Henry VIII
Henry VIII
(Grand) Duke of Luxembourg
Reign 28th December, 1562 - 5th August, 1580
Predecessor Joanna
Successor Henry IX
King of Hungary
Reign 25th December, 1559 - 1st July, 1568
Predecessor Joanna
Successor Stephen Zápolya
Margrave of Brandenburg
Reign 28th December, 1562 - 5th August, 1580
Predecessor Joanna
Successor Henry IX
Born 13th October, 1538
Ghent, Flanders
Died 5th August, 1580
Antwerp, Flanders
Spouse Magdelena of Cleves

Ippolita of Milan
Elizabeth of Oettingen
Beatrix de Coligny
Jakobea Van der Eycken

Issue Elenore of Ghent

Henry IX
Katherine of Weilburg
John of Geertruidenberg
Christian of Dillenburg
Elizabeth of Antwerp
Sophie of Meaux
Eugenia of Troyes
Ermesinde of Zwolle
John of Breda
Charles III
Wenceslaus of Geldenaken
Jobst of Arnhem
Amalia of Antwerp

House Luxembourg-Limburg
Father John of Limburg
Mother Joanna

Henry VIII was Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Margrave of Brandenburg and King of Hungary during the later 16th century. His reign, and also his minority under the regency of his mother Joanna, saw a profound transformation of the Luxembourg realm, losing both Bohemia and Hungary, refocusing the dynasty's attentions on a newly Lutheran core in the Netherlands.

The eldest child of Joanna and John of Limburg, Henry of Ghent, was earmarked to inherit his father's county. Joanna would act simultaneously as regent for him and also for his uncle, Henry of Prague, who was the accepted heir to the entire Luxembourg realm, and actual crowned king of Bohemia. Henry of Prague's death in 1550 would change all this.

Salian Law made Henry of Ghent's succession problematic and Joanna would be forced to expend huge political capital to get Hungary and Brandenburg, never mind the various counties and lordships which made up the Netherlands, to accept his right to succeed but Bohemia was another matter. There they had become disillusioned with Luxembourg rule during the War of the Nassau Succession and continued feuds between the courts in Prague and Antwerp. Finally their religious freedoms were seen to be threatened by Joanna's harsh treatment of Protestants in Nassau. So when Henry of Prague died, rather than submit to Joanna's regency and Henry of Ghent's succession, they asserted their right to elect their own monarch and after heavy lobbying picked Maximillian II of Austria, who quickly swore to protect Bohemia's laws and freedoms. The new regime prepared for war, assuming Joanna would not let this pass unchallenged but her ability to raise funds was severe damaged by a partially botched reorganisation of the Low Countries and Hungary was in no mood to do the heavy lifting again, for little to no reward.

Joanna's regime tottered on through political turmoil and narrowed opportunities until her death in 1562. Though of age, Henry was essentially only given free-rein of Limburg, a situation which only fed-into Joanna's image as a 'power-mad' queen. The Hungarian Diet asked Henry to travel to Székesfehérvár for a coronation on Christmas Day 1554 but Joanna placed so many caveats on the trip that his coronation had to be put off until 1559. Many nobles questioned why Henry was not louder in asserting his rights though it has to be said that Holland and Flanders were political minefields at this time and it was possibly for the best that there was no change in regime there.

Henry, himself, did wake up to fixing his reputation and in 1560, following his belated Hungarian coronation, petitioned his mother for the Margraviate of Brandenburg, however Joanna declined the request; she was busy ramping up the activities and scope of an inquisition there and she suspected Henry was showing signs of siding with the Lutherans. It certainly appears that though formally Catholic he was much influenced by the ideas of the Lutheran preacher Lucas Muhlenberg and the religiously tolerant regimes in neighbouring Poland and Gothenland. On a visit to his mother's court in 1557 Henry publicly advocated introducing a similar policy to the turbulent Low Countries, which drew an instant condemnation. His mother cynically suggested he now ally Limburg to the Schmalkaldic League so 'the Emperor can annihilate all the schismatic armies together'. Chastened, Henry would (aside from his coronation visit to Hungary) essentially spend the rest of his extended minority in Limburg, quietly governing under the watchful eye of Joanna's agents.

