Saturday, August 29, 2015

Luxarazzi 101: Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape


This one, I really want to visit sometime (preferably soon). The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is located in the Czech Republic's Southern Moravia not too far from the borders to both Slovakia and Austria. The massively large landscape park was created and once owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein and centres around the two castles (and towns) of Lednice and Valtice, or Eisgrub and Feldsberg in German. Fun fact: The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is over 283 square kilometres large and thus almost twice as big as the Principality of Liechtenstein. (You might recall that the family for many years did not have close ties to the country that bore their name as it was legal technicality for them to be awarded certain benefits within the Holy Roman Empire.)

The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
The Princely Family used to own large estates all throughout the Habsburg empire. Lednice and Valtice, however, weren't just another two country estates, they were the family's main residences. After first settling in the area in 1249, the family used to following 700 or so years landscaping and building it into a unique cultural landscape, maybe even the world's biggest park often nicknamed "The Garden of Europe".

In 1249, King Wenzeslaus of Bohemia  gave Lednice as a fiefdom to Heinrich of Liechtenstein. Through clever marriage politics and being awarded with other fiefs, the family enhanced their properties in the area. Many, many years later, in 1608, the family made nearby Valtice their primary home with Lednice becoming the summer residence. (We'll have a closer look at both of these castles in future editions of Luxarazzi 101. For now, let's have a closer look at what they created around Valtice and Lednice.)

Photo: Czech Tourism
The realisation of what today is known as the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape began in the 17th century with the creation of avenues connecting Valtice with other parts of the estate. More avenues and paths were created during the 18th century, providing vistas and rides in accordance with the ideas of Renaissance style. The early years of the 19th century saw the the transformation of the park into the English concept of a designed park under Prince Johann I. The design of the park was strongly influenced by the work of Lancelot Brown at Stowe and elsewhere in England. 

Enormous landscaping projects were undertaken under the supervision of Johann's estate manager. To avoid the yearly flooding of the park by the Thaya river, a large lake - up to two and a half metre deep with islands and such was - created. The soil was used to raise the level of the Lednice Park by another one and a half metres. Smaller parks in English landscape design, the so-called Englische Anlagen, were created around the three large ponds. 

Photo: Czech Tourism
A number of romantic elements were also introduced into the landscape, the work of the architects joseph Hardtmuth, Josef Kornhausel, and Franz Engel. All over the park, smaller buildings and status are scattered. There are chapels, hunting lodges, temples, a minarett, a colonnade and more. The park features both native and exotic plants. Both Prince Johann I and his brother Prince Alois I had seeds from foreign places, both Europe as well as North America, brought to the area where they were grown in a arboretum. Some 32,000 new plants were thus introduced to the area. Their successors Alois II and Johann II continued with the plant breeding. By 1903, Lednice housed the biggest orchid and cycads in all of Europe.

The Liechtenstein family remained the owners of Lednice and Valtice until the end of World War II, when the estates were confiscated by the Czechoslovak state based on the Beneš decrees and all Liechtensteiners - not just the Princely Family - being considered German. After the fall of the Iron Curtain,the family made renewed legal attempts at restitution, which have all been turned down by the current owner of the property, the Czech state. Only in 2009, the Czech Republic and the Principality took up diplomatic relations again after more than 60 years due to expropriation of all Liechtenstein nationals after World War II. Already in 1996, the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Luxarazzi Tiara Race (19): The Floral Bandeau Tiara vs. Ena's Aquamarine Tiara

First of all, apologies to those who waited for this post to come out last night (like they usually do), but I simply and totally forgot about this. Don't fear, however, as you have an additional day of voting in today's edition of the Luxarazzi Tiara Race as voting will only close on Sunday due to my weekend plans.

But first, let's have a quick look back: Last time was the 18th time that you could vote for your favourite of two (or three, in one case) tiaras in the hope to determine your favourite Luxembourgish tiara in a few weeks time. Just like the first match of the second round, this was also a close race but in the end, it was Grand Duchess Maria-Ana's Tiara that won your heart against the Sapphire Bracelet Tiara with 54.05 percent of votes. Will it be as close today? (Humble me doesn't think so, but let's see...)
Competing for your affection are the Floral Bandeau Tiara, which remains a bit of a mystery but still beat the Sapphire Necklace Tiara in the first round, and Queen Victoria Eugenia's Aquamarine Tiara, which kicked out one of the Grand Ducal Family's amethysts tiaras in round one. Which one will advance to the next round? It's up to you! So, tell us...


Don't forget to leave us a comment below to tell us which tiara you chose and why!

