Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Short History of Luxembourg

A Short History of Luxembourg
By Andre Sanchez
Reproduced with permission from

The Duchy of Luxembourg is generally considered to have been established in 963, though it is mentioned in the writings of Julius Caesar. The Count of Ardennes at the time, Siegfried I, traded some of his lands for an old fort called Lucilinburhu, presumably Roman.

This was developed into a small town, the surrounding area of which eventually expanded into a small state that became of extreme strategic importance in Europe. The fortress itself was situated on a rocky outcrop know as The Rock, and was developed by successive rulers till it became one of the largest in Europe.

In 1354, the Holy Roman Emperor of the time, Charles V, elevated it to Duchy status, and it passed through a succession of hands until it became one of the Seventeen Provinces of The Netherlands in 1469. These fell into the hands of the Hapsburgs in 1477 where Luxembourg remained for the next few centuries.

It fell successively into Spanish, French and Austrian hands until it was annexed by France in 1795 during the Revolution. Luxembourg remained French until the defeat of Napoleon, when the Treat of Paris turned it into a Grand Duchy, in union with The Netherlands. The Belgian Revolution resulted in the new state of Belgium being give half of Luxembourg's territory, and the political autonomy of the Grand Duchy was not confirmed until the Treaty of London in 1867. Luxembourg was also granted neutrality in international affairs, and the fortress walls were pulled down to reflect this. The Prussians, who had been garrisoned in the fortress, withdrew.

Gradually Luxembourg became increasingly under German influence, culminating in its occupation in 1914 though the government was allowed to remain. After its liberation in 1918, Luxembourg was occupied by the Americans until the Treaty of Versailles rejected Belgium's claim to the territory and reaffirmed Luxembourg's independence.

Between the two World Wars, Luxembourg's politics were very similar to those of other Europeans at the time, with a conflict between left and right wing ideologies. The government tended to side with the Nazis in Germany, and tried to put down the communist unrest in some of the industrial regions. Although the government attempted to outlaw the Communist Party, its cooperation with Nazi Germany created much resentment amongst the population, and a referendum in 1937 resulted in defeat for the government on this issue.

Both the monarchy and the government went into exile in Britain when Germany invaded the country in 1940, and Luxembourg was formerly annexed in 1942. Citizens of Luxembourg were now declared German citizens, and they were forced to fight in the German army. Most that refused were sent to concentration camps or executed, especially after the general Strike of September, 1942, that the Nazis violently quelled.

After a brief period of liberation in 1944, the Germans again occupied Luxembourg during the Ardennes Offensive, or the Battle of the Bulge as it was commonly known, but the German offensive was short lived and the population was finally liberated in January 1945. One result of the war was to prompt Luxembourg to abandon its neutral tendencies and it became one of the founders of NATO and the United Nations. It helped form the economic union between itself, Belgium and The Netherlands known as Benelux, and was one of the founders of the European Common Market in 1957, now the European Community.

Since then, Luxembourg has been an active participant in European economic and political affairs and is now one of the financially strongest members of the Euro countries. It was listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1994 and is ruled by His Royal Highness, Grand Duke Henri.

This is truly a remarkable story for such a small country that originated from an old Roman fort sold to a Prince by some monks.

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