History & Background
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, bordered by France, Germany, and Belgium in Western Europe, became an independent country in 1890. Although a relatively new nation, Luxembourg has a very ancient history that can be traced back to the time of Julius Caesar when the Romans in 54 and 51 B.C.E defeated the Treveri people, the original inhabitants of modern Luxembourg. The country's history was influenced by the competing needs of the Roman Catholic Church and the ruling dynasties of the Holy Roman Empire and Imperial Germany with those of royal and republican France for the population's souls and land.
Christianity was introduced into Luxembourg in the seventh century B.C.E., when the Roman Catholic Church founded a group of Benedictine monasteries between 633 and 721. The feudal County of Luxembourg was awarded in 963, to Siegfried, a relative of Wigerik, a Palace Count serving Charles the Simple, a member of the Carolingian Dynasty that governed France. For two centuries the descendants of Wigerik and Siegfried of the House of Ardennes, governed the region that would become modern Luxembourg in fealty to Saxon and Salian Holy Roman Emperors. The first dynasty Luxembourg counts became extinct in 1136. The title and lands were awarded to Henry IV of Namur, who founded Luxembourg's second dynasty. With the arrival of political stability Luxembourg became home to the Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan, and the Penitents monastic orders and the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Knights.
In the fourteenth century, the Counts of Luxembourg increased the dynasty's international prestige by advantageous political marriages and battlefield heroics as allies of France's kings in territorial and religious wars in Europe and Africa. The feudal alliances paid off with the election of Henry of Luxembourg as Holy Roman Emperor in 1308. Although reigning only five years before succumbing to a fever, Henry represented the highest ideals of feudal Europe's chivalric code. For the next four generations, Henry's male descendants ruled as Kings of Bohemia. Two great-grandsons, Wenceslas and Sigismund, were elected Holy Roman Emperors. Henry's bloodline entered the royal houses of France and Burgundy when his granddaughter Bonne married King John the Good of France. In the sixteenth century the County of Luxembourg was incorporated into the Burgundy inheritance awarded Charles V, King of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor, and Duke of Luxembourg, as the Spanish Netherlands.
During the Middle Ages education in Luxembourg was under the clerical control of the Benedictine Order at Munster Abbey, founded in 1083. Educational authority was temporarily transferred to the suburb of Grund during the Counterreformation period, but was restored to the Roman Catholic Church in the seventeenth century when a Jesuit College was built in Luxembourg in 1603. The Capuchin Fathers came to Luxembourg in 1621 and offered education to garrisoned soldiers. In 1627, the Congregation of Notre Dame from Lorraine founded a chapter in Luxembourg and assumed responsibility for the education of girls. The Sisters of Notre Dame continue to staff and administer Luxembourg's private girls schools.
From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Luxembourg was fought over in dynastic wars by either the French Bourbon or Bonaparte dynasties with the Austrian Habsburgs. French King Louis XIV won Luxembourg on the battlefield and governed it until 1713, when the Treaty of Utrecht awarded Luxembourg to the Habsburgs as part of the Austrian Netherlands. During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, Luxembourg was once again incorporated into France. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 ceded the Duchy of Luxembourg in personal union to the King of the Netherlands, the head of the House of Nassau-Orange. The United Netherlands of Catholics and Calvinists barely lasted fifteen years before Catholic Flemish-speaking and Walloon (Frenchspeaking) citizens in the southern part of the country rebelled against the Calvinist Dutch in the north, gaining independence in 1830 as the new country of Belgium. By treaty in 1830, Luxembourg was split into a Walloon section that merged with modern Belgium, while the predominately German-speaking section remained a sovereign grand duchy in personal union with the King of the Netherlands, but a member state within German economic and political organizations.
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