Luxembourg, the second smallest member of the European Union, covering just over 2,500 square kilometres and surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium, is the only remaining country in the world classed as a Grand Duchy since 1815, whose head is a monarch, called a grand duke or a grand duchess.
Located in southern Luxembourg, the Grand Ducal Palace. the official residence of the Grand Duke, from where he performs most of his duties as the head of state of the Grand Duchy, is considered one of the main attractions of the tiny country. Built in the 16th century, the Grand Ducal Palace, also known as the Palace of the Grand Dukes, was initially used as the City Hall from 1572 to 1795. But from 1795 to 1814, when the city was under the control of the French administration, it served as the seat of the Prefecture of the Département des Forêts and after that became the residence of the Governor of Luxembourg in 1817.
History says, a devastating fire on 11 June 1554, devoured a large part of the city, when lightning struck the Church of the Franciscans and ignited the gunpowder that was stored in its attic. However, reconstruction of the City Hall began only in 1572, under the city architect Adam Robert and the project was completed within a year, in 1673. But that was not the end of the disaster. Unfortunately, the building of the City Hall was again severely damaged during the siege of Luxembourg by the French troops in 1683 and 1684, although during the bombardments, its cellars successfully sheltered and saved the helpless people. Nevertheless, after a long wait, the city was able to reinvest in repair work in 1728, when the damaged building was renovated again. Later, in 1741, the City Hall was extended by adding a building to it, called La Balance. With the acquisition of several buildings in the vicinity, it was further extended between 1825 and 1856.
From 1817, the City Hall became the official residence of the Governor, the representative of the Dutch Grand Duke, although during that time it was known as Hotel de gouvernement. After the Revolution of 1848 in Luxembourg, the City Hall became the seat of Luxembourg’s first Governor and was used by Prince Henry, the third son of King William II of the Netherlands, during his tenor as the Governor, the Lieutenant-Representative of Luxembourg. The interior of the building was renovated in 1883, when the rooms were refurbished in preparation of a visit by the Grand Duke, the King William III of the Netherlands and his wife, Grand Duchess Emma.
Apart from being the official residence of the Grand Duke, from where he performed most of his duties as the head of state of the Grand Duchy, the Grand Ducal Palace also housed the Chamber of Deputies until 1860, when the Deputies were able to move into their own building to the right of the Palace.
From 1857 onwards, the newly created Council of State was also housed on the second floor of the building, next to the Archaeological Museum, the Agricultural Department and the Commission for Public Instruction.
In 1890, with the accession of the House of Nassau-Weilburg, the palace was reserved exclusively for the Grand Duke and his family. However, the building was comprehensively renovated under Adolphe, the first Grand Duke of Luxemburg from the House of Nassau-Weilburg from 23 November 1890 till his death on 17 November 1905, who succeeded King William III of the Netherlands. During that time, a new wing, containing family rooms and guest accommodation, was added to the building by the Belgian architect Gédéon-Nicolas-Joseph Bordiau, in collaboration with the Luxembourgian state architect Charles Arendt.
During the chaotic days of German occupation in the Second World War, the Nazis seized the Grand Ducal Palace, ransacked its furniture, jewellery and works of art and converted it into a concert hall and Schlossschenke or tavern, displaying huge swastika flags on the façade. However, with the return of the Grand Duchess Charlotte from exile after the end of the Great War in 1945, the palace once again became the seat of the Grand Ducal Court and on 14 April 1945, the people of Luxemburg got back the privilege to cheer the Grand Duchess once again on the balcony of the Palace, which had become the architectural symbol of the Monarchy. Grand Duchess Charlotte also took the initiative to redecorate the palace during the 1960s, but the interior of the palace was meticulously renovated by Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, the wife of Grand Duke Jean and the daughter-in-law of Grand Duchess Charlotte.
However, the palace was thoroughly restored between 1991 and 1996, while the interior of the Palace has been regularly renovated to match modern tastes and standards of comfort. The current structure exhibits some of the finest Flemish Renaissance architecture in Luxembourg. From 1945 to 1966, the Grand Ducal Guard mounted ceremonial guard duties at the palace, but today, it is guarded by the military of Luxembourg and the changing of the guard has become quite a spectacle.
The interior of the Grand Ducal Palace is simply spectacular. The wide marble staircases lead up to huge white function rooms, accented with gold trim and curtains. While the walls of the state rooms are gracefully decorated with old paintings, housed in thick, luxurious golden frames, Chandeliers hanging from the ceilings illuminate the interior create a dreamy atmosphere. Today, the palace is used to accommodate foreign heads during their official visits to Luxembourg, as guests of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess and the Ballroom is the setting for state banquets in their honour. Apart from that, the state rooms on the first floor are also used for a variety of meetings and audiences, which include the presentation of the Christmas message of the Grand Duke on Christmas Eve from the yellow room and the New Year’s reception given to members of the Government and the Chamber of Deputies.