Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

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Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg 2.jpg
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Reign 25 February 1912 –
14 January 1919
Predecessor William IV
Successor Charlotte
Regent Marie Anne of Portugal (1912)
Full name
Marie Adelheid Thérèse Hilda Wilhelmine
House House of Nassau-Weilburg
Father William IV of Luxembourg
Mother Marie Anne of Portugal
Born (1894-06-14)14 June 1894
Berg Castle in Colmar-Berg
Died 24 January 1924(1924-01-24) (aged 29)
Schloss Hohenburg in Lenggries
Burial Notre-Dame Cathedral, Luxembourg

Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish: Maria Adelheid; Marie Adelheid Thérèse Hilda Wilhelmine; 14 June 1894 – 24 January 1924), reigned from 1912 to 1919. She was the first grand duchess regnant of Luxembourg, and its first female monarch since Maria Theresa (1740–1780), and the first Luxembourgish monarch to be born within the territory since John the Blind (born 1296).

Named as heir presumptive by her father William IV in 1907 to prevent a succession crisis due to his lack of a son, Marie-Adélaïde became grand duchess in 1912. She ruled through the First World War, and her perceived support for the German occupation led to unpopularity in Luxembourg as well as neighbouring France and Belgium. In 1919, on the advice of Parliament, she abdicated in favour of her younger sister Charlotte.

After abdicating, Marie-Adélaïde became a nun in Italy, before leaving due to ill health. She died of influenza in Germany in 1924.

Early years[edit]

Princess Marie-Adélaïde (1909).

Marie-Adélaïde was born on 14 June 1894 in Berg Castle as the eldest child of Grand Duke William IV and his wife, Marie Anne of Portugal.

Since her father had six daughters and no sons, he proclaimed Marie-Adélaïde as the heir presumptive on 10 July 1907, in order to solve any succession crisis due to the use of Salic law in the monarchy. Just 17 years prior to that the Nassau dynasty took Luxembourg from the Netherlands dynasty due to Salic law. Thus, when her father died on 25 February 1912, she succeeded to the throne at the age of 17, becoming the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. Her mother served as regent until Marie-Adélaïde's eighteenth birthday on 18 June 1912, when the Prime Minister Auguste Laval swore her in as the first Luxembourgish monarch to be born in the territory since Count John the Blind (born 1296). Laval's speech to the Chamber of Deputies during the ceremony was:

Consider it, gentlemen, as a happy moment for the future of the country, the fact that the Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde is the first of our sovereigns to have been born on the Grand Ducal soil, the first to have been raised there, and who, from her earliest childhood has breathed the air of our native land and learnt the ideas, the aspirations and the traditions of the people to whom she has been called reign over.[1]

Marie-Adélaïde's own speech at the ceremony was:[1]


Marie-Adélaïde was highly interested in politics and took an active part in the government and the political life of the Grand Duchy. She was a devout Catholic, with strong religious convictions and political views. On the day of her ascension to the throne – 25 July 1912 – she refused to sign a new law reducing the role of Catholic priests within the education system.[2]

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the German Empire violated the neutrality of Luxembourg by invading the country on 2 August. Although Marie-Adélaïde issued a formal protest, this did nothing to prevent the military occupation of Luxembourg. She decided not to resist the occupying army, but tried instead to maintain her country's neutrality throughout the war. However, during the war she developed a rather cordial relationship with the German occupiers (including hosting the German Kaiser Wilhelm II in the palace),[1] and her political opponents in Luxembourg painted her as pro-German.

After the end of the war she was harshly criticised for her attitude and the perception of the Grand Duchess as pro-German led the French government to declare: "The French Government does not consider it possible to have contact or negotiations with the Government of the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, whom it considers as gravely compromised …" Although she had not done anything unconstitutional, voices in Parliament began to demand her abdication in January 1919. At the same time, prominent political figures in both neighbouring France and Belgium espoused annexationist plans towards the Grand Duchy and thus had a vested interest in further discrediting Marie-Adélaïde. On 9 January, Socialist and Liberal Luxembourgish Deputies proclaimed a republic after losing a vote to abolish the monarchy, a situation which required the intervention of the French Army to restore order.[1] Under intense national and international pressure, and after consulting with the Prime Minister, the 24-year-old Grand Duchess decided to abdicate, doing so on 14 January 1919. She was succeeded by her younger sister, Charlotte.[3]

Marie-Adelaide in 1919.[4]


After her abdication Marie-Adélaïde went into exile by travelling through Europe. She entered a Carmelite convent in Modena, Italy, in 1920. Later, she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor in Rome, taking the name "Sister Marie of the Poor". Her worsening health did not allow her to remain a nun, however, and she eventually had to leave the convent. She then moved to Schloss Hohenburg in Bavaria, where she died of influenza in 1924. On 22 October 1947, her body was interred in the Grand Ducal Crypt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the city of Luxembourg.[5]

Titles and honours[edit]

  • 14 June 1894 – 10 July 1907: Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg[6]
  • 10 July 1907 – 25 February 1912: Her Royal Highness The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg[6]
  • 25 February 1912 – 14 January 1919: Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
  • 14 January 1919 – 24 January 1924: Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide of Luxembourg later Sister Marie of The Poor
National honours


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ Péporté, Pit (2010). Inventing Luxembourg: representations of the past, space and language from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. BRILL. p. 90. ISBN 90-04-18176-8. 
  3. ^ Bio of Marie Adelaide von Nassau-Weilburg – website Find a Grave
  4. ^ Donovan, Henry. "Chicago Eagle". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  5. ^ This section was translated from the same article in the German version of Wikipedia.
  6. ^ a b It was customary for a reigning Grand Duke, his heir apparent, and their spouses to use the style of Royal Highness. Junior non-reigning members headed by a Grand Duke instead used the style Grand Ducal Highness. Since 1919, when Grand Duchess Charlotte married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma, all the male-line descendants adopted the style Royal Highness, in capacity of being a descendant of the Royal House of Bourbon-Parma.
  7. ^
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Shaughnessy, Edith. Marie Adelaide, Grand Duchess of Luxemburg, Duchess of Nassau. New York: Jonathan Cape and Robert Ballou, 1932.
  • Schous, Marie. Marie Adelheid van Nassau, Groothertogin van Luxemburg. 's Hertogenbosch: G. Mosmans, 1931.
  • Zenner, Theodor. Marie Adelheid: Lebensbild der verstorbenen Grossherzogin von Luxemburg. 1925
  • Marburg, Theodor. The Story of a Soul. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1938.
  • Leighton, Isabel, and Bertram Bloch. Marie-Adelaide: A Play. New York: Rialto Service Bureau.
  • Marie-Adélaïde (in French) at the official website of the Luxembourg royal family
Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 14 June 1894 Died: 24 January 1924
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William IV
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Succeeded by