© Photo Cour grand-ducale / private collection
On this day in 1896, Luxembourg celebrated the birth of one of its most beloved royals, Grand Duchess Charlotte.
Born on 23 January 1896, Charlotte was the second daughter of William IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Along with her five sisters, she was part of the first generation of the Grand Ducal family to receive lessons in Luxembourgish language and culture.
But Charlotte was not destined to rule: she only ascended to the throne in January 1919 following her older sister Marie-Adelaide's abdication.
Just a few months later, she faced a referendum on the future of her reign, which she won resoundingly, ushering in a hugely significant era in the Grand Duchy's history.
On November 6, 1919, Grand Duchess Charlotte married Prince Félix of Bourbon-Parma in Luxembourg, marking the first Grand Ducal wedding in the country.
Her reign quickly endeared her to the Luxembourgish people, and she was widely admired for her grace and compassion.
However, tumultuous times awaited Charlotte.
In the face of the German invasion in May 1940, it was decided that the Grand Duchess and her family should flee Luxembourg, placing themselves under France's protection.
Joining the Allied camp, Charlotte and her family embarked on an extensive journey through Spain, Portugal, the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.
Despite Nazi Germany's attempts to convince her to return, Charlotte stood firm, stating: "My heart says yes, but my reasoning tells me not to." Unable to support Luxembourgers at home, she believed she could serve them better overseas.
From her safe haven in the US, Charlotte utilized BBC radio broadcasts to offer wisdom and solace during the occupation. Her diplomatic skills were pivotal in rallying the Allied forces for her country's liberation. Her triumphant return in 1945 marked her as a heroine, greeted with overwhelming admiration across the country.
Post-war, Grand Duchess Charlotte remained the symbol of a united Luxembourgish nation. In the 1950s and 1960s, she made numerous official visits abroad, enhancing Luxembourg's status on the international scene. State visits were no longer restricted to neighboring countries but extended across the Atlantic. The beginnings of European integration also took place under her rule.
On November 12, 1964, after 45 years on the throne, Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in favour of her eldest son Jean, retiring to Fischbach Castle. Known for her artistic talents, passion for nature, and respect for the environment, Charlotte left a lasting legacy. She wrote poems in English, French, and German, painted, drew, and had a keen interest in music.
Charlotte's impact undoubtedly anchored the Grand Ducal family in the hearts of the nation. She passed away on July 9, 1985, at the age of 89, fifteen years after the death of her husband Prince Félix.