The Grand Ducal Family

H.R.H. the Grand Duchess

Born on

22 March 1956

in Havana, Cuba

© Maison du Grand-Duc / Emanuele Scorcelletti

Biography

A woman of heart and conviction, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa puts the protection of the most vulnerable and the defence of women’s and young girls’ rights against all forms of violence at the heart of her social and humanitarian engagements.

Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maria Teresa is one of four children of Mr José Antonio Mestre and Mrs Maria Teresa Batista-Falla de Mestre.

On 14 February 1981, Maria Teresa Mestre married His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Henri of Luxembourg at the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg. They have four sons and a daughter:

On 7 October 2000, Prince Henri became Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Since then, Princess Maria Teresa bears the title of Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess is the grandmother of four grandsons and one granddaughter:

  • Prince Charles (born 10 May 2020), son of the Crown Prince and Princess,
  • Princess Amalia (born on 15 June 2014) and Prince Liam (born on 28 November 2016), the two children of Prince Félix and Princess Claire of Luxembourg, and
  • Prince Gabriel (born on 12 March 2006) and Prince Noah (born on 21 September 2007), the two sons of Prince Louis of Luxembourg.
Pictures of the Grand Duchess

In this gallery, discover the Grand Duchess in all her facets, whether in her official photo, gala outfit or au naturel.

© Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Maria Teresa and her mother, Maria Teresa Batista-Falla de Mestre

Childhood

The Grand Duchess showed an interest in social and humanitarian causes very early on. This was in line with the family tradition, as her grandparents Augustin Batista Y Gonzalez De Mendoza and Maria Teresa Falla Y Bonet had also been involved in philanthropic and cultural life in Cuba. The construction of community clinics offering free treatment in deprived rural areas were among their most remarkable achievements. Her grandparents also contributed to the creation of the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and remained its principal patrons until the Cuban Revolution.

Because of the revolution led by Fidel Castro, the young Maria Teresa Mestre  left Cuba in 1960 together with her parents José Antonio Mestre and Maria Teresa Batista-Falla de Mestre and her two brothers and her sister. The family of Spanish origin settled in New York, where the future Grand Duchess enrolled at the Marymount School. From 1961 onwards, she pursued her education at the École Française (French School). As of June 1965, her parents stayed on the family property in Santander (Spain), for a few months before choosing Geneva (Switzerland) as their permanent home. Like her two brothers and her sister – Antonio, Luis and Catalina – Maria Teresa has enjoyed an excellent education. While her father worked in finance, her mother, passionate about the arts and literature, dedicated herself to her family and conveyed the values of Christian faith to her children.

© Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Family photo: The Grand Duchess with her parents, her brothers and her sister

Education

After studying at the École Française (French School) in New York, Maria Teresa pursued her education from 1965 onwards at the Institut Marie-José in Gstaad, then at the Marie-Thérèse boarding school in Geneva, where she graduated with a French baccalaureate in June 1975. In the meantime, she became a Swiss citizen.

After her secondary studies, she enrolled at the University of Geneva where she studied Political Science. At university, she met her future husband, Prince Henri of Luxembourg, who studied the same subjects.

She obtained her degree in Political Science in 1980, and on 7 November the same year, their engagement was announced.

Henri and Maria Teresa in Geneva © Private collection
Portrait of Prince Henri and Maria Teresa © Private collection
The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess holding hands © Private collection
 

On Valentine’s Day in 1981, Maria Teresa Mestre married H.R.H. the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg

© Cour grand-ducale / Tony Krier

Social and humanitarian causes

Since her marriage in 1981, the Grand Duchess has initiated many projects to support vulnerable people in Luxembourg and across the world, notably through the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de la Grande-Duchesse (Foundation of the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess), an association which she presides.

Maggy Barankitse and the Grand Duchess © Hervé Montaigu / Tageblatt

The Grand Duchess meets Maggy Barankitse in 2013, to discuss the project La Main tendue (extending a hand), a project entirely financed by the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de la Grande-Duchesse

The Grand Duchess at the 10th anniversary of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duchess at the 10th anniversary of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation with Professor Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2018

The Grand Duchess at the Mother and Child Center © LUXPRESS / Jean-Claude Ernst

The Grand Duchess, UNICEF eminent advocate for children, at the REMA hospital and the Mother and Child Center in Burundi in 2008

Grand Duchess meets imprisoned children © Luxpress

In June 2009, the Grand Duchess meets children imprisoned under inhumane conditions for common offences and advocates to free them

