House of Merode

noble family

Coat of Arms
Country  Netherlands
Current head Charles Guillaume de Merode
Ethnicity German

The Princely House of Merode 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 Merode (in French). The name is also spelled van Merode in Dutch and von Merode in German.

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

The Coat of Arms of the House of Merode 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 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 Merode family still owns the castle (Schloss Merode) from which their name derives.

Originally, the Merode family had the rank of 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 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 Marquis of Westerloo, called 'de Merode-Westerloo', would become the most famous. The present-day 'Princes de Merode' in Belgium descend from the latter branch.


From the 14th century onwards, a branch of the Merode 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 Merode with Margareth van Wesemael marked a new age in the family’s history. Due to this marriage, the house of Merode inherited important seigniories in Brabant, such as Westerloo and the County of Olen. Jean I de Merode married Adelheid van Hoorn in 1451 and brought Gheel, Diepenbeek and Duffel into the possession of the family. Through these and other marriages, the Merode family became one of the most important noble families in the Duchy of Brabant.

Jean II de Merode held the position of Lord Chamberlain of Philip the Handsome. He was succeeded by his son Jean III. 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 Merode family. In the more prosperous era after the Twelve Years' Truce, the family's fortune grew again. In 1626, the title of Marquis of Westerloo was granted to Philippe I de Merode by King Philip IV of Spain. It was his great-grandson, Jean-Philippe-Eugène de Merode, Marquis of Westerloo, who would become one of the most illustrious descendants of the house: He is known as the Feld-Maréchal de Merode and became a knight in the order of the Golden Fleece, having served as an important military commander.

In the 18th century, the branch of Merode-Westerloo acquired wealth and power due to the extinction of other branches of the house (Merode-Houffalize, Merode-Deinze, Merode-Montfort, Merode-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 Marquis 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 Merode family became prominently engaged in politics and diplomacy. Charles-Guillaume-Ghislain de Merode-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 mayor of Brussels in 1805, and senator of the French Empire in 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 Merode became a new national hero when he was killed in the battle near Berchem during the Belgian revolution, while Félix de Merode became an important member of the Provisional Government of Belgium and the Belgian National Congress. After the first Belgian legislative elections, Henri de Merode became a senator, while his brothers Félix and Werner both became members of parliament.

The descendants of Henri, Félix and Werner de Merode would form different branches, whose descendants would continue to play an important role in Belgian politics and diplomacy.

Notable members of Henri's branch

Notable members of Felix's branch

Upon the death of Charles de Merode in 1977, this line became the senior branch of the House of Merode.

Notable members of Werner's branch

Werner de Merode (1797-1840), founder of the present younger branch of the family, married in 1818 with Countess Victoire de Spangen d'Uyternesse. Among their descendants are:

Titles of the family

Some members of the House of Merode carried the title of Count from the fifteenth century, while 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 Merode (1594–1638), was the first Marquis of Westerloo.

The House of Merode bears the following titles:

See also


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

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