Saturday, February 23, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Château de Berg

Château de Berg, Schloss Berg or Schlass Bierg are the names of the very same castle located on the westside of the town of Colmar-Berg in central Luxembourg in the country's three official languages.

The first mentions of the estate, or the Lordship of Berg(he) respectively, go back as far as 1311. In the following centuries, the Lordship often changed as a result of divisions of the estate due to inheritance.

There are some mentions of an even older castle by the same name nearby but the origins of the Château de Berg that would eventually end up in the hands of the Grand Ducal Family can be found in the 15th century. In the 18th century, the castle got a baroque make-over.

The old Château de Berg (Vermoncken, 1874)

In 1820, Baron Alphonse Claude du Pasquier, a Luxembourgish nobleman and industrialist, and his father-in-law Joseph de Blochhausen bought the Château de Berg. Ten years later, the Belgian Revolution broke out and ended with the secession of the southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. 

While Belgium got a new king from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the House of Orange-Nassau continued their reign in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as King-Grand Duke in personal union.

Due to the division of the two territories, the protestant rulers slowly but steadily lost their control over the Fortress of Luxembourg and thus King William II of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg decided to look for a suitable residence in the Grand Duchy in order to appease the traditionally Catholic population.

In 1845, he bought the Château de Berg from the Pasquier family. Three years later, the castle was recognised as the exclusive home of the Grand Duke by the new constitution. Between 1850 and 1879, the castle, under the reign of Grand Duke William III, got yet another make-over, this time in neo-gothic style. During the same period of time, the castle was inhabited by Prince Henry of the Netherlands, brother of William III and governor of Luxembourg.

When William III died without leaving a male heir in 1890, the House of Orange-Nassau became extinct in male line and the throne of the Grand Duchy passed to another branch of the House of Nassau, the Nassau-Weilburg's.

The new Grand Duke Adolphe purchased all the Dutch private estates from the Dutch crown in 1891, among them the castle in Berg. The same year his son and heir who would later become Grand Duke Guillaume / Wilhelm IV moved into the castle, two years later he married Infanta Maria Ana of Portugal. Five of the couple's six daughters, among them Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde and Grand Duchess Charlotte, were born there.

Demolition of the old castle (1906)

In 1906 after ascending to the throne a year earlier, Grand Duke Guillaume / Wilhelm IV demolished the old castle to replace it by a building better suited to the needs of the time. A year later, the construction of new castle started. The inspiration for its architecture were taken from Schloss Weilburg in the former Duchy of Nassau and home of the family for a long time. While the plans came from Munich-based architect Max Ostenrieder, the works are actually largely carried out by Luxembourgish architect Pierre Funck-Eydt. The main feature of the new castle is a 65m high dungeon.

In 1911 the construction of the castle is completed and the family moved into their new home on 15th September. Berg subsequently became the primary residence of the Grand Ducal Family. Between 1921 and 1929, all the six children of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix were born there.

The new Château de Berg

In 1934, Grand Duchess Charlotte sold the Château de Berg to the state at an underestimated price. While the castle remains an official residence of the Grand Ducal Family, the state now covers all the costs.

The acquisition of castle included the building itself as well as an surrounding area of eight hectares with large sheds, stables, greenhouses, dependencies, namely two garages, laundry room with iron,
orangery (cold greenhouses), central electric diesel engines, fourteen staff houses and about one third of the furniture of the castle. The state paid about 20 million francs, while experts had evaluated a price of 22 million francs just for the estate alone.

The furnishings of the castle included porcelain, furniture, silver and a grand chandelier that were part of the historic dowry of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, the first wife of Grand Duke Adolph of Luxembourg.

The proceeds of the sale were used to meet the operating expenses of the House of Nassau-Weilburg. Urban legend says that Grand Duchess Charlotte had to sell the castle as well as parts of the Grünewald estate to cover the costs of her husband's alleged gambling addiction or that he lost the Grünewald himself at a casino. This, however, is not true as shown by government documents.

During the Second World War, Luxembourg was occupied by Nazi-Germany and so was the castle. In May 1940, civil administration moved into the castle and later one of the National Political Institutes of Education for Girls, an elite school. During this time, many alterations to the castle were made and caused a lot of damage. Large parts of the furniture and art collections were either destroyed or stolen and sold.

The castle today (Photos: Cour grand-ducale (right), Guy Binsfeld (left))

After the war, lengthy restoration and renovations took place. Out of personal preferences, Grand Duchess Charlotte decided to make the Château de Fischbach - about which we are going to talk about at a later date - her primary residence even after the completion of said renovations.

Since 1948, Article 44 of the Luxembourgish constitution states, that "The Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg and the Château de Berg are reserved for the residence of the Grand Duke."

Grand Duke Jean and his family moved into the castle when he ascended to the throne in 1964. He and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte lived there until the summer of 2002 when they moved into the Château de Fischbach and Grand Duke Henri and his family into the Château de Berg. About two years beforehand, the castle had undergone renovations once again.


  1. Hello,
    Prince Henry of the Netherlands lived in the castle of Walferdange, today a suburb of Luxembourg-city.
    Not all 6 princesses were born in Berg, Antonia was born at the castle of Hohenburg in Bavaria (7th October 1899).

  2. He must have had several residences then.

    Yes, you're right about Hilda, must have had confused it with Charlotte and Felix's.