The Grand Ducal Family

H.R.H. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

Born on

14 June 1894

at Berg Castle, Luxembourg

Portrait de la Grande-Duchesse Marie-Adélaïde

© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale

Biography

Marie-Adélaïde Thérèse Hilda Wilhelmine of Nassau was born on 14th June 1894 in Berg Castle. She is the eldest of six daughters of Guillaume IV and his wife Maria Ana of Braganza, Infanta of Portugal.

She was Grand Duchess of Luxembourg from 1912 until she abdicated in 1919.

She died on 24 January 1924 at Hohenburg Castle in Bavaria without leaving any heirs.

La Princesse Marie-Adélaïde et ses soeurs
© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale

Princess Marie-Adélaïde and her sisters

A young heiress to the Throne

On 10 July 1907, after Grand Duke Guillaume IV changed the order of succession to the Throne, Princess Marie-Adélaïde, aged 13, was proclaimed Crown Princess. On 25 February 1912, she succeeded her father when she was only 17 years and 8 months old. Her mother, Grand Duchess Maria Ana, who had already taken over the Regency during her husband’s illness, continued to exercise it until the new Grand Duchess turned 18 in June.

She is the first sovereign born on Luxembourgish soil since John the Blind in 1296. Since the death of Empress Maria Theresa in 1780, she is also the first woman to occupy the Throne of Luxembourg.

© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale
Portrait of the young Crown Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg

Accession to the Throne at 18 years of age

The young Grand Duchess’ speech during her swearing-in ceremony at the Chamber of Deputies on 18 June 1912 reflected a very different conception of the role of Head of State to her father’s. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde declared her interest in political and social affairs. Inspired by the motto 'Judicate Juste!' of Emperor Henry VII from the House of Luxembourg, she stated:

'It is the desire to judge in accordance with the requirements of justice and fairness that will inspire all my actions. Law and the general interest alone will guide me!'

'To judge justly, is it not equal justice for all, but also justice that protects the humble and the weak? Growing economic inequality between men is the serious concern of our time. Social peace, so ardently desired, has so far remained an elusive ideal. Is it not necessary to work for rapprochement and solidarity?'

© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale
H.R.H. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde during the traditional appearance on the balcony following her swearing-in ceremony on 18 June 1912

However, this very socially minded discourse also indicated that Marie-Adélaïde wanted to have a say in the political direction the country was taking. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde, who was a devout Catholic, was convinced that she was sovereign 'by the grace of God’. This belief stood in stark contrast to the changing spirit of the times and political realities (such as the controversies over the 1912 school law, the appointment of the Loutsch government or the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies).

At no time did Marie-Adélaïde exceed her constitutional rights. However, her active intervention in politics was felt to be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution by the left-wing majority (social democrats and liberals). It should be noted that already during the debates on the new family status in 1907, the socialists had spoken out against the Monarchy.

© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale
Official portrait of H.R.H. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

World War I

Two years after Marie-Adélaïde became Grand Duchess, on 2 August 1914, German troops invaded the officially neutral Grand Duchy. World War I was an ordeal for the young Luxembourgish State. The population had mixed feelings towards the fighting parties. Economic ties with Germany were very close: Luxembourg was part of the 'Zollverein’ (the tariff union with Germany), the Luxembourg railway network belonged to Germany and the steel industry was in the hands of German investors. Germany being perceived as innovative and modern by many policy-makers also meant that part of the country’s elite had studied there. On the other hand, the Prussian garrison established in the city fortress until 1867 had created an attitude of rejection towards the Germans among the Luxembourgish population.

After having protested in vain against the violation of Luxembourg’s neutrality, both the Government and Marie-Adélaïde renounced opposing the German war machine in the interest of the population. When the country was liberated on 11 November 1918, all the structures of the Luxemburg State had been left intact by the German occupiers. The occupation had been limited to the military sphere only.

The Grand Duchess receiving the Kaiser at the Palace in the middle of a war became symbolic of the closeness of the Luxembourgish political class to the invading forces. After the war, the Allies harshly criticised Luxembourg’s complacent attitude towards Germany. 'This country has not done its duty and does not deserve to be maintained in its present state, ' said French Minister Poincaré. Belgium, in turn, saw an opportunity to reiterate its claims on Luxembourg territory. Anti-dynastic and annexationist forces were joining forces. In Luxembourg, the socialists and liberals demanded that the dynasty be stripped of its power. A vote on this issue failed, however.

Entrée des troupes américaines à Luxembourg
© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale

Entry of American troops into the Luxembourg capital on 21 November 1918

On 9 January 1919, revolutionary unrest broke out in the capital where the small Compagnie des Volontaires (Company of Volunteers) mutinied, while the liberals and socialists proclaimed the republic. France sent troops to Luxembourg to restore calm and order. To appease the calls for abolishing the Monarchy, Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde decided to abdicate in favour of her sister Charlotte.

On 28 September 1919, 80% of the Luxembourgers voted in a referendum in favour of maintaining the Monarchy.

After the abdication of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

Marie-Adélaïde left Luxembourg to enter a convent in Modena, Italy. She died in Hohenburg Castle on 24 January 1924. In 1947, her remains were transferred to the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg.

© Photographic collections / Cour grand-ducale
H.R.H. Grand Duchess Maria Ana of Luxembourg surrounded by her six daughters

Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde in pictures

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde

Princess Marie-Adélaïde with her sisters © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Princess Marie-Adélaïde with her sisters

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde

Family photo at Berg castle © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde with her sisters, Princesses Charlotte, Hilda and Antonia in the park of Berg Castle.

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Princess Marie-Adélaïde

Portrait of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde © Collections Cour grand-ducale

Portrait of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

Portrait of the Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of the Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

The Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

The Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde

Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie and Grand Duchess Maria Ana with her six daughters © Photographic collections / Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie and Grand Duchess Maria Ana with her six daughters