WW2 veteran and former head of state Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg dies, aged 98

WW2 veteran and former head of state Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg dies, aged 98

A war hero who took part in the liberation of Europe, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg died earlier this week, 5 days after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

Born on 5th January 1921 to Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parna, Jean’s early life was dominated by the break out of war across Europe.

He was forced to flee Luxembourg with his family after the overnight Nazi invasion on 9th May 1940. The Grand Duchy lived in exile for the next four years, staying in France, Portugal, the United States and Canada before finally reaching the UK. During this time, he helped his mother encourage the anti-Nazi resistance, broadcasting radio messages into occupied Luxembourg.

Under the advice of King George VI, Jean joined the British Army. He volunteered for the Irish Guards and after a brief stint as a guard at Buckingham Palace, trained to become an officer at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in July 1943 and was quickly promoted to Captain in 1944.

The Grand Duke was deployed to Europe on 11th June 1944, five days after D-Day. He landed near Bayeux and took part in the battle for Caen before moving on to the liberation of Brussels.

On 10th September 1944, Jean returned to a liberated Luxembourg, crossing the border at Rodange, where he had fled the country four years previously. He only stayed in the country of his birth for three days before returning to the Irish Guards where he continued to fight for the liberation of Europe. He saw action at Arnhem and in the Ardennes before being involved in the defeat of Germany.

In April 1945, after Victory in Europe, the Grand Duke returned to Luxembourg to welcome his mother home after her exile. He would eventually take over from her as head of state following her abdication in November 1964.

The Grand Duke continued to serve with the Irish Guards. Between 1984 and his abdication in 2000, Jean served as a Colonel of the Regiment, often riding in uniform behind Queen Elizabeth II during the Trooping of the Colour. In recognition for his service during the Second World War and beyond, he was appointed an honorary General of the British Army in March 1995.

The Grand Duke is being remembered with fondness and respect across the world. He is credited for taking Luxembourg from an industrial backwater and economic decline following the war to a world centre for financial services.

The Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, said that “Grand Duke Jean fought for our freedom, for our independence and for the unity of our country and we will always be grateful. A family man left us today. A great statement, a hero, and an example - and a very beloved and gracious man.”

Jean-Claude Junker, former Luxembourg Prime Minister and President of the European Commission, released a statement saying “Like all the people of Luxembourg, I had great esteem for this man of commitment, kindness and courage, who, throughout his reign, and in all circumstances, gave the best of himself to his country, which owes him so much.”

Photo credit: AFP


Added: 26th April 2019

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