History Files

European Kingdoms

Western Europe


Luxemburg / Luxembourg

Luxembourg began as a stronghold known as Lucilinburhuc. Initially part of the Frankish empire and then the Middle Frankish kingdom of Lothar I, it passed to Lothar II in 855 as part of the kingdom of Lotharingia. This gradually broke up, with the Luxembourg region being inherited by the duchy of Lorraine (in the Lower Lorraine region). A town grew up around the stronghold (which today is Luxembourg Castle). The territory quickly grew in stature which was gained by Sigfried, count of Ardennes in 963. This formed a useful buffer against the Western Franks.


Bishop Willibrord of Utrecht in Frisia is given land by the mayor of the palace, Pepin II of Herstal, at Echternach, at which he founds a monastery to act as his new base. He is ultimately buried there, in the tenth century crypt of the church that bears his name. The territory is within the Frankish empire, but it ultimately forms part of Luxemburg.


With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc, Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

963 - 998


Count of Ardennes. Dau m HRE Henry II.

998 - 1026

Henry I

Henry V, duke of Bavaria.


With the death of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, the empire is administered by his widow, Cunigunde of Luxemburg. She has long been politically active at Henry's side and now, with the assistance of her brothers, Dietrich and Heinrich, she manages the regency period for about two months until the vacancy on the throne is filled by Conrad the Salian. Cunigunde hands over the imperial jewels to Conrad as a symbol of her legitimacy in office before retiring to Kaufungen Abbey, which she had previously founded in Hesse.

1026 - 1047

Henry II

Henry VII, duke of Bavaria.

1047 - 1059



Upon the death of Giselbert, his son Conrad succeeds him as the first confirmed count of Luxemburg, taking it permanently out of the direct control of Lorraine's dukes.

Ardennes Forest
The thick forest of the Ardennes formed part of the medieval county of Ardennes, with this region also gaining Luxembourg in 963, another county in the making

County of Luxemburg / Luxembourg
AD 1059 - 1353

The stronghold of Lucilinburhuc was obtained by the count of Ardennes in 963. A town had already grown up around the stronghold (today's Luxembourg Castle), The territory quickly grew in stature to become a full county under Conrad I, and a duchy in the fourteenth century.

(Additional information from Neue Deutsche Biographie: Simon II [of Lorraine], Hans-Walter Herrmann, 2010.)

1059 - 1086

Conrad I

Son of Giselbert. First count of Luxembourg.


The margraviate of Baden is formed in eastern central Swabia during the general political collapse in Germany which dominates this century. The rebellion of Rudolf of Rheinfelden becomes known as the Great Saxon Revolt, with him being succeeded in his opposition against Emperor Henry IV by Berthold I of Rheinfelden, Hermann of Luxemburg, and Conrad of Franconia.

1086 - 1096

Henry III

1096 - 1129


1129 - 1136

Conrad II

1136 - 1196

Henry IV the Blind of Namur

Grandson of Conrad I.

1196  - 1247

Ermesinde of Namur

Countess of Luxemburg. Daughter.

1197 - 1214

Theobald of Bar

Husband. Count of Bar (1190-1214).


Having gained lands in Luxemburg as a result of his marriage to Ermesinde of Namur, Count Theobald I of Bar is now also granted the county of Vaudémont by Simon II, duke of Lorraine.


Ferry II of Lorraine goes to war against his father-in-law, Theobald of Bar. He is defeated and captured and is imprisoned for seven months. In order to obtain his freedom he is forced to hand over Amance, Longwy, and Stenay, lands which he had gained thanks to his marriage to Agnes of Bar. Essentially, Theobald wins back his daughter's dowry.

1214 - ?

Waleran III

Second husband. Duke of Limberg.

1247 - 1281

Henry V of Limburg


1281 - 1288

Henry VI

1288 - 1310

Henry VII

HRE (1308-1313).

