Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

Charlotte (Charlotte Adelgonde Élise/Elisabeth Marie Wilhelmine; 23 January 1896 – 9 July 1985) reigned as Grand Duchess of Luxembourg from 1919 until her abdication in 1964.

The Grand Duchess in 1942
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Reign14 January 1919 – 12 November 1964
Born(1896-01-23)23 January 1896
Berg Castle, Luxembourg
Died9 July 1985(1985-07-09) (aged 89)
Fischbach Castle, Fischbach, Luxembourg
SpousePrince Felix of Bourbon-Parma
Full name
Charlotte Adelgonde Elisabeth Marie Wilhelmine
FatherWilliam IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
MotherInfanta Marie Anne of Portugal

She acceded to the throne on 14 January 1919 following the abdication of her sister, Marie-Adélaïde, due to political pressure over Marie-Adélaïde's role during the German occupation of Luxembourg during World War I. A referendum retained the monarchy with Charlotte as grand duchess.

She married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma on 6 November 1919. They had six children. Following the 1940 German invasion of Luxembourg during World War II, Charlotte went into exile: first in France, then Portugal, Great Britain, and North America. While in Britain, she made broadcasts to the people of Luxembourg. She returned to Luxembourg in April 1945.

She abdicated in 1964, and was succeeded by her son Jean. Charlotte died from cancer on 9 July 1985.

She was the last agnatic member of the House of Nassau.

Early life and tenure as Grand Duchess

Born in Berg Castle, Charlotte of Nassau-Weilburg, Princess of Luxembourg, was the second daughter of Grand Duke William IV and his wife, Marie Anne of Portugal.

Her older sister, Marie-Adélaide, had succeeded their father. However, Marie-Adélaïde’s actions had become controversial, and she was seen as friendly to the German occupation of Luxembourg during World War I. There were calls in parliament for her abdication, and she was forced to abdicate on 14 January 1919.

Charlotte became the one who had to deal with the revolutionary tendencies in the country. Unlike her sister, she chose not to interfere in its politics.

Luxembourg adopted a new constitution that year. In a referendum on 28 September 1919, 77.8% of the Luxembourgish people voted for the continuation of the monarchy with Grand Duchess Charlotte as head of state. However, in the new constitution, the powers of the monarch was severely restricted.

During the German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II, Charlotte, exiled in Britain, became an important symbol of national unity.

Marriage and children

On 6 November 1919 in Luxembourg, she married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma, a first cousin on her mother's side. (Both Charlotte and Felix were grandchildren of King Miguel of Portugal, through his daughters Maria Anna and Maria Antonia, respectively). With the marriage, their lineal descent was raised in style from Grand Ducal Highness to Royal Highness. The union produced six children, twenty-seven grandchildren, seventy-eight great-grandchildren, and thirty-five great-great-grandchildren:

Name Date of birth Date of death Spouses
Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg(1921-01-05)5 January 192123 April 2019(2019-04-23) (aged 98)Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium (1927–2005). They had five children, twenty-two grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren
Princess Elisabeth, Duchess von Hohenberg22 December 192222 November 2011(2011-11-22) (aged 88)Franz, Duke von Hohenberg (1927–1977), and they have two daughters, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Princess Marie Adelaide, Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck21 May 192428 February 2007(2007-02-28) (aged 82)Count Karl Josef Henckel von Donnersmarck (1928–2008) and they have four children and eight grandchildren.
Princess Marie Gabriele, Dowager Countess af Holstein-Ledreborg (1925-08-02) 2 August 1925Knud Johan, Count af Holstein-Ledreborg (1919–2001) and seven daughters, fifteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Prince Charles of Luxembourg7 August 192726 July 1977(1977-07-26) (aged 49)Joan Douglas Dillon (b. 1935) and they have two children and six grandchildren.
Alix, Dowager Princess de Ligne24 August 192911 February 2019(2019-02-11) (aged 89)Antoine, 13th Prince de Ligne (1925–2005) and they have seven children, twenty grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.


By 1935, Charlotte had sold her German properties, the former residential palaces of the Dukes of Nassau, Biebrich Palace and Schloss Weilburg, to the State of Prussia. During World War II the grand ducal family left Luxembourg shortly before the arrival of Nazi troops. Luxembourg's neutrality was violated on 9 May 1940, while the Grand Duchess and her family were in residence at Colmar-Berg. That day she called an extraordinary meeting of her leading ministers, and they all decided to place themselves under the protection of France, described by the Grand Duchess as a difficult but necessary decision. Initially the family took up residence at the Château de Montastruc in south-western France, but the rapid advance of the German forces into France followed by French capitulation the next month caused the French government to refuse any guarantee of security to the exiled Luxembourg government. Permission was received to cross Spain provided they did not stop en route, and the Grand Duchess with her ministers moved on to Portugal.

