175 years of independence in Luxembourg
April 19, 2014, marks 175 years of independence in Luxembourg. But, while Luxembourg struck out on its own when it signed the Treaty of London in 1839, the Grand Duchy was actually created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna.
The conference of ambassadors of European states held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815, reorganised Europe following the defeat of Napoleon. The result was that it recreated Luxembourg as part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands, whose monarch would be sovereign of the independent Grand Duchy.
The Netherlands King, Grand Duke William I of the House of Orange-Nassau, ruled Luxembourg as another province of the Netherlands. Inhabitants of this poor region lived almost entirely from agriculture and were impoverished through excessive taxes.
So, it was little wonder when Luxembourgers from the western, French-speaking area took the side of the Belgians when they rose up in 1830 against the government in The Hague.
Belgium belonged to the Habsburgs of the Netherlands in the same way as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and so the people shared a historical solidarity.
William I was not happy with Belgium's unilateral declaration of independence and was even less happy for Belgium to swallow up Luxembourg.
Pressures led to a meeting between the major powers of the time: France, Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia at a conference in London in 1839. There, William I, reluctantly accepted the compromise imposed on him.
Luxembourg was to be divided between the Netherlands and Belgium, leaving just 170,000 people living in the Grand Duchy under the rule of the King and Grand Duke (160,000 Luxembourgers became Belgian citizens in the Belgian Province of Luxembourg). Interestingly, the area around Arlon was not initially to be included in the annexation, however, it is said the French made this happen in a bid not to lose the road network to Liège (the Arlon-Bastogne road), with which it had strong ties.
Citizens of Luxembourg later gained a say in politics when William I abdicated in favour of his son, William II.
The economy was slow to take off but eventually, Luxembourg received a constitution in the revolutionary year of 1848, laying the foundations for democracy and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg we know today.
Elements translated from an article by Jean-Louis Scheffen
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