He joined the regiment in the darkest days of World War Two and, as one of its officers, fought in some of that conflict’s most decisive battles. Now the Irish Guards have paid their own tribute to Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg following his death on April 23rd 2019. In a simple statement, they remembered one of their own, ending with the motto of the regiment. Quis Separabit – who shall separate us?
It is a moving memorial for the man who ruled Luxembourg for 36 years and whose war record had already led the country’s current Prime Minister to describe him as a hero in the hours after his passing. Grand Duke Jean was just 21 when he volunteered for the Irish Guards, having ended up in exile in the UK following the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg during World War Two. King George VI suggested the regiment to him and, following a period of training, the then Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg headed into battle with his comrades.
Jean saw active service at the Normandy landings in June 1944 which was part of a wave of liberation across mainland Europe. He took part in the Battle for Caen which lasted for much of the summer of 1944 and was also involved in the liberation of Brussels. In September 1944 he was part of the Allied forces which freed Luxembourg. He went on to fight in the the Ardennes and Arnhem as World War Two finally came to an end.
His loyalty to and love of the Irish Guards was never forgotten and he remained close to the regiment for the rest of his life. He served as Colonel of the Regiment between 1984 and 2000 and attended the traditional presentation of shamrocks which takes place on St. Patrick’s Day. In recognition of his wartime service, the Queen made Grand Duke Jean an honorary general of the British Army.
The tribute from the Irish Guards read ”Very sad news to hear of the passing of His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg passing away on Tuesday. Grand Duke Jean had a huge relationship with the Irish Guards and was Colonel of the Regiment from 1984 to 2000. Quis separabit.”
Grand Duke Jean died on April 23rd 2019 following a short illness. He was 98. In the days following his passing, many tribute have been paid to the former Head of State who ruled Luxembourg between 1964 and 2000, when he abdicated in favour of his son, Henri. Amongst the memories, many have spoken of his wartime service and his bravery as well as his kindness. Now, his former regiment has shown just how much he meant to them with a reminder that he will always be a part of their story, too.