Charles III
Willem II prince of Orange and Maria Stuart.jpg
Charles III and Archduchess Sophia of Austria, c. 1623
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Reign 9th August, 1602 - 22nd September, 1650
Predecessor Henry IX
Successor Henry X
Margrave of Brandenburg
Reign 9th August, 1602 - 31st August, 1620
Predecessor Henry IX
Successor Anna of Nassau
Born 5th October, 1575
Echternach, Luxembourg
Died 22nd September, 1650
Middelberg, Flanders
Spouse Countess Palatine Susanna

Archduchess Sophia of Austria
Isabella of Turin

Issue (Amongst Others)

Henry X
John IV
Charles of Utrecht

House Luxembourg-Limburg
Father Henry VIII
Mother Jakobea Van der Eycken

Charles III ruled over Luxembourg and Brandenburg during the first half of the 17th century. His early reign saw the flourishing of the 'First Luxembourg Golden Age' whilst the latter was dominated by the escalating and destructive Fifty Years War.

Only 4 years old when his father, Henry VIII, died, Charles grew up in the household of his mother Jakobea Van der Eycken, whom had been granted a generous pension by his half-brother Henry IX. She would marry Louis de Berlaymont, the Stadtholder of Luxembourg County, and the family would live on a large estate near Baaschtnech. Louis de Berlaymont attempted to instill his family with lessons in good governance and how to manage an estate. Charles appeared less interested in this than his siblings and would pursue a military career, thereby eschewing the administrative roles normally earmarked for the Luxembourg family.

He would campaign with the Svealandic army, then allied with Luxembourg, leading a small division of Brabantine cavalry against Tver in 1596. For several years he resided in Stockholm as a guest of Gustav I, fathering at least four illegitimate children there. However in 1601 with the death of his elder brother John of Breda he suddenly became heir apparent and was called to Antwerp to meet with the Grand Duke, his council and the States-General.

Only a year later Henry IX was dead.

First Golden Age

Charles' succession is usually marked as the start of the brief 'First Golden Age', a two-decade window of unparalleled wealth and confidence. Whilst the wealth was a natural result of the trade policies promoted by his elder brother some of the confidence can be attributed to a brief war, the War of Rethel Succession (1604), with France.

The small County of Rethel, firmly Catholic and held in union with the Viscounty of Châtellerault, was encircled by Luxembourg and Champagne counties. Count Francis II would die in late 1603 and his sole heir was the recently widowed and childless Catherine. Henry III of France, as ultimate overlord of Châtellerault, claimed the right to disperse both territories to a lord of his choice or at the very least oversee Catherine's new marriage. Charles III objected, citing Rethel's attachment to the Holy Roman Empire in 1381, and raised an army to force the issue. Mired in religious civil war Henry III could not fully mobilise his forces against the Luxembourg army now aiming at Paris. Charles made use of a technique soon called the 'Luxembourg Square' (soon liberally copied by most nations), essentially a deep mass of pikemen within which musketeers were placed which would confound cavalry (which the French army still overly relied upon).

After the disastrous battle of Morienval exposed the capital, Henry III decided to cut his losses. By treaty Rethel and Châtellerault were divided; Rethel going to Charles, or at least to his son John to be governed as a semi-independent county; Châtellerault to Catherine, soon betrothed to Henry's son René. Defeat for France would result in a complete overhaul of the army so by the time the two countries would face each other once more on the battlefield they were more evenly matched.

Charles would also weigh in on the side of Trier against their war against Sponheim in 1613. Trier had been an archbishopric but was secularised in 1574 and had spent much of its time since then trying to reappropriate all of its exclave territory which Catholic states had opportunistically taken, by diplomatic or military means. The war against Sponheim was short and sharp, with the Luxembourg Square being deployed and showing its power once more. The Count of Sponheim would die on the battlefield without an heir. Hence Charles would take it 'to ensure all claimants get their rightful share', parcelling out Trier's claims whilst giving the rest to his eldest daughter Elisabeth and her new husband as a dowry.


