The language of Luxembourg is Luxembourgish, a blend of Dutch, old German,
and Frankish elements. The official language of the civil service, law,
and parliament is French, although criminal and legal debates are conducted
partly in Luxembourgish and police case files are recorded in German. German
is the primary language of the press. French and German are taught in the
schools, with German spoken mainly at the primary level and French at the
The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "The first written account of
this country and people is found in the fifth book of Cæsar's "Commentarii
de Bello Gallico". On the Lower Moselle and its tributaries dwelt at that
time (53 B.C.) the powerful race of the Treviri, who, in alliance with
the people under their protection (for example the Eburones under Ambiorix),
at first gave the Romans great trouble, but they were soon compelled to
yield to superior numbers and gradually attained the highest civilization.
Under Emperor Constantine (323-337) Trier (Augusta Trevirorum) became the
capital of the province Belgica prima, and later the residence of the prefects
of Gaul. The Christian Faith was introduced at a very early period. Since
316 the town was the see of a bishop. As more than half of the subsequent
Duchy of Lorraine belonged for centuries to the Diocese of Trier, it is
a logical conclusion that the Christianization of the Ardennes proceeded
principally from there. During the Germanic migration the north-eastern
provinces of the Roman Empire suffered greatly. Devastated and depopulated,
they were occupied by the victorious Franks. In the division of Charlemagne's
empire (843) the provinces in question fell to the share of the Emperor
Lothair. In the middle of the tenth century (963?) the feudal lord, Siegfried,
who held rich possessions in the Forest of Ardennes, acquired the Castellum
Lucilini (supposed to have been built by the Romans) with the lands in
its vicinity, and styled himself Graf von Lützelburg. From the marriage
of this great and good man descended Empress Saint Cunigunde, wife of Henry
II, the Saint."
"The last of Siegfried's male descendents, Conrad II, died about 1126.
His dominions passed first to the counts of Namur and subsequently to Ermesinde,
who reigned from 1196 to 1247. She was especially noted for the impulse
she gave to religious life by the foundation of monasteries. Her son and
successor, Henry V (1247-81), showed the influence of his noble mother.
He took part in Saint Louis's crusade against Tunis. His successor, Henry
VI, remained until nearly 1288 at war near Woringen. His wife, Beatrice,
had borne him two sons, both of whom attained the highest honours and excellence:
Baldwin, afterwards Archbishop of Trier, and Henry, who obtained the Roman
imperial crown as Henry VII (1309). The advancement of the reigning family
brought no advantage to the country, as the counts wandered farther and
farther from home, and concerned themselves only with the affairs of the
Empire or the Kingdom of Bohemia. They endeavoured to compensate for this
in a measure by raising Luxemburg to a duchy, but could not prevent part
of it from crumbling away and the whole (1444) falling to Burgundy by conquest.
From the House of Valois, which became extinct on the death of Charles
the Bold, in 1477, the country passed to Austria, and was subject to the
Spanish Habsburgs (1556-1714); then to the German Habsburgs (1714-95),
and finally to the French (until 1814)."
After the overthrow of Napoleon, better times began for Luxemburg. The
Congress of Vienna decided that as an appendage of the newly created Kingdom
of the Netherlands with the rank of grand duchy, it should become a part
of the German Confederation. June 9, 1815, after 400 years of domination
by various European nations, Luxembourg was made a grand duchy by the Congress
of Vienna. It was granted political autonomy in 1838 under King William
I of the Netherlands, who also was the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The country
considers 1835 to be its year of independence. In 1867, Luxembourg was
recognized as independent and guaranteed perpetual neutrality. After being
occupied by Germany in both World Wars, however, Luxembourg abandoned neutrality
and became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The present sovereign, Grand Duke Henri, succeeded his father, Grand
Duke Jean on October 7, 2000. Grand Duke Jean announced his decision to
abdicate in December 1999, after a 35 year reign.
Since the end of World War II, the Christian Social Party (CSV) has
usually been the dominant partner in governing coalitions. The Roman Catholic-oriented
CSV resembles Christian Democratic parties in other west European countries
and enjoys broad popular support. However, in June 1999, national elections
ushered in a new government. For the first time since 1974, the Socialist
Party (LSAP) ceded its junior coalition position with the long-reigning
CSV majority to the Liberal Democrat Party (DP).
The DP is a center party, drawing support from the professions, merchants,
and urban middle class. Like other west European liberal parties, it advocates
both social legislation and minimum government involvement in the economy.
It also is strongly pro-NATO. In the opposition since 1984, the DP had
been a partner in the three previous consecutive coalition governments.
The Green Party has received growing support since it was officially
formed in 1983. It opposes both nuclear weapons and nuclear power and supports
environmental and ecological preservation measures. This party generally
opposes Luxembourg's military policies, including its membership in NATO.
National elections are held at least every 5 years and municipal elections
every 6 years. In the June 1999 parliamentary elections, the CSV won 19,
the DP 15, the LSAP 13, the ADR (a single-issue party that emerged from
the LSAP focused on pension rights) 6, the "Greens" 5, and the PCL 1. Hence,
for the first time since 1974, the Socialists (LSAP) ceded their junior
coalition position with the long-reigning Christian Socialist (CSV) majority
to the Liberal Democrats. Jean-Claude Juncker (CSV) remained for a second
5-year term as Prime Minister, and Lydie Polfer (DP), the former Luxembourg
City mayor, was named Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.