Voting closes on Sunday night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hereditary Prince Alois Greets an American Congressional Delegation

Photo: Volksblatt.li
Hereditary Prince Alois recently met with a group of congressional staffers who support several American senators and representatives. The visit, prompted by an invitation from Councillor Aurelia Frick, provided the opportunity for bilateral financial and business discussions between officials in Liechtenstein and the United States. Additionally, Deputy Prime Minister Thomas Zwiefelhofer visited with the staffers and spoke about the importance of continuing the strong economic relationship between the two countries.

The American delegation met Hereditary Prince Alois at Vaduz Castle for an interview, and before leaving they were also given the opportunity to explore some of Liechtenstein's business, cultural, and educational institutions.

A little more about the visit at Volksblatt.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Luxarazzi Tiara Race (18): Sapphire Bracelet Tiara vs. Grand Duchess Maria Ana's Tiara

Previously on the Luxarazzi Tiara Race: A close race we predicted, a close race it was! In the end, it was the Belgian Scroll Tiara that took home the win against the Diamond Art Deco Tiara gathering 319 or 55.29 percent of your votes. Will it be as close today?
Fighting for your affection are the Sapphire Bracelet Tiara and the mystery tiara that caused probably the biggest upset of the first round of the Luxarazzi Tiara Race when it beat the Emerald Art Deco Tiara, the (seemingly) diamond tiara Grand Duchess Maria-Ana wore to the wedding of her second daughter, Grand Duchess Charlotte - for lack of better knowledge simply called Grand Duchess Maria-Ana's Tiara by us.

So, which one wins your affection? Vote here and drop us a comment below!


Voting closes on Wednesday night.

The Great Beach Debate

Photo: David Nivière / Cour grand-ducale / Wort.lu
A dispute has arisen in France about the beach that the Grand Ducal family of Luxembourg has been using for their summer holiday. The 100-meter stretch, located in the southeastern French district of Var, has been a popular spot with the family for decades.

But now a French lawyer has argued that closing the beach to the public during the Grand Ducal family's visit is a violation of French law. The local mayor, however, has pointed out in response that the beach is difficult to access and, therefore, not popular with the public. The mayor also noted that the only objections he has so far received have come from the lawyer and from one other family.

Additionally, the Cour has responded that the beach is not made private but is just temporarily reserved for the Grand Ducal family's security during the visit.

A little more information about the situation at Wort.

UPDATE: Further information from RTL. Apparently, the beach isn't completely closed to the public, as members of the public are still allowed to cross portions of it. However, the pedestrian parking is closed, and boats are restricted within 100 meters of the shoreline. Town officials note that the policy applied to the Grand Ducal family mirrors that applied to the President of France during his beach visits. Additionally, another lawyer argues that a 1986 law overrides elements of previous maritime law, making it possible to reserve beach spaces for these types of security requirements. The situation remains up for debate at present.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Luxarazzi 101: Château de Betzdorf

Château de Betzdorf (also known as Schloss Betzdorf, Betzdorf Castle, or Schlass Betzder, depending on your preferred language) is a property used for many years as a home by members of the Grand Ducal Family. It is most notably the birthplace and childhood home of Grand Duke Henri and his siblings.  The château is named for the town of Betzdorf, located about 23 kilometers (about 14 miles) outside Luxembourg City.
Photo: SES
The present château initially had no link to the Grand Ducal Family. Although the property had held various castles and homes on the premises since the Middle Ages, the present home was built between 1911 and 1919 for René Müller Laval, an engineer from Esch-sur-Alzette. Designed in a neo-baroque style by German architect Paul Schultze-Naumberg, the château featured a small chapel, a forecourt, outbuildings, stables and garages on its 80-acre grounds. The home was also equipped with the most modern conveniences of the time: central heating, telephone lines, and running water. Construction on the house took far longer than expected, as work was continually interrupted due to World War I.

But Müller Laval had bit off more than he could chew, so to speak. By the mid-1920s, the costs associated with the upkeep of the castle were more than he could handle and he began renting the property to wealthy Belgians to use as a vacation home. The Great Depression meant that fewer people were traveling for pleasure, and by the mid-1930s, the château stood empty for lack of available tenants.

Following Müller Laval’s death, his brother Edmond, a Luxembourgish industrialist, donated the château to the Red Cross to serve as a vacation property and retreat for its staff.  During World War II, the German military seized Château de Betzdorf. The Nazis opened a housekeeping school there, sparing the property from extensive damage.

Photo: SES
After World War II, the property passed to Luxembourg government, who first used it as a reformatory for young prostitutes (!) and then considered turning the home and its grounds into a women’s prison. However, at the time of the engagement of then-Hereditary Grand Duke Jean to Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium, it was realized that the couple needed a home of their own. Several royal properties were still in various states of repair due to damage from the war. As Betzdorf was one of the few suitable, inhabitable residential buildings available, it was chosen as the couple's new home.  Renovations began on the property shortly after Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte's wedding.

