Luxemburg under the Dutch
After centuries of Habsburg rule, writes Elka Schrijver, the Grand Duchy came under the Orange-Nassau dynasty in 1815 and, in reduced size, is still independent.
Benelux and the European Community have given Luxemburg a modest place in the awareness of most British people. Those interested in military history, however, may remember the strategic importance of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg in 1914 and the fact that in 1940 Hitler immediately incorporated it into the German Reich.
Luxemburg has been involved in a good many European wars, never to her own advantage. She was occupied or annexed by the Romans, the Franks and Charlemagne. Through marriage, the County became part of the Habsburg realm in 1354, was elevated to a Duchy, seized by Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1443, but reverted to the Habsburg Empire when Charles the Bold’s only daughter Mary married Maximilian in 1477.
Still a duchy, Luxemburg remained part of the Spanish Habsburg Empire until 1713 when it was handed over to an Austrian Habsburg, Charles VI, though part of its territory had already been ceded to France in 1659. In 1795 Luxemburg was swallowed whole by the French Republic and it remained French as part of the Consulate and Empire until the fall of Napoleon.
During the Congress of Vienna the duchy was coveted by various major powers: Prussia was convinced that Luxemburg should once again become German territory. France wished to retain all of Luxemburg to protect her territory against any potential German or Austrian aggression. It was the Prince of Orange who conceived the idea of an independent buffer state.
This idea coincided with Lord Castlereagh’s aim: to safeguard the British Channel ports. Owing to the latter’s diplomatic skills and the Prince’s tenacity, the Congress of Vienna finally agreed to the foundation of a new Kingdom, to include both the Northern and the Southern Netherlands as well as the whole of Luxemburg. It was personally given to the new Dutch King, William I, in exchange for the King’s properties in Nassau.