The Germans proposed to restore the Grand Duchess to her functions, but Charlotte refused, mindful of her sister's experiences of remaining in Luxembourg under German occupation during the First World War. By 29 August 1940 Grand Duchess Charlotte was in London where she began to make supportive broadcasts to her homeland using the BBC. Later she travelled to the United States and to Canada. Her children continued their schooling in Montreal while she had several meetings with President Roosevelt who encouraged her itinerant campaigning across the country in support of his own opposition to isolationism which was a powerful political current until the Pearl Harbor attacks. In the meantime Luxembourg, along with the adjacent French Moselle department, found itself integrated into an expanded Germany under the name Heim ins Reich, which left Luxembourgers required to speak German and liable for conscription into the German army.

In 1943 Grand Duchess Charlotte and the Luxembourg government established themselves in London: her broadcasts became a more regular feature of the BBC schedules, establishing her as a focus for the resistance movements in Luxembourg. The Grand Ducal family went to North America in exile, settling first on the Marjorie Merriweather Post estate in Brookville, Long Island and then in Montreal. The Grand Duchess visited Washington DC and made a good will tour of the US to keep the profile of Luxembourg high in the eyes of the Allies.[1]

Charlotte's younger sister Antonia and brother-in-law Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, were exiled from Germany in 1939. In 1944, living now in Hungary, Crown Princess Antonia was captured when the Germans invaded Hungary and found herself deported to the concentration camp at Dachau, being later transferred to Flossenbürg where she survived torture but only with her health badly impaired. Meanwhile, from 1942 Grand Duchess Charlotte's eldest son, Jean, served as a volunteer in the Irish Guards.

In the years after the war, Charlotte showed a lot of public activity which contributed to raising Luxembourg's profile on the international stage, by hosting visits from foreign heads of state and other dignitaries, such as Eleanor Roosevelt (1950), Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (1951), René Coty (1957), King Baudouin of Belgium (1959), King Bhumibol of Thailand (1961), and King Olav V of Norway (1964). Likewise, she visited Pius XII (1950), Charles de Gaulle (1961), and John F. Kennedy (1963).[2]

In 1951 Charlotte and her prime minister Pierre Dupong by decree admitted into the nobility of Luxembourg three Swedish relatives who were not allowed to use their birth titles in Sweden. They were then named as Sigvard Prince Bernadotte, Carl Johan Prince Bernadotte and Lennart Prince Bernadotte and also, with their legitimate descendants, were given the hereditary titles of Counts and Countesses of Wisborg there.[3]

Abdication and later life

On 12 November 1964, she abdicated in favour of her son Jean, who then reigned until his abdication in 2000.

Charlotte died at Schloss Fischbach on 9 July 1985, from cancer. She was interred in the Ducal Crypt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the city of Luxembourg.

A statue of the Grand Duchess is in Place Clarefontaine in the city of Luxembourg.[4]

Titles, styles, and honours

Styles of
Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg
Reference styleHer Royal Highness
Spoken styleYour Royal Highness


  • 23 January 1896 – 25 February 1912: Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Charlotte of Luxembourg
  • 25 February 1912 – 14 January 1919: Her Royal Highness The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg[5]
  • 14 January 1919 – 12 November 1964: Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
  • 12 November 1964 – 9 July 1985: Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg


National honours
Foreign honours
Click on image to enlarge


Notes and references

  1. "Grand Duchess Charlotte's US Good-Will-Tours". Luxemburger Wort. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  2. Kreins, Jean-Marie. Histoire du Luxembourg. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010. 5th edition. p. 105
  3. "Mémorial A n° 48 de 1951 - Legilux" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  4. "Commemoration to mark return of Luxembourg monarch". Luxemburger Wort. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  5. It was customary for a reigning Grand Duke, his heir apparent, and their spouses to use the style of Royal Highness
  7. "Wedding Wednesday: November Brides".
  8. "Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxemburg".
  9. "The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor: Wedding Wednesday: November Brides".
  10. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 466. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  11. "Geheugen van Nederland".
  12. "Sveriges statskalender (1940), II, p. 8" (in Swedish). Retrieved 6 January 2018 via
Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 23 January 1896 Died: 6 July 1985
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Succeeded by

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