Limburg or Limbourg. Another dynasty name question

+3 votes
I suggest that for the line of the counts and later dukes of Limburg (in Lower Lotharingia, today in French speaking Belgium) that we use the French spelling Limbourg. Anyone see a problem with that? This would mean the male line starting at Limburg-21 would get an LNAB change.


1. It is French speaking. Today it is known as Limbourg-sur-Vesdre. I doubt it was ever purely German or Dutch speaking. (Kupper thinks the family imported the name from another Limburg in Germany, when they built the castle.)

2. There are several Limburgs around northern Europe, mainly spelled Limburg, because mainly in Dutch or German speaking areas.

3. The French spelling would also help avoid confusion with the 2 nearby modern provinces of Belgium and the Netherlands which are named after Limbourg, but contain no significant part of its old county. Both are spelled Limburg, because in Dutch-speaking areas.
WikiTree profile: Henri I de Limbourg
in Policy and Style by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (145k points)
Well, I'm not sure they are being so specific or certain about it, and if they are I am not sure what source they are using. Kupper and others seem to think the area was rather un-populated at this time. Toponymic scholars such as Gysseling seem to say that in the early middle ages there was an extension of Romance to Aachen and Southern Netherlands Limburg, but that it was probably a mixed Romance/Germanic area with patches of Romance and an ingress of Germanic in between them.

But Kirk is this relevant to the question at hand?

According to the Wikipedia article on the Duchy of Limburg it was a part of the Holy Roman Empire in this time period, which I think is another reason to use the German rather than the French spelling.

John, this was also true of nearby Liège and indeed a big part of what is now French-speaking and Dutch-speaking Belgium and what is now France? Doesn't your reasoning imply that we need to make some very awkward changes? Nearby Liège is Lüttich in German, but some of the German names for places in the large Lotharingian region, which is mainly NOT German speaking, are hardly known anymore.

Put it another way, there was no official language of the Holy Roman Empire. (Unless it was Latin?) It certainly wasn't modern German.

Remember we are talking about a single letter of spelling difference, so compared to the range of spelling variations at the time, this is nothing.

I have to say I was not expecting any opposition to this proposal because it seemed simple. As far as I can understand Wikitree habits and policies, this is according to them? I have never seen anyone claim that any place in the Holy Roman Empire should have German placenames, and I have never seen anyone on Wikitree argue that a Germanic etymology is enough to make a place German speaking. (Note the big difference between the words Germanic and German.) Such new policies would mean a lot of strange changes would be needed.

Limbourg is French speaking, and modern English, Dutch and German speakers generally therefore spell it Limbourg, if they know the place. It has been spelled many ways, but it has certainly been Romance speaking for a long time, possibly since it was founded. It will never have been soully Germanic speaking even if it will always have had speakers of various dialects of what we would now call German and Dutch. It has a generally Germanic etymology, but no one is even confident of what it is, let alone which dialect it comes from. Kupper thinks the name was chosen for its political associations. If we have to use etymology to make these decisions, then for example consider all the Anglo Saxon placenames in Normandy, or the Welsh names in England.
As I mentioned, I can't understand the arguments based on etymology or being in the Holy Roman Empire. I tried to think what the strongest argument is for the Limburg spelling rather than Limbourg and in extension of the cheese argument I mentioned above I think it is the following:

*Limbourg-sur-Vesdre the town is spelled LimboUrg, but its historical honour which became a county is often called Limburg in English, at least concerning the later period when it was a Duchy.

Is this because in English we partly know of the Duchy as a part of the Holy Roman Empire? Quite likely, so maybe this is a better way to express John's point. But it raises a counter counter argument:

...For many places between Germany and France the Holy Roman Empire was NOT the most important political structure. In this case the honour started in connection to Lower Lotharingia and became bound to the Ducal title of Lower Lotharingia or "Lothier". It then became bound within the Burgundian complex of titles which of course were not even limited within the Holy Roman Empire but were effectively independent.

The language of court of the Burgundians was French, and when authors come at a place from their studies of the Burgundian court they also tend to use French placenames (even for places in Germany and the Netherlands).

Then I realize there is an important parallel case, which border Limburg's honour and has the same spelling question, political history (Holy Roman Empire and Burgundian) and similar linguistic situation: Luxembourg, which in German is spelled Luxemburg.

In English we write Luxembourg, despite it having a Germanic etymology, Germanic language speaking citizens, and historical membership in the Holy Roman Empire. We do also see people spell it Luxemburg when those people are coming at the subject from a German angle, but in my experience this is not the recommended approach. (Because it is a country, there are more discussions about what it the correct approach.)

Andrew are you talking about Medieval or modern Luxembourg? Because the current country Luxembourg has three official languages and citizens speaking three languages, not just German (if we want to be purist and call the country using its "native" language the correct version would be Lëtzebuerg)... but this is off topic. 

