Tornaco Ministry

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Victor de Tornaco, Prime Minister 1860-1867 Victor de Tornaco.jpg
Victor de Tornaco, Prime Minister 1860-1867

The Tornaco Ministry was in office in Luxembourg from 26 September 1860 until 3 December 1867. It was reshuffled six times.

Luxembourg grand duchy in Western Europe

Luxembourg, officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small landlocked country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the three official capitals of the European Union and the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in the EU. Its culture, people, and languages are highly intertwined with its neighbours, making it essentially a mixture of French and German cultures, as evident by the nation's three official languages: French, German, and the national language, Luxembourgish. The repeated invasions by Germany, especially in World War II, resulted in the country's strong will for mediation between France and Germany and, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union.


The government of Victor de Tornaco saw several important developments in international politics, such as the dissolution of the German Confederation in 1866 after the Austro-Prussian war, and an attempt by Napoleon III to purchase Luxembourg off William III of the Netherlands, which was prevented by Otto von Bismarck. A solution to this crisis was found in London, and made official in the Second Treaty of London: the Prussian garrison had to withdraw, the fortress of Luxembourg was demolished and Luxembourg was declared neutral and independent.

Victor de Tornaco Luxembourgish politician

Baron Victor de Tornaco was a Luxembourgian politician. An Orangist, he was the fourth Prime Minister of Luxembourg, serving for seven years, from 26 September 1860 until 3 December 1867.

German Confederation association of 39 German states in Central Europe from 1815 to 1866

The German Confederation was an association of 39 German-speaking states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved in 1806. The German Confederation excluded German-speaking lands in the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Prussia, the German cantons of Switzerland, and Alsace within France which was majority German speaking.

Napoleon III French emperor, president, and member of the House of Bonaparte

Napoleon III was the first elected President of France from 1848 to 1852. When he could not constitutionally be re-elected, he seized power in 1851 and became the Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. He founded the Second French Empire and was its only emperor until the defeat of the French army and his capture by Prussia and its allies in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He worked to modernize the French economy, rebuilt the center of Paris, expanded the overseas empire, and engaged in the Crimean War and the war for Italian unification. After his defeat and downfall he went into exile and died in England in 1873.

In the same period, railway lines were laid down from Wasserbillig to Trier and from Ettelbrück to Gouvy, which was a boost to the steel industry in Luxembourg.

Wasserbillig town

Wasserbillig is a town in the commune of Mertert, in eastern Luxembourg. As of 2005, Wasserbillig has 2,186 inhabitants, which makes it the largest town in Mertert. Wasserbillig is the administrative seat of the commune of Mertert.

Trier Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Trier, formerly known in English as Treves and Triers, is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. Trier lies in a valley between low vine-covered hills of red sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Luxembourg and within the important Moselle wine region. The German philosopher and one of the founders of Marxism, Karl Marx was born in the city in 1818.

Gouvy Municipality in French Community, Belgium

Gouvy is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg.


The election of 1857 was a boost to the opponents of the Simons government within the Assembly of Estates. It became more and more difficult for the ministers of the coup d'État of 1856 to continue governing, in the face of majority of the opposition. Charles-Mathias Simons tendered his resignation on 26 September 1860. The opposition Deputy and old ally of Norbert Metz, Baron Victor de Tornaco, was charged with forming a new government. [1]

The Assembly of Estates was the legislature of Luxembourg from 1841 to 1848, and again from 1856 to 1868.

Charles-Mathias Simons Belgian politician

Charles-Mathias Simons was a Luxembourgian politician and jurist. He was the third Prime Minister of Luxembourg, serving for seven years, from 1853 until 1860.

Jean-Joseph Norbert Metz was a Luxembourgish politician and engineer. With his two brothers, members of the powerful Metz family, Charles and Auguste, Metz defined political and economic life in Luxembourg in the mid-nineteenth century.

Foreign policy

In foreign affairs, the Tornaco government had to face a profound crisis from 1866 to 1867, which threatened Luxembourg's independence. The German Confederation was dissolved after the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. Although Luxembourg did not join the new North German Confederation formed by Prussia, the latter continued to maintain a garrison in the fortress of Luxembourg. At the same time, France now demanded a territorial compensation for having stayed neutral during the conflict. Napoleon III proposed to the King-Grand Duke to purchase the Grand Duchy for 5 million francs. William III accepted, but the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck was staunchly opposed. To resolve this crisis in which Napoleon III risked losing face, the great powers came together in London. They finally agreed that Prussia would withdraw its garrison, the fortress would be demolished, and the Grand Duchy would become neutral in perpetuity. France would renounce its territorial claims. The Tornaco government had observed a strict neutrality during the Austro-Prussian war. During the negotiations in London, the Luxembourgish delegates had adopted a wait-and-see attitude, almost one of resignation. The government was mainly concerned with the costs of the impending demolition of the fortifications, whereas the city council of Luxembourg was anxious to guarantee the revenues of the city's businesses and shops, which would suffer from the departure of the garrison. [1]

North German Confederation Federal state in Northern Germany in 1867–1870

The North German Confederation was the German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. Some historians also use the name for the alliance of 22 German states formed on 18 August 1866. In 1870–1871, the south German states of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Württemberg and Bavaria joined the country. On 1 January 1871, the country adopted a new constitution, which was written under the title of a new "German Confederation" but already gave it the name "German Empire" in the preamble and article 11. As the state system largely remained the same in the German Empire, the North German Confederation continues as the German nation state which still exists.

Otto von Bismarck 19th-century German statesman and Chancellor

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890 and was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890.

Fortress of Luxembourg fortifications in and around Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, largely dismantled in 1867

The Fortress of Luxembourg refers to the former fortifications of Luxembourg City, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which were mostly dismantled in 1867. The fortress was of great strategic importance for the control of the Left Bank of the Rhine, the Low Countries, and the border area between France and Germany.

Interior policy

From the moment he became head of government, Tornaco engaged in a policy of reconciliation in interior policy. He annulled a certain number of measures which had been passed after the constitutional revision of 1856. However, the world of Luxembourgish politics remained very much divided. In his autobiography, Emmanuel Servais described the political battles which preoccupied the Luxembourgish elite at the time: "It was not political questions, but personal animosities which inflamed people's passions. Electoral struggles were sometimes conducted with an extraordinary intensity, and led to huge expenses; the discussions in the Chamber were irritating even though they pertained only affairs of minor importance; the polemic of the newspapers was of an excessive insolence." [1]

Economic policy

Under the Tornaco government, railway construction continued apace. The year 1861 saw the inauguration of the railway line from Luxembourg over Wasserbillig to Trier, followed in 1862 by a line through the north of the country and Ettelbrück, extended in 1866 to Gouvy. The railway construction provided a boost to the Luxembourgish economy, and paved the way for the rise of modern steel production. In 1865, the Metz family's company established a new factory only using coke near Dommeldange railway station. The years of the Tornaco government also saw a liberalisation of international trade. Prussia concluded free-trade agreements with France (1862) and Belgium (1863), from which Luxembourg profited as a member of the Zollverein . [1]


26 September 1860 to 9 September 1863

9 September 1863 to 31 March 1864

31 March 1864 to 26 January 1866

26 January 1866 to 3 December 1866

3 to 14 December 1866

14 December 1866 to 18 June 1867

18 June 1867 to 3 December 1867

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Thewes, Guy. "Les gouvernements du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg depuis 1848". Service information et presse du gouvernement. Luxembourg: Imprimerie Centrale, 2011.