I had the opportunity to sit down with His Serene Highness, Prince Nikolaus, and Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaretha, of Liechtenstein as they concluded their visit to the University of Dallas last Wednesday and prepared for a return to their homeland.
The couple flew into the area last Monday and stayed at the UD campus between events held in Dallas on Tuesday and on campus on Wednesday. The last event was a luncheon in their honor on the UD campus.
The couple was relaxed and amiable during a wide-ranging discussion in which they talked about their children, the many educational and governmental activities that require their attention, and their homeland.
The princess smiled warmly when I asked about her family.
“We have three children,” she said in English with a noticeable German accent. “My son – the youngest – is doing political science” in his studies at Boston College. He is the primary reason the prince and princess traveled to the United States.
One of the royal couple’s daughters works for a company that researches the history of art, but the other daughter seems to have taken a different path. After studying history and literature, she went to Argentina for a year. But upon returning to Liechtenstein, she wanted to take a gap year and do something new, so she went to cooking school.
“She didn’t know how to cut a carrot,” her mother said, laughing. “But, she wanted to do a cooking course. So she is going to Le Cordon Bleu, a cooking school in London – very famous. But it’s so amusing – so different!”
The prince, too, flashed a broad grin.
Turning toward him, I asked about Liechtenstein.
“Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe, but it is a very vibrant place in the Alps,” he said. The prince also had a German accent, though there was a British tinge to his English.
“It is still the most industrialized economy in Europe with the highest per capita income,” he said. “We are stable politically, and we have, like Switzerland, a direct democracy. We are happy we have the gift of good neighbors, Switzerland and Austria, which are very stable – that makes life easy.” He chuckled. “It’s the friends you can choose; neighbors, you can’t, you know?”
And what, I inquired, is the character of Liechtenstein?
“I think, of course,” the prince said with furrowed brow, “that the character of the country depends very much on its history. Liechtenstein is in the center of Europe, and the history of it was very … well, lots of contrasts have impregnated Liechtenstein … It’s very small, but people feel, perhaps, more attached to their communes, to their political communes.”
He paused for a moment in thought.
“The people are industrious, like all the Alpine people,” he added. “There are more natural resources, and everything that you gain, you have to work. So it’s a very industrious place.”
Curious about the daily life of the prince and princess, I asked them to describe a normal day.
The princess laughed. “It depends on where we are, no? We live in Liechtenstein, but I travel quite a lot to Brussels because I’m still responsible for a lot in Brussels. In Liechtenstein, I don’t have too many responsibilities, but if I’m in Brussels, I would have meetings because I’m very involved in NGO – the European parliament – and if I can, I attend some meetings and conferences there. Also, I try to support an international association dealing with dyslexia. So I attend those meetings. But it all depends on where we are.”
The princess, who was born in Luxembourg, said she tries to go back to Luxembourg every five weeks or so to visit her family.
The prince’s time is also mostly spent attending conferences and meetings.
“Like my wife,” he said, “I have a few presidencies [and] public benefits. I’m still working in Brussels; I’m on the board of one of the biggest think-tanks in Europe; I’m involved in the European Union.”
I also inquired about the prince’s ambassadorial work for the Holy See.
“It’s not, let’s say, typically the case for Liechtenstein to have ambassadorial work because our relations are very good with the Holy See,” the prince said. “We also have a separation of church and state, so it’s more the case of … information exchange.”
He pointed to topics such as religion in school but emphasized: “It’s not a full-time job, not for such a small country.”
And what, I asked, do you do in your spare time – assuming you have spare time?
“Our children play an important role,” the prince said. “Of course, they are now adults. We go to visit them, and when we travel, we take the occasion to see things, visit museums.”
“We also do some sports,” the prince said as he slyly glanced at his wife, who was shaking her head in amusement. “Not too much,” he confessed, “but still, a little bit. And a lot of reading, of course.”
And what kind of reading?
History, science and politics were at the top of his list.
And the princess? “I mostly read spiritual books and historical biographies,” she said.
Before we concluded our interview, I asked if they had anything to say to the students at the University of Dallas.
The princess nodded her head eagerly.
“I was very touched by the atmosphere here,” she said. “It was very special. It was probably due to the fact that you have this beautiful chapel on the center of the campus where students can go and just pray. That’s probably why Catholics are attracted to this school. It’s something that you can really feel. It’s an example for us who come from the outside.”
The prince agreed and elaborated.
“I was very impressed with the seminar and with the questions that were asked,” he said. “They were very deep questions, with a lot of reasoning behind them. I’m very impressed with the standard, with the intellectual standard. And with the heart of the students, who are willing to go after truth, to love the truth.”