When Joanna finally died in December 1562 Henry dutifully accepted a Catholic ceremony from his (illegitimate) second cousin Jobst, the Archbishop of Trier. Pope Julius IV also sent his blessings for the 'most Christian' monarch, upgrading the Duchy of Luxembourg to a Grand Duchy. Despite just being a Ducal coronation it was far in excess of such a ceremony and was more akin in size and pomp to an Royal coronation. This was deliberate; in part to shake off accusations of weakness after spending so long under his mother's regency and make up for the loss of Bohemia, but it also signalled to Europe that the Luxembourgs were not a spent force.

Henry did have numerous issues to contend with. Not only was there the open hostility between him and Austria concerning Bohemia but there was the general animosity against Luxembourg within the Catholic Holy Roman Empire who laid at least some of the disaster of the Second Schmalkaldic War at Luxembourg's door. That war had led Protestant Germany and much of Scandinavia to form a new Empire, as nebulous and fractious as the Catholic one but a powerful military bloc nonetheless. Within his own lands the political fallout from Joanna's half-botched reorganisation of the Low Countries plus religious intolerance continued. Even moderate Catholics were becoming uncomfortable with the regime, especially after the Siege of Middelburg (1561).

Electing a Lutheran mayor in 1560 the fortress city of Middelburg took advantage of the legal confusions regarding the reorganisation of the County of Zeeland to declare itself an independent city and tendered an application to join the Protestant Empire. Joanna immediately began a blockade both on land and at sea, essentially starving the populace into submission. When the city gates were finally opened the Catholic army massacred the population provoking widespread condemnation and murmurings of revolt in the Dutch cities.

Inheriting this febrile atmosphere, Henry almost immediately began allowing the separate counties to implement laws of tolerance which angered the more hard-line Catholics but immediately lessened the threat of widespread revolt. Inquisitions were dismantled and religious prisoners mostly released. Some army officers were also punished for abuses at Middelburg too. With their faiths more or less guaranteed, as long as they were Catholic or Lutheran (Jews would eventually get similar rights in Holland and Brabant), the Low Countries settled down. Henry would only face one serious revolt during his reign in western Europe, the Revolt of Nassau (1569-1571) which was ultimately about the last gasps of feudalism in the county rather than religion. Otherwise Henry had the peace and patience to slowly lay out plans to reorganise the Low Countries, maximising tax receipts and military potential, all with the ultimate aim of retaking Bohemia and unequivecably conquering Naples.

In 1566 he helped broker his cousin, John III of Anglia's marriage to the Lutheran Antoinette of Auvergne. It was couched in terms of strengthening Luxembourg's anti-French alliance but it was also seen by many as building a Protestant alliance. John III was certainly secretly Lutheran by this point. It is unknown if Henry was too however he would end up making the first public move. Henry's diplomatic moves rekindled military action in Italia as the War of Neopolitan Succession entered a new phase. Since 1558 Naples and Campania had been in the hands of the Della Rovere family who acted as the Luxembourg's agents and, backed by the fearsome Hungarian Black Legion, had been given a free hand to fend off any advances of France, Aragon and, increasingly, Caliphate raiders. Under their watch Naples grew to be one of the finest cities in Europe and only Byzantium could boast a larger population. Sicily and some of the 'boot' of Italia meanwhile was in Aragonese hands. The ultimate aim of course was to oust the Aragonese, defeat France and claim the entire kingdom. In 1566 he bought out Auvergne's claim and began drawing up plans to invade France. However his love life would soon make this grand scheme void.

Elizabeth of Oettingen

Beatrix de Coligny

Whilst arranging the Auvergnese marriage he had fallen head-over heels in love with one of Antionette's courtiers; the 17-year old Beatrix de Coligny. Beatrix was resistant to just being a mistress and Henry was evidently bored with his third wife Elizabeth of Oettingen. As his marriage to Elizabeth was consummated (as attested by their two children) and she was faithful, a papal-sanctioned annulment was out of the question. Henry tried to press his numerous cousins in various ecclesiastical roles to petition on his behalf but this got nowhere. The newly elected pope, John XXII, angered by the counter-reformation being stopped by Henry’s laws, regarded Henry as a crypto-Lutheran at best.