It wasn't only in western Europe where Luxembourg's holdings would grow during Charles's reign; Emperor Huallpa Yupanqui had been trying to recover the northern coast of Tawantinland from the breakaway Cauqetío Emperor Mayta and, seeing an opportunity to crush one rebellion whilst dealing with another in the south, called on Luxembourg to assist. Charles, influenced by the charismatic merchant-general Cornelis van Hoorn, saw the advantage in intervening, namely the potential trading possibilities to the victors, and authorised intervention. A well-equipped force landed at Yaracuy in 1606, recruited additional levies from local tribes disaffected by Mayta's rule and defeated the main Cauqetío army. Grateful, Huallpa Yupanqui ceded control of the 'land west of Lake Tuikii' to Luxembourg 'forever'. The Luxembourg commanders on the ground took that description loosely and, while Huallpa Yupanqui was distracted with civil war elsewhere on the continent, they amassed a huge swath of the coastline, to 'pacify' it. The new governors, 'Stadtholders of Guyana', were primarily interested in trade, not exploiting the region, so tended to leave the tribes to their own devices as long as they assisted the new regime in mineral extraction or cash crop farming.

It would not take long for gold to be extracted in huge quantities or sugar and coffee plantations to appear. Sadly this tended to mean the majority of the tribes soon settled into serfdom either under the tribal chiefs or incoming plantation farmers from Luxembourg. The governors (and Charles) frowned upon outright slavery and some Zeelander plantation masters who imported African slaves from Benin in 1627 to make up for a wave of disease, were fined and ordered to make them free men.

As well as the Guyanan mainland Luxembourg also took control of several Carib islands; uninhabited Sint Liduina/Becouya in 1620, Hairouna by force in 1624 after it attacked Sint Liduina, and Ichirouganaim in 1629 after it attacked the Dutch militia on Hairouna. Again, cash crop plantations would be established on these islands, with laborers from Boriken making up for the lack in population.

Further afield colonies would be established at the Cape of Good Hope (see New Netherlands) in 1647 by Dutch farmers escaping the chaos of the Fifty Years' War, and also on 'Mauritius' (now Anglia's South Lindesfarne) in the Indian Ocean in 1648.

Foreign Relations

Having served with the Svealandic army Charles was keen to keep the alliance. Gustav II was initially keen though by 1610 had come to the conclusion it was unsustainable to continue to oppose Denmark. Instead Svealand sought an alliance with the Schmalkaldic Empire thereby negating the usefulness of a Luxembourg one. Charles then looked to Anglia which had just been inherited by John IV, Count of Leuven. The Anglian Witenage had even petitioned Charles to consent to John's succession. John in return was certainly open to a Luxembourg alliance but by 1614 this was rejected as the Witenage was forging a Scotland-Svealand alliance instead.

Fifty Years War

Charles would still be searching around for allies when Prague erupted in revolt against Hapsburg rule in 1618. Initially simply an internal revolt against Charles I of Austria's harsh policies it soon widened as the Bohemian Protestants sought out assistance from the Schmalkaldic Empire.

His military background perhaps convinced him that Luxembourg involvement was necessary in this instance when perhaps his predecessors may have held back. So instead of letting the war just be a 'Third Schmalkaldic War' Charles began actively looking for 'a way in'. As the Schmalkaldic Empire gathered to invade Bohemia Charles appealed to Eric XII of Denmark, if it would honour Charles' claims to Bohemia, i.e. return it to Luxembourg rule, he would mobilise Luxembourg's army to fight the Austrians. Eric dismissed this, not wholly convinced by Charles' sudden offer of friendship and believing this would cede Denmark's pre-eminence in the Protestant empire.

Rebuffed, Charles approached the Catholic side, and Charles I was more forthcoming; with Bohemia under Schmalkaldic occupation he saw little to lose by promising to split the troublesome region, albeit this clause in the alliance was kept secret. Luxembourg would get the Crown Lands of Bohemia proper, Austria would keep Moravia and presumably a hefty portion of any reparations extracted from Schmalkaldic states. Charles would marry Charles' daughter Archduchess Sophia to firmly bind the alliance. Though they would have 6 daughters Sophia is supposed to have complained to her brother Rudolph II about Charles' mistresses and her staunch Catholicism made her a square peg in the mostly Lutheran Luxembourg court.

Luxembourg's Brandenburg army was soon duly marching on Prague, its Army of Holland marching into Brunswick. With a Polish-Lithuanian army also moving against Bohemia the war seemed sewn up already. William II of Brunswick, commanding the Schmalkaldic force in Bohemia proved a match for the Brandenburgers however and a Lutheran German army subsequently overran Brandenburg. By August 1620 Brandenburg was hopelessly lost and at the end of the month the Schmalkaldic command had installed Anna of Nassau, a distant cousin of Charles, as their puppet there. Brandenburg would prove more trouble than its worth to the Schmalkaldic side and Anna was soon at war with Gothenland over the inheritance of Prussia.

