Maria Teresa, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, was born María Teresa Mestre y Batista on 22 March 1956 in Havana, Cuba as the daughter of José Antonio Mestre y Álvarez and María Teresa Batista y Falla de Mestre. She has two brothers and a sister.
She and her family fled Cuba during the revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1960 and settled in New York, where she attended Marymount school. In 1965, the family moved to Geneva, and she continued her studied at the Marie-José Institute in Gstaad. She then attended a boarding school in Geneva where she passed the French baccalaureate in June 1975. She enrolled at the University of Geneva where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1980.
Maria Teresa met her future husband, then The Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, at the University of Geneva, where they took the same course. Their engagement was announced on 7 November 1980, shortly after they both graduated. Their wedding took place on 14 February 1981, and Matia Teresa became Her Royal Highness The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. They went on to have five children together: Guillaume (born 11 November 1981), Félix (born 3 June 1984), Louis (born 3 August 1986), Alexandra (born 16 February 1991) and Sébastien (born 16 April 1992). Her reception into the family was said to be rather lukewarm, and Maria Teresa would later disclose that her mother-in-law called her “the little Cuban.”1 When reporting on their wedding day, the New York Times wrote that it was raised that there were “some doubts as to her suitability as a future Grand Duchess.”2
On 7 October 2000, Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favour of Henri, making Maria Teresa Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. She is also the grandmother of five grandchildren, Prince Gabriel (born 2006) and Prince Noah (born 2007) – the sons of Prince Louis -, Princess Amalia (born 2014) and Prince Liam (born 2016) – the children of Prince Félix – and Prince Charles (born 2020) – the son of the Hereditary Grand Duke.
Soon after they were married Maria Teresa and her husband established The Prince Henri and Princess Maria Teresa Foundation to help those with special needs, followed by the launching of The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess Foundation. In 2004, the two foundations became The Grand Duke Henri and the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa Foundation. Maria Teresa was made a special ambassador to UNESCO in 1997 and in 2007, she was appointed UNICEF Eminent Advocate for Children, for which she made several overseas visits. She is also the president of the Luxembourg Red Cross and the Cancer Foundation and a member of the Honorary Board of the International Paralympic Committee.
In 2020, the Grand Ducal Court was rocked by the Waringo report, which revealed a culture of fear at the court and a high turnover of staff, with Maria Teresa’s high involvement in personnel management.