Of the handful of European countries still retaining a monarchy, only one of them is ruled by someone other than a King or Queen, and that is Luxembourg. This small country, which is below 1,000 square miles in size, has a Duke and his Duchess at the head of the family. The Luxembourg royal family is unconventional in both rule and history.
Ruled by a Grand Duke
Luxembourg is headed by a Grand Duke and a Grand Duchess, not a King or Queen. In 1815, Luxembourg was formed following the defeat of Napoléon. At that point, the Grand Duchy was created. Because of the existing union with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the King of that country also ruled Luxembourg. When the King died, he left only a daughter to succeed him. Luxembourg law didn't allow a female to rule, so the country was left without a head. Adolphe of Nassau then took over as Grand Duke, and his lineage continues to rule in modern times.
Grand Duke Henri
Grand Duke Henri has been the head of Luxembourg for 20+ years. He was born in 1955 to Hereditary Grand Duke Jean and Hereditary Grand Joséphine-Charlotte. He was educated in both France and Luxembourg and later underwent military officer training at Sandhurst. Duke Henri attended the University of Geneva, where he studied political science.
It was during his university years where he met his future bride, Maria Teresa Mestre y Batista. The couple married in 1981 and have five children together. As a member of the royal family, the Grand Duke doesn't draw a salary for his duties. However, this isn't much of a concern because the Duke's net worth hovers in the $4 billion range.
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa was born on Cuban soil. She and her family fled the island nation during the Cuban revolution. They first settled in New York and then later lived overseas in Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. She studied at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, earning a degree in political science. However, the greater prize was that it was during her studies that she met her future husband, the Grand Duke.
As Grand Duchess, Maria Teresa has done much to aid her people. Both the Duke and the Duchess have set up foundations to help those with special needs integrate into society. She has worked closely with UNESCO, helping young women work battle poverty, and has been appointed as the UNICEF Eminent Advocate for Children.
Recent allegations have clouded the reputation of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. In 2020, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg looked into the Cour le Grand Ducal regarding reported misdeeds. It was noted that nearly 1/3 of the ducal staff had left and that there was a culture of fear regarding the Duchess. The accusations went as far as to allege abuse on behalf of the Duchess. She was further accused of using public funds for her personal website.
Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Following Duke Henri's seat as head of Luxembourg, his son Guillaume will someday take his place. Guillaume, born in 1981, is the first son of the Grand Duke and Duchess. He studied at University College, Durham, and Brunel University and later received a bachelor's degree from The University of Angers. He received his military education at Sandhurst and joined the Luxembourg army as a colonel.
He wed Belgian Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy in 2012, and the couple gave birth to their first child, Prince Charles, in May of 2020. When he is not busy being a new father, the Hereditary Duke devotes his time to causes dear to his heart through charity work.
Prince Félix of Luxembourg
Prince Félix is the second-born child in the royal family. Born in 1984, he completed his primary educational studies and went on to join the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. A sudden injury forced him out of the program early, and he continued learning and studying at various institutes across the globe, including England, Belgium, and Rome.
In 2013, Prince Félix wed German bioethics researcher, Claire Lademacher. The pair live in the south of France along with their young children, Princess Amalia, Gabriela Maria Theresa, and Prince Liam Henri Hartmut.
Prince Louis of Luxembourg
Prince Louis is the third child born to the Grand Duke and Duchess. Following his studies, he became very involved in humanitarian work and causes, working with impoverished populations in India. Upon his return to his homeland, he continued his calling at Red Cross in Geneva. He later studied at Richmond, The American International University in London, earning a degree in Art in Communications. Then, he at Birkbeck College in London, where he received a master's degree in psychosocial studies.
Prince Louis and Tessy Antony met during their time in the army. They welcomed their first child, and the Duke and Duchess's first grandchild, into the world in 2006. Following the birth of their child, the couple wed and went on to have a second son. Upon his marriage to Tessy, Prince Louis gave up all of his ducal rights and the rights of any descendants. The couple divorced in 2019, and she has since remarried.
Recently, Prince Louis announced that he is engaged to be wed for a second time to Scarlett-Lauren Sirgue.
Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg
Prince Sébastien is the fifth child in the family. Following his younger years, the prince attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where he majored in marketing and international business. Following his college education, he went on to do a 44-month military program at Sandhurst, as his brothers and father before him did. He serves his military as a platoon commander in the Irish Guards. He is sixth in line for the throne.
Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg
Of the five children born to the Grand Duke and Duchess, Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg is the only daughter. Forth born, she is a well-studied lady who focused on learning psychology and social sciences in the United States before earning a degree in Paris focused on philosophy. She also holds a master's degree in interreligious studies with an emphasis on conflict resolution.
Princess Alexandra worked in the Middle East in journalism and has devoted much energy to helping refugees who have been displaced from their homes.
Rulers of the Greatest Country on Earth?
All rulers likely think that their country is the very best one out there, but in the case of Luxembourg, it might actually be the best of the best. There is a lot to love about the tiny country. It has the highest minimum wage in Europe and the second-highest in the world. It also has the second-highest GDP in the world and the unemployment rates in Luxembourg are the lowest in all of Europe. Economically, this place really is knocking it out of the ballpark.
They are a progressive nation as well. The country's prime minister, Xavier Bettel, was the first European Union leader to wed someone of the same sex. Over 80% of the people in this nation supported the notion of same-sex marriage. The country also opens its door wide to people from other parts of the world. An astounding 43% of the nation's population are considered immigrants.
Duke and Duchess
While the country doesn't have a flashy King and Queen making headlines, they are doing a whole lot right. maybe every country should be run by a Duke and a Duchess?