Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, a symbol of freedom for the people of one of Europe’s smallest states through her World War II radio broadcasts to the nation from London, died Tuesday at age 89.
Forced to flee the country she ruled for more than 20 years when German tanks invaded on May 10, 1940, the grand duchess devoted herself to boosting the morale of her subjects left behind in the occupied grand duchy and encouraging the Allied war effort.
Her return to the country on April 14, 1945, was greeted with countrywide celebrations.
The duchess was also praised for her efforts after the war in rebuilding the country, which, with a population of 366,000, is the European Economic Community’s smallest member but enjoys one of the highest living standards in Europe.
After her 1964 abdication in favor of her son, Jean, the duchess continued to take an active interest in both domestic and international politics and to participate in official celebrations. During a visit by Pope John Paul II last May, the duchess, a Catholic, received the pontiff in the royal castle.
Sister Forced to Resign
Born in Berg Castle, Luxembourg, on Jan. 23, 1896, the daughter of Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg and Grand Duchess Marie-Anne of Braganza, Infanta of Portugal, Charlotte succeeded her sister, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide, on Jan. 15, 1919. Marie-Adelaide had been forced to resign because of her pro-German feelings during World War I, causing a split in public opinion about the monarchy.
The popularity of the new duchess grew so quickly, however, that 80% of the voters supported the monarchy over a republic in a referendum held only eight months after her reign began.
She assumed the title Charlotte Aldegonde Elise Marie Wilhelmine, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Duchess of Nassau, Princess of Bourbon Parma.
In November of the same year, she married Prince Felix of Bourbon Parma, who died in 1970.
Jean was born in 1921. Duchess Charlotte also had four daughters: Princess Elisabeth, Princess Marie-Adelaide, Princess Marie-Gabrielle and Princess Alix. Another son, Prince Charles, died in 1977.
Spoke Four Languages
The duchess, like most of the inhabitants of the country, spoke German and French as well as the native Luxembourgish--a language with strong similarities to German--and some English.
Her use of the local language for her radio broadcasts set a precedent for all royal announcements and boosted the importance of Luxembourgish, often replaced in official documents by French or German.
The reverence for the grand duchess remained part of the pride felt in the independence of this small country--just 999 square miles in area--and the strong attachment to the monarchy.