|Grand Duchess Charlotte|
That invasion came on May 10, 1940 and the small Luxembourg Volunteer Corps (essentially what amounted to one battalion of militia) was ordered to stay in its barracks. The Germans moved in and occupied the country in a day with little to no resistance. In fact, most of the opposition they faced came from Luxembourg policemen, six of whom were wounded compared to only one Luxembourgish soldier. No one was killed. Elements of the French army did make contact with the Germans in Luxembourg but was little more than an armed reconnaissance and quickly fell back behind the Maginot Line on the French border. Grand Duchess Charlotte and the rest of the Royal Family had already left the country. When the first German units had violated Luxembourgish territory the day before, the Grand Duchess had summoned her ministers and all agreed to place the fate of their country totally in the hands of France. This had to be done as, since the changes following World War I, the Grand Duchess had less power than her predecessors. Remembering what had happened to her sister, there was no thought to staying in the country.
|Grand Duchess Charlotte|
This action made it clear that the life or death of Luxembourg and the Luxembourgish monarchy would depend entirely on the success or failure of the Allied war effort. To her credit, Grand Duchess Charlotte did everything in her power to support that effort. Her husband, Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma, was a veteran of the Austrian army in World War I and had served as Inspector-General of the Luxembourg Volunteer Corps. However, after being forced into exile he took charge of their children (six in all) and took them to the safety of the United States where they settled on Long Island in New York. The estate they lived on belonged to a family friend who had previously been the American ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg. Grand Duchess Charlotte rejoined her family in Montreal, Canada (where the children were sent to school) but never had much time for her private life due to the war. She traveled across the United States to encourage the American public to support the Allied war effort and to donate to help the Allies. President Roosevelt fully supported this as he wanted to get involved in the war but did not want to oppose the isolationist majority of the American people who, after a bad experience in World War I, wanted to stay out of “Europe’s wars”.
When the moment for the Allied invasion of France came, though necessarily small, the occupied Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was still represented. About seventy Luxembourgish volunteers were attached to the Artillery Group of the First Belgian Infantry Brigade, eventually under their own officers trained in Britain. Each of their guns were named after the children of the Royal Family. This Luxembourgish battery of artillery was transferred to France in August of 1944, serving in the wider Battle of Normandy. Prince Jean had already come ashore on D-Day and served in the Battle of Caen, later participating in the liberation of Brussels. As the Allies moved in the resistance in Luxembourg rose up and began to engage the Germans such as at the Battle of Vianden Castle where 30 resistance fighters, armed by the United States, successfully held off an attack by 250 soldiers of the Waffen-SS. On September 10, 1944 Allied forces, including Prince Jean, liberated Luxembourg City. Damian Kratzenberg, leader of the pro-Nazi collaborators was arrested and, after the war, executed. However, the Germans returned and re-took much of the country in the Ardennes Offensive (aka The Battle of the Bulge”) which took a heavy toll on the local population. In the end, the Allies fought their way back and expelled the Germans from Luxembourg soil for good.
|The Grand Duchess is welcomed home|
Luxembourg and its monarchy had suffered greatly. Some 500 people were killed in the Battle of the Bulge alone, tens of thousands were made homeless and the 3,500 Jews in the country were wiped out. About 5,700 people of Luxembourg died in the war, about 2% of the population and not a few had been forcibly conscripted into the German military after the Nazis annexed the country. The Grand Duchess’ sister, Crown Princess Antonia of Bavaria, was arrested by the Nazis in Hungary and sent to a concentration camp where she was tortured but, thankfully, she survived the ordeal but her health was never the same and she died nine years later in Switzerland, having vowed never to set foot in Germany again. It was a long, painful ordeal but Luxembourg had emerged stronger than before, more united around the monarchy and a more confident member of the community of nations. Today, the Luxembourgish monarchy is one of the most secure and popular in the world.