Portraits of Grand Duchess Charlotte from an RAF centenary exhibition hosted at the British Embassy in Luxembourg in April 2018
Monday marked 100 years since Luxembourg’s Grand Duchess Charlotte’s reign began. Here are 3 major things the country’s most-popular female sovereign did for Luxembourg.
She saved the royal family
As the second child of Grand Duke William IV Grand Duchess Charlotte would never have become Grand Duchess if her sister, Marie-Adélaïde, had not abdicated in January 1919.
Marie-Adélaïde was deeply unpopular with both the people and government when WWI ended. She was accused of having German sympathies because she had not actively resisted the occupation and because she received the Kaiser at the palace. Amid calls for her abdication, parliament agreed to hold a referendum, asking the people to vote on whether or not to abolish the monarchy. Grand Duchess Charlotte acceded the throne on 14 January 1919. Nine months later, the people rejected the idea of a republic, voting instead to keep their grand duchess, and the Grand Ducal family.
She was a symbol of hope
When German forces invaded a second time, in May 1940, Grand Duchess Charlotte had learned from her sister’s mistakes and fled into exile, first to Portugal via France and on to North America before returning to Europe to spend most of her exile in London.
While in London, she began a series of speeches in Luxembourgish which were broadcast by the BBC to boost morale among citizens in occupied Luxembourg. “More than ever we want to remain what we were, a free and independent Luxembourg,” she said in her first broadcast. The speeches reached the majority of adult Luxembourgers despite the fact that they were risking their lives by listening to the programme.
These messages made Charlotte a symbol of resistance.
She helped end WWII
While in exile, Grand Duchess Charlotte travelled across the US encouraging the American public to support the Allied war effort in Europe and donate to help the Allies.
She was supported by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he was reluctant to force the American people into another European war. But Grand Duchess Charlotte’s perseverance in raising the profile of her country’s plight paid off--the US joined the war in December 1941, Luxembourg was liberated and Grand Duchess Charlotte returned in April 1945.