History and symbols

History

Located in the heart of Europe, positioned between France, Belgium and Germany, the Grand Duchy has taken part in the major European developments. The Grand Duchy's history can therefore be seen as a condensed version of European history.

963 The history of Luxembourg goes back to 963, when Count Sigfried acquired the small fort called Lucilinburhuc in an exchange with St Maximin's Abbey in Trier. The fort stood on the rocky spur of the Bock, dominating the Alzette valley.
14th and 15th centuries:

During the Middle Ages, the Princes of Luxembourg wore the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

  • Henri VII, Count of Luxembourg, was elected King of Germany in 1308 and crowned as Emperor four years later in Rome. The Counts of Luxembourg also became Kings of Bohemia by the marriage of John the Blind, son of Henri VII, to Elisabeth, heiress to the kingdom of Bohemia. John the Blind was a model knight, and died a hero’s death in the service of the King of France at the Battle of Crécy in 1346.
  • In 1364, with the definitive acquisition of the County of Chiny, the possessions of the Dukes of Luxembourg covered the largest area in their history (10,000 square kilometres).
  • After Henri VII, three other members of the Luxembourg dynasty were to wear the royal or imperial crowns in succession: Charles IV (1346-1378), Wenceslas (1376-1400) and Sigismund (1410-1437), the last Emperor from the House of Luxembourg.
  • In modern times, Luxembourg's fortress, referred to as 'Gibraltar of the North', was a focal point in the struggles among the major powers.
  • Before obtaining its independence during the 19th century, Luxembourg lived under successive Burgundian, Spanish, French, Austrian and Dutch sovereignty.
1795 Luxembourg was annexed to France, becoming the 'Département des Forêts' under Napoleon
1815-1890 Creation of the current Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
1815 After the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire, the map of Europe was redrawn and divided up among the major powers, meeting at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. This was when Luxembourg was created as an independent political entity. It was made a Grand Duchy, and attributed to the King of the Netherlands, William I of Orange-Nassau. Despite this rise in status, the Grand Duchy was obliged to cede to Prussia the Eifel area and a vast area to the east of the Moselle, Sûre and Our rivers.
1839 It was not until 1839, with the Treaty of London, that the Grand Duchy took on its present day form. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg remained under the sovereignty of the House of Orange-Nassau, but acquired its own administration, and the Belgian part of Luxembourg became a province of Belgium.
1890 The personal union with the Netherlands did not end until 1890, with the death of William III. Adolphe of Nassau-Weilbourg became Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The country then had its own dynasty.
20th century

The end of neutrality, and the Grand Duchy's role in the construction of Europe

  • Despite its neutrality, the Grand Duchy was invaded by the German army during both World Wars, on 2 August 1914 and 10 May 1940.
  • During the second invasion, Grand Duchess Charlotte and the government went into exile and the country was subjected to occupation by the Nazis. On 10 September 1944, Luxembourg City was liberated by American troops. During the Ardennes offensive (the Battle of the Bulge), German forces devastated the north and east of the country (between December 1944 and February 1945).
  • After the Second World War, the Grand Duchy abandoned neutrality and took its place in the international community which came into being after 1945. It is a founding member of the UN (1945), Benelux (1947), NATO (1949), the ECSC (1951), the EEC and Euratom (Treaties of Rome) (1958), etc.
  • The accession to the throne of Grand Duke Jean in 1964 coincided with an era of exceptional prosperity. Grand Duke Jean abdicated in 2000 in favour of his son, Henri.
  • 2014 marks the 175th anniversary of the Grand Duchy's independence.

For more information read our pages about the history of the Grand Duchy!

