Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle

The Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle during the mid 16th century (after the Burgundian treaty of 1548)
Historical map of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle of 1710 by Peter Schenk the Elder

The Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle (German: Niederrheinisch-Westfälischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised territories of the former Duchy of Lower Lorraine, Frisia and the Westphalian part of the former Duchy of Saxony.

The circle was made up of numerous small states, however the Counts De la Marck were able to collect a significant amount of territories, the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 on. The Empire's largest ecclesiastical territory was held by the Prince-Bishops of Münster.


The circle was made up of the following states:

Name Type of entity Comments
 Aachen Imperial City Reichsfreiheit granted by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1166
Anholt Lordship Former territory of the Utrecht bishops, reichsfrei since the 14th century, held by the Lords of Gemen, fell to Salm-Salm in 1641
Beilstein Lordship Fief of Trier since 1488, held by the Freiherren von Metternich from 1635, Reichsgrafen from 1679
Bentheim County Inherited by the Freiherren von Steinfurt in 1421, Bentheim-Bentheim since 1454, again held by Steinfurt from 1530
Berg Duchy Raised to duchy by King Wenceslaus of Luxembourg in 1380, part of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 to 1614, with Jülich to Palatinate-Neuburg according to the Treaty of Xanten
Blankenheim-Gerolstein County Inherited by Manderscheid in 1468
Brakel Imperial City Status challenged by the Prince-Bishopric of Paderborn
Cambrai Prince-Bishopric Diocese established in the 6th century, Reichsfreiheit granted by King Henry II in 1007, archbishopric from 1559, fell to France by the 1679 Peace of Nijmegen
Cambray Imperial City Status challenged by the Cambrai bishops, declared to a duchy by Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg in 1510
Cleves Duchy Part of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 to 1614, with Mark and Ravensberg to Brandenburg according to the Treaty of Xanten
 Cologne Imperial City Status acknowledged by Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg in 1475
Corvey Prince-Abbacy Established in 815 by King Louis the Pious
Delmenhorst County Established by a junior branch of the House of Oldenburg, held by Oldenburg since 1436
Diepholz County Established about 1160, to Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1585
 Dortmund Imperial City Status confirmed by Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in 1236
 Duisburg Imperial City Given in pawn to Cleves by King Rudolph of Habsburg in 1290, finally divested of the Imperial title by Elector Frederick William I of Brandenburg in 1674
Düren Imperial City Status confirmed by Emperor Otto III in 1000, given in pawn to Jülich by Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in 1241
East Frisia County Raised to Principality 1662, fell to Prussia in 1744
Echternach Prince-Abbacy Established about 698 by Saint Willibrord, immediacy granted by King Pepin the Short in 751, annexed by France in 1794
Essen Prince-Abbacy Established in 845 by Saint Altfrid, immediacy probably granted by King Conrad I (911-918), secularised to Prussia in 1803
Fagnolle Lordship Held by the House of Ligne, raised to county in 1770
Gemen Lordship Held by the Counts of Holstein-Schauenburg, fell to the House of Limburg-Stirum in 1640
Gimborn Lordship Held by the House of Schwarzenberg, Reichsfreiheit granted by Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1631, raised to county in 1698, sold to Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden in 1782
Gronsveld Lordship Richsfreiheit granted by Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg in 1498, raised to county about 1588, annexed by France in 1794
Hallermund County Fief of Brunswick-Calenberg around Springe, raised to Imperial county in 1706
Herford Prince-Abbacy Nunnery established in 789, immediate prince-abbacy since 1147, confirmed by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1152
Herford Imperial City Reichsfreiheit derived from Herford Abbey, challenged by Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1547, annexed by Brandenburgian Ravensberg in 1652
