Jean of Luxembourg, who ruled the tiny state for 36 years, died early this morning. He was 98. As his family say their final farewells to a much-loved member, Royal Central takes a look back at his extraordinary story. From heir to exile, soldier to hero, Grand Duke to patriarch, here are some of the moments that tell his life in pictures.
Jean was born on January 5th 1921 at Berg Castle in Luxembourg, the first child of Grand Duchess Charlotte and her husband, Prince Felix. He was christened Jean Benoit Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d’Aviano and was heir to the throne of Luxembourg from birth. He was joined by a brother and four sisters in the following eight years.
The family was forced into exile in 1940 when Nazi Germany invaded Luxembourg. Jean, along with his siblings and parents, spent time in England and the US. He joined the Irish Guards in 1942 and went on to take part in the D Day landings as well as the liberation of Luxembourg in 1944.
Marriage – and love?
In late 1952, Jean became engaged to Princess Joséphine Charlotte of Belgium. Their wedding plans were officially announced on December 26th 1952.
The couple married on April 9th 1953 in a civil ceremony at the Hall of Ceremonies at the Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg. A religious ceremony at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the duchy followed later the same day.
A new royal family
Jean and Joséphine Charlotte went on to have five children – Marie Astrid (born 1954), Henri (1955), twins Jean and Margaretha (1957) and Guillaume (1963).
Taking the throne
Jean became Grand Duke of Luxembourg on November 12th 1964 on the abdication of his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, following a reign of 45 years. Jean took the oath that same day, starting a rule that would last for 36 years.
The Grand Duke of Luxembourg
As head of state, he enjoyed a high profile role and undertook a wide range of engagements as well as his daily work as ruler. He carried out a State Visit to the United Kingdom in 1972.
A popular ruler, he took part in significant celebrations across his small country, including Luxembourg National Day.
He took part in a wide range of European events and, movingly, in 1944 he returned to Normandy to mark the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
His Catholic faith was always deeply important to him, and in 1985, he welcomed Pope John Paul II on a visit to Luxembourg.
He represented Luxembourg on many occasions – here, famously, standing alongside Fidel Castro during a memorial mass for the former President of France, Francois Mitterand.
Abdication and later years
Jean abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Henri, on October 7th 2000. He retired to Fischbach Castle.
Grand Duchess Joséphine Charlotte of Luxembourg died in 2005 leaving Jean a widower after 52 years of marriage.
Jean of Luxembourg remained busy in retirement – the Grand Ducal Court listed his interests as environmental matters and sport among others. He also remained a pillar of support for his son and his grandson, Guillaume, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
His appearances continued through the early part of 2019. In January he took a starring role at events marking the centenary of the accession of his mother, Charlotte, as Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. His final public engagement came in March 2019 when he attended the “Stand Speak Rise Up” seminar organised by his daughter in law, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, to end sexual violence in conflict-affected areas.
It was another indication of the deep family bonds that Grand Duke Jean had built throughout his long life. As his health worsened, he was surrounded in hospital by his children and grandchildren.
His death, on 23 April 2019, was greeted with widespread mourning in Luxembourg. His fellow citizens have lost a respected ruler, his family grieve for a much-loved patriarch. Jean inherited a tiny country, but he more than helped it make its mark.
Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, 5 January 1921 – 23 April 2019.