History of Luxembourg, capital of Europe

Luxembourg is a small country in the center of Europe. Despite its modest size, it was the focus of wars of succession and European conflicts. Its rich and fascinating history spans several centuries. From humble beginnings, Luxembourg has grown into a wealthy, prosperous and stable country. It plays a central role in the European economy.

“Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sin” – “We want to remain what we are”.

The motto of Luxembourg testifies to its desire for independence from the countries that annexed it. It shows its will to keep its national identity.

From origins to annexations and independence

The founding of Luxembourg: from fortress to dynasty

Luxembourg’s origins date back to the early Middle Ages. A small fortification, Lucilinburhuc, was built on top of a rocky promontory, the Bock rock. Acquired by Count Sigefroi in 963, the small fort gave birth to the County of Luxembourg.

Several county houses succeeded each other, working for the development of the County of Luxembourg. Over the years, it has acquired more and more importance and political power.

Under the reign of the House of Luxembourg, the county extended its territorial influence and gained in importance. In 1308, Count Henry VII became king. Then in 1312, he was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. His son John the Blind, the originator of the Schueberfouer, became King of Bohemia.

In 1354, his descendant Charles IV raised the County of Luxembourg to the rank of Duchy. Thanks to numerous territorial regroupings, Luxembourg occupied a vast territory between the Meuse and the Moselle. In 1364, Luxembourg reached an area of over 10,000 square kilometers. The Luxembourg territory is at its peak.

An eventful history in Europe

Motto Luxembourg Mir wolle Bleiwen

Luxembourg’s strategic location between France, Germany and Belgium made it a coveted target for rival powers. The territory changed hands several times. From Burgundians to Habsburgs, Spaniards and French, Luxembourg’s fate has often been decided by political alliances and military conflicts.

Annexation by the Burgundians and Dutch principality

For lack of a male heir, the Duchy of Luxembourg passed into the hands of the Burgundians in 1443. It was annexed by the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon. French became the main administrative language. Luxembourg belongs to the Netherlands as a relatively autonomous principality. His destiny will be linked to this kingdom.

Annexation by Spain and Gibraltar of the North

Later, due to royal marriages, Luxembourg passed into the hands of the Habsburgs of Spain in 1555 . Due to its strategic location, Luxembourg was involved in many wars between France and Spain. It was at this time that the city of Luxembourg became a famous fortress. It becomes“the Gibraltar of the North”.

Annexation by France and Vauban fortifications

The Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 cedes the south of Luxembourg to France. The city of Thionville becomes French. Later, the troops of Louis XIV besieged the city of Luxembourg. It also passed to France in 1684. It was at this time that the famous Vauban fortifications were built.

Return to Spain and annexation by Austria

During the year 1697, Luxembourg was handed over to Spain. The Habsburgs recovered the duchy by the Treaty of Ryswick, putting an end to French expansionist desires. The War of the Spanish Succession handed Luxembourg over to Austria in 1715.

Pacification in the 18th century

The Austrian period finally marks a peaceful period for Luxembourg. Numerous social and economic advances, such as freedom of worship and tax equality, laid the foundations for today’s Luxembourg.

Return to France as the Forestry Department

But following the blockade of the troops of the Revolution in 1795, the fortress is again handed over to France. Luxembourg became the Department of Forests under the reign of Napoleon.

The Cane War, “Klëppelkrich”, against the generalized military service took place in 1798. The Napoleonic Code was introduced in 1804. This is the basis of the Luxembourg civil code.

The fall of Napoleon’s empire led to a new division of Europe.

A neutral territory: from the Congress of Vienna to independence

After the tumultuous years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815 Luxembourg found itself at the center of negotiations at the Congress of Vienna. The great European powers are looking for stability. Luxembourg became a neutral, independent territory under the House of Orange-Nassau. William I of Orange-Nassau, king of the Netherlands, takes over the new state on a personal basis.

Part of Luxembourg’s territories are allocated to Prussia. This one places a Prussian garrison in the city of Luxembourg.

With the Treaty of London in 1839, Luxembourg acquired its independence and its current form. Part of Luxembourg is given to Belgium (the province of Belgian Luxembourg) following the Belgian Revolution.

Luxembourg adopted a constitution in 1848.

With the new Treaty of London in 1867, Luxembourg acquired the status of a perpetually neutral and independent state. The fortress was dismantled. The Prussian garrisons leave the territory.

Luxembourg is a parliamentary monarchy, headed by the Grand Duke.

