Royal wedding gives Luxembourg a turn in spotlight

Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, right, and Countess Stephanie de Lannoy, of Belgium, arrive for the christening ceremony of Princess Estelle of Sweden in the Royal Chapel in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 22, 2012. AP/Scanpix

This week, royal watchers will be looking towards the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, where a royal wedding is going to take place.

The tiny country doesn't get a lot of turns in the spotlight - it's an independent country tinier than Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, and it would fit inside Germany, its neighbor to the east, 138 times with room to spare. It won no medals at the 2012 London Olympics - in fact it hasn't won a medal at the summer Games since 1952.

But this week, it's Luxembourg's turn to shine. Prince Guillaume, the heir to the throne - the grand duke-to-be - will marry Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy.

The two-day affair will include fireworks, concerts, a gala dinner at the grand ducal palace, and two marriages between the betrothed - a civil wedding on Friday afternoon and a religious ceremony on Saturday morning.

A glittering array of European royalty has been invited. The guest list for the religious ceremony includes kings, queens, princes and princesses from European countries including Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Lichtenstein, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Britain, which is sending Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth's youngest child, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Non-European royalty will be attending, as well, from Morocco, Japan and Jordan and elsewhere.

With all those royals coming to Luxembourg, can international attention be far behind?

"It's good for Luxembourg," said Nadine Chenet, a 46-year-old street cleaner who was picking up cigarette butts with pincers in front of the grand ducal palace. "Many people will come now."

Besides, she just plain likes the royal family, she said: They give a good impression of the country.

That's a sentiment common in Luxembourg. To all appearances, the bride and groom are a lovely couple. He is 30, with dark hair and an immaculate beard. She is 28, blonde and smiling. In public appearances, including at the London Olympics, they have appeared besotted with each other.

According to biographies distributed by the royal court, each has an array of interests befitting those who are to the manner born.

Guillaume speaks four languages, has studied international politics, is a lieutenant colonel in the Luxembourg army (a force of 900 soldiers), and has been engaged in humanitarian work in other countries, including Nepal. The duchess-to-be has studied the influence of German romanticism on Russian romanticism, plays piano and violin, swims, skis, and says she reads three books at a time.

In the language department, she already speaks French and German - two of Luxembourg's three official languages - and, perhaps more importantly, is studying the third, which is called Luxembourgish. She plans to renounce her Belgian citizenship in order to become, eventually, Luxembourg's grand duchess.

Luxembourgers are proud of their multilingualism, proud of their grand duchy and proud of their royal family. The current grand duke, Henri, who is 57, is popular. People can greet him on the street without bowing down before him. His 31-year marriage to Grand Duchess Maria Teresa appears to be very happy. Showcasing the royal family, as the country will do this week, allows Luxembourg to put its best foot forward.

For, as 71-year-old retired engineer Rene Ries emphasized more than once, the Luxembourgish royals - in contrast to some others - do not sunbathe topless. And for him, that is a source of pride, one he is happy to share with the rest of the world.

"It is a good family," he said.

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