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House of Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Dynasty was founded in 963, when Siegfried, the Count of Ardennes, acquired a castle that became the core of Luxembourg. The name Lucilinburhuc, meaning "small castle", materialised for the first time in an exchange charter around 963. With this document, Count Siegfried acquired from the abbey of St Maximin in Trier a small fort (castellum quod dicitur Lucilinburhuc) located on the rocky outcrop of the Bock, which dominates the valley of the Alzette. Siegfried, who held rich possessions in the Forest of Ardennes, acquired the Castellum Lucilini (supposed to have been built by the Romans) with the lands in its vicinity, and styled himself Graf von Lützelburg. At the time, this territory was part of the western fringe of the Holy Roman Empire.

The family castle of Luxem bourg (or Lutzel Burg, the little fortress) lay embosomed in deep forests, little known to the world in general, but famous in its own neighbourhood for the wild legends which were related of its possessors. The founder of the family had brought home to his castle a beautiful bride who bore him many children; the only interruption to their happiness was a mysterious stipulation of the countess, that once in seven days she should be allowed to remain in her own apartments without being seen by any one. For some years the count restrained his curiosity, but at last in an evil hour he watched her narrowly, and found that his wife was one of those water-demons called Nixies, who every seven days are compelled to resume the form of a fish.

When Siegfried established himself on the Bock, he owned land along the rivers of the Moselle, the Sûre and the Alzette, as well as in the Ardennes. Nevertheless, his possessions remained scattered. The County of Luxembourg, as a territorial principality, was a creation of Siegfried's descendants. Conrad I (deceased in 1086) was the first to explicitly bear the title of comes de Luccelemburc.

The last of Siegfried's male descendents, Conrad II, died about 1126. His dominions passed first to the counts of Namur and subsequently to Ermesinde, who reigned from 1196 to 1247. She was especially noted for the impulse she gave to religious life by the foundation of monasteries. Her son and successor, Henry V (1247-81), showed the influence of his noble mother. He took part in Saint Louis's crusade against Tunis. His successor, Henry VI, remained until nearly 1288 at war near Woringen. His wife, Beatrice, had borne him two sons, both of whom attained the highest honours and excellence: Baldwin, afterwards Archbishop of Trier, and Henry, who obtained the Roman imperial crown as Henry VII (1309).

The fortified castle Lucilinburhuc became the anchor point from which territorial assembling took place during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Territory expansion was achieved through marriages, land purchases, vassalage ties and, above all, through war. The counts of Luxembourg succeeded in defeating their rivals, despite suffering occasional setbacks, such as the Battle of Worringen (1288), during which Count Henry VI and three of his brothers fell, mortally wounded. At the end of the 13th century, the County of Luxembourg occupied a vast area between the Meuse and the Moselle, with the particularity of straddling the linguistic border, with one part being German-speaking, the other French-speaking.

During the early 14th century, the house of Luxembourg acceded to the imperial throne. In 1308, Count Henry VII was elected king of Germany by the prince-electors at the instigation of his brother Baudouin, archbishop of Trier, and by Pierre d'Aspelt, archbishop of Mayence, also of Luxembourg origin. A papal legate crowned him emperor in Rome in 1312. His son, John the Blind, married the heiress to the Kingdom of Bohemia and assumed the title of king of Bohemia. A model knight, he died a hero's death in the service of the king of France in the Battle of Crécy in 1346.

Following Henry VII, three further members of the Luxembourg dynasty in succession were to wear the royal or even the imperial crown: Charles IV (1346-1378), Wenceslaus (1376-1400) and Sigismund (1410-1437). In 1354, Charles IV elevated the County of Luxembourg to the rank of duchy. It achieved its greatest expansion with the acquisition of the County of Chiny in 1364. For hundreds of years henceforth the sovereign would be known as Duke of Luxembourg and Count of Chiny.

Elizabeth of Gorlitz was the only daughter of John of Luxembourg, duke of Gorlitz and marquis of Brandebourg, brother of the emperor Sigismund. After tbe death of her first husband, Anthony of Burgundy, duke of Brabant and of Luxembourg, who was slain at Azincourt in 1415, she married in 1419 John of Bavaria, who thereupon placed his bishopric of Liège in the hands of pope Martin V. By this marriage he became duke of Luxembourg. His death occurred on 6 January 1425.

With the accession to the royal and imperial rank, the Luxembourgs ended up paying increasingly less heed to their land of origin. The advancement of the reigning family brought no advantage to the country, as the counts wandered farther and farther from home, and concerned themselves only with the affairs of the Empire or the Kingdom of Bohemia. They endeavored to compensate for this in a measure by raising Luxemburg to a duchy, which was ceded to lords on mortgage terms in return for loans, but could not prevent part of it from crumbling away, and the whole (1444) falling to Burgundy by conquest. Its destiny was to be linked to this geographical and political ensemble for the subsequent four centuries.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:56 ZULU