The Grand Duchess talking to homeless people © Croix-Rouge / Sven Becker

In March 2018, the Grand Duchess meets homeless people living in Luxembourg City

Group picture © Cour grand-ducale / Luxpress / Jean-Claude Ernst

The Grand Duchess attends the screening of the film "Lynn-firwat net? Inclusioun gëtt et!” at the Utopolis in Luxembourg in 2010

The Grand Duchess in Bangladesh © SIP / Christophe Olinger

The Grand Duchess on a humanitarian trip to Bangladesh in 2003 with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Professor Yunus

The Grand Duchess with paralympic athletes © Luxpress / Jean-Claude Ernst

The Grand Duchess at the Paralympics in 2004

The Grand Duchess talking to children © SIP / Charles Caratini

The Grand Duchess visits the Association Casa Sol (Associação de Apoio às Crianças Infectadas pelo Vírus da Sida e Suas Famílias) taking care of children with AIDS in Portugal in 2010

 

She has granted her patronage to numerous Luxembourgish charities and socio-cultural organisations, such as the Luxembourg Red Cross and the Fondation Cancer (Cancer Foundation).

Her actions are guided by the principles of defending the rights of women and girls and the fight against all forms of violence against them. She is committed to encouraging women to actively participate in building fairer societies based on respect for human dignity and solidarity.

In 1997, she became a 'Goodwill Ambassador’ of UNESCO for her actions in favour of girls’ education and gender equality, women’s rights and microfinance. She was nominated 'Eminent Advocate for Children’ of UNICEF in 2007, committing to defend the interests of children throughout the world.

 

Ever since, she has been involved in numerous projects helping children and furthering their education. In January 2016, she organised an international forum to give hope to parents whose children are affected by learning disabilities and where her son, Prince Louis, testified about his own dyslexia.

© Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Her Royal Highness visits a refugee camp near Bar Elias in Lebanon in October 2018

For the past 30 years, she has worked closely with Professor Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 2006) and has been involved in the fields of microfinance and inclusive finance, topics which she equally promotes in Luxembourg. She is convinced that social business and female entrepreneurship are key for tomorrow’s economy. Since 2006, the Grand Duchess has been Honorary President of LuxFLAG, the Luxembourg Fund Labeling Agency, which was the first to award a quality label to microfinance investment funds around the world. The Grand Duchess has chaired the international Grand Jury for the annual European Microfinance Prize since 2005. This prize rewards initiatives in microfinance and inclusive finance in developing countries.

© Godong / Philippe Lissac

In 2008, Professor Yunus and the directors of Crédit Agricole S.A. create the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, which the Grand Duchess joined as a member of the board of directors from the start. Her Royal Highness has supported several microfinance projects aimed at improving the quality of education for girls and women's independence through microcredits

The Grand Duchess’ humanitarian and social commitment has often taken her abroad to see first-hand the progress of the projects she supports. She has visited Nepal, Mali, Bangladesh, Thailand, Bosnia, Laos, Kenya, Senegal, Burundi and more recently Lebanon, taking a particular interest in supporting vulnerable children and women.

In 2009, the Grand Duchess was awarded the prestigious 'Steiger Award’ in recognition of her work in the category 'Charity’.

During a visit to the central prison of Bujumbura (Burundi) in June that same year, the Grand Duchess learned that children were put into prison for minor offences. Within four years, through the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de la Grande-Duchesse, and with the help of the Maison Shalom, founded by Maggy Barankitse, the project La Main tendue (Extending a hand) succeeded in freeing 600 minors incarcerated under inhumane conditions in Burundian prisons. These children then received psychological, legal, medical, social and educational assistance.

In September 2016, the Grand Duchess joined the Council of Patrons of the Asian University for Women (AUW). Based in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the university has trained more than 1,200 young girls to become women leaders in Asia since its creation in 2008.

Her official activities and humanitarian and social commitments in pictures

Her commitment to women’s rights

The Grand Duchess is particularly affected by the trauma, isolation and stigmatisation of women and girls who had been victims of sexual violence in fragile environments and commits herself to their cause from 2014 onwards.

After doing extensive research on the subject, she met with survivors. In 2016, Her Royal Highness met with the winners of the Sakharov Prize, Nadia Murad (Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2018) and Lamiya Aji Bachar, two young Iraqi women from the Yezidi community, who have become symbols for all the victims of violence from the so-called Islamic State and spokespersons of their community.

© Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

H.R.H. the Grand Duchess receives the laureates of the Sakharov Prize 2016, Nadia Mourad Bassi Taha and Lamiya Aji Bachar at the Grand Ducal Palace on 15 December 2016

It was also in 2016 that the Grand Duchess met Dr. Denis Mukwege (Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2018). Deeply impressed by his work, she took the initiative to organise with him and with Céline Bardet, founder and director of the association 'We are not Weapons of War’, the international Forum 'Stand Speak Rise Up!' in Luxembourg, in March 2019, to put an end to sexual violence in fragile environments.

© Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duchess and Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate during the Stand Speak Rise Up! press conference in 2019

This international forum, which brought together 50 survivors and three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Professor Mohammed Yunus, Doctor Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, attracted 1,200 people.

Set up as a true debating platform among the key actors in the fight against sexual violence in fragile environments and the victims themselves, this forum highlighted the experiences, actions and recommendations of both representatives of national and international organisations and particularly of the survivors of sexual violence, who were at the heart of the debate. The socio-economic impacts of these crimes and human rights abuses were discussed. The survivors presented their initiatives to heal, access justice, obtain reparations, make their voices heard and become actors of peace and change.

The Grand Duchess created the association 'Stand Speak Rise Up!' in September 2019 to condemn rape as a weapon of war and sexual violence in fragile environments, prevent their proliferation and support victims in their reconstruction and their need for justice. The association gathers numerous renowned personalities who are committed to help around the world.

Photo gallery of the international forum Stand Speak Rise Up!

Discover the most moving moments of the international forum for survivors of sexual violence in fragile environments

In order to be prepared for the forum, the Grand Duchess made a humanitarian trip to Lebanon in 2018. She met with survivors of sexual violence (refugees and migrants), collected their testimonies and supported them in their quest for justice and reparation. She also visited a microfinance project aimed at improving the conditions of women, especially refugee women.

In 2018, the Grand Duchess was invited to speak at the Entretiens de Royaumont on the theme 'Being a woman and a victim’. She evoked the serious socio-economic consequences of rape in armed conflicts and in fragile environments. She called for an international alliance of survivors and civil society actors to strengthen the fight against sexual violence in fragile environments, improve prevention and implement appropriate reparation tools and recognition.

In 2020, the Grand Duchess was invited to participate in a virtual dialogue by NATO on the subject of sexual violence in conflict zones.

We need to move from emotional reactions to action! I am convinced that by putting survivors at the heart of the debate, they will become actors of change!
© Cour grand-ducale / Samuel Kirszenbaum

Entretiens de Royaumont – the Grand Duchess debates with other speakers on the subject of 'Being a Woman and a Victim' in 2018

In 2020, she was the Honorary President of the jury of the Prix de la Femme d’Influence, which rewarded women who stood out during the health crisis.

For all these years, the Grand Duchess’ ongoing commitment to defend women’s rights throughout the world is also illustrated by her numerous projects to support women in Luxembourg.

In 2019 and 2020, she was actively involved in the campaigns organised for the launch of 'Orange Week’ in Luxembourg and she met with various associations, in particular those active in the protection of victims of domestic violence.

© Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

November 2019: Orange Week - Solidarity march against violence against women

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grand Duchess has maintained regular contact with the associations she supports, through telephone calls, through video messages calling for solidarity, or by participating in campaigns on social networks.

With the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de la Grande-Duchesse, she has initiated numerous actions, such as giving smartphones and tablets to shelters that protect victims of domestic violence, and has notably offered financial support to students in precarious situations.

In 2021, the Grand Duchess supported the 'Vodafone Foundation Luxembourg’ and the non-profit organisation Femmes en Détresse (Women in Distress) in the fight against violence against women and girls by supporting the 'Bright Sky’ application, which helps victims and their families.

Honours awarded to the Grand Duchess

The honours that the Grand Duchess has received, amongst others for her humanitarian actions, are an illustration of her extraordinary commitments.

In October 1999, Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Teresa was awarded an honorary doctorate from Seton Hall University (New Jersey, USA).

In February 2003, she received the title of Doctor honoris causa from the University of Leon (Nicaragua). In June 2006, the Holy See’s Representation to the United Nations awarded her the 'Path to Peace Award’, a prize given annually to a person for their humanitarian and social engagements.

In 2013, the ELPIDA association of Friends of Children with Cancer awarded her the 'International Solidarity Award’ in recognition of her work for children with cancer.

© Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duchess meets underage girls and mothers with their children, as well as with young pregnant women and single-parent families at the Norbert Ensch drop-in Centre in Contern

Interests

The Grand Duchess loves spending time with her grandchildren. She is interested in decorative arts and design. In her youth, she studied classical dance for 18 years. She also enjoys singing, playing the guitar and especially loves to walk her dogs.

© Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess during the filming of 'D'Maus Kätti' for KulturKanal in 2020

Passionate about literature, she was a member of the jury for the literary prize for historical novels, the Prix des Princes, in Paris in 2016.