1310 - 1346

John I the Blind


On 20 January, all of Poland (except for Silesia, Polish areas of Pomerania, and Mazovia) is reunited as a single Polish kingdom with the coronation of Wladyslaw the Short. The coronation takes place with the support and cooperation of Pope John XXII at Avignon, who also needs to placate Jean of Luxembourg, known as 'the Blind', king of Bohemia and son of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII. Jean (or John) has his own claims to Poland.

1346 - 1353

Charles I

HRE Charles IV (1347-1378).


Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and Archduke Rudolph IV of Austria agree a contract of inheritance which sets up the principle of mutual inheritance between the Habsburgs and the Luxemburg counts.

Duchy of Luxemburg / Luxembourg
AD 1353 - 1815

1353 - 1383

Wenceslas I


Wenceslas dies without an heir. Brabant reverts to his wife's family. The duchy of Luxembourg reverts to his nephew, Wenceslas II.

1383 - 1388

Wenceslas II

Wenceslas IV, king of Bohemia. HRE Wenzel (1378-1400).

1383 - 1443

Luxembourg remains unsettled. Wenceslas II, in need of money, offers Luxembourg as a pawn for the repayment of a substantial loan. Luxembourg falls under the control of various creditors in turn, ending up under the rule of Wenceslas' niece, Elizabeth of Göerlitz.

1388 - 1411

Jobst of Moravia

HRE rival (1410-1411).

1411 - 1412

Wenceslas II

1412 - 1415


Relative of the duke of Burgundy.


Sigismund, brother of Wenceslas I and his successor as Holy Roman Emperor, is unable to repay the outstanding loan, so he leaves his niece, Elizabeth of Göerlitz, in control of the duchy.

1415 - 1443

Elizabeth of Görlitz

Niece of Wenceslas II.


Elizabeth elects to sell the duchy to Phillip the Good of Burgundy, who is also the count of Holland.

1443 - 1482

Luxembourg is gained by the duchy of Burgundy through conquest. Elizabeth is paid off by Philip the Good of Burgundy the following year.

1439 - 1482

[William III of Saxony]

1441 - 1467

Philip the Good

Duke of Burgundy (1419-1467). Also count of Holland.

1467 - 1477

Charles the Bold

Son. Duke of Burgundy & count of Holland.

1474 - 1477

Duke René of Lorraine is facing increasing pressure both from Louis XI of France and Charles the Bold of Burgundy. He has already allied himself with Charles, but Burgundian garrisons have been established in Lorraine so René now switches allegiance to Louis. Charles invades Lorraine, forcing René to abandon Nancy on 30 November 1475. The city is recaptured on 5 October 1476 before René leads an army of Swiss mercenaries into the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. Charles is defeated and killed, ending the Burgundian Wars. His death also ends Burgundian greatness. The lion's share of his domains are immediately annexed by Louis XI, while the sole heiress of Burgundy, Mary, marries Maximilian of Austria, future Holy Roman emperor.

1477 - 1482

Mary of Burgundy

Dau. Heiress of Burgundy & Holland.

1482 - 1815

When the duchy of Burgundy reverts to the French crown, Luxembourg passes to the Austrian Habsburgs as part of the Austrian Netherlands. Then at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it is transferred to the king of the Netherlands. René II of Guise, duke of Lorraine, conquers the prévôté of Virton, part of Luxembourg lands, and annexes it to the duchy of Bar which he also holds.

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
AD 1815 - Present Day

The modern grand duchy of Luxembourg is a landlocked country in Western Europe. Its territory is small, amounting to no more than 2,586.4 kilometres squared (998.6 square miles). It grew up focused on its eponymous capital city (which is sometimes shown as Luxemburg City, or the City of Luxembourg, using the German and French spellings respectively). The duchy is bordered to the south by France, to the north and west by Belgium, and along its entire eastern border by Germany.

