal court about whether these changes were retroactive. I was informed that the changes are “from 20th June 2011, therefore it is not retroactive” and that the “succession order remains unchanged”, of which the obvious interpretation was that gender-neutral succession would only apply to those of Grand Duke Henri’s descendants born after 2011 and that his daughter Princess Alexandra would remain outside the line of succession.
Having asked the grand ducal court for a clarification of this, I was recently informed that “H.R.H. Princess Alexandra is now in line to succeed to the throne in equal primogeniture”. Today I have also received confirmation that Princess Alexandra is “now ahead of Prince Sebastien”, which must mean that the changes are retroactive as they affect also those born before 2011 and that the line of succession has been changed as Princess Alexandra has been inserted ahead of her younger brother.
Yet the grand ducal court insists that the changes are “obviously not retroactive”, which makes me believe that they have not quite understood what the term means.


  1. Thank you for getting this clarification!

    A possible explanation for the court's insistence that the changes are not retroactive: I have seen people argue against changing succession laws on the grounds that it would retroactively invalidate previous successions to the throne. According to this belief, changing the British rule of succession to gender neutral primogeniture would require displacing the current Prince of Wales in favor of whichever descendant of Sophie of Hannover would have inherited the throne had the new rules been in place all along.

    Out of curiosity, did you ask whether the new rules apply to the line of succession after Prince Sebastien? The wording of the press release implied that it would not, but given the messy replies you have received, I suppose there is some room for doubt. But of course it is of no real importance as Henri already has four children in line to the throne.

  2. Well, I cannot honestly see the validity of the argument you refer to having heard. Of course most monarchies have changed the succession at some stage without that invalidating previous accessions and no law passed in the present can change the legality of events which have taken place in the past under those rules which applied at that time.

    And anyway there are ways of stating explicitly in the act to whom the changes will apply. For instance the Swedish act of succession was changed in 1980, but as it was limited to the descendants of Carl XVI Gustaf it meant only that Princess Victoria replaced Crown Prince Carl Philip as heir to the throne, not that Carl XVI Gustaf lost his throne to his elder sister Margaretha - or for that sake to his cousin Margrethe, who is the eldest child of the eldest child of the eldest child of the eldest child of the eldest child of the only child of Carl XIV Johan.

    I did not ask whether the changes apply to those in line after Prince Sébastien (Prince Guillaume etc.), because I think it is obvious from the wording both of the press announcement and the legal text that it only affects the descendants of Grand Duke Henri. What was however unclear to me was whether the changes affected those of Grand Duke Henri's descendants already born.


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