In the time between Müller Laval’s ownership and acquisition by the state, the grounds had shrunk to about 35 acres.  However, Betzdorf was still quite grand, and a rose garden and golf course were added to make the home more appealing. Shortly after Jean and Joséphine-Charlotte settled in, Luxembourg City also presented the couple with a sculpture of a deer to place on the grounds of the château. Auguste Tremont, a prominent Luxembourgish artist known for his animal statues, designed the sculpture. Tremont’s sculptures can still be found outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Luxembourg Town Hall.

In the gardens of Betzdorf with
French president René Coty
Less than a year after the Jean and Josephine-Charlotte moved to Betzdorf, their first child was born there. Following Marie-Astrid's birth in February 1954, her four siblings were also born at the chateau: Henri in 1955, Margaretha and Jean in 1957, and Guillaume in 1963.

Jean, Joséphine-Charlotte, and their children moved out of Betzdorf in November 1964, following Jean’s accession to the grand ducal throne. Soon after, the property began a new life as a nursing home which it remained for nearly 20 years, until March 1982.  For nine days in July 1982, the castle was the temporary home to 1,200 boy scouts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the scouting movement.

The château stood empty for the next four years. In 1986, the property was bought from the Luxembourg government by SES Astra SA, a satellite communication services company.  After extensive renovations, it became SES's headquarters which is remains to this day.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Luxarazzi Tiara Race (17): Diamond Art Deco Tiara vs. Belgian Scroll Tiara

And that was it, ladies and gentlemen, the first round of the Luxarazzi Tiara Race. But don't fear: Welcome to the second round of the Tiara Race which is the round of 16! But first let's have a look back at the last match of the previous round, during which we saw the White House Tiara, the Bavarian Lover's Knot Tiara and Princess Claire's Ruby Tiara heading of against each other. In the end, it was the Bavarian Lover's Knot Tiara that took home the win. Some of you said that the last match was a difficult one but let me tell you, it's not getting any easier in round two!
Case in point: The very first match of the round of 16 featuring not one but two tiaras many of you tipped as favourites for the overall win. On the one hand we have the Diamond Art Deco Tiara, which is owned by Princess Sibilla and can be worn in two different settings; and on the other the Belgian Scroll Tiara, a wedding gift to Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte by the Société Générale worn by Grand Duchess Maria Teresa above - both of them extremely lovely all-diamond sparklers!

I know it's a very tough choice but tell us...


Voting closes on Saturday night, so you have a bit of time to make up your mind. If you did, tell us why in the comments below!

Hereditary Prince Alois Awards Orders

Photo: Nils Vollmar / Volksblatt / Volksblatt.li
On Tuesday, Hereditary Prince Alois represented Prince Hans-Adam to award the Knight's Cross to two honorees: Ernst Büchel, from Ruggell, and Hubert Sele, from Triesenberg. Both men received the order in recognition for their activities as community leaders.

The ceremony was held at Vaduz Castle, and Hereditary Princess Sophie was also in attendance.

A few more photos at Volksblatt. (It is more than a bit unfortunate that the photographer couldn't quite fit Hereditary Prince Alois into any of the direct angles.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

(At Least) 7 Liechtenstein Royals at Concert in Vienna

Photo: Österreichisches Rotes Kreuz
And another one for the "Better late than never"-category: In her capacity as President of the Liechtenstein Red Cross Hereditary Princess Sophie hosted a charity concert together with the President of the Austrian Red Cross on May 28 at the Stadtpalais in Vienna. She was joined by quite an array of relatives for the event also including a dinner afterwards: her husband Hereditary Prince Alois, her mother-in-law Princess Marie, her brother-in-law Prince Constantin and his wife Princess Marie, her uncle-in-law Prince Nikolaus, as well as Philipp von Lattorff, husband of her sister-in-law Princess Tatjana. The money raised was used for a joined project of the Austrian and Liechtenstein branches of the Red Cross to help people in Eastern Ukraine.

Prince Wenzel Fires Starting Pistol

Photo: Landespolizei
This one is one for the category "Better late than never": Back on June 11, Prince Wenzel gave the starting signal at the Swiss police cycling championship, which actually took place in Ruggell, Liechtenstein, and counted Liechtenstein policemen and -women among its competitors. About a gazillion pictures of the championships, including some of the oldest son of Hereditary Prince Alois and Hereditary Princess Sophie looking very different with a beard, can be found on the website of Liechtenstein's police.