Holzappel County Former Esterau possession of Nassau, granted by Emperor Ferdinand III of Habsburg to his field marshal Peter Melander in 1643, to Anhalt-Bernburg in 1676
Hoya County Fief of Brunswick-Lüneburg from 1519, line extinct in 1582
Jülich Duchy Reichsfreiheit confirmed by Emperor Louis IV of Wittelsbach in 1328, raised to duchy by Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg in 1356, part of Jülich-Cleves-Berg 1521 to 1614, with Berg to Palatinate-Neuburg according to the Treaty of Xanten
Kerpen and Lommersum Lordship Annexed by Brabant from Cologne after the 1288 Battle of Worringen, inherited by Burgundy in 1406 and the House of Habsburg in 1482, fell to Jülich in 1710, raised to county in 1712, gained Reichsfreiheit in 1786
Kornelimünster Prince-Abbacy Established in 814 by Saint Benedict of Aniane
Lemgo Imperial City Established about 1190 by Lord Bernard II of Lippe, Reichsfreiheit ascertained by the Imperial Chamber Court
Liège Prince-Bishopric Established about 315 by Saint Maternus of Cologne at Tongeren
Lingen County Emerged from Tecklenburg in 1493, seized as a reverted fief by Emperor Charles V of Habsburg in 1547, with the Burgundian Netherlands to King Philip II of Spain in 1555, conquered by Prince Maurice of Nassau in 1597, inherited by Prussia in 1702
Lippe Lordship Lordship established about 1123, raised to county in 1528, split off Lippe-Alverdissen in 1613 (Schaumburg-Lippe from 1643), raised to principality in 1789
Luxemburg Duchy To Burgundian Circle in 1512
Manderscheid County Held Schleiden since 1445, raised to Imperial county by Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg in 1457, inherited Blankenheim-Gerolstein in 1468, Sternberg-Manderscheid from 1780, annexed by France in 1794
Mark County Established about 1160, acquired Cleves in 1368, part of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 to 1614, with Cleves and Ravensberg to Brandenburg according to the Treaty of Xanten
Myllendonk Lordship Regained Reichsfreiheit in 1700, held by the Counts of Ostein from 1732
Minden Prince-Bishopric Secularised to Brandenburg by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, as the Principality of Minden
Moers County First documented in 1186, held by Wied since 1493, to the Counts of Neuenahr in 1519, inherited by Adolf van Nieuwenaar in 1578, by Maurice of Nassau in 1594, to Prussia as principality in 1702
Münster Prince-Bishopric Bishopric established by Saint Ludger about 805, reichsfrei territory emerged in 1180 from the Duchy of Saxony, held in personal union by the Wittelsbach Prince-Bishops of Cologne 1612-1650, 1683–1688 and 1723–1801
Nassau-Dillenburg County Emerged from Nassau in 1303, split off Orange in 1559, principality in 1654, inherited by Orange-Nassau in 1739
Nassau-Diez County Former County of Diez, inherited by Nassau-Dillenburg in 1386, emerged from Nassau-Dillenburg in 1606, principality 1654, inherited Orange in 1702, name changed to Orange-Nassau
Nassau-Hadamar County Emerged from Nassau-Dillenburg in 1606, Principality 1650, line extinct in 1711, inherited by Orange-Nassau in 1743
Oldenburg County Established in Saxony after the deposition of Henry the Lion in 1180, personal union with Denmark 1667-1773, raised to duchy ruled by Holstein-Gottorp in 1774
Osnabrück Prince-Bishopric
Paderborn Prince-Bishopric
Pyrmont County
Ravensberg County Established about 1140 out of former County of Calvelage, held by Berg since 1346, part of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 to 1614, with Cleves and Mark to Brandenburg according to the Treaty of Xanten
Reckheim County
Reichenstein Lordship
Rietberg County
Salm-Reifferscheid-Dyck County status unclear
Sayn County
Schaumburg County
Schaumburg-Hesse County
Schaumburg-Lippe County
Schleiden County
Soest Imperial City
Spiegelberg County
Stavelot-Malmedy Prince-Abbacy
Steinfurt County Bentheim-Steinfurt since 1454, Reichsfreiheit granted by Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg in 1486, County of Steinfurt in 1495
Tecklenburg County Bentheim-Tecklenburg from 1557
Thorn Prince-Abbacy
Utrecht Prince-Bishopric later to Burgundian Circle
Verden Prince-Bishopric Secularized as a principality held by the King of Sweden from 1648
Verden Imperial City status unclear
Virneburg County
Warburg Imperial City
Werden Prince-Abbacy
Wesel Imperial City status unclear
Wickrath County
Wied County
Winneburg Lordship
Wittem Lordship


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