The grand duchy began as a stronghold known as Lucilinburhuc which was part of the duchy of Lorraine (in the Lower Lorraine region), a Frankish territory which had been created by the break-up of the Frankish empire. Then it was obtained by the count of Ardennes. A town grew up around the stronghold (which today is Luxembourg Castle). The territory quickly grew in stature to become a full county in the eleventh century, and a duchy in the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century it was gained by the duchy of Burgundy, and then the Austrian Habsburgs in 1482. Recreation as a semi-autonomous state took place in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars against imperial France. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris it was passed to the king of the Netherlands, but in 1890 it gained full independence.

Today the grand duchy is a prominent financial centre, with residents who are largely proficient in three languages, French, German and 'Luxembourgish', a dialect of German. Of those residents, roughly a third are non-natives, drawn in by the high standard of living and the presence of a large number of multi-national businesses that have a base there. The duchy's wealth was built on the back of a once-flourishing steel manufacturing industry, although this declined towards the end of the twentieth century, prompting the switch to diversification and financial investment activities.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Campaigns of Napoleon, David Chandler (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1996), from Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, General Cavalié Mercer (Da Capro Press, New York, 1995), from Waterloo, The Hundred Days, David Chandler (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 1980), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg dies aged 98 (The Guardian).)

1815 - 1830

Jean Georges O V M Zacharie Willmar

Governor (provisionally until 29 May 1817).


The duke of Wellington's Anglo-Dutch-German army defeats Napoleon's French army at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June in conjunction with the Prussian army, ending twenty-five years of war in Europe. By the power of the subsequent Congress of Vienna, William is elevated to the status of king to rule the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, incorporating Holland and Belgium. He is also made grand duke of Luxembourg.

Map of Confederation of German States AD 1815
Dutch troops at Waterloo
Under imperial France, troops from Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands were forced to serve in the French ranks right up until 1814, so when they stood in the allied lines at Waterloo in 1815 their reliability was doubted by some, although many of their units did indeed stand firm and suffered heavy casualties - above that is a map of the new post-wars Confederation of German States (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1815 - 1840

William I

King of the Netherlands. Abdicated.


Belgium splits from Dutch rule and the following year proclaims its own kingdom. The country shortens its name to 'Kingdom of the Netherlands', although the king remains monarch of Luxembourg. In 1839 he also becomes duke of Limberg. At the same time, Luxembourg's long-standing governor, Jean Georges O V M Zacharie Willmar, is succeeded by a governor-general.


Jean Leclerc

Provisional governor-general (Jan-Mar).


Prince Bernhard

Grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Governor-gen (Mar-May).

1831 - 1839

Friedrich Wilhelm von Goedecke

Head of the government commission.

1839 - 1840

Hans Daniel Ludwig F Hassenpflug

Head of the civil administration.

1840 - 1849

William II

King of the Netherlands. Duke of Limberg.

1840 - 1842

Jean Baptiste Gellé

Head of the civil administration.

1842 - 1848

Gaspar-Théodore-Ignace de la Fontaine



In a year of European revolutions, the citizens of France revolt against their government and the monarchy is overthrown. William II heads off potential revolt in the Netherlands by instituting a more liberal regime. A committee headed by a prominent liberal, Johan Rudolf Thorbecke, is selected to create a new constitution, which allows for the Eerste Kamer (the Dutch Senate) to be filled by indirect election through the Provincial States. The Tweede Kamer (the House of Representatives) is to be elected directly, although only through census suffrage rather than universal suffrage (until 1917). By instituting these changes, the king greatly decreases royal power.

1849 - 1890

William III

King of the Netherlands. Duke of Limberg.

1850 - 1879

Prince Henry of the Netherlands

Son of William II of the Netherlands. Governor.


In what is known as 'The Luxembourg Coup of 1856', William III revises Luxembourg's constitution on 27 November. Probably as a reaction to the loss of authority in the Netherlands, William greatly expands his powers. The announcement of the changes is made by Prince Henry, governor of Luxembourg.