It was perhaps not surprising that in April 1568 Henry formally renounced Catholicism and embraced Lutheranism. He permitted his family, his lords, and retinue, to 'follow their hearts' in regards to religion, probably hoping to avoid a major revolt or a civil war, but a formal policy of tolerance, beyond what had already been adopted by individual counties and cities, was not adopted. His embrace of Lutheranism was widely celebrated in the Low Countries which had, or were very close to having, a Protestant (not necessarily a Lutheran) majority. Brandenburg's protestants had been hard-pressed by a inquisition unleashed by Joanna and, though happy that the inquisition was now dead in the water, found their attempts to get confiscated property returned or get Lutheran mayors elected frustrated by the nobility. An edict of religious tolerance in the margraviate modelled on Poland-Lithuania's laws was ignored and did little to quell tensions and in the end just made the dominant Catholic lords more resistant.

It would evoke a completely different reaction in Hungary however. The kingdom was firmly Catholic having eradicated protestant preachers in a series of purges and inquisitions through the 1540s and 1550s but was disaffected with Luxembourg rule following the debacle of the Nassau War against Poland and Joanna's concentration on affairs in the Low Countries. Henry's conversion was the last straw. In June 1568 the Hungarian Diet gathered in Székesfehérvár to denounce Henry and the 'heretical Dutch' and at the end of the session elected one of their own, the widely respected, but ultimately out-of-his depth, Stephen Zápolya vowing never again to be ruled by a foreigner on a distant throne. Luxembourg's enemies in Germany and Italia delighted in seeing another blow to the once over-mighty dynasty and the firm anti-Luxembourg block of Bavaria and Austria-Bohemia made sure Henry could never seriously consider reclaiming the throne. As well as Hungary it provoked an instant reaction from the papacy and other Catholic nations. Through 1568 and 1569 paranoia gripped the court as murmurings of plots both real and imagined circulated. Henry's spymaster, Henry Teeuweissen, had his work cut out for him.

In Naples Duke Guilo della Rovere, goaded by John XXII, switched his allegiances to France earning a long-drawn war against Hungary. Louis XIII of France meanwhile rejoined the war in earnest, attacking Aragon and threatening Champagne. Once Hungary was out of the picture and Henry VIII in no position intervene, Louis advanced on Naples itself. But at home France was wracked by religious divisions asserbated by the taxes Louis was levying to pay for the war. Unable to confidently secure rule both at home and in Naples he put his cousin, Duke Charles of Alençon on the Neopolitan throne. That Charles had a Luxembourgoise wife, Louise, an illegimate grand-daughter of John III, soothed some of the tensions between Paris and Antwerp and she would rule jointly.

Now head of the **Nederlanden** Lutheran church Henry had his newly legitimised ministers restructure the church, and the 1639 de Rijck Bible, previously banned under Joanna, was translated and published in Dutch, Luxembourgish (thereby essentially codifying it a separate language), German and French. Whilst Catholicism was not targeted for discrimination the various other Protestant sects, like Calvinism or Anabaptism, expressly were. Catholics were for instance permitted to bury their dead in re-consecrated churches and cathedrals. This feeling that Catholics were receiving some sort of amnesty which they themselves had been denied, fuelled some violence in Dutch towns from the Lutherans and various 'Puritan' groups would emigrate across the Atlantic to the religiously tolerant Vinland, feeling that Henry was not harsh enough or far-reaching enough in his purging of other influences.

In November Henry finally divorced Elizabeth. She was given a very generous pension and a fine estate in Nassau where she would live until her death in 1595. Henry and Beatrix would be married on Christmas Day 1568, Beatrix already conspicuously pregnant. Another child would follow but relations broke down in 1571. Whilst Henry was in Munster meeting with Eric XI of Denmark of Denmark to try and lessen tensions and perhaps broker an alliance it was reported that Beatrix was seduced and bedded by Maarten van Nieuwenaar. It is also reported that Henry refused to believe the initial reports and begged Beatrix to refute them. When both she and van Nieuwenaar confessed Henry flew into a rage and they would be tried for treason and executed.

