Prince of Luxembourg secures divorce privacy in High Court ruling

Divorce|December 13th 2017

Financial details of the divorce between Prince Louis Xavier of Luxembourg and his wife Tessy must remain private, the High Court has ruled.

The husband is son of the current Grand Duke of Luxembourg and also bears the historical titles Prince of Nassau and Prince of Bourbon-Parma. His wife, Tessy, is also a native of the country, which, at just 998 square miles, is one the smallest states in Europe, with the roughly the same dimensions as the English county of Northamptonshire. The couple met in 2004, when the husband was a student and the wife was serving as an officer in the Luxembourg Army. They married in 2006 and now have two children, aged 10 and 11. Princess Tessy was formally inducted into the Royal Family in 2009. The couple spent much of their married life abroad, initially in the United States and then in London.

The marriage eventually broke down last year and by January of this year the Princess had applied for a decree nisi. A disagreement then arose on the extent to which details of the private divorce proceedings could be published. High Court Judge Mr Justice MacDonald explained:

“At the heart of the dispute between the husband and the wife on this issue is the question of the extent to which the wife should be permitted to publish information from these proceedings in an attempt to redress what she submits has been deeply hurtful, tendentious and wholly inaccurate coverage of her within the context these proceedings. The wife asserts that this coverage has brutally, unjustly and unfairly traduced her character and reputation and which she contends has resulted in upsetting and misleading comments “below the line” of articles online.”

She did not dispute that most details of the divorce should be private, but wanted permission to release the basic details of a settlement offer she had made to Prince Louis, along with some additional information about their former home. He opposed her plan, wanting to exclude any information about the former couple’s financial arrangements from publication. He did, however, accept that some media coverage of the divorce had been quite vitriolic about Princess Tessy.

Mr Justice MacDonald considered the possible extension of a temporary reporting restriction order given when the wife first announced her desire to release the information. He noted that media organisations normally have the right to be told of the evidence being used to justify reporting restrictions and other orders affecting them. In addition, he said, it was important the parties in divorce proceedings likely to be affected should consider the possible need for a reporting restriction as soon as the ‘first directions appointment’ –  the initial court hearing in financial cases, commonly referred to as the FDA.

He weighed two rights bestowed by the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to respect for private and family life, defined by Article 8, and the right to freedom of expression defined by Article 10. Ultimately Mr Justice MacDonald concluded that:

“…it is difficult not to have a degree of sympathy for the wife given the manner in which she has been traduced by some sections of the media abroad and the comments and speculation she has had to endure from others as a result. Her desire to seek to set the record straight is understandable. Be that as it may, in ensuring the proper administration of justice in financial remedy proceedings, it is vital that the court safeguards the integrity and efficacy of all aspects of its own proceedings. … to publish the bare terms of the wife’s open offer and the information concerning the family home will, in my judgment, act to undermine the administration of a crucial process the court is required to oversee in order to do justice between the parties.”

Consequently, Princess Tessy was forbidden from releasing the information.

Read HRH Prince Louis of Luxembourg v HRH Princess Tessy of Luxembourg (Publication of Offer) in full ruling here.

Photo of the Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg City by Ernmuhl via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

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