History of Luxembourg

From Academic Kids



The recorded history of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg begins with the construction of Luxembourg Castle in the middle ages. Legend has it that a count named Sigfrid, Count of Ardennes constructed a small fort on the site of an old Roman fort called "Castellum Lucilinburhuc"1 given to him by the monks of the Abbey of St. Maximin in Trier in AD 963.

Around this fort a town gradually developed, which became the centre of a small but important state of great strategic value to France, Germany and the Netherlands. Luxembourg's fortress, located on a rocky outcrop known as the Bock, was was steadily enlarged and strengthened over the years by successive owners, among others the Bourbons, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns, which made it one of the strongest fortresses on the European continent. Its formidable defences and strategic location caused it to become known as the 'Gibraltar of the North'.

The Luxembourgian dynasty provided several Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Bohemia, as well as Archbishops of Trier and Mainz. From the Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Luxembourg bore multiple names, depending on the author. These include Lucilinburhuc, Lutzburg, Lützelburg, Luccelemburc, Lichtburg, among others.

Luxembourg remained an independent earldom of the Holy Roman Empire until 1354, when the emperor Charles IV elevated it to the status of duchy. In 1437 the ruling family became extinct and the castle passed briefly into Habsburg hands, before being captured by Philip of Burgundy in 1443. With the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482 Luxembourg returned to Habsburg rule.

Luxembourg was annexed by Louis XIV of France in 1684, an action that caused alarm among France's neighbours and resulted in the formation of the League of Augsburg in 1686. In the ensuing war France was forced to give up the duchy, which was returned to the Habsburgs by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. During this period of French rule the defences of the fortress were strengthened by the famous siege engineer Vauban. Habsburg rule was confirmed in 1715, and Luxembourg was integrated into the Austrian Netherlands. After the French revolution Luxembourg was reconquered by France and became a département of the Republic2 in 1795, a situation formalized in 1797.


Missing image
Map showing the partitions of Luxembourg.

It remained under French rule until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, when the Congress of Vienna gave formal autonomy to Luxembourg. It was elevated to the status of grand duchy and placed under the rule of the king of the Netherlands. However, its military value to Germany prevented it from becoming a part of the Dutch kingdom. The fortress was taken over by Prussian forces, following Napoleon's defeat, and Luxembourg was made a member of the German Confederation with Prussia responsible for defence.

The rebellion of Belgium against Dutch rule in 1830 had serious consequences for Luxembourg. The country declared independence in 1835, and this was recognized by the grand duke three years later. By the Treaty of London in 1839 the grand duchy was cut in two, losing more than half of its territory to the new Belgian state. The loss of its French-speaking lands left Luxembourg as a predominantly German nation, although French cultural influence remained strong. The loss of Belgian markets also caused painful economic problems for the state. Recognizing this, the grand duke integrated it into the German Zollverein in 1842. Nevertheless, Luxembourg remained an underdeveloped agrarian country for most of the century. As a result of this about one in five of the inhabitants emigrated to the United States between 1841 and 1891.

It was not until 1867 that Luxembourgs independence was formally ratified, after a turbulent period which even included a brief time of civil unrest against plans to annex Luxembourg to Belgium, Germany or France. The crisis of 1867 almost resulted in war between France and Germany over the status of Luxembourg. The issue was resolved by the second Treaty of London which guaranteed the perpetual independence and neutrality of the state. The fortress walls were pulled down and the Prussian garrison was withdrawn.

Luxembourg remained a possession of the kings of the Netherlands until the death of William III in 1890, when the grand duchy passed to the House of Nassau-Weilburg due to Salic Law.

Famous visitors to Luxembourg in the 18th and 19th centuries included the German poet Goethe, the French writers Emile Zola and Victor Hugo, the composer Franz Liszt, and the English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner.

1900s: WWI/WWII and German occupations

The country was repeatedly attacked by Germany in the twentieth century.

