The Duchy of Limburg was created and formed from the eastern part of the Province of Limburg as a result of the Treaty of London in 1839. Until 1866 it also was a member of the German Confederation represented by the Dutch King. The Duchy of Limburg should not be confused with the earlier Duchy of Limburg, which ceased to exist in 1794.
The German Confederation, as established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was a loose association of 39 German states to coordinate the economies of the member countries. Its main achievement was the creation of the customs union as developed during 1818 and 1834, which provided a common economic market for its member states. Though not a part of the German Confederation at its founding, Limburg would join it in 1839 as a consequence of the Belgian Revolution. In 1830 several francophone, catholic and liberal groups joined forces and proclaimed the independence of Belgium, whose territory prior to that had formed a part of the Netherlands.
In the peace settlement 9 years later in 1839, the Dutch King ceded the western half of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the newly formed Belgian state. Luxembourg however, had been a member state of the German Confederation since the latters creation and with the annexation of its western parts lost approximately 150,000 inhabitants. The German Confederation, led by Prussia, insisted the common market of the custom union would be compensated by the Netherlands elsewhere. On which the Dutch created the Duchy of Limburg (consisting of the former province of Limburg without its two major cities Maastricht and Venlo as to not exceed the 150,000 number) as compensation.
Dissolution and aftermath
The Seven Week’s War between Austria and Prussia in 1866 led to the collapse of the German Confederation. To clarify the position of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Duchy of Limburg that were possessions of the Dutch king, but which had also been member states of the confederation, the Second Treaty of London in 1867 affirmed that Limburg was an “integral part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands”, while Luxembourg was and had been an independent state in personal union with the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1839. Limburg thereupon left the German Customs Union.
The style “Duchy of Limburg” continued to be used in some official capacities until February 1907. Another idiosyncrasy that survives to this day is that the Province’s “Royal Commissioner” is still informally addressed as “Governor” in Limburg, although he is formally styled as a Royal Commissioner, like those of the other Dutch provinces.
- History of Limburg during the German Confederation Website of the History of the Netherlands by historian Dr. J. W. Swaen.