You make an interesting case for using Limbourg rather than Limburg, but I'm afraid using Limbourg would lead to more confusion that sticking to Limburg. Limburg is simpler, in short. And I think it would be counter-productive to change the profiles which currently have the LNAB Limburg - not a bad LNAB for them - to Limbourg. 

Still, thanks for raising the question for the badly-named profiles that will inevitably surface and need a name change.


Isabelle, please make the basis of your reasoning clear. Are you saying that the reason to use Limburg is because it is already being used?

If so then please note that my reason for coming here is that I was working on those profiles and as usual I find that they are not all in an orderly condition at all. All kinds of LNABs are being used, especially ones with "Von" which seems entirely inappropriate? So they'll need to be changed anyway.

Do you have another argument against Limbourg with a "u"?

Concerning the dialect of Luxembourg, if you look at the discussion above you'll find that is entirely equivalent to the situation in the former Duchy of Limbourg. There is some use of standard modern German in modern schools, but in reality there is and was a Germanic dialect used in the countryside (but not by everyone), quite far from modern standard German and also close to Dutch.

PS I was thinking that both modern and medieval usage are relevant to such discussions. But please note Limburg is neither a simple standard name of modern or medieval Limbourg-sur-Vesdre. There are however several other places it is confused with that are always spelled Limburg.

Andrew, I'm simply not experienced or specialized enough to make a definitive call in a case like this. Usually I'm the one who is asking questions. This was just a side note. Remember to keep it simple, if possible. And thank you for wanting to change names like VonLimburg, they are incorrect, unsearchable and an eyesore.

It's been said, and written, that "acceptable" LNABs are not a priority to be changed (because changes cause redirections in the database which neither the database nor Google like). IMO "Limburg" is acceptable, "VonLimburg" is not. So yes, in that respect, if a profile already has the LNAB Limburg it is a reason not to change it to Limbourg. Yet.

I understand you would recommend Limbourg for early members of the family. At what point would that switch to Limburg? 

Would considering the situation of Lorraine and current use of the Lorraine LNAB bring a useful angle to the discussion? Part of the Holy Roman Empire, now French, but with family members well outside of France.

Hi Isabelle. My main concern is to get a good lasting rationale posted because otherwise the problems keep coming back. So my critical responses should be read in that light.

In answer to your question, yes from reading materials specifically about the Duchy I think Limbourg is a preference. It also helps connect to the real modern place and avoid confusions with the post Waterloo Duchy of the same name which is not the same, as well as lordships with the same name in Germany..

The lordship of Limbourg sur Vesdre is the source of the name of a fairly clearly defined dynasty which is a branch of the Luxembourg branch of the House of Ardenne. The lordship became a Duchy. In English; both Limbourg and Limburg are used to spell the name of this lordship:

It lasted a few centuries and then ended with a war of succession which Brabant won. After that it was no longer the name of a specific family and the lordship was one of a bundle of lordships linked to Brabant.

Most or all of the rulers in this famili were named either Henry or Waleran.
If we can all agree that Limburg, Limbourg, Lemborch, etc. is of Germanic etymology, which in my reading appears to be accepted by every linguist  who has written about it, and also that place names have been in existence considerably before they are first mentioned in any document, it is hard for me to follow an argument that a predominantly Romanic language speaking population named a place with a Germanic name and the Germanic speaking people migrated into the area only later.

To Andrew's argument about the names: If you confine yourself to the literature written in a language that was not spoken in the area of discussion you will get a distorted picture with respect to those names. Henry and Waleran were most certainly not the most common names of the family, in French they were Henri and Waléran, in German Heinrich and Walram, and in Dutch Hendrik and Walram, and if it can be of some help in deciding seals and contemporary documents in Latin call Walram Walramus.
Helmut, Kupper 2007 specifically proposes that the name was given to the new castle to show allegiance to the Conradine imperial dynasty. I can't think of a better source than Kupper's article for this period and this region.

...but I also still do not understand your etymology argument's relevance and I'm worried about setting it as a precedent because I do not think it can provide sustainable decisions. By this argument we have to make all kinds of controversial claims about places with Romance names far to the north and east of Limbourg, and Germanic names far to the south and west. Why would we do that? There is already a specialist literature which has concluded that a large swathe of Lower Lotharingia was bilingual in the early middle ages, with both Romance and Germanic place names continuing to evolve according to the developments happening in those languages, and so not being treated as foreign.

I also have no argument concerning personal names (first names). I just used English forms for convenience in answer to Isabelle's question about who is in the dynasty. I would tend to prefer Latin for Proper First Name at least for the earliest generations. For Limburg-65 I have done this.

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