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51°47′N 6°8′E / 51.783°N 6.133°E / 51.783; 6.133

County (Duchy) of Cleves
Grafschaft (Herzogtum) Kleve (German)
Graafschap (Hertogdom) Kleef (Dutch)
1020 (traditional)–1795
Coat of arms of Cleves
Coat of arms
Map of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle (around 1560), Duchy of Cleves highlighted in Red
Map of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle (around 1560),
Duchy of Cleves highlighted in Red
Common languages
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Dietrich I first
Count of Cleves
• United with Mark
• Raised to duchy
• United with Jülich
and Berg
• To Brandenburg
• Annexed by France
• Province of
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Lower Lotharingia
Roer (department)

The Duchy of Cleves (German: Herzogtum Kleve; Dutch: Hertogdom Kleef) was a State of the Holy Roman Empire which emerged from the medieval Hettergau [de]. It was situated in the northern Rhineland on both sides of the Lower Rhine, around its capital Cleves and the towns of Wesel, Kalkar, Xanten, Emmerich, Rees and Duisburg bordering the lands of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster in the east and the Duchy of Brabant in the west. Its history is closely related to that of its southern neighbours: the Duchies of Jülich and Berg, as well as Guelders and the Westphalian county of Mark. The Duchy was archaically known as Cleveland in English.

The duchy's territory roughly covered the present-day German districts of Cleves (northern part), Wesel and the city of Duisburg, as well as adjacent parts of the Limburg, North Brabant and Gelderland provinces in the Netherlands.


In the early 11th century Emperor Henry II entrusted the administration of the Klever Reichswald, a large forested area around the Kaiserpfalz at Nijmegen directly subordinate to the Imperial rule, to local Lower Lorrainian nobles at Geldern and Kleve. A County of Cleves (German: Grafschaft Kleve; Dutch: Graafschap Kleef) was first mentioned in the 11th century. Dietrich I was the first Count of Cleves and reigned from 1092 through 1119. In 1355 Zevenaar passed from the control of the Duchy of Guelders to the Duchy of Cleves.

Upon the death of Count Johann in 1368, the fief was inherited by his nephew Adolf III of the Marck. Cleves and the Marck were finally ruled in personal union by the House of La Marck after Adolf's elder brother Count Engelbert III had died without issue in 1391. King Sigismund of Germany raised Count Adolph I to the status of a duke and a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1417, and the county became a duchy.

Schwanenburg Castle, Cleves
Quarterly, I and IV gules an escutcheon argent, overall an escarbuncle Or; II and III Or a fess chequy argent and gules.

The Cleves-Mark territories became one of the most significant estates of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle in 1500, rivaled by the Prince-Bishops of Münster. In 1511 John III of La Marck, son of Duke John II of Cleves, married Maria and her estates and titles were then merged with the Duchy of Cleves. Upon the death of his father-in-law Duke William IV, John inherited the fiefs of Jülich and Berg through his wife. When John III succeeded his father as Duke of Cleves in 1521, the states of Jülich, Berge, Cleves and Mark formed the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg.[1] His daughter Anne of Cleves (1515–1557) even became Queen Consort of England for a few months in 1540, as her brother William, duke since 1539, quarrelled with Emperor Charles V over the possession of Guelders and sought support from King Henry VIII.[2]

John William was the son of William and the last duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berge. He died without issue in 1609, and the War of the Jülich succession broke out between the heirs of his two eldest sisters: Maria Eleonora, Duchess of Prussia, and Anna, Countess of Neuburg. Marie Eleonore's daughter Marie was married to the Margrave of Brandenburg; Neuberg was a cadet branch of the House of Wittelsbach. According to the 1614 Treaty of Xanten, Brandenburg received Cleves-Mark and Neuburg received Jülich-Berg.[3] The Hohenzollern margraves thereby got a first foothold in the Rhineland; however, large parts of the Duchy of Cleves were occupied by the United Provinces until the Franco-Dutch War in 1672. Finally incorporated into Brandenburg-Prussia by the Great Elector Frederick William I of Brandenburg in 1666[4] and part of the Kingdom of Prussia after 1701, Cleves was occupied by French forces in the Seven Years' War (1757–1762).

In the 1795 Peace of Basel the Duchy of Cleves west of the Rhine and Wesel was ceded to France, and became part of the French département of the Roer. The rest of the duchy was occupied between 1803 and 1805, and became part of the puppet-state Grand Duchy of Berg. In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon, the duchy became part of the Prussian Province of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, which merged in the Prussian Rhine Province in 1822.[5] The cities Gennep, Zevenaar, and Huissen became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands as a result of the 1815 Congress of Vienna.

Rulers of Cleves

map of the Duchy of Cleves and Ravenstein domain from Theater of the World, or a New Atlas of Maps and Representations of All Regions, edited by Willem and Joan Blaeu, 1645

Counts of Cleves

Old Cleves family coat of arms

House of Cleves

The House of Cleves considers itself to be descended from Rutger von Antoing, a Flemish nobleman. He was enfeoffed of imperial property near Kleve in 1020, and Tomburg Castle some time after. The first documented lord from the House of Cleves is Dietrich, numbered variously as II or III, in 1092.[6]

House of La Marck

Dukes of Cleves

House of La Marck

Notable people


  1. ^ Haude, Sigrun. In the Shadow of "Savage Wolves": Anabaptist Münster and the German Reformation During the 1530s. Brill (2000) p. 72
  2. ^ "Wilhelm II, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg", The British Museum
  3. ^ Hayden, J. Michael (1973). "Continuity in the France of Henry IV and Louis XIII: French Foreign Policy, 1598-1615". Journal of Modern History. 45 (1): 22. doi:10.1086/240888. S2CID 144914347.
  4. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Frederick William of Brandenburg". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 67–68.
  5. ^ Romeyk, Horst (1985). Verwaltungs- und Behördengeschichte der Rheinprovinz 1914–1945 [History of Administration and Public Authorities of the Rhine Province 1914–1945] (in German). Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag. pp. 123 ff.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Biographie, Deutsche. "Kleve - Deutsche Biographie". (in German). Retrieved 2024-02-11.
  7. ^ Miller, Clarence H. (March 1994). "Thomas More's Letters to Frans van Cranevelt, including Seven Recently Discovered Autographs: Latin Text, English Translation, and Facsimiles of the Originals". Moreana. 31 (Number 117) (1): 65. doi:10.3366/more.1994.31.1.4.