History

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Luxembourg

 

Luxembourg is the world’s only sovereign Grand Duchy, one of several particularities originating from its long history. The country’s very existence in the 21st century can actually be traced back to the year 963, when Count Siegfried of the Ardennes decided to build Lucilinburhuc Castle on a rock he had acquired before. You can visit the remains of Lucilinburhuc Castle on the bock promontory, in the Old Centre of Luxembourg City.

The location of the castle was of strategic importance, overseeing trade routes between Western and Eastern Europe. It quickly grew into a major fortress soon to be called the ‘Gibraltar of the North’. Territories surrounding it were gradually assimilated, turning the country into an independent Duchy by the 14th century.

Luxembourg changed hands several times over the centuries, with European powers (Burgundy, Spain, Austria, France, Prussia) fighting for control of its fortress. Wedged between the German Empire and the French Kingdom, and thanks to its massive fortress, the Duchy of Luxembourg was virtually assured of never being annexed by either. Instead, it remained a pawn in the strategic game being played out between Europe’s major powers until 1867, when the fortress was razed following a near war between the German and French Empires.

 

The Duchy of Luxembourg became a Grand Duchy in 1815, before gaining its formal independence in 1839. With a background dominated largely by agriculture and having lost its strategic military importance, the country quickly entered the industrial age with the development of the steel industry. Following World War II and the slow but steady decline of the steel industry, the development of the banking sector was encouraged. The financial sector remains Luxembourg’s main economic asset today, as is clearly visible when you take a walk through the streets of Luxembourg City or Kirchberg.

Luxembourg is one of six founding members of the European Union, which was established in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community. The town of Schengen, on the border with France and Germany, is also situated in Luxembourg. Schengen has gained worldwide fame for hosting the signing ceremony of the Schengen Agreement in 1985. The ensuing Schengen Area operates very much like a single area for international travel, with external border controls for people travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.