In a brand new and exclusive series, British Ambassador to Luxembourg, John Marshall reveals his unique viewpoint on, and links to, The Grand Duchy: "#LuxUKLinks is a mix of well-known links between our two countries and some rather less familiar, even obscure ones. I hope you enjoy this weekly column."

One of my motivations in initiating #LuxUKLinks was to bring together, in one place, the many ties that bind the UK to Luxembourg and Luxembourg to the UK. That place was initially the Twittersphere, as I tweeted links between our two countries on a weekly basis. Sixty of these tweets and links we turned into a touring exhibition, which was shown at around 30 events and locations around Luxembourg.  And then we made a book of the exhibition, adding a further 15 tweets and links. Meanwhile the tweets have continued, always under #LuxUKLinks, numbering now nearly 150.

This project brought home to me that while the relationship between the UK and Luxembourg  may not have the same historical intensity and complexity as say Luxembourg’s relations with its neighbours, there are many fascinating moments and people in history that have brought our countries together.

© British Embassy

For example, the UK was a significant presence at three of the defining moments in the 19th Century for Luxembourg’s political development.

We were there at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) where, following the defeat of Napoleonic France, the main European powers met to agree a plan for the long-term security of Europe. This plan included the creation of an independent state, Luxembourg, that would host a Prussian garrison and be a member of the German Confederation but which would be ruled by the Dutch King.  It was apparently the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, who suggested that Luxembourg should be a Grand Duchy and that William I should bear the title of Grand Duke of Luxembourg at the same time as that of King of the Netherlands.

© British Embassy

Sixty-five years later the UK was the first country to accredit an envoy specifically to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In November 1879 the British Ambassador to the Netherlands, Sir William Stuart wrote formally to the Luxembourg Government led by Baron Felix de Blochausen to inform them that it was the desire of the British Government that he should be separately accredited to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.  At the time, he and other Ambassadors in The Hague were accredited to the King of the Netherlands in his capacity both as King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. No one had sought separate accreditation before. But the request was granted and Stuart submitted his Letters of Credence from Queen Victoria in a second audience with the King on 6 January 1880.

© British Embassy

London was the location of a further meeting of the Great Powers in 1830-31, which eventually led to the signing of the Treaty of London on 19 April 1839. I imagine this to be a bittersweet moment in Luxembourg’s history.  It is the Treaty to which Luxembourg dates its Independence, the centenary of which Luxembourg celebrated gloriously and defiantly in 1939 as the Second World War threatened.  But it also led to the further division of the country, with a sizeable chunk of its territory becoming a province in the newly formed nation of Belgium.

My approach in #LuxUKLinks, incidentally, has been to define Luxembourg according to its size at the time. So, one #LuxUKLink I particularly like is the fact that a confessor of the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots in 1581/2 was a Luxembourger. Henri Samerius was born near La Roche Ardenne in what is now southern Belgium but in the 16th Century it was very much part of Luxembourg.

A third defining moment for Luxembourg in the 19th Century was the second Treaty of London of 11 May 1867. This declared Luxembourg a neutral state, led to the departure of the Prussian garrison, the dismantling of the fortress and the re-birth of Luxembourg as an open and outward-looking city.

© British Embassy

Memorably (certainly for me but for many others too I suspect) the Duchess of Cambridge visited Luxembourg in May 2017 on the 150th anniversary of the Treaty (and she was one of the first to get a glimpse of the #LuxUKLinks exhibition which was launched a few weeks later).

The dismantling of the fortress freed up land for residential development including the site where the British Ambassador’s Residence, built in the 1870s and bought by the British Government in 1955, now stands.  And it also created space for the French landscape gardener Edouard André to create Luxembourg City’s parks. André’s first international project before Luxembourg was to design Sefton Gardens in Liverpool.

John Marshall has been the British Ambassador to Luxembourg since April 2016. Previously he was British Ambassador to Senegal and non-resident Ambassador to Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau. He has also been posted as a diplomat to Japan, Malaysia and Ethiopia.  He is a keen marathon-runner, speaks some Luxembourgish, and enjoys discovering the UK and Luxembourg’s shared history. #LuxUKLinks began as a series of tweets looking at the links between Luxembourg and the UK. These evolved into an exhibition, which toured communes, schools and museums around Luxembourg, and a book.