The major constitutional changes introduced by William III in 1856 are now reversed with the promulgation of a new constitution. Some of William's changes, however, survive to the present day, including the creation of the Council of State.


William III has no surviving male heirs, so his daughter Wilhelmina becomes queen of the Netherlands. Under Salic Law, the grand duchy of Luxembourg cannot be ruled by a woman, so the position of duke is granted to a distant relative of William III. This ends the personal union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg, but it grants a ducal seat to Adolphe, the dispossessed duke of Nassau.

1890 - 1905

Adolphe of Nassau

Son of William, titular duke of Nassau.

1905 - 1912

William IV

Son. Titular duke of Nassau.

1905 - 1907

William's uncle, Prince Nikolaus-Wilhelm, dies in 1905. This leaves William's cousin, Georg Nikolaus, count of Merenberg, as the only surviving legitimate male in the House of Nassau-Weilburg apart from William himself. However, he is the product of a morganatic marriage. In 1907, William declares the counts of Merenberg to be non-dynastic and therefore ineligible to succeed him. Instead he names as heiress-presumptive his own eldest daughter, Marie-Adélaïde.


The late Adolphe's sister is Sophia of Nassau, wife to King Oscar II of Sweden. With the death of her husband, her eldest son, Gustavus V ascends the Swedish throne. He eventually gains the record of being the country's second-longest reigning monarch, and its oldest monarch in terms of his age.

1912 - 1919


Dau. Accused of being pro-German. Forced to abdicate. Died 1924.

1914 - 1918

The German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). In the west, Germany's armies reach the northern outskirts of Paris before they are stopped by the armies of Britain and France, together with the small Belgian army.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia and the German empire inspects his troops on the eve of war in 1914, a war that none of Germany's smaller neighbours had any chance of avoiding

However, Luxembourg remains occupied for the duration of the war, and Marie-Adélaïde is perceived to be a tacit supporter. The populace grow increasingly unhappy with her, as do France and Belgium, and she is eventually persuaded by parliament to abdicate in favour of her sister.

1919 - 1964


Sister. Abdicated. Died 1985. In exile 1940-1944.


Attempts to escape German influence leads the duchy into an economic union with Belgium. Between the wars, Charlotte also sells the family's properties in Germany, including its hereditary seat in Nassau.

1945 - 1948

Following its release from renewed German occupation during the Second World War, Luxembourg abandons its neutrality and becomes a front-rank enthusiast for international co-operation. Charlotte returns from four years of self-imposed exile in Britain and Canada after having refused to serve as head of state under German supervision. In 1948 Luxembourg furthers its attempts to encourage a more unified Europe by becoming a founder member of a customs union with Belgium and the Netherlands.


Luxembourg continues its enthusiasm for greater European integration by standing as a founder member of the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the European Union.

1964 - 2000

Jean / John

Son. Born 1921. Abdicated. Died 23 April 2019.

1981 - 1986

Grand Duke Jean's eldest son and heir, Henri marries Maria-Theresa Mestre. In response, Carlos Hugo, dispossessed hereditary duke of Parma (with strong connections to the Bourbons of Spain) rules that the marriage is unequal. In 1986 Jean issues a decree that renounces the titles of the House of Bourbon-Parma for himself and his family.

2000 - Present


Son. Cousin of King Phillippe of the Belgians.


Grand Duke Henri announces that his conscience will not allow him to sign into law a bill that approves euthanasia. The crisis is resolved by means of a constitutional reform which removes the need for laws to be approved by the head of state, thereby reducing the post to a largely ceremonial role.

City of Luxembourg 2014
Modern Luxembourg, and the City of Luxembourg pictured here, is a wealthy, peaceful state which serves as a significant financial and service centre


In June, the right to reign over the grand duchy by right of agnatic primogeniture is dropped in favour of absolute primogeniture. This permits any legitimate female descendants within the House of Nassau to be included in the line of succession.

William V

Son and heir.