Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg

Adolphe (Adolf Wilhelm August Karl Friedrich; 24 July 1817 – 17 November 1905) was the last sovereign Duke of Nassau, reigning from 20 August 1839 until the duchy's annexation to Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. In 1890, he became Grand Duke of Luxembourg following the death of King William III of the Netherlands, ending the personal union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg, until his own death in 1905. He was the first monarch of Luxembourg from the House of Nassau-Weilburg.

Photograph by Ludwig Angerer
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Reign23 November 1890 – 17 November 1905
PredecessorWilliam III
SuccessorWilliam IV
Duke of Nassau
Reign20 August 1839 – 20 September 1866
SuccessorNassau annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia
Born(1817-07-24)24 July 1817
Biebrich Palace, Wiesbaden, Duchy of Nassau
Died17 November 1905(1905-11-17) (aged 88)
Schloss Hohenburg, Lenggries, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
Schlosskirche of Schloss Weilburg (since 1953)
IssueWilliam IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden
FatherWilhelm, Duke of Nassau
MotherPrincess Louise of Saxe-Hildburghausen

Adolphe became Duke of Nassau in August 1839, following the death of his father William. After Austria's defeat in Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Duchy of Nassau was annexed to Kingdom of Prussia and he lost his throne.

From 1815 to 1839, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was ruled by the kings of the Netherlands as a province of the Netherlands. Following the Treaty of London (1839), Grand Duchy of Luxembourg became independent but remained in personal union with the Netherlands. Following the death of his sons, King William III of the Netherlands had no male heirs to succeed him. In the Netherlands, females were allowed to succeed to the throne. Luxembourg, however, followed Salic law which barred females from succession. Thus, upon King William III's death, the crown of the Netherlands passed to his only daughter, Wilhelmina, while that of Luxembourg passed to Adolphe in accordance with the Nassau Family Pact.

Adolphe died in 1905 and was succeeded as Grand Duke of Luxembourg by his son, William IV.


He was a son of William, Duke of Nassau (1792–1839), and his first wife, Princess Louise of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Adolphe's half-sister, Sophia of Nassau, was the wife of Oscar II of Sweden.

Duke of Nassau

Adolphe became Duke of Nassau in August 1839 at the age of 22, after the death of his father. Wiesbaden had by this time become the capital of the Duchy and Adolphe took up residence in the newly constructed Stadtschloss in 1841. On 4 March 1848 he consented to the population of Nassau's 9 "Demands of the Nassauers". A few years later, however, he revoked his liberal views and took a strongly conservative and reactionary course. In general, though, he was seen as a popular ruler. He supported the Austrian Empire in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. After Austria's defeat, Nassau was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia and he lost his throne on 20 September 1866.

Grand Duke of Luxembourg

In 1879, Adolphe's niece Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont, the daughter of another of his half-sisters, married William III, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In 1890, their only daughter Wilhelmina succeeded on his death without surviving male issue to the Dutch throne, but was excluded from the succession to Luxembourg by Salic Law. The Grand Duchy, which had been linked to the Netherlands in personal union since 1815, passed to Adolphe in accordance with the Nassau Family Pact. Adolphe was King-Grand Duke William III's 17th cousin once removed through male line, which is the greatest distance over which a crown has ever been inherited.

He had, in fact, taken over the regency of Luxembourg for a short time during William III's illness.

In any case, as he was already 73 years old and knew little of Luxembourgish politics, he left his hands off the day-to-day governing. The prime minister Paul Eyschen, in office since 1888, took care of the affairs of state, and this created a tradition that the ruler would remain absent from the politics of the day. In 1902 Adolphe appointed his son William as Lieutenant-Representative. He died in 1905 at his summer home, Schloss Hohenburg in Lenggries, and in 1953 was buried in the crypt of the church of Schloss Weilburg.

Marriage and family

On 31 January 1844, Adolphe married firstly in St. Petersburg Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, niece of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. She died less than a year afterwards giving birth to a stillborn daughter. Adolphe built the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth 1847 to 1855 as her funeral church.

On 23 April 1851, he remarried in Princess Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau. They had five children, of whom only two lived to the age of eighteen and became prince and princess of Luxembourg:

In 1892, Grand Duke Adolphe conferred the hereditary title Count of Wisborg on his Swedish nephew, Oscar, Prince Bernadotte, who had lost his Swedish titles after marrying without his father's approval. Wisborg (also spelled Visborg) is the ruins of an old castle in the city of Visby within Oscar's former Dukedom of Gotland, but the title itself was created in the nobility of Luxembourg.


On April 20, 1842, the Adelsverein, Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, was organized in the Grand Duke's castle at Biebrich on the Rhine. He was named the Protector of the organization. The Verein was responsible for the large emigration of Germans to Texas in the 19th Century, and on January 9, 1843, established the 4,428 acre Nassau Plantation in Fayette County, Texas and named it after the Grand Duke.[2][3]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles





  1. It was customary for a reigning Duke, his heir apparent, and their spouses to use the style of Highness.
  2. It was customary for a reigning Grand Duke, his heir apparent, and their spouses to use the style of Royal Highness


  1. "Full name". Archived from the original on 2014-07-17. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  2. King, Irene Marschall (1967). John O.Meusebach. University of Texas Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-292-73656-6.
  3. Garrett, Daphne Dalton. "Nassau Farm". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Archived from the original on 30 November 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  4. "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1902), "Großherzogliche Orden" p. 65
  6. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 466. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  7. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Hannover (1865), "Königliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen" p. 38
  8. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Hessen (1879), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen" p. 10
  9. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch ... Hessen (1879), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen" p. 44
  10. Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Großherzogtums Oldenburg: für das Jahr 1872/73, "Der Großherzogliche Haus-und Verdienst Orden" p. 30
  11. Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1900), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 15
  12. Staatshandbuch für den Freistaat Sachsen (1867) (in German), "Königliche Ritter-Orden", p. 4
  13. Sveriges och Norges statskalender. Liberförlag. 1874. p. 468.
  14. Norges Statskalender (in Norwegian), 1890, pp. 593–594, retrieved 2018-01-06 via
  15. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Württemberg (1907), "Königliche Orden" p. 27
Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 24 July 1817 Died: 17 November 1905
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Nassau
Annexation by Prussia
Preceded by
William III
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Succeeded by
William IV
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