After 400 years of domination by various European nations, Luxembourg was granted the status of Grand Duchy by the Congress of Vienna on 9. June 1815. Although Luxembourg considers 1835 (Treaty of London) to be its year of independence, it was not granted political autonomy until 1839 under King William I of the Netherlands, who also was the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In 1867, Luxembourg was recognized as independent and guaranteed perpetual neutrality. After being occupied by Germany in both World Wars, Luxembourg abandoned neutrality and became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. It is also one of the six original members of the European Union, formed in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
The present sovereign, Grand Duke Henri, succeeded his father, Grand Duke Jean, on 7. October 2000. Grand Duke Jean announced his decision to abdicate in December 1999, after a 35-year reign.
The national language of Luxembourg is Luxembourgish, a blend of Dutch, old German, and Frankish elements. The official language of the civil service, law, and parliament is French, although criminal and legal debates are conducted partly in Luxembourgish and police case files are recorded in German. German is the primary language of the press. French and German are taught in the schools, with German spoken mainly at the primary level and French at the secondary level. In addition, English is taught in the local high schools. Most Luxembourgers, as a result, speak English with some level of fluency.