Travel Through History: Why Is Luxembourg So Rich?

A story of struggle and self-identity, how Luxembourg became the seat of European wealth and history.

When considering the hereditary monarchies of the world, the British Royal Family is likely the first that comes to mind. While they are the most influential figures on the world stage or in pop culture, there are indeed other ruling families in the European Union.

Nestled between France, Germany and Belgium, Luxembourg is one of the few duchies left in Europe. Today, it has established itself as a center of wealth and culture, but this country has struggled to self-identify and maintain its sovereignty from its neighbors.

Why Is Luxembourg So Rich
Image by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

The land that eventually became Luxembourg has a long history of struggle and survival. The remains of the oldest inhabitants date back as far as 5,140 BCE, but settlement traces are considered much older.

The first identifiable people of the land were the Teveri tribe. This Celtic group established themselves mainly in their capital, Titelberg, in present-day west Luxembourg until the Romans invaded around 58 to 51 BCE.

The land would remain part of the Roman Empire for the next 450 years, and although they technically conquered the land, there was peace. The turn of the 5th century, however, would mark the beginning of the rapid change of reign for the people of Luxembourg.

The kingdom of the Franks invaded in the early 400s. The Germanic language spoken by the settlers is considered one of the precursors of the modern-day Luxembourgish language. The region would be Christianized during this time as well.

Between the 800s and 900s, the territory would change hands between a couple of Frank kingdoms and one of the states of the Holy Roman Empire.

Why Is Luxembourg So Rich
Image by Manu on Unsplash

The territory would be called by its more familiar name when Sigfried, Count of Ardennes, acquired it. Though Luxembourg would still be considered a state of the Holy Roman Empire, Sigfried and his descendants would become the first dynasty of the country.

Once the state gained its leaders, it slowly rose to power and gained wealth. The Counts were also able to extend the borders of the state. This success peaked when Count Henry VII became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1312.

The next near century and a half would be the House of Luxembourg’s Golden Age. Three members became Holy Roman Emperors and Bohemian Kings. Finally, the state was promoted to a duchy spawning a new line of dukes.

This era of prosperity would abruptly end due to a lack of a male heir. The House and coordinating land were divided among the European aristocracy. What remained as the recognized Duchy of Luxembourg was given to the Burgundian Netherlands in 1443.

For the next 400 years, foreign rule would control the duchy, starting with the House of Habsburgs under Austria (1506-1556, 1714-1794) and later Spanish rule (1556-1714.) The French also conquered and lost Luxembourg a few times during this period.

France would later annex the duchy. This occupation brought much destruction, cultural changes, and a need for rebellion to the citizens. It was not until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 that the Duchy of Luxembourg was restored, but this did not bring the end of foreign rule until 1839.

Why Is Luxembourg So Rich
Image by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Around 1870, the country claimed neutrality and made moves to establish itself on the world stage as an independent player and build its economy. But the country’s complete independence would be realized once the Dutch monarchy went through a succession crisis, forcing them to forgo the title of Grand-Duke of Luxembourg to the country, reigniting its monarchy.

The country would struggle to re-establish its independence after being invaded by Imperial and Nazi Germany during the first and second World Wars.

When the global conflict officially ended, Luxembourg became the founding member of international groups, including NATO and what would later become the EU.

Today, Luxembourg is the wealthiest country in the EU, thanks to its booming industrial sector and diversified economy. This diversity also extends to the demographics of the population. Luxembourg definitely deserves a visit when traveling to Europe, but always remember to enroll in a CPR first aid course before your trip to be ahead of emergency situations.

Nearly half of Luxembourg’s population consists of foreign residents. Though meeting the standards for citizenship through naturalization takes time, other avenues are readily available for non-residents to live in the country temporarily. There are even opportunities for dual citizenship as well.

Tourism may not be the highest contributor to the country’s economy, but it is undoubtedly not far down on the list. As of 2018, the industry contributed almost 9% to the country’s GDP. Of course, this is no surprise, considering the country houses fascinating places like the Grand Ducal Palace and Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art.

Whether visiting for the grand architecture or the vast greenery, there is much cultural identity and history to appreciate in Luxembourg.

Jade Hargrove

Jade is a Georgia native who has enjoys trying new foods, podcasts, and long car rides with friends. She hopes to one day travel to every French-speaking country in the world to experience the different dialects and cultures that can be found around the world.

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