William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg

William the Rich

Duke William of Jülich-Cleves-Berge, engraving from Heinrich Aldegrever
Duke of the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Reign 6 February 1539 – 5 January 1592
Predecessor John III
Successor Johann Wilhelm
Born (1516-07-28)28 July 1516
Düsseldorf, Duchy of Berg
Died 5 January 1592(1592-01-05) (aged 75)
Düsseldorf, Duchy of Berg
Burial Collegiate Church of St Lambertus, Düsseldorf
Spouse Joan III of Navarre
Maria of Austria
Issue Marie Eleonore, Duchess of Prussia
Anna, Countess Palatine of Neuburg
Magdalene, Countess Palatine of Zweibrücken
Karl Friedrich of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Sibylle, Margravine of Burgau
Johann Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
House La Marck
Father John III, Duke of Cleves
Mother Maria, Duchess of Jülich-Berg
Religion Lutheran[1]

William of Jülich-Cleves-Berge (William I of Cleves, William V of Jülich-Berg) (German: Wilhelm der Reiche; 28 July 1516 – 5 January 1592) was a Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (1539–1592). William was born in and died in Düsseldorf. He was the only son of John III, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, and Maria, Duchess of Jülich-Berg. William took over rule of his father's estates (the Duchy of Cleves and the County of Mark) upon his death in 1539. Despite his mother having lived until 1543, William also became the Duke of Berg and Jülich and the Count of Ravenstein.

From 1538 to 1543, William held the neighbouring Duchy of Guelders, as successor of his distant relatives, the Egmond dukes. Emperor Charles V claimed this duchy for himself as the dukes had sold their right of heritage, and William tried to hold on to it. He made a treaty with the King of France and married Jeanne d'Albret, and with this backup dared to challenge the Emperor. All too soon he learned that the French did not lift a finger to help him, and he was overwhelmed and had to surrender. In accordance with the Treaty of Venlo (1543) that was the result of this war, Guelders and the County of Zutphen were transferred to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, combining them with the Habsburg Netherlands.

William then tried to strengthen his inherited territories and launched an impressive development project for the most important cities. The three duchies all got new main fortresses as major strongpoints, for the older medieval fortifications had proved to be no match against the Imperial artillery. The cities of Jülich, Düsseldorf and Orsoy became fortresses for the duchies of Jülich, Berg and Cleves respectively, and Jülich and Düsseldorf were turned into impressive residences. For this task, the renowned Italian architect Alessandro Pasqualini from Bologna was hired, who had already made some impressive display of his craft in the Netherlands. He made the plans for the fortifications and palaces, of which some traces still remain, especially at Jülich where the citadel (built 1548-1580) is a major landmark, with parts of the Renaissance palace still standing.

William's sister Anne of Cleves was, for six months, the fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England. Through his daughter Marie Eleonore, he is ancestor of Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, wife of John William Friso, Prince of Orange therefore ancestor of all the current European monarchs.

Marriages and descendants

William married Jeanne d'Albret (1528–72), heiress of Navarre in 1541, when she was just 13 years old, but this political marriage was annulled four years later.

William married Maria of Austria (1531–81), daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary on 18 July 1546 and they had the following children:

  1. Marie Eleonore (25 June 1550 – 1608), married Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia.[2]
  2. Anna (1 March 1552 – 1632), married Philipp Ludwig, Count Palatine of Neuburg.[2]
  3. Magdalene (1553–1633), married John I, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken (brother of Philip Louis)[2]
  4. Karl Friedrich (1555–75)
  5. Elizabeth (1556–61)
  6. Sibylle (1557–1627), married Charles, Margrave of Burgau, a morganatic son of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria and Philippine Welser [2][3]
  7. Johann Wilhelm (28 May 1562 – 25 March 1609), Bishop of Münster, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berge, Count de la Marck, Count of Ravensberg, Lord of Ravenstein. He was first married in 1585 to Jakobea of Baden (died 1597), daughter of Philibert, Margrave of Baden-Baden. He was secondly married to Antonia of Lorraine (died 1610) daughter of Charles III, Duke of Lorraine.
upper left:Cleves, upper right: Julich,
down left: Berg, down right: Mark,
over all: Ravensberg



  1. Weir, Alison: The Six Wives of Henry VIII; Grove Press, 2000; page 388.
  2. 1 2 3 4 The Cambridge modern history, Volume 3, The University press, 1918; Digitized 2008, Google Books
  3. L.M. Koldau, Frauen-Musik-Kultur: ein Handbuch zum deutschen Sprachgebiet der Frühen Neuzeit, pg 68
William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Born: 28 July 1516 Died: 5 January 1592
Preceded by
Charles II
Duke of Guelders
Count of Zutphen

Succeeded by
Charles III
Preceded by
John III
Duke of Cleves, Jülich and Berg
Count of Mark and Ravensburg

Succeeded by
John William
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