Charlotte (1896–1985)

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Charlotte (1896–1985)

Grand duchess of Luxemburg. Name variations: Duchess of Nassau; Princess of Bourbon-Parma; Countess-Palatine of the Rhine; Countess of Sayn, Königstein, Katzenelnbogen, and Dietz; Burgravine of Hammerstein; Lady of Mahlberg, Wiesbaden, Idstein, Merenberg, Limburg, and Eppstein; Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. Born Charlotte Aldegonde Elise Marie Wilhelmine at the castle Colmar-Berg in northern Luxemburg on January 23, 1896; died in 1985; second of six daughters of William IV (1852–1912), grand duke of Luxemburg (of the House of Nassau) and Marie-Anne of Braganza (an infanta of Portugal); younger sister of Marie Adelaide of Luxemburg ; privately educated by tutors; married Felix, prince of Bourbon-Parma, on November 6, 1919; children: son Jean or John, grand duke of Luxemburg (b. 1921, who married Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium in 1953);

Elisabeth (b. 1922); Marie Adelaide (b. 1924); Marie Gabrielle (b. 1925); Charles (b. 1927); Alix (b. 1929).

During his reign as grand duke of Luxemburg (1905–12), William IV, with the consent of The Hague Tribunal, created a family statute in 1907, enabling his six daughters to succeed to the throne of Luxemburg (an independent duchy founded in 1815, bounded by France, Belgium, and Germany). Upon his death in 1912, his eldest Marie Adelaide replaced him, but she suffered from poor health and was not popular. On September 28, 1919, following the German subjugation of Luxemburg in which the sisters and their mother were essentially prisoners of the German occupiers, Charlotte, grand duchess of Luxemburg, won overwhelmingly in a referendum vote to rule the country and continue its sovereignty, forcing her sister to abdicate. Marie Adelaide entered a convent in Italy, where she would die five years later in 1924.

Charlotte was a progressive and an advocate of republicanism. She encouraged the 1919 emendation of Luxemburg's constitution, which established universal suffrage and proportional representation, though the grand duchess, as head of state, retained a great deal of constitutional power. The country went on to enjoy prosperity and political stability under the leadership of premiers Pierre Dupong and Joseph Bech.

During World War II in 1940, when Luxemburg once again suffered German occupation and violation of their neutrality, Charlotte set up a government-in-exile in London, then joined her husband and children who had fled to Montreal. From Canada, she frequently broadcast to her nation, now under control by Nazi gauleiter Gustav Simon; she also made repeated visits to Washington, D.C., and London to work closely with the Allies. Her son and husband joined the British army, witnessing the liberation of Luxemburg in September 1944.

Marie Adelaide of Luxemburg (1894–1924)

Grand duchess of Luxemburg. Name variations: Maria Adélaïde; Marie Adélaïde, Marie Adelaide, Marie-Adelaide. Born on June 14, 1894; died on January 24, 1924; daughter of William IV (1852–1912), grand duke of Luxemburg, and Marie-Anne of Braganza . Reigned from 1912 to 1919.

In 1948, Charlotte and the grand duchy of Luxemburg abandoned the policy of unarmed neutrality and joined in a customs union with Belgium and the Netherlands. Ten years later (February 3, 1958), the accord was expanded into the Benelux Economic Union. During her reign, Luxemburg prospered, ranking sixth in world production of steel while undergoing little unemployment. On November 12, 1964, the unpretentious Charlotte abdicated in favor of her son, who ascended the throne as Grand Duke Jean. The popular grand duchess had ruled her country for 45 years, from 1919 to 1964.