Royal wedding fever sweeps Luxembourg

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Sign about the royal wedding in a Luxembourg supermarket (12 Oct 2012)Image source, Getty Images

Crown Prince Guillaume, Luxembourg's first in line to the throne, is getting married this weekend. But will the wedding attract the global attention that the tiny country is hoping for, asks the BBC's Maddy Savage.

Limited edition champagne, chocolates and china fill the shop windows around the city centre. Red, white and blue flags fly outside the cathedral and the town hall.

Posters, postcards and pins show the same smiling engagement photo of Crown Prince Guillaume, 30, and his Belgian fiancee, Countess Stephanie de Lannoy, 28.

Luxembourgers have a reputation for being calm and reserved, but there is a strong undercurrent of excitement sweeping through the cobbled streets.

"A wedding is always something special," says Fernand Klee, a businessman and professional wine-taster taking a walk in the autumn sunshine.

"I hope that this royal celebration will show everyone that Luxembourg is more than just a country full of banks. I think it is one of the most beautiful places, with old buildings, good food and of course the vineyards."

His friend Mario Caneschi, originally from Italy, is less optimistic about the international impact of the wedding.

"Even in southern Europe I think very few people know where Luxembourg is located, let alone about the ceremony," he laughs.

"But I will tell my friends about what is going on. The royal family is very popular here. They interact with normal people and they don't appear like they live on another planet."

Royal connections

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Japan's crown prince and princess will be among the royal guests at the wedding

There is a surprising amount of global interest in the upcoming festivities for a couple that most people around the world have probably never heard of.

More than 120 international media organisations have requested accreditation for the event, including TV channels and newspapers from China, Morocco, Russia and the US.

Luxembourg City Tourist Office is organising a three-day wedding-themed tour for royalty fans, although it would not be drawn on how many trips had actually been sold.

The official guest list for the ceremony includes the king and queen of Norway, the crown prince of Japan, and Prince Hassan and Princess Sarvath of Jordan. Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex will be representing the UK.

Pierre Dillenburg is providing commentary for local television channel RTL. He used to be the secretary general of the parliament and says he is the country's top expert on nobility as well as a close friend of the royal family.

"I met the couple just a few days ago and they are excited like all young couples are before their wedding," he announces from beneath an expensive-looking brown bowler hat.

"Crown Prince Guillaume told me that during the ceremony he will try to forget all the cameras around him and they will just look into each other's eyes as they make their vows."

So far, so fairytale. In fact, anyone hoping for the drama and gossip often linked to royal weddings is likely to be disappointed.

Countess controversy?

Stephanie de Lannoy is an uncomplicated choice of bride for Prince Guillaume. The couple have known each other for years, started dating in 2009 after being reunited at a party and got engaged in 2011.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
In the run-up to Monaco's royal wedding there were rumours the bride was having doubts

She is a member of Belgian nobility and is fluent in French, German and Russian after studying languages at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium. In interviews with the Luxembourg press, she has spoken of their mutual love of cooking and her delight at marrying her "very own Prince Charming".

The only controversy in the run-up to the ceremony has been the decision to grant her Luxembourg citizenship, avoiding a usually long and complex legal process.

Compare that to the days before Europe's last major royal wedding in July 2011, when the Prince's Palace of Monaco had to deny reports that South African former swimmer Charlene Wittstock was having doubts about her impending marriage to Prince Albert II.

In Britain, Kate Middleton endured years of speculation before she married Prince William in 2011, as international royal watchers commented on everything from her family's middle-class background to her decision to wear a bikini in a university fashion show.

Mr Dillenburg says Prince Guillaume is "very concerned" about whether he and bride will keep their privacy after the wedding.

"His wife might want to do some shopping, like Kate does in Britain, and it is important that even with all the security they have some kind of private life left. That is why I will not tell anybody where they are going to live…I do know, but I am not going to tell you."

Free festivities

The chances of the world's paparazzi chasing Luxembourg's future monarchs across the globe are probably slim but local security is tight ahead of their brief moment in the limelight.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The cathedral will host a wedding service the day after a civil ceremony

On Monday the doors to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg were locked after florists delivered the flowers for Saturday's ceremony and staff declined interviews or photos.

But royal-loving wine taster Fernand Klee was less discreet about his involvement.

"Of course, I know and I have tried the wine they will be having this weekend," he grinned. "It is very delicious!"

The celebrations will begin on Friday with a civil ceremony and a gala dinner for visiting monarchs and nobility.

Saturday will see the religious wedding taking place in the cathedral, before the bride and groom parade through the small city centre and then appear on the balcony of the grand-ducal palace.

In the evening there will be a public fireworks display followed by live performances from the Belgian songwriter Selah Sue and Luxembourg soul group Funky P.

The couple are believed to have selected the music themselves and will dance alongside locals in the city's main square.

Prince Guillaume will then take his new wife to a surprise honeymoon destination before they begin their new life together.

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