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Taking a look at the Grand Ducal Palace

Unlike the British Royal Family who use Buckingham Palace as both an official and private residence, many of the European monarchies have both an official residence and a separate, private residence for their respective sovereigns. Luxembourg is no exception, and so, today we will take a look at the official residence of the Grand Ducal Family – the Grand Ducal Palace.

Located in Luxembourg City, the Grand Ducal Palace was first mentioned in official documents in 1418 and functioned as a city hall throughout this period. In 1554, after suffering a lightening strike, the nearby church went up in flames, igniting and causing the gunpowder which was stored there to explode. This tragic accident resulted in the devastation of the majority of the city, with the City Hall being one of the most severely effected and thus being reduced to a mere shell of what it previously was. In 1572, after almost 20 years of the building still not being entirely rebuilt, Adam Roberti, the city architect was charged with seeing the completion of the City Hall. Although it is believed that the plans for the new City Hall were drawn up in either Brussels or Madrid, it is clear that the (then) Governor of Luxembourg, Count Pierre Ernest de Mansfeld’s love of luxury were an influence on the new design.  The construction was finally completed in 1753.

The City Hall, however, did not escape unscathed for a long time following its reconstruction when, during the Siege of Luxembourg from 1683 to 1684, the hall was heavily bombed. The cellars, however, held out and acted as a refuge for the population throughout the bombings, but the structure of the building above ground completely collapsed as a subsequent result. Due to the financial constraints following the conflict, the city was unable to round up the necessary funds to rebuild the hall, and so, it was not until 1728 that the building was repaired. Expansion took place in 1741 with the construction of the right wing “La Balance” and in 1795 became the home of the French Central Administration. This Central Administration of the French, however, was soon replaced by the Prefecture of the Forestry Department in 1800.

The building became a royal residence for the first time in 1817 following the recently forged union with the Kings of the Netherlands and as such, became the Luxembourgish home of the King (who also held the title of Grand Duke of Luxembourg) as well as the seat of the government. It was here that His Royal Highness, Prince Henry of the Netherlands, lived while holding the position of Governor-General of the Dutch Monarchy. With the new status the building had acquired, the Dutch felt it was necessary to expand and thus bought several neighbouring houses in order to build the Chamber of Deputies in 1859.

As a result of a visit by King William III of the Netherlands and his consort Queen Emma (both Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg too, respectively) in 1883, the interior of the building saw a complete face lift. It was not until seven years later, however, in 1890 that the building became a permanent residence of a sovereign and acquired the name it is known by today: the Grand Ducal Palace. Due to the Salic Law which controlled the succession to the Luxembourgish throne, Queen Wilhelmina upon her succession as the regnant Queen of the Netherlands was unable to become the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in her own right, and so that title and responsibility fell upon her closest male cousin, Adolphe, Duke of Nassau. Upon his succession, Grand Duke Adolphe moved into the palace and renovated it entirely to suit his needs and taste. He charged a Belgian architect Bordiau, as well as the city-architect of Luxembourg, Charles Arendt to build a new wing, the Baden wing which housed the private apartments of the new Grand Ducal Family.

Guard in front of the Grand Ducal Palace. Photo: Dan Castiglia, Schnékert (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

From this period on, the palace became the permanent private and official residence of the Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg; however, during World War II, when the Grand Ducal Family were exiled, the palace became a theatre and tavern for the private use of the Nazis. Following the war, the Grand Ducal Palace had seen significant damage and had lost many of its precious art collection and furniture. With the return of Grand Duchess Charlotte to the country on 14 April 1945, it was decided that the palace would strictly become the official residence of the future Grand Dukes and Duchesses of Luxembourg, while they would use Colmar-Berg Castle as their private residence.

Today, both Colmar-Berg Castle and the Grand Ducal Palace are owned by the state and are exclusively put at the service of the monarchy and the Grand Ducal Family. The Grand Ducal Palace is now home to the offices of the Grand Duke, Grand Duchess, Hereditary Grand Duke, Hereditary Grand Duchess and the staff of their Court. It is also used to accommodate foreign heads of state and is the host of state banquets and other events of the same caliber. The palace is open from the end of July to the end of August each summer, with the money raised from ticket sales going to the Foundation of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess.

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