History of House Nassau-Weilburg


Christof Weber / SIP
Even if the origins of Luxembourg reach back to the 10th century, the reigning national dynasty only acceded to power in 1890. Between 1815 and 1890, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was ruled by the kings of the Netherlands in personal union. Even if the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was theoretically an independent state, the Dutch kings ruled the country factually as a province of the Netherlands. In 1890 William III, King of the Netherlands, passes away without a male heir.

Even if this is not a problem for the Dutch crown, the family pact of House Nassau dating from 1783 stipulates that the crown of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has to pass to a male descendant. Thus, while Wilhelmina of the Orange-Nassau branch succeeded her father on the Dutch throne, the crown of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg passed to the only male heir of House Nassau, Adolf of Nassau of the Nassau-Weilburg branch.

In 1905, William IV succeeded his father upon the latter's death. Having had six daughters by his marriage, he foresaw that succession might be problematic upon his death. In 1907, he thus passed a new family statute, according to which his eldest daughter, princess Marie-Adelaïde, was declared heir to the throne.

The reign of Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide

When William IV died in 1912, his eldest daughter Marie-Adelaïde succeeded her father. Contrary to the latter, she confirms her interests in political and social affairs and intervenes in political affairs. Even if she never overstepped the constitutionally fixed limits on her powers, her actions aroused the hostility of the opposition. Between 1914 and 1918, Luxembourg was occupied by German forces. The Grand Duchess did not oppose herself against the German war machine, in the interest of her people, for which she was criticised. In 1919, following revolutionary troubles, she abdicates in favour of her younger sister, Charlotte.

The reign of Grand Duchess Charlotte

Return from exile of the Grand Duchess Charlotte in 1945
Tony Krier / Photothèque de la Ville de Luxembourg
The reign of Grand Duchess Charlotte lasted from 1919 to 1964. Unlike her sister, she publicly stated her desire to remain above politics. The existence of the monarchy was confirmed in a referendum in 1919, in which 77.8% of Luxembourgers voted to keep the dynasty. From her marriage to prince Félix of Bourbon de Parme six children are issued, two sons and four daughters.

Her finest hour was between 1940 and 1944. At the beginning of the Second World War, German forces invaded Luxembourg, violating its neutrality. The Grand Duchess went into exile, accompanied by her family and the government. From France she passes via Spain to Portugal, the United States and eventually Great Britain, joined by the government. From her exile in London, she sends regular messages to the Luxembourg people via the BBC, encouraging the Luxembourgish resistance. The radio transmissions, which were listened to by many Luxembourgers despite the acute danger of having to suffer repressions, have become a symbol of resistance to the German occupation.

The reign of Grand Duke Jean

In 1964, Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in favour of her eldest son, Grand Duke Jean. Following his mother's lead, he remained above political affairs. He is regimental colonel of the Irish Guards, which he joined as a volunteer in 1942, during the Second World War. In 1953, he married princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium. From this union, five children were born, three sons and two daughters. During the 36 years of the reign of Grand Duke Jean, Luxembourg underwent many social and economic changes, among which the passage from an economy based on industry and agriculture, to a services-oriented economy.

The reign of Grand Duke Henri

In 2000, Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favour of his eldest son Henri, who became the head of the ruling House of Nassau-Weilburg. Prince Henri married Maria Teresa Mestre in 1981. From their union, 5 children are issued, the eldest of which is the Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, born in 1981. The grand ducal couple has four more children: prince Félix (b. 1984), prince Louis (b. 1986), princess Alexandra (b. 1991) and prince Sébastien (b. 1992).

  • Updated 28-04-2015