Some famous people who passed through the Grand Duchy

The following famous people visited Luxembourg:


Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) French engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban directed operations for the armies of France's King Louis XIV besieging Luxembourg's fortress in 1684.
Jean Racine (1639-1699) Great French playwright Jean Racine passed through Luxembourg in 1687 as Louis XIV's historiographer and inspector of Luxembourg's fortress.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe(1749-1832) German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed in Luxembourg's fortress on two occasions in 1792.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner painted a good number of views of Luxembourg's fortress during his two visits, in 1826 and 1834.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer Victor Hugo produced a number of drawings during his stay in Vianden, in the Ardennes.
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862) Dutch landscape artist Barend Cornelis Koekkoek painted a series of landscapes depicting the Grand Duchy in the 1840s.
Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900) For 25 years, Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy lived with his Luxembourgish wife at Colpach castle, the couple's summer residence. The most important painter in 19th-century Hungary was constantly painting the surroundings of the castle and the inhabitants of the village.
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) Hungarian composer Franz Liszt also stayed in Colpach some time before his death. He gave his last piano recital, on 19 July 1886, at the 'Casino Bourgeois' in Luxembourg City.
André Gide (1869-1951) French Nobel Prize in Literature winner André Gide was among the guests of the famous 'Colpach circle', centred on Aline and Emile Mayrisch, which brought together the European cultural icons of the early 1920s at Colpach castle.
Paul Almasy (1906-2003)

Franco-Hungarian Paul Almasy, one of the greatest photo reporters of the 20th century, took hundreds of photographs of the Grand Duchy during his many stays in the country.

Symbols

The symbols of a State represent and symbolise not only the identity of its people and its sovereignty, but also its desire to 'live together'. The symbols of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg are:

drapeaulux

The National Flag

The national flagconsists of three horizontal stripes in red, white, and sky blue. Although the flags of the Grand Duchy and the Netherlands are very similar, the distinguishing feature of the Dutch flag is its ultramarine blue stripe, whereas the blue on the Grand Duchy's flag is sky blue.

Like the national coat of arms, the Grand Duchy's flag is protected by the Law of 23 June 1972 on national emblems.

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The National Anthem

The national anthem (legally protected since 1993) consists of the first and last verses of the song 'Ons Heemecht' (our homeland), dating from 1859, with words by the poet Michel Lentz and set to music by Jean-Antoine Zinnen. Played in public for the first time at a major ceremony in Ettelbruck in 1864, the national anthem expresses the country's immense joy at finally becoming independent, and celebrates its peacefulness and prosperity.

Only the government has the right to translate the national anthem. Translations into a number of languages are available online on this portal:

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The 'Wilhelmus', the anthem of the grand ducal house.

The 'Wilhelmus' is the anthem of the grand ducal house. It is heard whenever a member of the grand-ducal family arrives at or leaves an official ceremony. It takes its inspiration from a trumpet sounding or a cavalry fanfare; there is no written trace thereof prior to the 16th century.

En amont de la fête nationale

National Day: 23 June

The National Day has been celebrated on 23 June each year since 1962: it is the public celebration of the sovereign's birthday, regardless of the actual date of his or her birthday (grand ducal order of 23 December 1961). Every year it attracts tens of thousands of Luxembourgers, foreign residents and tourists.

Les petites armoiries

Coat of arms

The origins of the Grand Duchy's coat of arms date back to the Middle Ages. There are three grades of the Grand Duchy's coat of arms: the small coat of arms, the medium coat of arms and the great coat of arms. They are protected by the Law of 23 June 1972 on national emblems.

Inscription

National motto

'Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn' (We want to remain what we are) The motto is taken from a song entitled 'De Feierwôn' (the chariot of fire) written by national poet Michel Lentz to mark the inauguration of the railway in 1859. It has become a true national song.

Other objects of great symbolic importance

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The red lion, as represented on the blue and white striped flag Luxembourgers bring out for sports events, or in a stylised form on biometric passports;
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The 'Gëlle Fra' (Golden Lady) — the monument with its statue of a golden lady on the Place de la Constitution in Luxembourg City — is considered to be a symbol of Luxembourgish identity.
  • Updated 30-01-2017