The Catholic side would recapture Bohemia whilst William II swung toward the Baltic to deal with the Polish army. This was achieved by the rising star of Emilie Heldenstein, a low-born Luxemburger with a talent for raising funds and armies. His abilities soon got him the ears of both Charles III and Charles I of Austria and he would be made Generalissimo of the Imperial armies in Germany. With the Luxembourg forces operating north of the Alps and the Austrians focusing on Italia the two ally's war was rapidly spinning out of control as Aragon, France and Svealand joined the Protestant side and Poland limped out of the Catholic alliance.

By the time Luxembourg defeated Burgundy in 1628 its war efforts were more or less running on Guyanan gold. A lot of money poured into supporting the smaller Catholic states from simply imploding under the strain of war too. Taxation was already running high. The gold (and promise of more gold) fuelled loans from bankers and meant the armies were never short of men. Potentially this gold supply from Guyana was vulnerable to piracy, state-sponsored or otherwise) however the rapid expanse of the Luxembourg navy in the previous decades meant that only the Portuguese really had a force capable of taking it on, and they were unwilling to be drawn into the fray. The navy therefore had the Atlantic to itself more or less. Much of its food supplies came from the Baltic however and this was firmly under Kalmar control leading to shortages which could only be partially recouped from Iberia or Anglia. Anglia's continued neutrality probably saved Luxembourg from collapsing.

Louis, Grand Condé

Charles of Utrecht

Rumours circling of his imminent defection, Heldenstein would be removed in 1642. Charles III appears to have been well-aware of the plot against his supposed favourite general and only the actual assassin would be executed, not the various conspirators. The command of the Luxembourg army would eventually pass to his son Charles of Utrecht who proved himself ruthless and cruel, good perhaps for the battlefield but disastrous back at home.

As the war dragged on all sides felt the pressure. Protected by formidable fortresses or the sea, Flanders, Brabant, Zeeland and Holland avoided the type of direct devastation which Nassau, Champagne and Luxembourg counties suffered. But taxes, food shortages and war exhaustion affected everyone. By 1649 Holland was in full revolt and only a brutal campaign by Charles of Utrecht brought it back into line.


Charles had 17 children from 3 marriages and several illegitimate children from at least 6 mistresses.

  • Countess Palatine Susanna, married 1592. Died 1621.
    Anthonis van Dyck 015

    Countess Palatine Susanna

    • Elisabeth (1594-1652)
    • Henry X (1597-1669)
    • Dorothea Amalia (1600)
    • Sophie (1602-1610)
    • Anna (1604-1674)
    • Wenceslaus (1607-1667)
    • Sigismund (1614-1661)
    • John IV (1616-1697)
    • Charles of Utrecht (1618-1690)
  • Archduchess Sophia of Austria, married 1623. Died 1637. The six girls from this marriage were all given middle names corresponding to provinces of Luxembourg.
    • Carolina Antwerpiana (1625)
    • Anna Flandrina (1626-1647)
    • Hedwig Brabantina (1628-1690)
    • Louise Hollandina (1630-1703)
    • Joanna Nassovina (1632-1633)
    • Maria-Louise Zelandina (1634-1700)
  • Isabella of Turin, married 1638. Died 1684.
    • Joanna Eleanore (1640-1655)
    • Jobst (1640-1687)

Charles recognised several illegitimate children from six mistresses. Most would receive some sort of financial stipend, though when Svealand joined the Lutheran side of the Fifty Years War his three surviving children from Svealandic mistresses would be disinherited:

  • By Karin Brahe
    • Sigrid Karlsdotter (1597-1646)
  • By Christina Månsdotter
    • John Karlsson (1597-1608)
    • Sigismund Karlsson (1599-1674)
  • By Cecilia Posse
    • Margareta Karlsdotter (1599-1637)
  • By Elisabeth van IJsselstein
    • Willem van IJsselstein (1605-1620)
  • By Anna van Walthausen
    • Charlotta Joanna van Luxembourg (1610-1681)
    • Charlotta Elisabeth van Luxembourg (1612-1662)
    • John van Luxembourg (1615-1669)
    • Alexander van Luxembourg (1617-1630)
  • By Jossina de Longueval
    • Augusta van Luxembourg (1638-1685)
    • Charles Willem, Stadtholder of Atrecht (1640-1703)

Charles would die in 1650 of a heart attack. He would be succeeded by his eldest son Henry, then John.

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