The Grand Ducal Family

H.R.H. Grand Duke Adolphe

Born on

24 July 1817

in Biebrich on the Rhine, Germany

Photo Adolphe de Nassau

© Collection Cour grand-ducale

Introduction

Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau became the first Grand Duke of Luxembourg of the Luxembourg-Nassau Dynasty on 23 November 1890. He is the eldest son of Duke William of Nassau and Duchess Louise, born Princess of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

He married Princess Adelheid Marie of Anhalt-Dessau. They had five children, but only two survived to adulthood:

  • Crown Prince Guillaume (1852–1912);
  • Prince Frederick (1854–1855);
  • Princess Marie Bathildis (1857–1857);
  • Prince Francis Joseph (1859–1875);
  • Princess Hilda (1864–1952).

Grand Duke Adolphe died on 17 November 1905 in Hohenburg in Bavaria.

Photogravure du Duc Adolf de Nassau
© Private collection / Cour grand-ducale

Engraved photo of Duke Adolphe of Nassau in military uniform

Le Grand-Duc Adolphe et la Grande-Duchesse Adelaïde Marie

Find out more about H.R.H. Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie

Accession to the Throne of the Duchy of Nassau

In order to prepare himself for the role of Duke of Nassau, Adolphe received rigorous training and private lessons. He also studied for two years in Vienna. At the age of 22, on the sudden death of his father, he was propelled to the throne of the Duchy of Nassau in 1839.

Under his reign, the Duchy of Nassau turned into an exemplary and modern state. Duke Adolphe was the first German prince to grant his people freedom of the press, a people’s army, a liberal bureaucracy and a constitution by the time of the March 1848 revolution. In 1851, however, these concessions were revoked in the Duchy of Nassau, as in most other member states of the German Confederation.

© Collection Cour grand-ducale
Portrait of Duke Adolphe of Nassau

Wedding with Princess Adelheid Marie of Anhalt-Dessau

The Duke of Nassau married twice. His first marriage with Grand Duchess Elisabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, niece of Czar Nicholas I, celebrated in St. Petersburg in 1844, was short-lived, as she died only a year later. In 1851, Duke Adolphe married Princess Adelheid Marie of Anhalt-Dessau.

© Collection Cour grand-ducale
Postcard from 1901 celebrating the Golden Wedding of TT.RR.HH: Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg and Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie. The four medallions contain painted and photographic portraits of Grand Duke Adolphe and his two wives.

The creation of the orders

In 1855, William III, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Adolphe, Duke of Nassau jointly created the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau to commemorate the division of the House of Nassau into two branches (Walramian and Ottonian) in 1255 and to bear witness to their good understanding 600 years later. This order is common to both branches of the House of Nassau.

In 1858, Duke Adolphe created the Ducal Order of Civil and Military Merit of Adolphe of Nassau. These two orders, symbols of the monarchy, are still awarded in Luxembourg today, albeit in a modified form.

© Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg
The Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau

Loss of the Duchy of Nassau

After 25 years at the head of the Duchy of Nassau, Duke Adolphe enjoyed great popularity. He celebrated this anniversary with great enthusiasm from the entire population.

During the German War of 1866, he led his troops and fought alongside the Austrians and the southern German states against Prussia, which had just annexed the Duchy of Nassau.

The treaty with Prussia of 1867 granted the dispossessed Duke a large compensation and the preservation of several castles: Königstein, a villa in Frankfurt am Main, Hohenburg Castle near Lenggries in Bavaria, and Nassau Palace in Vienna.

Accession to the Throne of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

With the death of Prince Alexander of Orange in 1884, the Dutch-Luxemburgish heir to the Throne, Duke Adolphe realised that he could lay claim to the Throne of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In July 1888, he visited the royal family of the Netherlands and consulted the German government on his rights to the Throne of the Grand Duchy. In September 1888, he reconciled with the Hohenzollern family while visiting the German Emperor Wilhelm II on the island of Mainau. Meanwhile, the Luxemburgish Minister of State Paul Eyschen defended Adolphe’s interests in Luxembourg.

© Collection Cour grand-ducale
Swearing-in of Duke Adolphe of Nassau as Duke-Regent.

In April-May 1889 and again in November 1890, he assumed the Regency in Luxembourg for the seriously ill King Grand Duke William III. Upon the latter’s death on 23 November 1890, Duke Adolphe acceded to the Throne of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as male heir and head of the Nassau-Weilbourg lineage, in accordance with international treaties and the Luxembourg Constitution.

© Collection Cour grand-ducale
Photograph of H.R.H. Grand Duke Adolphe on the balcony of the Grand Ducal Palace in 1896

In 1891, he acquired the late King’s estates in Luxembourg, including the Castles of Berg and Fischbach, the ruins of Vianden Castle and the Grünewald forest. He had the 16th-century Grand Ducal Palace of Luxembourg enlarged and refurbished, largely at his own expense.

Grand Duke Adolphe left governing and any political responsibility to the experienced Minister of State Paul Eyschen. He showed himself to be a benevolent and affable gentleman with a pronounced sense of duty and resolutely defended Luxembourg’s independence while consolidating the position of the Grand Duchy on the international stage.

© Collection Cour grand-ducale
1890: Photo of the Grand Ducal Family on the balcony of the Grand Ducal Palace

End of reign

In 1902, Grand Duke Adolphe appointed his son as Lieutenant-Représentant. He died at Hohenburg Castle in 1905 at the age of 88. Shortly after his death, monuments were erected to him in Weilburg, Biebrich and Königstein. In 1953, his remains were transferred from Hohenburg and buried in the princely crypt of Weilburg, the burial place of the protestant members of the House of Luxembourg-Nassau.

1897 - Réveillon de Nöel en famille
© Collections de la Cour grand-ducale

Christmas Eve with the family, 1897

Grand Duke Adolphe in pictures

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe and Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe and Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie

Family photo © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Family photo

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

Portrait of Grand Duke Adolphe

The Grand Duke Adolphe © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

The Grand Duke Adolphe

The Grand Ducal Family © Collection Maison grand-ducale de Luxembourg

The Grand Ducal Family

 

See also:

Le Grand-Duc Adolphe et la Grande-Duchesse Adelaïde Marie

To find out more about H.R.H. Grand Duchess Adelheid Marie