Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

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Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

Type of Government

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a parliamentary democracy taking place within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. A hereditary monarch serves as the symbolic head of state while an appointed prime minister, representing the majority party in the parliament, serves as head of government assisted by an appointed executive cabinet. The legislature has a single chamber, with members elected by direct, popular vote. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which presides over a system of district and administrative courts.


The name Luxembourg dates back to 1060, when the region came under the rule of Count Conrad I (c. 1040–1086), the founder of the house of Luxembourg. After providing four emperors to the Holy Roman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Luxembourg fell under the control of the Habsburg dynasty of Austria in 1482. Austria, France, and Spain traded control of Luxembourg for the next four hundred years. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna officially established the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and placed it under the rule of the Netherlands. When the Belgian provinces revolted against Dutch rule in 1830, Luxembourg joined them, becoming a part of Belgium until 1839. At that time, its western territories were assigned to Belgium, and the remainder of the duchy gained greater autonomy from the Netherlands and some degree of self-rule. In 1867 the London Conference declared Luxembourg a sovereign and independent state and permanently recognized it as neutral in any war.

Government Structure

Luxembourg’s 1868 constitution provides for a democratic government within a constitutional monarchy. The sixty-member Chambre des Deputes (Chamber of Deputies) offers proportional representation and holds legislative authority in the government. Its members are elected to five-year terms from four electoral districts. The sovereign, who is known by the hereditary title of Grand Duke or Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, possesses the constitutional right to organize the national government, which consists of a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, and a cabinet of ministers, the latter of which are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the sovereign. The leader of the majority party in the legislature is appointed prime minister by the Grand Duke or Duchess and serves a five-year term. Bills passed by the legislature are forwarded to the sovereign for his or her signature. The national government is advised by the Conseil d’État (Council of State), whose twenty-one members are appointed by the sovereign for life.

The judicial system includes three justices of the peace, two district courts, and one Supreme Court of Appeal, along with other administrative courts and tribunals. All judges are appointed for life by the sovereign. Luxembourg is home to the European Court of Justice, the supreme court of the European Union.

Luxembourg is divided into twelve cantons, each of which is further divided into communes. Suffrage (the right to vote) begins at age eighteen and is compulsory.

Political Parties and Factions

Luxembourg’s most popular political party is the Roman Catholic–oriented Chrēschtlech Sozial Vollekspartei (Christian Social People’s Party), which was founded in 1944. The Demokratesch Partei (Democratic Party), which is the smallest political party, draws its membership from professionals and the urban middle class. Industrial workers tend to support the Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Arbechterpartei (Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party). Déi Gréng (The Greens), founded in 1983, is the newest political party.

Major Events

Luxembourg was occupied by Germany in World War I (1914–1918) and II (1939–1945). After the German invasion in May 1940, a government-in-exile was established in London. The government returned to Luxembourg in September 1944.

In 1948 Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg entered into the Benelux Customs Union—now called the Benelux Economic Union—which was intended to allow for the free exchange of people, capital, and goods among the three countries.

In 1958 Luxembourg became one of the founding nations of the European Community, which later became the European Union in 1993. The euro was introduced as the national currency in 2002. In 2005 Luxembourgers voted in favor of the European Union’s proposed constitution. Luxembourg’s membership in the European Union has helped it attain the second-highest per capita gross domestic product (total value of goods and services produced by a country) in the world.

Twenty-First Century

Luxembourg is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and maintains a small volunteer army of about nine hundred. Depletion of ore from its iron mines, along with worldwide changes in the steel market, have shifted Luxembourg’s economic focus from steel production to financial and other services, especially international banking. Luxembourg’s multilingual workforce contributes to its economic stability and growth. To help cope with the country’s expanding population and the threat of increasing air and water pollution in congested urban areas, the government is promoting the development of three distinct urban areas to spread growth beyond the city of Luxembourg. Even though the capital remains the country’s financial and banking center, government plans call for Esch-sur-Alzette, the second-largest city, to play a larger role in this important economic sector. A new university, business parks, residential buildings, and other facilities are planned. Furthermore, several towns in northern Luxembourg have joined together to improve urban and economic planning in their region.

Barteau, Harry C. Historical Dictionary of Luxembourg. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Newcomer, James. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: The Evolution of Nationhood, 963 A.D. to 1983. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984.

Renwick, George. Luxembourg: The Grand Duchy and Its People. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1913.