Luxembourg 1914-1921 Grand Duchess Marie
- Issue Date : 4 May 1914 - 1921
- Designed by : Prof. Koloman Moser
- Engraved by : Schirnböck, Ferdinand
- Printed by :
- Print Process : Recess
- Perforations : about 11,5
Her name was in French: Marie-Adélaïde, and in German Marie-Adelheid. She abdicated in 1919.
Valid until 30 June 1928.
About this issue - introduction by G L Groves
There is no doubt that the young gal pictured on this stamp is a real beauty. She is depicted on thirteen engraved stamps (Scott 97-99, 101-107, and 109-111) issued by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1914. Two others were issued in 1917 (Scott 100 & 108). So, who is this good-looking gal pictured on this stamp?
If one deciphers "Grand Duche" from the top of the stamp into the equivalent of "Queen" one would not be far off. But if one was to be told that her name was "Sister Marie of the Poor" and was a Carmelite nun in the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor, one might be confused. Well, it is true. That is why there is a good story about this stamp and the gorgeous young lady.
Her birth name is Marie-Adélaïde Thérèse Hilda Wilhelmine and she was born on 14 June 1894 as the eldest child of six to Grand Duke William IV and his wife, Marie Anne of Portugal. (You can read "Grand Duke" as "King" if you so want.) Her five siblings were all girls. As you can imagine, this was somewhat problematic for a country under Salic law where only a male heir took over the father's job of ruling. And, it was even more problematic when one is familiar with the location and history of Luxembourg.
Even though it is a small country, location is everything. It is smack dab in the middle of Belgium, Germany and France. The latter two had their eyes specifically on Luxembourg. It was said, "he who controls Luxembourg controls Europe," or words to that effect. So, 'cause the last thing anyone wanted was to see France and Germany start fighting over Luxembourg, the law was changed and on July 10, 1907 the 13-year-old Princess Marie-Adelaide was declared heir presumptive to the Grand Ducal throne.
On February 25, 1912 her father died and at the age of 17 Marie-Adelaide became the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. With a firecracker personality she took an super active role in ruling the country. She believed in fair play, patriotism, and equality to all and held back no punches in applying her beliefs during her reign as monarch. For the next two years Luxembourg was the happiest of all countries. Her fair play eventually resulted, alas, in her downfall, because then along came World War One.
Luxembourg's independence and neutrality were well established by treaties up the ying-yang. That did not stop Germany. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II sent grey-green columns of the Imperial German Army marching through Belgium and Luxembourg. King Albert I took command of the Belgian army to wage a hopeless defense of his country against the Teutonic juggernaut. The monarch of Luxembourg, on the other hand, had far less than even the Belgians could muster in their small but determined army. Nonetheless, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide decided to meet the foe herself. In a dramatic move, she raced to the Luxembourg frontier and parked her car crossway in the middle of the road to block the way of the German forces. Foolish girl.
For the duration of WWI Germany occupied Luxembourg. In fact, the Kaiser established his military headquarters in the Grand Duchy. It was an unfortunate situation but it had happened and there was nothing the Grand Duchess could do about it. Luxembourg was at the mercy of the Germans, so the Grand Duchess endeavored to make the best of a bad situation. She received the German Kaiser with all due courtesy and ensured that little to no animosity was displayed. To have done otherwise would have only made a bad situation worse. Now, think along the lines of Schindler's List. With her charm and consideration, it is also often forgotten, the Grand Duchess prevailed upon the German Kaiser to commute the death sentences of a number of French, Belgian and Luxembourgish nationals who had been accused of anti-German activity. Many people owed Marie-Adelaide their lives.
Remember, Marie-Adelaide was one of six sisters. Even though it was claimed that her highness was the most beautiful of the bunch, all six of them were knockouts. And, since love is blind, wouldn't you know that little sister Princess Antonia fell head-over-heels with the heir to the Bavarian throne Crown Prince Rupprecht, who happened to be commander of an army group on the western front and a field marshal. Since the fellow was a fine man and a humane, upstanding officer and because “the heart has its reasons”, Marie-Adelaide supported her younger sister. Fellow Luxembourgians felt different.
After the war a slew of Luxembourg politicians and rumblings from their neighbor Frenchmen complained about our little missy's demur concerning the Germans. They spewed a lot of hate and discontent. Thus, for the good of the country and under intense national and international pressure the 24-year-old Grand Duchess decided to abdicate, doing so on 14 January 1919. She was succeeded by her younger sister, Charlotte.
So what does a young, unmarried good-looking ex-monarch do when she has free time on her hands? In this case she runs off to Italy, casts off all of her worldly possessions and joins the religious Carmelite Sisters of the Poor. Life was not easy, nor long, for this cutie. Ten years after the stamp pictured above was issued, on 24 January 1924 "Sister Marie of the Poor" died of influenza. G L Groves