Industrialization and prosperity in Luxembourg

Luxembourg’s neutral status, combined with the rapid development of its steel industry, contributed to its economic growth and prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The steel industry develops rapidly. Landscapes are changing, in the south of the country in the Minett region, but also in the capital. Italian and Portuguese workers begin to flood into the country. The country is urbanizing. This period laid the foundations for modern Luxembourg.

Modern Luxembourg

World wars and occupation

The two world wars took a heavy toll on Luxembourg. Once again, its strategic position makes it a target for invading forces. The Nazi occupation of the Second World War caused considerable human suffering and loss. However, the people of Luxembourg showed resilience and regained their determination once the war was over.

European integration, the road to prosperity

Since the post-war years, Luxembourg has been committed to economic diversification and European integration. After Benelux in 1944, Luxembourg became a founding member of the European Union alongside France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. It plays a leading role in shaping Europe, and is home to several key European institutions. Today, the country is a shining example of integration. Its capital, Luxembourg, is a global financial center.

Luxembourg’s history is a testament to the resilience and enterprising spirit of its people. The country has demonstrated its ability to adapt. His pragmatism helps him to manage in a changing world.

The legend of Melusine

Melusine was the wife of the Count of Sigefroi, founder of the City of Luxembourg.

The legend tells that it is during a bear hunt, among the ruins of an old castle, that Count Sigefroi is seduced by the voice of a beautiful young girl. Falling in love, he proposed to Melusine to marry her. She agreed, on condition that she never left the premises. She also makes him promise that he will never spy on her when she wants to be alone.

Count Sigefroi and his wife settled in this old castle. They lived there very happily. But one day, curious to see what his wife was doing when she was alone, Count Sigefroi spied on her through the keyhole. He then saw her lying in her bath, combing her long hair. But instead of legs, she had a big fish tail.

Betrayed, Melusine disappeared forever in the waters of the Alzette.

The legend says that Melusine reappears every 7 years, in the form of a snake. She is waiting for someone to free her from her fate. To do this, you will have to take a key in your mouth and throw it into the Alzette.

While waiting for her deliverance, she sews a shirt, adding a stitch every 7 years. When the shirt is finished, Melusine will be released from her spell. But in return, all the inhabitants of Luxembourg will disappear with her.

The statue of Melusine can be seen on the banks of the Alzette, at the very spot where she is said to have disappeared into its waters.

The Nassau-Weilburg dynasty

In 1890, Luxembourg obtained its own dynasty with the accession to the throne of Grand Duke Adolphe de Nassau-Weilburg.

William IV his son succeeded him. Her granddaughter, Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde, came to power in 1912. She was then 17 years old. His attitude during the invasion of the German troops during the 1st World War is violently criticized. She abdicated at the end of the war in 1919.

The Grand Duchess Charlotte then ascended the throne. During his reign, the country was again invaded by German troops during the Second World War. Not wishing to submit, the Grand Duchess and her government went into exile in London. Luxembourg was liberated in June 1944 by American troops. Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in 1964. She is very popular with the Luxembourg people.

Grand Duke Jean succeeded his mother in 1964 . Grand Duke Jean abdicated in October 2000. He died in April 2019.

His Royal Highness, the Grand Duke Henri succeeds his father. He still occupies the throne with his wife, Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa, originally from Cuba. They have five children.

The Crown Grand Duke is Prince William, their eldest son. He is accompanied by his wife the Crown Grand Duchess, Princess Stephanie, of Belgian origin. They have two children.

Find out more about Luxembourg’s political system.

Luxembourg and the European Union

Luxembourg, founder of the EU

Luxembourg is one of the 6 founding members of the European Union. Some of its citizens are illustrious figures.

Robert Schuman is one of the “founding fathers” of Europe. Born in Luxembourg in 1886, he was born in Luxembourg on his mother’s side and participated in the creation of the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) in 1951.

In 1952, the city of Luxembourg was the first place of work for the Community institutions.

In 1957, the creation of the European Economic Community by Jean Monnet marked a further step towards a supranational European organization.

Founded by Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, the EEC was gradually expanded to include other countries. The European Union now has 27 countries.

Luxembourg, European capital

The Luxembourg capital, Luxembourg, became a European capital in 1986. It shares this title with Brussels (Belgium) and Strasbourg (France) following the merger of the European institutions.

The city of Luxembourg is now home to the headquarters of several European institutions and bodies. Many European officials work there. It includes:

  • the Court of Justice,
  • the Court of Auditors,
  • the European Investment Bank,
  • the European Investment Fund
  • several services of the European Commission.

There is also talk of the European district in the Kirchberg area.