Interview with Maria Teresa

"Transparent" monarchy: the court is prepared to face a tribunal

The candid AFP interview took place at the Colmar-Berg castle, the Grand Ducal residence
Photo: AFP

(AFP/NG) Luxembourg's constitutional monarchy has to adapt to the reality of its time, and the operation of the Grand Ducal court should be more "transparent" and "authentic", argues Grand Duchess Maria Teresa in a recent interview.

The grand ducal court, one of the most reserved in Europe, launched a major reorganisation in September 2015 in order "to implement good governance rules adapted to the reality of our country", dictated by a concern for "transparency and authenticity", as well as "rules of ethics", said the wife of Grand Duke Henri.

That means "new internal operating rules which are fair, equitable and clear for all," said Maria Teresa.

Maria Teresa married Grand Duke Henri on February 14, 1981. They have five children.
Photo: AFP

The reorganisation is a purely internal matter of the Grand Ducal house and does not change the institutional balance in Luxembourg or relations between the government and Grand Duke Henri. Such modernisation is done in a way that is much more "managerial", according to the court.

But the new governance has a price: pursued by a former maid over harassment and unfair dismissal, the Grand Ducal court is willing to face a tribunal, rather than negotiate on transactional indemnities to prevent the case being brought public.

"It is unethical to solve our problems with taxpayer money," said Maria Teresa, declaring to be "convinced that by paying large amounts to avoid being tarnished, we would not be acting in an ethical manner."

"We prefer, and my husband supports me, to take the risk and have full trust in the justice [system], rather than to yield to exorbitant demands," she said.

Euthanasia law: a "difficult trial" for the reign

The sovereign speaks frankly of the particularly "difficult trial" of the reign of her husband, when in 2008 the Grand Duke was stripped of some of his powers when he refused to sign a euthanasia bill into law.

"It is obvious that for my husband, there was a question of freedom of conscience that arose," observes Maria Teresa.

The monarchy must adapt to the reality of his time and the operation of the grand ducal court to be more "transparent" and "authentic", said Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg
Photo: AFP

Finally, with the help of the Court Marshal at the time, Pierre Mores, he found "a solution that would show that in no way did he want to hinder the democratic process of his country."

Removing royal rights?

According to Luke Heuschling, professor of constitutional and administrative law at the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg monarchy in some respects is not "modern". Particularly with regard to inheritance, the rules are not enshrined in law, nor in the constitution.

"The question that arises in Luxembourg is whether the politicians will want to remove all the princely rights," he stated.

Not "purely formal"

Indeed, the Luxembourg monarchy is not "purely formal," said the Grand Duchess, citing the "very concrete role" that her husband, the head of state, played in December 2013, at the time of the setting up of the government of Xavier Bettel, who replaced Jean-Claude Juncker, current President of the European Commission.

"My husband," she recalls, "saw all the party leaders, even the smaller parties, to take their views [into account]" before choosing the Prime Minister as is customary.

For Maria Teresa, who was born in Cuba in 1956, "the constitutional monarchy has meaning in the twenty-first century, in any case in our country, vis-à-vis the outside world," particularly through state visits which bring "a very important visibility to the country" and represent "truly an asset that can open many doors."

Maria Teresa
Photo: AFP

As for her place in the heart of it, even though the constitution doesn't recognise her, the Grand Duchess attests that "the monarchy is an 'affaire de couple'."

"When I look around us," she concludes, "I think few would dispute that for Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and even Jordan, it's an asset to have a spouse who, with the head of the state, contributes to the influence of the monarchy."

Grand Duke Henri, who ascended the throne on October 7, 2000, is the sixth ruler in the dynasty since the accession of Adolphe of Nassau in 1890.

Get the latest news by signing up to our newsletter, following us on Facebook or Twitter.