War of the Jülich Succession

War of the Jülich Succession

Coat of arms of United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg.
LocationUnited Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Result Treaty of Xanten
Jülich-Berg and Ravenstein to Wolfgang William.[1] Cleves-Mark and Ravensberg to John Sigismund.[1]
Wesel under Spanish control.[2]
Supporting Emperor Rudolph:
 Holy Roman Empire
Principality of Strasbourg
Prince-Bishopric of Liège
Opposed to Emperor Rudolph:
Margraviate of Brandenburg
 United Provinces
 Kingdom of France
Protestant Union
Supporting Wolfgang William:
Spain Spain
Catholic League
Supporting John Sigismund:
Margraviate of Brandenburg
 United Provinces
Protestant Union

The War of the Jülich Succession or the Jülich-Cleves War was a political and military conflict, composed primarily of a series of sieges and conquests, between Wolfgang William, Duke of Palatinate-Neuburg, supported by Spain and the Catholic League (from 1613),[3] John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, supported by the United Provinces and the Kingdom of England,[3] and Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor (who withdrew his claim in 1610), for control of the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, that began in 1609 and ended on 12 November 1614, with the signing of the Treaty of Xanten.[1] Jülich-Cleves-Berg was divided between Duke Wolfgang William of Neuburg and John Sigismund of Brandenburg.[1][4]


When Duke John William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg died on 25 March 1609, he had no legitimate heirs to succeed him. As a result, both Duke Wolfgang William of Palatinate-Neuburg and Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg claimed inheritance to the throne. Both King Henry IV of France and representatives of the United Provinces of the Netherlands were suspicious of the possibility that Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II of Habsburg would seize the throne of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Emperor Rudolph did contemplate annexing more territories to extend Habsburg possessions in the Low Countries. Ultimately, troops from the Holy Roman Empire occupied the fortress at Jülich.


Eventually, Emperor Rudolf retracted his claim to the throne and for a brief time supported the House of Wettin (Duke of Saxony) and their claim to Jülich-Cleves-Berg. However, the claim made by the House of Wettin was ultimately withdrawn. It was when Duke Wolfgang William and Elector John Sigismund established their respective claims to the throne that the conflict gained momentum.

King Henry IV of France suggested that the lands be divided between both Duke Wolfgang William and Elector John Sigismund. The Count of Hesse recommended that both individuals rule Jülich-Cleves-Berg jointly. Both claimants agreed to rule together and they also promised to maintain religious tolerance enshrined in the Dortmund Recess developed on 10 June 1609. Even though the fortress at Jülich was still occupied by Emperor Rudolph's forces, it was eventually besieged by Dutch, Brandenburg and Palatine forces. The siege began on 28 July 1610 and ended on 2 September 1610 when the fortress surrendered and Imperial troops withdrew.

In 1613, Philip Louis's eldest son, Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine of Neuburg converted to Catholicism and gained the support of Spain and the Catholic League, and in August 1614 the Spanish General Don Ambrosio Spinola, with a strong army of 15,000 men, advanced over Jülich-Cleves-Berg, capturing several towns and castles.[3][4]


The death of the Duke John William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg triggered the succession crisis.

After the conflict, the Dortmund Recess was rejected by the cities of Cleves, Mark, Jülich, Berg, and Ravensberg since the accord was developed without the consent of all five cities. Overall, the five cities preferred to be represented by one prince rather than two. Ultimately the Dortmund Recess was replaced by the Treaty of Xanten, by which Jülich-Cleves-Berg was divided between Duke Wolfgang William and Elector John Sigismund.[1] The resulting Treaty of Xanten was signed on 12 November 1614, with Jülich and Berg going to Wolfgang William of Neuberg, while Elector John Sigismund got Cleves, Mark, and Ravensburg. The Spaniards refused to give up the key fortress of Wesel, and it remained under their control.[1]

Spain was the main beneficiary of the Treaty of Xanten, increasing its presence in the region, and ensuring the crossing of the Rhine River in three places.[5]

See also


Historically, the War of the Jülich Succession was recognized as a precursor to the Thirty Years' War.

External links


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hayden p.22
  2. The Spanish army under Spinola refused to give up the key fortress of Wesel. Hayden p.22
  3. 1 2 3 Lawrence p.79
  4. 1 2 Van Nimwegen p.204
  5. Wilson p.254


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