German troops invaded Luxembourg in 1914 during World War I, but the government and Grandduchess Marie-Adélaďde were allowed to remain in office throughout the occupation (until 1918), bringing accusations of collaboration from France. It was liberated by U.S. and French troops. Two American divisions were based in the state in the years following the War. At Versailles the Belgian claim to Luxembourg was rejected and its independence reaffirmed. After a 3-day period as a Republic in 1919, which was quickly abolished by French troops, Luxembourg reverted to being a parliamentary monarchy.

In the 1930s the internal situation deteriorated, as Luxembourgian politics was influenced by European left- and right-wing politics. The government tried to counter Communist-led unrest in the industrial areas and continued a friendly politics towards Nazi Germany, which led to much critique. The attempts to quell unrest peaked into the Maulkuerfgesetz, the "muzzle" Law, aimed at censoring the press. The law was voted down in a referendum.

During World War II a second German invasion on 10 May 1940 swept away the government and monarchy, most of whom went into exile in London, from where Grand Duchess Charlotte broadcast regularly to Luxembourg to give hope to the people. The state was placed under military occupation until August 1942, when it was formally incorporated into the Third Reich as part of the Gau Moselland. Luxembourgers were declared to be German citizens and 13,000 were called up for military service. 2,848 Luxembourgers eventually died fighting in the German army. Measures to quell any Luxembourgian feelings were met with passive resistance at first, such as the Spéngelskrich (lit. "War of the Pins"), and refusing to speak German. As French was forbidden, many Luxembourgians resorted to 'digging out' old Luxembourgish words, which led to a renaissance of the language. Other measures included deportation, forced labour, forced conscription and, more drastically, internment, deportation to concentration camps and execution. The latter measure was applied after a general strike general strike from the 1 September to the 3 September 1942, which paralyzed the administration, agriculture, industry and education as response to the declaration of forced conscription by the German administration on 30 August 1942. It was violently suppressed: 21 strikers were executed and hundreds more deported to concentration camps. The then civilian commander of Luxembourg, Gauleiter Gustav Simon had declared conscription necessary to support the German war effort. It was to remain one of only two mass strikes against German war machinery in the West of Europe.

U.S. forces again liberated Luxembourg in September 1944, although they were briefly forced to withdraw during the Battle of the Bulge , otherwise known as the Ardennes Offensive or the Rundstedt Offensive, which had German troops take back most of northern Luxembourg for a few weeks. The Germans were finally expelled in January 1945. Altogether, of a pre-war population of 293,000, 5,259 Luxembourgers lost their lives during the hostilities.

Modern history

In 1945 after World War II Luxembourg abandoned its politics of neutrality, when it became a founding member of NATO (1949), the United Nations. It is a signatory of the Treaty of Rome, and constituted a monetary union with Belgium (Benelux Customs Union in 1948), and an economic union with Belgium and The Netherlands, the so-called BeNeLux.

Luxembourg has been one of the strongest advocates of the European Union in the tradition of Robert Schuman. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union) and in 1999 it joined the euro currency area.

In 1995 it was given the honour of providing the President of the European Commission, former Prime Minister Jacques Santer.

The current Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker follows the European tradition. On September 10, 2004, Mr Juncker became the semi-permanent President of the group of finance ministers from the 12 countries that share the euro, a role dubbed "Mr Euro".

The present sovereign is Grand Duke Henri. Henri's father, Grand Duke Jean, succeeded his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, on November 12, 1964. Grand Duke Jean's eldest son, Prince Henri, was appointed "Lieutenant Représentant" (Hereditary Grand Duke) on March 4, 1998.

On December 24, 1999, Prime Minister Juncker announced Grand Duke Jean's decision to abdicate the throne on October 7, 2000, in favor of Prince Henri who assumed the title and constitutional duties of Grand Duke.

See also


1 "Little Castle"

2 Département des Foręts, in reference to the Ardennes.

External link

fr:Histoire du Luxembourg nl:Geschiedenis van Luxemburg pt:História do Luxemburgo


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