On October 7, 2000, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg stepped down following 36 years as ruler of the diminutive duchy, and was succeeded by his son Henri. When the Crown Prince was sworn in he became the sixth grand duke since the modern monarchy was installed in 1890.
Grand Duke Jean's departure was intended, in part, to mark the new millennium, and draw attention to the issues the small, but economically savvy, country would face in the coming years. And his son's strong sense of history and national identity means Henri looks likely to maintain the legacy he inherited while bringing the duchy into the 21st century.
Born on April 16, 1955, at the Chateau de Betzdorf in Luxembourg, Henri attended secondary school in the duchy before heading to France to complete his baccalaureate. He'd later study in the US, the UK and Switzerland, graduating from the University of Geneva in 1980 with a degree in political science. While there he met vivacious, Cuban-born Maria Teresa Mestre, whom he went on to marry on February 14, 1981. The couple have five children Crown Prince Guillaume, Prince Felix, Prince Louis, Princess Alexandra, and Prince Sebastian.
Under Grand Duke Jean's rule, Luxembourg developed one of the European Union's strongest economies, enjoyed its lowest unemployment rate, and boasted average incomes almost double those in the rest of Europe. Yet, as the shy and retiring Henri took his place at the country's helm, Luxembourg found itself facing a unique set of problems.
While relaxed banking rules have brought foreign investment to the duchy, propelling the economy to new heights, the country's population growth is extremely low. This has resulted in a dependence on foreign workers which, for a country whose national motto is "We want to stay what we are", is a less than ideal situation.
As a seasoned businessman with international training and a strong sense of cultural identity, Henri is particularly well suited to deal with the challenges his territory faces in the new millennium, however. He is also a committed environmentalist, a keen sportsman and very much the family man.
In his first address as Grand Duke, he urged his 429,000 citizens to retain their family values and national identity while vowing to ensure equal rights for all. Among his proclaimed goals, Henri has stated that he wishes to "find the right balance between the openness needed towards other countries and the preservation of Luxembourg's own sovereignty."
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