(CS/mt) With the wedding less than two weeks away, Crown Prince Guillaume and his fiancée Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy sat down with the press to talk about how they met, the proposal, wedding preparations and family life.
The couple met for the first time eight years ago, Stéphanie revealed. “But then we lost sight of each other and didn't meet again until years later.” Some three years ago, the couple set eyes on one other again. “That's when we really fell in love,” the Countess said.
When asked whether she believes in Prince Charming, Stéphanie laughed. “Yes, I think I've found him. That Guillaume is actually a prince was not important to me, though. After I met Guillaume I told a friend, who will also be my maid of honour, that I met an extraordinary person with whom I can share so many things. I didn't think that two people could find each other like that.”
Three years is a long time to keep a relationship private, especially in royal circles. “Our families were very discreet. And the Luxembourg press has always respected our privacy,” Guillaume said.
“We're lucky,” Stéphanie added. “When you see what happens in other countries, it's probably not easy to build a solid foundation for a relationship.”
“Of course we're nervous”
But, even though the couple was happy to share some of their secrets, not all was revealed. “All I can say is: She said 'yes',” Guillaume joked when asked about how he proposed to the Countess, some three weeks before the official announcement was made. “I knew that Guillaume would propose some day. But when it happened I wasn't expecting it,” Stéphanie added.
Despite the wedding date approaching fast, Guillaume and Stéphanie showed no pre-wedding jitters, but they both admitted to being a bit nervous about the scale of the wedding and the cameras. “Of course we're nervous,” Guillaume said. But he also sees the wedding as a chance to show Luxembourg to an international audience.
As with every Royal wedding, the bridal couple has to juggle protocol and privacy. But Guillaume revealed that they had been very involved in the planning of the wedding. “Of course we need to respect protocol,” he said. But the couple was involved in choosing readings and hymns, as well as inviting their friends. “We want something typically Luxembourgish. We want everyone to be able to take part in the wedding, inside and outside the Cathedral,” the groom added.
Stag night and honeymoon details remain secret
The sudden death of the Countess' mother on August 26 cast a shadow over the wedding preparations. While everything is going ahead as planned, the wedding ceremony will start with a minutes' silence for Stéphanie's mother, the couple revealed. Additionally, a veil of Stéphanie's mother will be placed over the statue of the Mother Mary.
The bride has also taken to wearing both her own and her mother's engagement ring, which she will also be wearing at the wedding. “My mother will be with us at the wedding in many different ways,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Countess has forged a strong bond with her future mother-in-law Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. "After my mother passed away she was really there for me. It did me a lot of good to have a sort of second mother in Luxembourg."
The bride and groom revealed some details about the stag night and honeymoon. “There's some surprise planned for me, but I don't know any details,” Guillaume said about his stag night. “I know the details, but I'm not allowed to tell,” Stéphanie quipped.
When it comes to the honeymoon, it's Stéphanie who is left in the dark. “There's a tradition in my family, after which the groom organises the honeymoon and I'm looking forward to the surprise,” she said. “The only thing I can say is that the trip starts right after the wedding,” the Crown Prince added.
Another secret is the wedding dress designer, which will not be revealed until the day of the wedding.
The couple want a big family, but there's no rush
With Guillaume the oldest of five siblings and Stéphanie the youngest of eight, the young couple said they want to continue the tradition of a large family. “But honestly, eight is a bit much,” Stéphanie said “We don't have a definite idea of how many children we want,” Guillaume added. “Time will tell,” the Crown Prince said.
But don't expect the young couple to start having children straight away. “In the coming three years, yes. It's not a priority, but it's important to us,” Stéphanie said.
Where the young couple will live, however, remains a secret. It will definitely not be the Grand Ducal castle of Schloss Berg, where Guillaume has not lived for some time. “But it will be in Luxembourg,” the Crown Prince said.
Over the past weeks, two things have been widely discussed in Luxembourg: The cost of the wedding, and the fact that the Countess will be granted Luxembourg nationality without fulfilling the criteria other foreign nationals are required to meet.
“I'm proud to be taking my husband's nationality”
While Guillaume said he understands that the cost of the wedding has caused debate, he said it is nonetheless a matter of state, with many foreign dignitaries invited to the country. “It's about the reputation of Luxembourg,” he said, adding that very few of the many guests invited to the reception at the Palace on Friday night were close to him and Stéphanie. “It's all about representing and it is part of the act of state.”
Guillaume also showed himself understanding of the criticism related to the Luxembourg nationality being awarded to Stéphanie. “Many foreign nationals have had to wait a long time and it probably wasn't easy to get the nationality,” he said, adding, however, that Stéphanie will be the future Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. “Therefore it's important that she is a Luxembourger.”
Stéphanie, meanwhile, said that she considers the nationality a gift, in light of her duties as the wife of the Crown Prince. “It is an honour to get the Luxembourg nationality,” she said, adding that she would not assume double nationality, but give up her Belgian passport. “I'm proud to be taking my husband's nationality. I would be very honoured if the people of Luxembourg will accept me as one of their representatives. Belgium will always be the country of my childhood. I have my roots there. But I think keeping Belgian citizenship can not be combined with my new duties.”
A normal family life and representing Luxembourg
The first official appearance of the couple after the wedding will be at the end of November, when Guillaume is headed for a trade mission to China, accompanied by his then wife. Guillaume said he hopes that Stéphanie will be able to join him on these kinds of visits in the future, while Stéphanie added that she would also like get involved with social work, especially dedicated to helping elderly and lonely people.
Apart from that the down-to-earth Countess hopes to lead a normal family life. "I intend to lead a normal family life. I want to do my own shopping and cooking. It's something we have in common, by the way. Guillaume likes cooking too. As far as my activities are concerned, I want to focus on representing Luxembourg."
Guillaume and Stéphanie will be married in a civil ceremony on October 19, followed by a religious wedding on October 20. For all the info on the Royal wedding, visit our special section dedicated to the royal couple.