Jakobea Van der Eycken

Henry would marry his fifth and final wife, Jakobea Van der Eycken in 1572. She was the daughter not of nobility but of one of Henry’s new creations, the Stadholder of Brussels, Johan Van der Eycken. As the Low Countries settled down Henry could recommence with his mother’s work in reorganising the myriad feudal counties into something more modern. Henry rationalised the counties into three circles (Flanders, Holland and Luxembourg-Champagne-Nassau) which were now governed by their own diets. Within the circles themselves the counts and lords kept their land but lost most of their actual powers. The new title of ‘Stadholder’ was created, elected by the Circle Diets and ratified by the monarch, these acted as the King’s chief justices in the localities but also as local military commanders tasked with raising and organising armies in times of war. It took time but the reforms took hold and by the end of his reign the royal treasury which was severely run down was beginning to boom.

The cities, still religiously divided but peaceful, went back to mercantile activities with vigour. Though there was a royal navy which supported the voyages of ‘treasure’ ships to and from Mexica its small size meant most of the merchants plying routes to Leifia and India were open to piracy and they basically had to lease places in the still dominant Portuguese trade fleets (though this in turn became more problematic once Henry converted). Still, the merchants took some heart from the chaos engulfing Anglia at the time which lessened competition in the somewhat. With censorship lessened, publishing houses boomed, as did the arts; which, though still beholden to Renaissance trends, were beginning to show changes which would blossom in the next century.

Henry died in August 1580 of tuberculosis. He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry of Nijmegen, and then by his next eldest surviving son, Charles of Echternach.


Henry married five times, inspiring the 'gestuerwen, gestuerwen, gescheed, gekäppt, lieweg' mnemonic for their fates (roughly 'died, died, divorced, beheaded, survived') and fathered a prodigious number of legitimate children, most of whom reached adulthood. This impressive brood, soon inserted into temporal and spiritual offices or married into noble houses across the Luxembourg territories, allowed his sons to consolidate the 'rump' of Luxembourg into a more unitary state, absorbing most of the semi-independent but now Lutheranised bishoprics that littered the Low Countries, and ensure the Luxembourg dynasty's continued line.

  • Magdelena of Cleves (1535-1559) Married 1553. Died 1559.
    • Elenore of Ghent (1554-1569) , betrothed to marry Duke Jean III of Aquitaine
    • Henry of Nijmegen (1556-1602)
    • Katherine of Weilburg (1558-1618), married Jakob IV, Count of Hoorne
    • John of Geertruidenberg (1559-1568)

Ippolita of Milan, with her step-son Henry of Nijmegen

  • Ippolita of Milan (1530-1563). Daughter of Duke Giovanni I of Milan. Married 1559. Died 1563
    • Christian of Dillenburg (1560-1598), Bishop-Administrator of Utrecht
    • Elizabeth of Antwerp (1562-1628), married Prince Fernando of Portugal, then when he died young, his cousin Jamie II of Portugal
  • Elizabeth of Oettingen (1540-1595) Married 1564. Divorced 1568.
    • Isabelle (1565)
    • Sophie of Meaux (1566-1603), Princess-Abbess of Thorn
    • Josina of Troyes (1567-1639), married Nicolas, Prince-Abbot of Stavelot and Malmedy
  • Beatrix de Coligny (1550-1571). Married 1568. Beheaded 1571.
    • Ermesinde of Zwolle (1569-1623), married Francis I, Duke of Bar
    • Sigismund, Bishop-Administrator of Cambrai (1571-1600)
  • Jakobea Van der Eycken (1550-1600) Daughter of Johan Van der Eycken, Stadholder of Brussels. Married 1572.
    • John of Breda (1573-1601)
    • Charles of Echternach (1575 -1650)
    • Wenceslaus of Geldenaken (1577-1596)
    • Jobst of Arnhem (1578-1637), Stadholder of 's-Hertogenbosch
    • Amalia of Antwerp, (1580-1641) married Johann van der Berghes, Bishop-Administrator of Liuk (Liege)
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