1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Luxemburg (grand-duchy)

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LUXEMBURG, a district in the European low countries, of which the eastern part forms the grand-duchy of Luxemburg, and the western is the Belgian province of that name (for map, see Belgium). The name is derived from the chief town.

Under the Romans the district was included in the province of Belgica prima, afterwards forming part of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia and of the empire of Charlemagne. About 1060 it came under the rule of Conrad (d. 1086), who took the title of count of Luxemburg. His descendants ruled the county, first in the male and then in the female line, until the death of the emperor Sigismund in 1437. Through the marriage of Sigismund’s daughter, Elizabeth, with the German king, Albert II., Luxemburg, which had been made a duchy in 1354, passed to the house of Habsburg, but was seized in 1443 by Philip III. the Good, duke of Burgundy, who based his claim upon a bargain concluded with Sigismund’s niece Elizabeth (d. 1451). Regained by the Habsburgs in 1477 when Mary, daughter and heiress of duke Charles the Bold, married the German king Maximilian I., the duchy passed to Philip II. of Spain in 1555, though subject to the laws of the empire, of which it still formed part. After a section had been ceded to France in 1659, the remainder was given to the emperor Charles VI. by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was conquered by France in 1795, and retained by that power until the end of the Napoleonic wars. The congress of Vienna (1814–1815) erected Luxemburg into a grand-duchy, added part of the duchy of Bouillon to it, and assigned it to William I., king of the Netherlands, in return for the German territories of the house of Orange-Nassau, which Napoleon had confiscated in 1806, and which were given by the congress to the king of Prussia. In 1830 when the Belgian provinces separated from Holland, an effort was made to include Luxemburg in the new kingdom of the Belgians; but in November 1831 the powers decided that part of the grand-duchy should be retained by the king of Holland, who refused to accept this arrangement. Consequently the whole of Luxemburg remained in the possession of the Belgians until 1838, when the treaty of the 19th of April, concluded at the conference of London, enforced the partition of 1831.

The grand-duchy of Luxemburg, the portion under the rule of William I. retaining the name, was ruled by the kings of Holland until the death of William III. in 1890. William’s daughter, Wilhelmina, succeeded to the throne of Holland, but under the Salic law[1] the grand-duchy passed to his kinsman, Adolphus, duke of Nassau, who died in 1905, and was succeeded by his son William (b. 1852).

By modifications of the treaty of Vienna the garrisoning of the fortress of Luxemburg had passed into Prussian hands, an arrangement which lasted until 1867. In the previous year the German Confederation, to which the grand-duchy of Luxemburg had belonged since 1815, had been dissolved; but the Prussians maintained their garrison in Luxemburg, which was not included in the new North German Confederation, while King William III. proposed to sell his rights over the grand-duchy to France. The Prussians were irritated by this proposal, but war was averted, and the question was referred to a conference of the powers in London. The treaty of London, signed on the 11th of May 1867, decided that the Prussian garrison must be withdrawn and the fortress dismantled, which was done in 1872. At the same time the great powers guaranteed the neutrality of the grand-duchy, and although a member of the German Zollverein, Luxemburg now forms a sovereign and independent state.

The Grand-Duchy lies S.E. of Belgium. Its area is 999 sq. m., with a population (1905) of 246,455. The people are nearly all Catholics. The country is rich in iron ore. The hills in the south of the duchy are a continuation of the Lorraine plateau, and the northern districts are crossed in all directions by outrunners from the Ardennes. The streams mostly join the Moselle, which forms the boundary between Luxemburg and the Rhine province for about 20 m. The Sure or Sauer, the most important stream in the duchy, rises at Vaux-les-Rosières in Belgian Luxemburg, crosses the duchy, and forms the eastern boundary from the confluence of the Our till it joins the Moselle after a course of 50 m., during which it receives the Wiltz, Attert, Alzette, White and Black Ernz, &c. The soil of Luxemburg is generally good; the southern districts are on the whole the most fertile as well as the most populous. Building materials of all sorts are obtained throughout the duchy. Besides the iron furnaces, situated in the south near the Lorraine plateau, there are tanneries, weaving and glove-making factories, paper-mills for all sorts of paper, breweries and distilleries, and sugar refineries. A German patois mixed with French words is spoken throughout the country; but French, which is employed by the commercial community, is also the common speech on the French and Belgian frontiers. Though liberty of worship prevails, Roman Catholicism is almost the sole form. The government is in the hands of the grand-duke, who sanctions and promulgates the laws. There is a council (staatsrat) of 15 members. There is a chamber of deputies with 48 members elected by the cantons (12 in number) for six years, half the body being elected every three years. No law can be passed without the consent of the chamber. Bills are introduced by the grand-duke, but the house has also the right of initiative. A single battalion (150) of volunteers composes the grand-ducal army. The gendarmerie consists of about 150 men. There are cantonal courts and two district courts, one at Luxemburg, the other at Diekirch, and a high court at Luxemburg. The bishopric of Luxemburg holds its authority directly from the Holy See. From 13,000,000 to 17,000,000 francs is the annual amount of the state budget, and the debt, consisting of loans contracted principally for the construction of railways, of which there are about 350 m., is 12,000,000 francs.

