The Jülich-Cleves Line
Written by: Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.


The old 11th century castle of Schwanenburg ("Swan's Castle") was the former residence of the Duke of Cleves. The vast Schwanenburg Castle with its tower was 180 feet high, was topped by a golden swan.

The capital of the duchy of Kleve, was created in 1417. In 1614 the duchy, which embraced land on both sides of the Rhine, came into the possession of Brandenburg. The part of the duchy east of the Rhine was ceded to France in 1795; the remaining portion was seized by France from Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars. The city of Cleves was built in Dutch architectural style, on three hills. Leather goods, machinery, and tobacco products are manufactured here. Mineral springs are nearby.

The castle is associated with the legend of the "Knights of the Swan." The Duchy of Cleves lays on both banks of the Rhine River and had an area of about 850 square miles. Before the year 1000 this area belonged to "Rutger," whose family line became exhinct in 1366. The holdings then passed to the LaMarck family and became a duchy in 1417. In 1521, it united with the neigboring duchies of Jülich and Berg.


The duchy of Jülich was located between Cologne and Aachen. Jülich was originally a county. It became a duchy in 1356, and in 1423, it was united with the county of Berg. When the Jülich line became extinct, it was inherited by Duke Johann III of Cleves, upon his marriage to Mary of Jülich-Berg-Ravenburg in 1521.


Berg was a former duchy, of Germany, located on the right bank of the Rhine River, south of the duchy of Cleves. Its area was about 1120 square miles. Berg became a countship in 1108, and a duchy in 1380 under the possession of the Jülich family. The count of LaMarck's male line became extinct with the death of John William, bishop of Munster, in 1609. He was childless, but John had four sisters:

(1) Marie Eleonore LaMarck married Albert Fredrick, duke of Prussia.
(2) Ann LaMarck married Philip Louis, count palatine of Nueberg.
(3) Magdelena LaMarck married John, count palatine of Zweibrticken.
(4) Sybilla LaMarck married Charles of Habsberg, margrave of Burgau.

The question of the succession of this line was one of the causes of the Thirty Year War. In 1614, it was settled and passed to the count palatine of Neuberg, where it remained unitl 1742.

As noted above, the Jülich-Cleves Dynasty was the union of three duchies" Jülich (1347), Berg (1355), and Cleves; and the counties of Mark and Ravensburg, and Ravenstein.


Johann I, Duke of Cleves (1425-1458) was the son of Adolf, Duke of Cleves (1316-1425) and Mary of Burgundy Johann's sister was Mary of Cleves (1426-1486) who married Charles, Duke of Orleans (1390-1465), in 1440. Mary of Cleves was the mother of Louis XII, King of France (1462-January 1, 1515). Louis reigned from 1498-1515) and married (1) Anne of Brittany (1476-1514) (2) Mary Tudor (1496-June 1533) on August 13, 1514.


Johann II, Duke of Cleves (1458-1521) was called "the babymaker" since he fathereed sixty-three (63) illegitimate children before marrying Mechtild of Hesse at age thirty-one (32) years.


Johann III, Duke of Cleves-Jülich (1490-1539) was called "the Simple." He married Mary of Jülich-Berg-Ravensburg. Mary's Jülich side of the family was her great-great grandfather, Duke Gerhard II of Berg and Jülich (1417-1475). He was said to have lost his mind in 1455 and was declared incompetent to rule.


1. Sybilla Cleves, was born in 1514 and married John Frederick, Elector of Saxony (1504-1539), in 1526, at age 12.

2. Anne of Cleves was born on September 22, 1515. and died July 16, 1557. She married on January 6, 1540 to Henry VIII, King of England. Their marriage was annuled on July 9, 1540. She lived the rest of her life in England.

3. Wilhelm the Rich, Duke of Jülich-Cleves, (1516-1592) was born in 1516. He succeeded his father as duke in 1529. His wife was Maria of Austria (whose grandmother was Juana "La Loca" of Castile (1479-1555), sister to Henry VIII's first wife, Catherina of Aragon. Wilhelm had a series of strokes in his fiftieth (50th) year of life, he was considered "mad" from that point on. He was paralyzed on his left side and had a slurring of his speech as a result of his strokes. In 1954, his tomb was opened by Dr. Heinz Schweitzer, who found that Wilhelm was victim to osteoporatic collapse and compression of the spinal column that made standing and sitting for any length of time extremely painful. Wilhelm died on January 5, 1592.
His youngest son was Johann Wilhelm (1562-1609). Wilhelm had a daughter named Sibylla and his eldest son was called Karl Friedrich (1555-1575). Karl died at age 18 which was of great pain to his father.
Maria of Austria was the daughter of Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and Anne (1303-1547), daughter of Wladyslaw II, King of Bohemia and Hungary.

4. Amelia of Cleves was born in 1517.



Buskin, Richard. The Complete Idiot's Guide to British Royalty. New York: Alpha Books, 1998, 141.

Cannon, John and Ralph Griffiths. Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Leon, Vicki. Uppity Women of Shakespearean Times. New York: MJF Books, 1991, 244-246.

MacLagan, Michael. Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2002 (Tables by Jiri Louda)

Midelfort, H.C. Erik. Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, 94-124.

For more information on German lines: CLICK HERE

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