House of Mérode

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House of Mérode
Cimier des Merode.jpg
Arms of the Princely House of Mérode
Titles Prince
Founded Middle Ages
Current head Charles Guillaume de Mérode

The Princely House of Mérode is one of the most important families of the Belgian nobility.

The surname of the family and the name of the house is nowadays mostly written de Mérode (in French). The name is also spelled van Merode in Dutch and von Merode in German.

The House of Mérode played an important role in the history of the Southern Netherlands and the Kingdom of Belgium.

The Coat of Arms of the House of Mérode is blazoned as: "Or, four pales gules, a border engrailed azure". The motto of the house is "Plus d'honneur que d'honneurs" in French and "Meer eer dan eerbetoon" in Dutch.

The origins of the House of Mérode[edit]

Arms of the House of Mérode: Or four pallets gules, a bordure engrailed azure.
Arms of the House of Scheiffart von Merode: Or four pallets gules.

The family stems from the village of Merode in Germany. Merode is located in the vicinity of the city of Düren, which lies between Aachen and Köln and was part of the Duchy of Julich. Today, it is part of the municipality of Langerwehe in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A branch of the Mérode family still owns the castle (Schloss Merode) from which their name was derived.

Originally, the Mérode family had the rank of Baron or Freiherr of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, the family had possessions and influence in Köln and in the Rhineland and belonged to the reichsunmittelbar aristocracy. They supported the monastery of Schwarzenbroich, which was also the burial place for the deceased members of the family.

From the sons of Werner III von Merode (+1278), two different branches of the house descended. The oldest branch was called 'Scheiffart von Merode'. The 'Scheiffart' or 'German' branch became extinct in 1733. The younger branch descends from Werner IV von Merode (+1316). This house also split into different branches, of which the branch of the Marquess of Westerloo, called 'de Mérode-Westerloo', would become the most famous. The present-day 'Princes de Mérode' in Belgium descend from the latter branch.

Titles of the family[edit]

Some members of the House of Mérode carried the title of Count from the fifteenth century, and a branch had the title of Baron of the Holy Roman Empire in the mid-fifteenth century and gained the title of Prince in 1759.

Philippe, Count of Mérode (1594-1638), was the first Marquess of Westerloo.

The elder branch of 'Scheiffart von Merode' died out in 1733.

The House of Mérode bears the following titles:

  • Prince of Rubempré in the Holy Roman Empire (1759)
  • Prince of Rubempré in the Kingdom of Belgium (1846)
  • Prince of Everberghe in the Holy Roman Empire (1759)
  • Prince of Everberghe in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1827)
  • Prince Grimberghe in the Kingdom of Belgium (1842)
  • Prince de Mérode, the Kingdom of Belgium (1929)

The House of Mérode[edit]

From the 14th century onwards, a branch of the Mérode family gained power and possessions in the Duchy of Brabant and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, on the territory of present-day Belgium. At that time, these territories belonged to the Burgundian Netherlands and later to the Habsburg Netherlands.

The marriage of Richard de Mérode with Margareth van Wesemael marked a new age in the family’s history. Due to this marriage, the house of Mérode inherited important seigniories in Brabant, such as Westerloo and the County of Olen. Jean II de Mérode married Adelheid van Hoorn in 1451 and brought Gheel, Diepenbeek and Duffel into the possession of the family. Through these and other marriages, the Mérode family became one of the most important noble families in the Duchy of Brabant.

Jean II de Mérode held the position of Lord Chamberlain and councillor of Philip the Handsome. After his death in 1551, his heirs ordered a monumental sepulchre for him and his wife that was made by the Antwerp sculptor Cornelis Floris. It stands in the church of Gheel and was erected in 1554.

The Eighty Years War greatly damaged the possessions of the Mérode family. In the more prosperous era after the Twelve Years' Truce, the family's fortune grew again. In 1626, the title of Marquess of Westerloo was granted to Philippe I de Mérode by King Philip IV of Spain. It was his great-grandson, Jean-Philippe-Eugène de Mérode, Marquess of Westerloo, who would become one of the most illustrious descendants of the house. He is known as the 'Feld-Maréchal' (Field Marshal) de Mérode and became a knight in the order of the Golden Fleece. He served as an important military commander.

In the 18th century, the branch of Mérode-Westerloo gained great wealth and power due to the extinction of other side-branches of the house (Mérode-Houffalize, Mérode-Deinze, Mérode-Montfort-Calvo) and a few very advantageous marriages. Through marriage, they acquired the domains and titles of 'Prince of Rubempré', 'Prince of Everberg', 'Prince of Grimbergen' and Marquess of Trélon.

