Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau, celebrated his 97th Birthday, as the world’s oldest and the longest-living current or former monarch.

Photo: Cour grand-ducale

He reigned from 1964 until his abdication in 2000.

The Grand Ducal Court of Luxembourg has released six photos to mark Grand Duke Jean’s 97th Birthday, including one featuring three generations.

He was born Jean Benoît Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d’avians at Colmar-Berg on 5 January 1921, the eldest son of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix of Luxembourg. He is also descended, on his father’s side, from French Kings, Louis IX and Louis XIV.

Prince Jean was educated in Luxembourg and completed secondary school at the Catholic boarding school Ampleforth College in the UK.

He became the Hereditary Grand Duke, as their heir-apparent, when he came of age on 5 January 1939.

World War II and Years in Exile

The Grand Ducal Family were forced into exile during World War II, after they were warned of an imminent German invasion. They originally sought refuge in France, Portugal, then the United States of America and Canada.

Photo: Cour grand-ducale

However, on 6 October 1942, Prince Félix and the Hereditary Grand Duke arrived in Great Britain to join the British Army, Prince Jean joined the Irish Guards, following King George VI’s advice, and studied at the Military Academy at Sandhurst, where he obtained the rank of Second Lieutenant on 28 July 1943. He also addressed the people of Luxembourg via BBC radio on the same day.

In August 1943, Prince Jean served as a guard at Buckingham Palace and remembered his mother and sisters’ visit whilst on duty, as he had to remain motionless the whole time!

He landed in Normandy on 11 June 1944, as remember of a reinforcement unit, and took part in the Battle of Caen (Operation Goodwood) and the liberation of Brussels. He also served on the military staff of the 32nd brigade of the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy.

On 10 September 1944, he crossed the border at Rodange with his father, Prince Félix, and participated in the liberation of Luxembourg from Nazi occupation.

However, Prince Jean fought in the Battle of the Bulge to block the German route towards Antwerp.

Once the German resistance had been broken, Prince Jean, as part of the Guards Armoured Division began moving towards Bremen and Hamburg.

At the beginning of April 1945, Prince Jean received orders to return to Luxembourg to welcome his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte who arrived home to an overjoyed population.

Grand Duke Jean was appointed as a Stranger Knight of Britain’s most prestigious order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter in 1972.

Father and son. Grand Duke Jean with Grand Duke Henri. Photo: Cour grand-ducale/Lola Velasco

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain promoted Prince Jean to Colonel of the Irish Guards regiment on 21 August 1984 and made Honorary General of the British Army on 17 March 1995.

Marriage

Prince Jean married Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium at Luxembourg Cathedral. They set up home at the Château de Betzdorf where their five children, Princess Marie-Astrid, Prince Henri, Prince Jean, Princess Margaretha and Prince Guillaume were born.

Grand Duke Jean with Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. Photo: Vic Fischbach/Cour grand-ducale

His eldest daughter Marie-Astrid was once considered as an eligible bride for Prince Charles during the 1970s but a match was unlikely under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, which prevented the heir to the British monarchy marrying a Catholic.

Reign

Grand Duchess Charlotte signed her act of abdication on 12 November 1964, so Jean, the Hereditary Grand Duke, became the 8th Luxembourg sovereign since the Grand Duchy was founded in 1815.

Grand Duke Jean taking the oath on 12 November 1964. Photo: By Fotograaf; Nijs, Jac. de / Anefo.Auteursrechthebbende: Nationaal Archief, CC-BY-SACropped by User:Zinneke – gahetna.nl

His reign was one of the most prosperous ever known by the Grand Duchy which contributed to political, economic and social life in Luxembourg, and providing an unprecedented stability for the nation.

He ended his reign on 7 October 2000, stepping down in favour of his eldest son, Grand Duke Henri.

Three generations. (left) Hereditary Grand Duke Prince Guillaume; Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duke Henri. Photo: Cour grand-ducale

Grand Duke Jean is interested in environmental issues, protecting fauna and flora, and enjoys sports, photography and music.

He is the Chief Scout of the Luxembourg Boy Scouts Association; Honorary President of the Luxemburg Olympic and Sports Committee; Member and, since 1998, Honorary Dean of the International Olympic Committee.

Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte moved to Fischbach Castle since 2002 in retirement. He has lived alone since his wife’s death in 2005.

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