Sunday, May 8, 2016

Luxarazzi 101: The House of Luxembourg

From time to time, it happens that the Grand Ducal Family is mistakingly identified as the "House of Luxembourg" when, of course, they are Nassau-Weilburgs. This confusion might be because there actually was a very noble house by the name of Luxembourg, some centuries ago. With Grand Duke Henri's travels to Prague coming up soon, we thought it would be a good time as any to have a look at the medieval House of Luxembourg.

While the best known members of the House actually lived many years later, their history begins with the House of Limburg-Arlon, which they are a cadet branch of. They even claimed to be of descent of the water spirit Melusine through a connection to the earlier Siegfried, Count of the Ardennes and the first recognized ruler of Luxembourg.

Photo: Henry V, the Blond
Henry, or Henri, the son of Waleran III, Duke of Limburg, inherited the title "Count of Luxembourg" in 1247. Henry was Waleran's third son (and sixth child), but he was the eldest son by Waleran's second marriage to Countess Ermesinde of Luxembourg, the heir of Henry IV, Count of Luxembourg. Henry IV was himself of the House of Namur, but he descended from an earlier House of Luxembourg, ruling from the 10th century, on his mother's Ardenne-Verdun side.

Waleran ruled alongside Ermesinde with the Luxembourg title, but then she went on to rule Luxembourg by herself for around 20 years, passing the Count of Luxembourg title to her eldest son Henry, who became Count Henry V of Luxembourg (known as "Henry the Blond").

Photo: Countess Ermesinde
of Luxembourg
Henry's eldest son inherited the Count of Luxembourg title to become Henry VI, but he and his brother Waleran (Count of Ligny and Roussy) would both die 7 years later in the Battle of Worringen, fought for the control of Limburg. Henry VI's son would assume the title of Henry VII.

This particular Henry, as it happens, went on to gain where his predecessors had lost. He married Margaret of Brabant, the daughter of John I, Duke of Brabant (who, as it turns out, had killed his father and uncle during the Battle of Worringen). This marriage was intended to smooth over the political problems arising from the dispute over Limburg, but it also seems to have been a happy union. Margaret can hardly have been disappointed when her husband, the Count of Luxembourg, was elevated to the position of Roman-German King (or King of the Romans), in 1308. Alas, she didn't live quite long enough to see him gain the title of Holy Roman Emperor in 1312.

Henry VII and Margaret's eldest son John (known as "the Blind") inherited the Luxembourg title and would go on to achieve his own fame as King of Bohemia as a result of his marriage to Elisabeth, the daughter of King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. We've explored John the Blind further in earlier Luxarazzi 101 post.

Photo: Charles IV, c. 1370
As it happens, John the Blind would not succeed his father as Holy Roman Emperor, as the Electors found the House of Luxembourg's rising star to be something of a concern. They could not keep the Luxembourg counts from glory, however, as John's son Charles (born Wenceslaus) would become King of Bohemia in 1346, and assume the title Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1355. He would also become King of Italy in 1355 and King of Burgundy in 1365. Of course, he held the title of Count of Luxembourg as well.

Charles IV is remembered primarily for the Golden Bull of 1356, which established the structure and succession of the Holy Roman Empire for the next 400 years. Additionally, he is credited with ushering in the Golden Age of Bohemia, which lasted until his death in 1378.

Charles married four times, producing more than 10 children. His son Wenceslaus would become King of Bohemia and King of the Romans, but was deposed due to political disagreements. Charles's daughter Anne went on to marry the unfortunate King Richard II of England. Charles's younger son Sigismund would assume his brother's title as King of Bohemia, as well as King of Hungary, Italy, and Croatia, and Roman-German King; and he was elected to Holy Roman Emperor in 1433. He was also known as the "ginger fox" because of his red hair.

Photo: Sigismund, the "Ginger Fox"
Despite rising in lofty titles, Sigismund is typically identified as the last male member of the House of Luxembourg: he left no male heirs, but rather a daughter Elizabeth who would be forced to take second place as consort while her husband (the Habsburg Archduke Albert V of Austria, also known as Albert II, Duke of Luxembourg) was elevated to the ruling role in her inherited titles. Her son Ladislaus was born shortly after Albert's death and spent the majority of his 17 years fighting for titles he would not hold for long.

Meanwhile back in Luxembourg, the title of Count of Luxembourg underwent some evolution. Sigismund's younger brother John became the first and only Duke of Görlitz. He failed to produce a son and was possibly poisoned when he was only 25. (No doubt, he was not the most popular figure given his role in expelling the Jewish residents from Görlitz).

John did, however, leave a daughter, Elisabeth, who became the Duchess Regnant of Luxembourg between the years 1411 and 1443. Luxembourg, as it turns out, had been mortgaged to her by her uncle Sigismund, after he found himself in debt, and she assumed rightful control. She would also find herself in debt in later years, and made an agreement in 1441 with Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, to take over the Duchy after her death. Philip apparently couldn't wait that long as in 1443 he invaded and assumed control, sending Elisabeth out of Luxembourg permanently.

Ultimately, the Habsburg family would be recognized as heirs in Luxembourg, and they would retain that hold until Empress Maria Teresa's death in 1780. After Sigismund, there was a recognition under the Salic Law that the succession could pass to the cadet Ligny branch, but that branch, headed by Louis de Luxembourg (also Count of Saint-Pol), ended when he was executed for treason by the King of France.

Other members of the House of Luxembourg were politically ambitious, if not able to hold the primary title. Louis de Luxembourg's sister Jacquetta went on to become the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, later the wife of King Edward IV of England and the mother of Edward V (and his brother Richard, the famed Princes in the Tower). Elizabeth Woodville was also the mother of Elizabeth of York, who would marry Henry Tudor (later King Henry VII) and become the mother of King Henry VIII.

Additionally, Louis de Luxembourg's uncle John II of Luxembourg, also Count de Ligny, is remembered for his alliance with the English during the Hundred Years' War. He held Joan of Arc as prisoner and later sold her to the English who had her executed. His death in 1441 transferred the Ligny and Saint-Pol titles to his nephew who held them until his execution in 1475.

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