During the French Revolution, the Austrian Netherlands were invaded by French republican troops and were incorporated into the French Republic. The domains of the family were confiscated and noble privileges were abolished. The family fled to Germany for a while. It was only after the declaration of the Empire des Français by Napoleon in 1804 that the family could regain their domains and some of their titles. A re-introduction of the noble privileges, however, would never be achieved. As a result, members of the Mérode family became very present in politics and diplomacy. Charles-Guillaume-Ghislain de Mérode-Westerloo had been active as a minister under Austrian rule since 1787 and would hold several other important political posts under successive regimes, such as Maire (Mayor) of Brussels since 1805, and Senator of the Empire des Français since 1809. In 1815, he became Grand-Marshal of the court of King William I of the Netherlands, when the Belgian provinces were part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

His sons, Henri, Félix, Frédéric and Werner would play an important role in the Belgian revolution and in the political life of the Kingdom of Belgium. Frédéric de Mérode became a new national hero when he was killed in the battle near Berchem during the Belgian revolution, while Félix de Mérode became an important member of the Provisional Government of Belgium and the Belgian National Congress. After the first Belgian legislative elections, Henri de Mérode became a Senator, while his brothers Félix and Werner both became parliament members.

The descendants of Henri, Félix and Werner de Mérode would form different branches, whose descendants would continue to play an important role in Belgian politics and diplomacy. See the recent genealogy in Wikipedia in French: link

Notable members of Henri's branch[edit]

  • Henri de Mérode married Jeanne-Louise Thezan Poujol (1787-1862)
  • Charles Adrian (1824-1892) succeeded him and married Princess Mary, Duchess of Arenberg (1830-1905)
  • Their son Henri de Mérode (1856-1908) married Princess Nathalie of Croy (1863-1957)
  • Charles de Mérode (1887-1977) married Margaret Laguiche (1895-1988) and had no children.

Notable members of Felix's branch[edit]

Upon the death of Charles de Mérode in 1977, this branch has become the elder branch of the House of Mérode.

  • Philippe Felix de Mérode (cf. Wikipedia)
  • Bishop Javier de Mérode (1820-1874), Minister of Pope Pius IX
  • Princess Baudouin de Mérode, born Nathalie van den Abeele (1948), widowed first wife of Baron Guy de Bassompierre, who is the lady-in-waiting of Queen Paola of Belgium since 1997.

Notable members of Werner's branch[edit]

Werner de Mérode (1797-1840), founder of the present younger branch of the family, married in 1818 with Victoria, Countess of Spangen Uyternesse.

Among their descendants are:

  • The Aosta branch of the Italian royal family, by the marriage of Louise de Mérode (1819-1868) (sister of the penultimate Mérode of Ham-sur-Heure) with Carlo Emmanuele dal Pozzo, 5th Prince of Cisterna, and by the marriage of their daughter Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo with the founder of the Aosta branch: Amadeo I of Spain, Duke of Aosta and King of Spain.
  • Margherita, Archduchess of Austria-Este, mother of Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, husband of Princess Astrid of Belgium, and therefore their children: Amedeo (born February 21, 1986), Maria Laura (born August 26, 1988) Joachim (born December 9, 1991), Maria Luisa (born October 11, 1995) and Laetitia Maria (born April 23, 2003).
  • The princely family of Monaco, by the marriage of Antoinette de Mérode (1828-1864) (another sister of the penultimate Mérode of Ham-sur-Heure) with Prince Charles III of Monaco, founder of Monte Carlo, including Albert I of Monaco, father of Louis II of Monaco and great-grandfather of Rainier III of Monaco, who was the father of Albert II of Monaco.
  • The House of Arenberg, by the marriage of Marie-Ghislaine (1830-1892) with the Prince de Mérode, and Antoine, Duke of Arenberg, is their grandson.
  • Jean de Merode (1864-1933), Lieutenant Colonel, Grand Marshal of the Courts of Belgium, received from King Albert I in 1928 the title of Prince de Mérode, a title which was extended shortly thereafter to all family members.
  • Their great-grandson, Amaury de Mérode (1902-1980), was Grand Marshal of the Court of King Leopold III, president of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium, and President of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). He married Princess Marie-Claire de Croy (1907-2000).
  • Their great grandson Frederic de Mérode (1911-1958), president of the Red Cross of Belgium. Prince Albert of Belgium succeeded him in 1958.
  • Their great grandson Werner de Mérode (1914-1995), known for his diplomatic career in the Kingdom of Belgium.
  • Their great-great-grandson Alexandre de Mérode (1934-2002), a long time member and Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), President of the IOC Medical Commission, founding chairman of Sportel in Monaco, President of the Royal Association of historic houses and gardens of Belgium, chairman of numerous sports federations in the world and President of the Centre d'Oeuvre de Mérode.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Georges Martin, Histoire et généalogie de la maison de Mérode, Lyon, 1999.
  • Hans J. Domsta, Geschichte der Fürsten von Merode im Mittelalter, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Dürener Landes Düren, 16, Düren, 1981.

Coordinates: 50°47′56″N 6°23′17″E / 50.799°N 6.388°E / 50.799; 6.388