BRUSSELS – Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Jean, who oversaw the transformation of the Grand Duchy into an international financial centre before abdicating and handing over to his son, has died at the age of 98.
He was born on Jan. 5, 1921 to Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma.
His early life was overshadowed by World War Two – his family had to flee invading Nazi troops and seek refuge in the United States and Canada.
Jean returned to Europe in 1942 to receive military training at Sandhurst in Britain. He briefly served as a guard at Buckingham Palace before joining Allied forces in Normandy in 1944, taking part in the battle of Caen.
After the war, Jean married Belgian princess Josephine Charlotte and had five children. He became the country’s sixth Grand Duke when his mother Charlotte abdicated in 1964.
During his 36 years as the head of state, his country of half a million inhabitants wedged in between Belgium, Germany and France, turned from an industrial backwater into an international financial hub.
Jean had groomed his oldest son Henri to become his successor when he transferred most of his duties to him in 1998. He stepped down as Grand Duke in 2000.
Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy in which the Grand Duke holds executive power and bills only become law with his signature.
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Andrew Heavens)