Andorra & Luxembourg

Andorra & Luxembourg

The first is a co-Principality, and the second a Grand Duchy. Both are tiny, but significant in questions of tourism and politics. Andorra lies between France and Spain, a beautiful landscape of hills and valleys at around 900 metres, sometimes rising to peaks at 2900 metres (9,600 feet). The country is bisected by the River Valira, which provides for three distinct natural regions – valleys of the North and East Valira, and the Grand Valira. The peaks are snow-covered during several months of the year.

Tourism is without doubt the principal industry, employing more than 35% of the workforce, but commerce, forestry and the construction industry make important contributions.

Traditionally, it was Charlemagne who granted independence to Andorra in 803 a.d. The little country came under the control of the Counts of Urgel, later Bishops of the Diocese of Urgel. A series of disputes arose in the late thirteenth century between French and Spanish heirs of those same Bishops and Counts, but these issues were resolved by making the country a co-principality, to be jointly ruled by French and Spanish Princes.

The middle ages passed reasonably enough for Andorra, and in 1993 she adopted a democratic constitution reducing the power of the co-princes. In fact they are now the President of France, and the Spanish Bishop of Urgel. Political parties are fully legal, and the President and the Bishop are constitutional rulers only.

The capital is Andorra La Vela; languages are Catalan (the official language what is more), French and Castilian; the territory covers 181 square miles; the population is around 70,000; ethnic groups living there include the Spanish, French, Portuguese, British and the Andorrans (around 30%). The country is represented at the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

Luxembourg is a Grand Duchy surrounded by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east and France to the south. Ore from mining is abundant, and the manufacture and sale of steel is a major industry, though chemicals and machine – making are also significant.

One of the major attractions here is banking secrecy, still powerful though repeated attempts are made by the European Union to make Luxembourg, Switzerland, Andorra, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar reveal their secrets. It is to be hoped for the sake of European politicians that these attempts fail, as most of them keep private accounts in ‘tax havens’. This is not bitchiness – it is fact.

Luxembourg was orginally occupied by the Romans, which accounts for the civilized behaviour of the Luxembourgers; generally speaking, only countries occupied and ruled by the Romans can truly be called civilized. The Franks controlled Luxembourg in the fifth century a.d., passing power to the Counts in the eleventh century.

The duchy of Luxembourg was created in 1354, but the little country was seized and badly handled by Burgundy in 1443, was passed to the Hapsburgs in 1477, and to Spain in 1555. Then the French occupied it from 1684 to 1697.

Royal connections: the first Count of Luxembourg was Conrad, who took the title in 1060 a.d., six years before the bastard Duke of Normandy invaded England at Hastings. Luxembourg again passed to the Hapsburgs after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714, an unconscionable period of conflict). But in 1815 after Waterloo it was handed over to the Netherlands, joining the Belgians in the Revolt of 1830.

In 1831 came division, the Walloon-speaking part becoming part of Belgium. The rest of Luxembourg remained within the Netherlands, becoming the Grand Duchy in 1839 with (at last) its own Government. Grand Dukes of Luxembourg are as follows: William I (1815-1840), William II (1840-1849), William III (1849-1890), Adolphe (1890-1905), Marie Adélaïde (1912-1919), Charlotte (1919-1964), Jean (1964-2000) and Henri (2000)

In 1890 the King of the Netherlands died with no male heir, and from that moment on the two countries (Netherlands and Luxembourg) were headed by different royal families. Jean (born 1921) became Grand Duke in 1964 when his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in his favour. The present Grand Duke is Henri, who succeeded in 2000. Succession used to be in accordance with Salic Law, but the present Grand Duke has greatly helped legislation to be passed allowing for female first born to succeed.

Luxembourg went into economic union with Belgium in 1921, joined by the Netherlands in 1948, forming the Benelux Economic Union, the first free-trade area in Europe. The Grand Duchy has the world’s highest GDP per capita, according to the IMF. Little Luxembourg was a Founder Member of the European Economic Community (now termed the European Union, EU).

The country covers 999 square miles; the population is nearly 500,000; official languages are French and German, with Letzeburgesch as a minority language.

Luxembourg was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

By | 2012-03-08T11:17:03+00:00 March 8th, 2012|Dutch History, EU History, Spanish History, Today, World History|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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