Luxembourg is celebrating the marriage of its Crown Prince Guillaume to Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy – the biggest royal event in decades in the tiny Grand Duchy.
Europe’s royalty as well as ordinary citizens attended a service at Notre Dame Cathedral, a day after the couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony.
The festivities will culminate in a pop concert later in the day.
Crown Prince Guillaume, 30, is first in line to Luxembourg’s throne.
Limited-edition champagne, chocolates and china have filled the shop windows around the city of Luxembourg, with postcards and pins showing the smiling engagement photo of the couple.
Luxembourgers have a reputation for being calm and reserved, but there is a strong undercurrent of excitement sweeping through the cobbled streets of the city.
More than 120 international media organizations have requested accreditation for the event, including TV channels and newspapers from China, Morocco, Russia and the US.
Crown Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg and Countess Stephanie de Lannoy royal wedding
Luxembourg City Tourist Office is organizing a three-day wedding-themed tour for royalty fans.
The official guest list for the ceremony includes the king and queen of Norway, the crown prince of Japan, and Prince Hassan and Princess Sarvath of Jordan. Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex are representing the UK.
Countess Stephanie de Lannoy, 28, is an uncomplicated choice of bride for Prince Guillaume. They have known each other for years, started dating in 2009 after being reunited at a party and got engaged in 2011.
Stephanie de Lannoy is a member of Belgian nobility and is fluent in French, German and Russian after studying languages at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium. In interviews with the Luxembourg press, she has spoken of their mutual love of cooking and her delight at marrying her “very own Prince Charming”.
The only controversy in the run-up to the ceremony has been the decision to grant her Luxembourg citizenship, avoiding a usually long and complex legal process.
Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, the heir to the throne – the grand duke-to-be – married Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy in a civil wedding Friday afternoon.
The two-day affair includes fireworks, concerts and a religious ceremony tomorrow morning.
A glittering array of European royalty attended a gala dinner in the couple’s honor this evening.
The guest list for the religious ceremony includes kings, queens, princes and princesses from European countries including, among others, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Lichtenstein, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Britain, which is sending Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth’s youngest child, and his wife, Sophie.
Non-European royalty will be attending, as well, from Morocco, Japan and Jordan and elsewhere.
With all those royals coming to Luxembourg, can international attention be far behind?
“It’s good for Luxembourg,” said Nadine Chenet, a 46-year-old street cleaner who was picking up cigarette butts with pincers in front of the grand ducal palace.
“Many people will come now.”
Besides, she just plain likes the royal family, she said: “They give a good impression of the country.”
That’s a sentiment common in Luxembourg. To all appearances, the bride and groom are a lovely couple. He is 30, with dark hair and an immaculate beard. She is 28, blonde and smiling. In public appearances, including at the London Olympics, they have appeared besotted with each other.
According to biographies distributed by the royal court, each has an array of interests befitting those who are to the manner born.
Prince Guillaume speaks four languages, has studied international politics, is a lieutenant colonel in the Luxembourg army (a force of 900 soldiers), and has been engaged in humanitarian work in other countries, including Nepal.
His bride has studied the influence of German romanticism on Russian romanticism, plays piano and violin, swims, skis, and says she reads three books at a time.
In the language department, she already speaks French and German – two of Luxembourg’s three official languages – and, perhaps more importantly, is studying the third, which is called Luxembourgish. She plans to renounce her Belgian citizenship in order to become, eventually, Luxembourg’s grand duchess.
Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg married Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy in a civil wedding
Luxembourg is a linguistically complicated country, a reflection of its complicated past. It began as a Roman fortress. It has, at one time or another, fallen under the control of Spain, France and Austria.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is an independent country tinier than Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, and it would fit inside Germany, its neighbor to the east, 138 times with room to spare. It won no medals at the 2012 London Olympics – in fact it hasn’t won a medal at the summer Games since 1952.
In 1839, it gained its independence from the Netherlands, but lost more than half its territory to Belgium, which now has a province of the same name. In the 20th century, Germany swept through Luxembourg twice despite its protestations of neutrality.
Luxembourgish is related to German, but it is primarily a spoken language. In the country’s schools, elementary students take all their classes in German.
When students reach their teens, gradually all classes are converted to French. And English is studied the entire time.
But the language dearest to their hearts is Luxembourgish. As 71-year-old retired engineer Rene Ries – a typical Luxembourger, with a French first name and a German last name – said, Luxembourgish is generally spoken in the home.
When there is a complaint, the police file their reports in German. Then the lawyers litigate the case in French.
Asked in which language he felt most comfortable, Rene Ries replied without hesitation that it was Luxembourgish. But he admitted he had trouble writing it.
Under duress, he could write his daughter a postcard, he said, but the language is most commonly spoken, not written.
Luxembourg, an important financial centre and home to the world’s largest steel manufacturer, continues to prosper despite Europe’s economic trouble.
The country has the second-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, more than $80,000 – though its population of about 510,000 people is still smarting from having lost the No. 1 spot to Qatar. The capital city has 80,000 inhabitants and 120,000 jobs.
For that reason, more than 43% of the people in Luxembourg are foreign nationals, compared to a European Union average of 6.4 per cent.
When he greets people in the public square, Rene Ries speaks not German, not French, not English, but Luxembourgish. It is not to shame the others. It is to show he is a genuine Luxembourger.
Natives of the Grand Duchy, heavily influenced by Catholicism, are very proper and can be dour.
“When we say, <<It’s not too bad>>,” Rene Ries said, “we mean it’s good.”
But above all, they are proud. Proud of their multilingualism. Proud of their grand duchy. And proud of their royal family.
The current grand duke, Henri, who is 57, is popular. People can greet him on the street without bowing down before him.
His 31-year marriage to Grand Duchess Maria Teresa appears to be very happy. Showcasing the royal family, as the country will do this week, allows Luxembourg to put its best foot forward.
For, as Rene Ries emphasized more than once, the Luxembourgish royals – in contrast to some others – do not sunbathe topless. And for him, that is a source of pride, one he is happy to share with the rest of the world.