Abdication, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Marie-Adelaide of Luxembourg, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Salic Law, William III of the Netherlands, William IV of Luxembourg
Marie-Adélaïde (June 14, 1894 – January 24, 1924), reigned as Grand Duchess of Luxembourg from 1912 until her abdication in 1919. She was the first Grand Duchess regnant of Luxembourg (after five grand dukes), its first female monarch since Duchess Maria Theresa (1740–1780, who was also Austrian Archduchess and Holy Roman Empress) and the first Luxembourgish monarch to be born within the territory since Count John the Blind (1296–1346).
Marie-Adélaïde was born on June 14, 1894 in Berg Castle as the eldest child of Grand Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg and his wife, Marie Anne of Portugal, the fifth child and second-youngest daughter of the deposed King Miguel of Portugal and his wife Princess Adelaide of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg.
Due to that same Salic Law, the elder branch of the House of Nassau, called Nassau-Weilburg (present-day Luxembourg-Nassau) had inherited the Grand Ducal throne in 1890 upon the death of King Willem III of the Netherlands. Ever since 1815 and the proclamation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the new King of the Netherlands, Willem I, was also made Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a part of the Kingdom that was, at the same time, a member state of the German Confederation.
In 1830, Belgium seceded from the Kingdom, a step that was recognised by the Netherlands only in 1839. At that point, Luxembourg became a fully independent country in a personal union with the Netherlands. When Willem III of the Netherlands died leaving only his daughter Wilhelmina as an heir, the crown of the Netherlands, not being bound by the family pact, passed to Wilhelmina. However, the crown of Luxembourg, under the Salic Law, passed to a male of another branch of the House of Nassau: Adolphe, the dispossessed Duke of Nassau and head of the branch of Nassau-Weilburg.
In 1907, Adolphe’s only son, Guillaume IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, obtained passage of a law, overturning the Salic Law, confirming the right of his eldest daughter, Marie-Adélaïde, to succeed to the throne in virtue of the absence of any remaining dynastic males of the House of Nassau, as originally stipulated in the Nassau Family Pact.
Thus, when her father died on February 25, 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 June 18, 1912 when the President of the Chamber Auguste Laval swore her in as the first Luxembourgish monarch to be born in the territory since the reign of Count John the Blind of Luxembourg (1296–1346).
Marie-Adélaïde was deeply interested in politics and took an active part in the government and the political life of the Grand Duchy in accordance with the Luxembourgish Constitution which at that time granted the monarch extensive political powers. She was a devout Roman Catholic, with strong religious convictions and very conservative political views.
On the day of her ascension to the throne – February 25, 1912 – she refused to sign a new law reducing the role of Roman Catholic priests within the education system. Later, in 1915, she hesitated before appointing the mayors of Differdange and Hollerich, both known for their anticlerical views.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the German Empire violated the neutrality of Luxembourg established and recognized in International Law by invading the country on August 2, 1914. 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 formally her country’s neutrality throughout the war.
However, during the war she developed a rather cordial relationship with the German occupiers (including hosting German Emperor Wilhelm II in the palace and allowing his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm to establish his temporary military headquarters in Luxembourg City), an attitude which made her very unpopular with the Luxembourgish population, especially after she refused as well to send away her German entourage who was part of the Grand Ducal Household (palace personnel).
In late 1916 the Grand Duchess caused controversy by dissolving the Chamber of Deputies to solve the deadlock faced by the Loutsch Ministry, which was composed of Party of the Right members and did not have a majority in the Chamber. Marie-Adélaïde ordered the Chamber dissolved and new elections held on December 23, 1916. This action was permissible under the Constitution, but regarded as unconventional, and provoked an outcry and long-term resentment among the socialists and liberals in parliament, who saw it as resembling a coup d’état.
Although she had not done anything flagrantly in contradiction with the Luxembourg Constitution of 1868, voices in Parliament began to demand her abdication. On January 9, 1919 a group of Socialist and Liberal Luxembourgish Members of Parliament (“Deputies”) publicly proclaimed a republic after losing a vote in parliament to abolish the monarchy, a situation which was followed by public unrest in the streets requiring even the intervention of the French Army to restore order.
Under intense national (and international) pressure, and after consulting with the Prime Minister, the 24-year-old Grand Duchess decided to abdicate (January 14, 1919). She was succeeded by her younger sister, Princess Charlotte, The Hereditary Grand Duchess.
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, surrounded by her family, she died of influenza aged 29 on January 24, 1924. Marie-Adélaïde never married nor had children. On October 22, 1947, her body was interred in the Grand Ducal Crypt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the city of Luxembourg.