In the small country of Luxembourg, it can sometimes seem as if every day is the same. People go about their daily routines, focused on their schedules and pay little attention to those around them. The Grand Duke’s birthday celebrations, however, are an exception. From the 22nd to the 23rd of June, everyone goes out and celebrates with one another, whether at the bar or the parade!
The Grand Duke of Luxembourg is the sovereign monarch and head of state of Luxembourg. Luxembourg itself has been a Grand Duchy since 1815, when William I of the Netherlands became the first Grand Duke. Since then there have been seven Grand Dukes and two Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg.
Luxembourg’s current Grand Duke is Grand Duke Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume. Born in April 1955 and married to Maria Teresa Mestre (from Cuba), he later became the Grand Duke when his father, Jean, abdicated on October 7, 2000. The couple have 5 children; The Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, Prince Félix, Prince Louis, Princess Alexandra and Prince Sébastien. Though they aren’t necessarily adored by their citizens, they are well respected and can be found hanging in a frame in most post offices!
The Grand Duke’s birthday is celebrated as the annual national holiday of Luxembourg on the 23rd of June, despite the fact that this is not and has never been the birthday of any ruler of Luxembourg. During the reign of the Grand Duchess Charlotte, they realized that poor weather conditions were unfavourable and therefore fixed the date by Grand Ducal decree in 1961.
The celebrations themselves usually commence in the late afternoon of the 22nd, with the traditional changing of the guard of the Grand Ducal Palace. This ritual is followed by the course of torches through the streets (something I once took part in as a girl guide – not too enjoyable with long hair and a flame inches behind you!) Finally the evening reaches its climax with an impressive firework display. The following morning, the public also have the option of attending the military parade on Avenue de la Liberté.
The next upcoming royal celebration will be the wedding of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg, the Grand Duke’s eldest son, to Belgian countess Stéphanie de Lannoy. The October wedding shall also have Kate and William as guests! An excuse to take a break from uni and head home for the weekend? I think so.