In January 2019, the Grand Duchess awarded the 'Prix de l’Histoire’ to Loris Chavanette for his book 'Quatre-vingt-quinze, La Terreur en procès’.

The passions of the Grand Duchess

Pictures and videos of the Grand Duchess

The Grand Duchess sitting at her desk © Cour grand-ducale / Emanuele Scorcelletti (Paperjam)

Portrait of H.R.H. the Grand Duchess at the Palace

The Grand Duchess at a lectern during her Stand Speak Rise up! © Cour grand-ducale / Marion Dessard

The Grand Duchess during her speech for Stand Speak Rise Up! in 2019

The Grand Duchess at the "Stand Speak Rise Up!" © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

2019, H.R.H. the Grand Duchess at the "Stand Speak Rise Up!"

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess smiling © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

2019, The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess at Bourscheid Castle.

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess receiving explanations from Philippe Bourseiller © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

TT.RR.HH. the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess at the opening of the exhibition 'Sur l'eau-On water' by photographers Yann-Arthus Bertrand and Philippe Bourseiller in 2018

Family photo at Berg Castle © Private collection

Family photo: the Crown Prince, Princess Maria Teresa, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte

Photo of the Grand Duchess and Prince Guillaume in 1981 © Private collection

Birth of Prince Guillaume in 1981

Birth of Prince Guillaume - Balcony of the Palace © Private collection

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess introduce Prince Guillaume to the people on the balcony of the Grand Ducal Palace in 1981

The Grand Duke, the Grand Duchess carrying Prince William © Private collection

The Crown Prince and Crown Princess and the young Prince Guillaume in the courtyard of the Grand Ducal Palace in 1983

Family photo © Private collection

Family photo in front of Fischbach Castle

Photo of Princess Alexandra's birth in the maternity ward © Private collection

Grand Duchess and Princess Alexandra, February 1991

Photo of the Grand Ducal Family © Private collection

Photo of the Grand Ducal Family in Fischbach in 1992

Family photo © Private collection

The Grand Duchess, Princess Alexandra and Prince Sébastian

Grand Ducal family - Holiday photo © Private collection

The Grand Ducal Family on holidays in the 1990s

The Grand Duchess bakes with her children © Private collection

Baking together

Family guitar practice © Private collection

The Grand Duchess and her children practice the guitar in their living room.

National Day in Diekirch in 2010 © Claude Dirckes

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess on the eve of the National Day in Diekirch in 2010

The Grand Duchess visiting the 'Pontalize Center' © Maison du Grand-Duc / Sophie Margue

Visit of the 'Pontalize Center' dedicated to the care of the elderly.

screening of the film 'Lynn-firwat net? Inclusioun gëtt et!' © Luxpress

The Grand Duchess attends the screening of the film 'Lynn-firwat net? Inclusioun gëtt et!' at the Utopolis in Luxembourg in 2010

The Grand Duchess talking to a woman © Cour grand-ducale / Olivier Polet

The Grand Duchess visits a palliative care unit

The Grand Duchess talking to children © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The Grand Duchess visits the elementary school of Ermsdorf-Medernach in 2016

The Grand Duchess talking to a man © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The Grand Duchess visits the different workshops of the 'Fourth World Movement' in 2017

The Grand Duchess during the Institutional dinner © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

Institutional dinner at Berg Castle

Visiting the the International Bazaar © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Visit of the International Bazaar in 2018

The Grand Duchess smiling to the camera © Cour grand-ducale / Manuel Dias

40th Anniversary of the Tricentenaire

Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis in 2018 © Cour grand-ducale/ Sophie Margue

The Grand Ducal Couple during the ceremony of the "Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis" in 2018

Inauguration of the Centre for the Development of Learning © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Inauguration of the Centre for the Development of Learning 'Grand Duchess Maria Teresa' (CDA)

The Grand Duchess and a young girl © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Humanitarian visit to Lebanon in 2018

The Grand Duchess and a young man © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Volunteer Awards in 2018

The Grand Duchess with King Willem Alexander and Dr Denis Mukwégé © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Forum "From words to action: repairing the wounds of wartime sexual violence"

Engagement photos at Berg Castle © Private collection

Engagement photos at Berg Castle

The Grand Ducal Family at Berg Castle © Private collection

The Grand Ducal Family at Berg Castle

 

Watch videos of the Grand Duchess:

Biographies of the members of the Grand Ducal Family

    • José Antonio Mestre
    • Maria Teresa Batista-Falla de Mestre
Download the biography

Activities of the Grand Duchess