When Luxembourg separated from the Netherlands in 1890, did it have a constitution or was its ruler still an absolute monarch?

In particular, had its new,(and German) Grand Duke wished to join the German Empire, could any Parliament or other body have stopped him?

  • 5
    Did you look at the Wikipedia page on the Constitution of Luxembourg? – Steve Bird Feb 19 '20 at 17:51
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    Even with that link, I kind of had to read between the lines to come up with an answer, and said answer still doesn't quite tell me the power status of the Monarch. – T.E.D. Feb 19 '20 at 18:57
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    @T.E.D. It says "[constitution] came into effect on 1 January 1842". Where do you have to read between the lines for knowing if it had a constitution in 1890? – K-HB Feb 19 '20 at 19:22
  • @K-HB - Oftentimes European states vacillate between monarchy and republic status (which is why there are so many "nth Republics" and "nth Reichs" floating around). If it was in a monarchic phase at the time, then it wouldn't have been operating under a constitution (although it may have been picked back up when that phase ended). – T.E.D. Feb 19 '20 at 19:54

Short Answer:

Grand Duke Adolph did not have the means or the motive to join the German Empire.

Long Answer:

Part One, the means to join the German Empire.

Luxembourg did have a constitution in 1890, and it did not, repeat NOT say that the Grand Duke was an absolute, all powerful ruler.


But that was not the important obstacle to Luxembourg joining the German Empire.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was part of the German Confederation from 1815-1866.

The King of the Netherlands was also the Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1815-1890.

Luxembourg was defined as an independent state and a neutral one in the Treaty of London in 1839. That legal status would have made an attempt by Luxembourg to join another and not neutral country an excuse for war by powers opposed to that.

The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 resulted in the dissolution of the German Confederation and the creation of a Prussian-led North German Confederation in 1867, which was replaced by the German Empire in 1871.

The Treaty of London (1867) reaffirmed that Luxembourg was neutral, which of course implied that it was illegal for Luxembourg to become part of another country which was not neutral. The neutrality and independence of Luxembourg was guaranteed by the powers which signed the treaty:

The Austrian Empire, represented by the Count Rudolf Apponyi

The Kingdom of Belgium, represented by Sylvain Van de Weyer

The French Empire, represented by the Prince de La Tour d'Auvergne-Lauraguais

The Kingdom of Italy, represented by the Marquis d'Azeglio

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, represented by Baron de Tornaco and Emmanuel Servais

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, represented by the Baron Bentinck

The Kingdom of Prussia, represented by the Count Bernstorff-Stintenburg

The Russian Empire, represented by Baron Brunnow

The United Kingdom, represented by Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby

So if the King of Prussia and German Emperor accepted an application by Luxembourg to join the German Empire, he would be violating international treaties.

If someone told the Grand Duke of Luxembourg he would stop him from joining the German Empire, and the Grand Duke said "You and what army?", the answer would be the armies of some of the powers that signed the treaty and were not friendly to Germany, powers like Russia and France, for example. An attempt to annex Luxembourg to Germany could have resulted in an earlier World War One.

Part Two, the motive to join the German Empire.

I may note that Adolf Wilhelm August Karl Friedrich (1817-1905), who became Grand Duke of Luxembourg in 1890, also became Duke of Nassau in 1839. The Duchy of Nassau was an independent country, except for being part of the German Confederation. In the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 Prussia fought Austria and the German Confederation. Nassau fought for the German Confederation against the Prussian rebels and was conquered and annexed by Prussia in 1866, dethroning Duke Adolf.

Duke Adolf became an ex monarch, a ruler without a country, and remained one for 24 years until he inherited Luxembourg, as a result of Prussian treason and aggression.

Assuming that Grand Duke Adolf was patriotic for the German Empire and wanted to join it is like assuming that Jefferson Davis, Geronimo, & Queen Liliuokalani were patriotic for the USA, or that Paul Kreuger was patriotic for the UK, or that Louis Riel was patriotic for Canada, or that Rabih az-Zubayr was patriotic for France.

  • On the other hand, Luxembourg was about as closely associated with the German Empire as was possible, being a member of the Zollverein (a customs union) until 1919. (From 1871 all other members were constituent states of the German Empire ) – C Monsour Feb 20 '20 at 1:31
  • OK. The situation I wondered about was if Adolf had taken the Prussian side in 1866 or else the Prussians had been less greedy and allowed him to keep his Grand Duchy. He would still of course have been included in the North German Confederation and later in the German Empire. In 1890 this would have created an odd situation where he was ruling two states, one of them in the Reich, the other in customs union with it but not a member. It just crossed my mind that he might have been tempted to tidy up the anomaly by joining the Reich under his Luxembourg hat. – Mike Stone Feb 20 '20 at 8:44
  • @Mike Stone That anomaly was not that unusual. In feudal times it was very rare for someone to turn down a chance to acquire another fief, despite it making their feudal relationships more complicated. Many nobles acquired fiefs in different kingdoms. My answer here: history.stackexchange.com/questions/34309/… says that in early modern times almost every kingdom in Europe had a ruler who also ruled a fief in the Holy Roman Empire. There were also some examples in the German Confederation in 1815-66. – MAGolding Feb 20 '20 at 18:37

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