Sunday, April 28, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: The House of Nassau

On Tuesday, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands will be abdicating in favour of her oldest son, the current Prince of Orange, who will ascend to the throne as King Willem-Alexander. There are a whole lot of events planned for the occassion, for any details simply have a look at the website of Het Koninklijk Huis.

Most important for all Luxaholics will be the dinner hosted by Queen Beatrix on Monday evening, as well as the inauguration events of the new King on 30 April. Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie will be the ones representing Luxembourg at the events.

To gear up for the historic event - the Netherlands will get a king for the first time since 1890 - we will have our own little look at Dutch-Luxembourgish relations. Though I'm sure that you could write one, or rather many, posts about the two countries who were founding members of what has become the European Union and, together with Belgium, are often simply described as the Benelux countries. We are going to have a very royal look at things.

Once upon a time, there was a count who had many children. Two of those sons followed in their father's footsteps by sharing the rule over his realm in 1247. Eight years after taking over, they decided to divide their inheritance. Today that act is known as the Great Division of the House of Nassau, forming the senior Walram line and the junior Ottonian line. Fast forward almost 800 years, one of the lines reigns over the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the other one over the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

But let's start at the beginning. The first known member of the House of Nassau was Count Dudo of Laurenburg (ca. 1060 - ca. 1123) who is considered its founder. The family's properties at the time were located close to the Lahn river, an eastern tributary of the Rhine river in Germany. They took their first name from the Burg Laurenburg in today's north-east corner of Rhineland-Palatinate. In 1159, a dispute with the cathedral chapter of Worms was settled and the family received the Burg Nassau above Nassau, which, founded in AD 915, was the name given not only to the House of Nassau but thus various other places around the world.

Burg Nassau (Photo: Geo)
The aforementioned count was Count Heinrich II of Nassau, also called 'the Rich'. His two sons were Count Walram II and Count Otto I who co-reigned for eight years before deciding to divide their territory. The Lahn river served as the border and Count Otto I got Siegen, Herborn, Dillenburg and Ginsberg north of the river, while Count Walram II got Weilburg, Idstein and Sonnenberg, which at the time was pledged to Otto I, located to the south. They continued to co-own a few properties such as Nassau and Laurenburg.

Even though the House was divided into different branches - at times more, at other times less - they always considered themselves to be part of a larger dynasty. The House of Nassau was considered one of the biggest but due to its many branches enormously weakened dynasty in Europe.

There were the Nassau-Weilburg, the Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein, Nassau-Saarbrücken and Nassau-Usingen and more in the Walramian line, and the Nassau-Dillenburg, Nassau-Beilstein, Nassau-Hadamar, Nassau-Siegen and Nassau-Dietz plus a few others in the Ottonian. All the branches intermarried and died out, lines merged or new ones emerged; it would simply be too complicated to cover it all.

Grand Duke Adolph
The two most important branches of the House of Nassau were the House of Nassau-Weilburg, descending from the Walram line, and the House of Orange-Nassau, stemming from the Ottonian line. Because of aforementioned complicatedness and length, we will have a look at the history of the two branches in fast motion to give you a general idea.

At the end of the 13th century, the Nassau-Weilburg line provided a Roman-German king. Four centuries later in 1806, the counties of Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg merged under the pressure of Napoleon into the Duchy of Nassau. The Duchy was co-reigned by the head of the Usingen branch, Friedrich August who became the Duke but had no heirs, and the head of the Weilburg branch, Friedrich Wilhelm who was given the title Prince of Nassau. Friedrich Wilhelm's son, Wilhelm, being the heir of both branches, would become the first Duke of Nassau from the House of Nassau Weilburg in 1816.

Duke Wilhelm's oldest son and heir Duke Adolph sided with the Austrian Empire in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and after Austria had lost the war, the Duchy of Nassau was annexed by Prussia. But fate intervened and after many years, in 1890 Adolph became Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

The year 1890 might sound familiar to you as it has actually been mentioned in this post before. It was the year that the Netherlands last had a king.

The House of Orange-Nassau was as a result of the marriage of Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda (also Nassau-Dillenburg-Dietz) and Claudia of Châlon-Orange. In 1530, their son René inherited the Principality of Orange from his uncle though, as per his uncle's wish, he continued to use the name Châlon-Orange. It was his cousin and heir Willem I, Prince of Orange from the House of Nassau-Dillenburg who was the first one to call his line Orange-Nassau.

King-Grand Duke William III
In 1815, Willem VI, Prince of Orange declared himself King Willem of the Netherlands and the very same year the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to be governed in personal union with the Netherlands, was been formed during the Congress of Vienna. King Willem I as well as his son Willem II and his grandson Willem III thus governed both countries.

In 1890, King-Grand Duke Willem III died without a male heir. While the Kingdom of the Netherlands was inherited by his daughter Wilhelmina, the Grand Duchy of Nassau went to his seventeenth cousin once removed, the former Duke Adolph of Nassau thus dissolving the personal union between the two monarchies due to different laws of succession.

Already in 1783, the two lines had formed the Nassauischer Erbverein, a family pact, which covered the areas of inheritance and succession. It stated that if one line of the House of Nassau became extinct in male line, the other one succeed. It was also agreed that the pact would be applied to those territories owned or acquired in the then Holy Roman Empire. Even though Luxembourg had been acquired after the pact was formed and even after the Holy Roman Empire came to its end, it was still part of the German Confederation which was considered as the Empire's successor.

On this basis, the Grand Duchy was inherited by the House of Nassau-Weilburg. While there were efforts to change the Luxembourgish law of succession so that a female could inherit the throne, it is generally said that King Willem III's wife, Queen Emma, a niece of Duke Adolph had campaigned against such a change so that her uncle would once again become a sovereign.

Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, Queen Beatrix, Grand
Duchess Maria Teresa and Grand Duke Henri last year
(Photo: Luc Deflorenne / SIP / Cour grand ducale)
In 1912, when Grand Duke Adolph's son Grand Duke Guillaume IV died without leaving a male heir, the House of Nassau-Weilburg died out in male line as well. After changes in the Luxembourgish laws were made, his oldest daughter succeeded him on the throne as Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde who was followed on the throne by her sister, Grand Duchess Charlotte, who was succeeded by her son Grand Duke Jean and then Grand Duke Henri.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina was succeeded by her daughter Queen Juliana who was followed by her daughter Queen Beatrix. On Tuesday, the country will once again get a king, the first one in 123 years when the House of Nassau-Weilburg became regents of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

1 comment:

  1. Grand Duke Guillaume IV died in 1912 not in 1907 !