- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

There was no herald or staff-tapping court chamberlain to announce Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg as he entered the drawing room of his embassy Monday night to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his country’s liberation by Allied forces during World War II.

The hush descending over the 200-strong crowd might partly be explained by the awe-inspiring effect of royalty on most ordinary mortals, although the grand duke’s blond, ruddy good looks, exquisite tailoring and quiet but commanding presence no doubt played a part.

Backs stiffened and postures visibly straightened as the tiny state’s hereditary ruler spoke movingly of Luxembourg’s indebtedness and deep gratitude “to the American soldiers who came to our rescue, as they had done once before during the first world war [to fight] for our freedom and to secure peace on our continent.

“We shall never forget the sacrifice of so many young lives,” he said before formally unveiling a commemorative bronze plaque that will grace the newly renovated embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW.

The grand duke did not fail to mention the traditionally “close and warm relations” between the two nations, and he enlightened many in the crowd when he pointed out that in the 19th century, “when Luxembourg was still a poor rural country,” one-third of its population emigrated to the United States.

Their number, he noted, included ancestors of Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, who would be honored at an embassy dinner the following evening.

Bush administration officials invited by Ambassador Arlette Conzemius to welcome the grand duke included Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky and Acting Secretary of the Army R.L. Brownlee (who mentioned Luxembourg’s important role as a founder of NATO and the European Union), Chief of Protocol Donald Ensenat and Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorials John Nicholson, whose reminiscences about growing up in the Midwest with Americans of Luxembourger descent definitely broke royal ice.

“They were good farmers and gave us work, generous people who liked their beer — and shared it,” Mr. Nicholson said, prompting a smile and a chuckle from the grand duke and laughter from the rest.

Informality ruled thereafter, with Grand Duke Henri conversing easily with guests for more than an hour as nervous embassy staffers hovered in the distance.

Luxembourgers quaffing domestic brands of beer, pinot blanc and champagne agreed that members of their royal House of Nassau are esteemed for hard work, devotion to duty and — unlike other royal dynasties — scandal-free lives.

“They are very low-key and respected,” said Frederic Neumann#, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University. “You won’t find them in Nice on some yacht.”

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