Friday, June 27, 2014
Monarch Profile: Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide of Luxembourg
All too soon, the Princess was face to face with destiny. On February 25, 1912 her father died and at the age of 17 Marie-Adelaide became the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and the first Luxembourgish monarch born on native soil since Count John the Blind in 1296. The seemingly fragile girl, with her delicate beauty, was naturally charming and it helped that, for the moment, she had her mother to help her along as regent until the Grand Duchess turned 18 the following year. Her mother, a Portuguese Infanta born in Germany due to the ousting of her father King Manuel I, was only too familiar with what was necessary in a monarch. She was also responsible for the deeply held Catholic faith of the young Grand Duchess. The minority of the new monarch was soon over and on her birthday in 1912 the Luxembourgish Prime Minister, Auguste Laval, administered her oath of office amidst a respectful and happy atmosphere.
Her words were timely as there were grumblings of social discontent in the little country that only a few years before had been described as rather delightfully dull. A London periodical on world affairs described the events of 1910 in Luxembourg as, “Nothing worth registering happened in this happiest of all countries”. Very soon, however, the hushed rumblings of grievances were drowned out by the growing tensions between France and Germany as well as, increasingly, most of the Great Powers of Europe. Then came the earth shattering events of 1914. In Sarajevo the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, a threatened war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary entangled Germany, Russia and France. The German plan for fighting a two front war called for an invasion of the Low Countries to take the French Republic in a strategic flank. This move was modified so as to avoid invading the Netherlands but Belgium and Luxembourg would not be so fortunate. The neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg became a “scrap of paper” and it was no great secret that the Germans intended to violate it. The German government itself stated that they had broken no law for, “necessity knows no law”.
In fact, Luxembourg became the command center of the Central Powers war effort as not long after Kaiser Wilhelm II established his headquarters in the Grand Duchy. It was an unfortunate situation but it had happened and there was nothing the Grand Duchess could do about it. Luxembourg was at the mercy of the Germans, so the Grand Duchess endeavored to make the best of a bad situation. She received the German Kaiser with all due courtesy and ensured that little to no animosity was displayed between them. Later on, the Grand Duchess would be viciously attacked because of this, but of course to have done otherwise would have only made a bad situation worse. There was also a very real danger of Luxembourg losing its independence entirely as most German planners envisioned the Grand Duchy being annexed to the German Empire in the event of a Central Powers victory. With her charm and consideration, it is also often forgotten, the Grand Duchess also prevailed upon the German Kaiser to commute the death sentences of a number of French, Belgian and Luxembourgish nationals who had been accused of anti-German activity. Many people owed Marie-Adelaide their lives.
The fact was that there was a burgeoning romance between the younger sister of the Grand Duchess, Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, and the widowed heir to the Bavarian throne Crown Prince Rupprecht, who happened to be commander of an army group on the western front and a field marshal. In fact, the two became engaged in 1918 and Princess Antonia of Luxembourg became the last Crown Princess of Bavaria. The fact that “the heart has its reasons”, that a marriage between two Catholic royal houses like Bavaria and Luxembourg was perfectly natural and that the Bavarian Crown Prince was a fine man and a humane, upstanding officer was shrugged off. It was all portrayed in the most negative way possible and the worst of the blame was heaped on the monarch Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide who was practically made out to be a traitor, giving aid and comfort to the enemy when in fact, all she had actually done was to be courteous and civil and actually saved a number of lives in the process and probably made life easier for her subjects. It can be easily imagined that the occupation could have been made much more painful if the Grand Duchess had been openly antagonistic toward the Germans. It might also be mentioned that no one knew how it would turn out and if the Central Powers had been victorious the very existence of Luxembourg as a sovereign state might have depended on the good graces of men like the German Kaiser or the support of the King of Bavaria.
It was an astonishing position to be in. Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide had been the first and most forceful to act when Luxembourg was faced with an invader. That she did not stop them on her own, with her one automobile, is hardly something to condemn her for; Luxembourg was simply not capable of resisting. Since resistance would have been futile and would have certainly brought about only greater suffering, the Grand Duchess adapted to the situation and did the best she could for her people and her country. She had also broken no laws and despite the complaints of her “meddling” in politics, she had never once violated the constitution or overstepped her authority in any way. However, republicans are nothing if not irrational and they raised an increasing fervor against their monarch until at one point the French Republic seized on the disorder to send in troops to occupy the country yet again. On January 9 the situation deteriorated to the extent that socialist leaders openly declared a republic. The dynasty was hanging by a thread. With great sadness, the pious and kind-hearted Grand Duchess finally felt she had no choice but to step aside in the hope of preserving the monarchy and so, on January 14, 1919, she abdicated in favor of her sister Charlotte.
Happily, the monarchy in Luxembourg has endured with Grand Duchess Charlotte seeing it through another World War and another period of German occupation, though she went into a temporary exile in London, and today the monarchy in Luxembourg is secure and quite popular. Nonetheless, what happened to Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide was a gross injustice. It was, at least, not as tragic as the fate suffered by the Romanovs, but it was a despicable outrage nonetheless. Never had the monarchy of Luxembourg come so close to falling and it was all based on monstrous falsehoods and malicious insinuations. Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide deserves to be better known and indeed honored as a caring, devoted and engaged monarch, a kind and sincerely Christian young woman -for such she was and as such she should be remembered.