Among towns next to the capital, Luxemburg, are Echternach and Diekirch, both worthy of note for their blast furnaces. Grevenmacher is the centre of a great wine district.

The Province of Luxemburg is the largest and least populous of the nine provinces of Belgium. Its capital is Arlon, which lies near the borders of the grand-duchy. A considerable part of the province is forested and the state requires systematic replanting. Marble, granite and slate quarries are worked in different districts. Successful attempts have been made to introduce fruit cultivation. The province is well watered by the Ourthe, the Semois and the Sûre. The general elevation of the country is about 500 ft., but the hills and plateaus which form the prominent feature in the scenery of Luxemburg range from 1200 to 1500 ft. The highest point of the province is the Baraque de Fraiture (1980 ft.), N.E. of La Roche. The woods are well stocked with red and roe deer, wild boar, hares, rabbits, pheasants, woodcock and snipe. The area of the province is 1725 sq. m. The population was 225,963 in 1904.

The House of Luxemburg was descended from Count Conrad (d. 1086), and its fortunes were advanced through the election of Count Henry IV. as German king in 1308 and his coronation as emperor under the title of Henry VII. Henry’s son was John, king of Bohemia, who fell on the field of Crécy, and John’s eldest son was the emperor Charles IV., while another famous member of the family was Baldwin, archbishop of Treves (1285–1354), who took an active part in imperial affairs. Two of the sons of Charles IV., Wenceslaus and Sigismund, succeeded in turn to the imperial throne, and one of his nephews, Jobst, margrave of Moravia, was chosen German king in opposition to Sigismund in 1410. The French branch of the Luxemburg family was descended from Waleran (d. 1288), lord of Ligny and Roussy, a younger son of Count Henry II. Waleran’s great-grandson was Guy (d. 1371), who married Matilda, sister and heiress of Guy V., count of Saint-Pol (d. 1360), and was created count of Ligny in 1367. Guy’s son, Waleran (d. 1417), who became constable of France in 1412, had been carried as a prisoner to England, and had married Matilda, daughter of Thomas Holland, earl of Kent (d. 1360) and half-sister of King Richard II. To avenge Richard’s death he made a raid on the Isle of Wight, and then took part in the civil wars in France. He left no sons, and was succeeded by his nephew, Peter, count of Brienne (d. 1433), who, like his brother Louis (d. 1443), cardinal archbishop of Rouen and chancellor of France, was found on the side of the English in their struggle against France. Another of Peter’s brothers, John (d. 1440), a stout supporter of England, was made governor of Paris by Henry V. He sold Joan of Arc to the English. Peter’s son and successor, Louis, fought at first for England, but about 1440 he entered the service of France and obtained the office of constable. King Louis XI. accused him of treachery, and he took refuge with Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy; but the duke handed him over to the king and he was beheaded in 1475. The elder branch of his descendants became extinct in the male line in 1482, and was merged through the female line in the house of Bourbon-Vendôme. Louis’s third son, Anthony (d. 1510), founded the family of Luxemburg-Brienne, the senior branch of which became extinct in 1608. A junior branch, however, was the family of the duke of Luxemburg-Piney, whose last representative, Margaret-Charlotte (d. 1680), married firstly Léon d’Albert de Luynes (d. 1630) and secondly Charles Henry de Clermont-Tonnerre (d. 1674). Her daughter by her second husband, Madeleine Charlotte, married Francis Henry de Montmorenci (d. 1695) and de Luynes, and, subsequently, members of the family of Montmorenci claimed the title of duke of Luxemburg. The Luxembourg palace in Paris owes its name to the fact that it was built on a site belonging to the duke of Luxemburg-Piney.

See N. van Werveke, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Luxemburger Landes (Luxemburg, 1886–1887); J. Schötter, Geschichte des Luxemburger Landes (Luxemburg, 1882); and N. Vigner, Histoire de la maison de Luxembourg (Paris, 1619).

  1. It should be noticed, however, that the Salic law is subordinate to the Nassau family law, which provides for the succession in the case of the complete extinction of males. Thus Article xlii. of the Nassau Pact of the 30th of June 1783 provides “that in the event of the extinction of males, the rights of succession pass to the daughter or nearest heiress of the last male.”