Guelders or Gueldres (Dutch: Gelre, German: Geldern) is a historical county, later duchy of the Holy Roman Empire, located in the Low Countries.

Duchy of Guelders

Hertogdom Gelre (nl)
Herzogtum Geldern (de)
Coat of arms of Guelders
Coat of arms
Duchy of Guelders and the County of Zutphen, about 1350
Duchy of Guelders and the County of Zutphen, about 1350
GovernmentFeudal monarchy
Historical eraMiddle Ages, Renaissance
• Gerard I first
   Count of Guelders
• Raised to duchy
• Held by Jülich
• Acquired by Burgundy
• Lower Quarters to
   Dutch Republic
• Annexed by France
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Lothringen-Nieder.PNG Lower Lorraine
Burgundian Netherlands


The duchy was named after the town of Geldern (Gelder) in present-day Germany. Though the present province of Gelderland (English also Guelders) in the Netherlands occupies most of the area, the former duchy also comprised parts of the present Dutch province of Limburg as well as those territories in the present-day German state of North Rhine-Westphalia that were acquired by Prussia in 1713.

Four parts of the duchy had their own centres, as they were separated by rivers:

spatially separated from the Lower Quarters (Gelderland):


The county emerged about 1096, when Gerard III of Wassenberg was first documented as "Count of Guelders". It was then located on the territory of Lower Lorraine, in the area of Geldern and Roermond, with its main stronghold at Montfort (built 1260). Count Gerard's son Gerard II in 1127 acquired the County of Zutphen in northern Hamaland by marriage. In the 12th and 13th century, Guelders quickly expanded downstream along the sides of the Maas, Rhine, and IJssel rivers and even claimed the succession in the Duchy of Limburg, until it lost the 1288 Battle of Worringen against Berg and Brabant.

Herald Gelre of the Duke of Gueldres
Guelders officer of arms wearing a tabard of the shield, ca. 1395

Guelders was often at war with its neighbours, not only with Brabant, but also with the County of Holland and the Bishopric of Utrecht. However, its territory grew not only because of its success in warfare, but also because it thrived in times of peace. For example, the larger part of the Veluwe and the city of Nijmegen were given as collateral to Guelders by their cash-strapped rulers. On separate occasions, in return for loans from the treasury of Guelders, the bishop of Utrecht granted the taxation and administration of the Veluwe, and William II ― Count of both Holland and Zeeland, and who was elected anti-king of the Holy Roman Empire (1248–1256) ― similarly granted the same rights over Nijmegen; as neither ruler proved able to repay their debts, these lands became integral parts of Guelders.

In 1339 Count Reginald II of Guelders (also styled Rainald), of the House of Wassenberg, was elevated to the rank of Duke by Emperor Louis IV of Wittelsbach. After the Wassenberg line became extinct in 1371 following the deaths of Reginald II's childless sons Edward II (on 24 August, from wounds suffered in the Battle of Baesweiler) and Reginald III (on 4 December), the ensuing Guelders War of Succession saw William I of Jülich emerge victorious. William was confirmed in the inheritance of Guelders in 1379, and from 1393 onwards held both duchies in personal union (in Guelders as William I, and in Jülich as William III). In 1423 Guelders passed to the House of Egmond, which gained recognition of its title from Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, but was unable to escape the political strife and internecine conflict that had so plagued the preceding House of Jülich-Hengebach, and more especially, the pressure brought to bear by the expansionist rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy. The first Egmond Duke, Arnold, suffered the rebellion of his son Adolf and was imprisoned by the latter in 1465. Adolf, who had enjoyed the support of Burgundian Duke Philip III ("the Good") and of the four major cities of Guelders during his rebellion, was unwilling to strike a compromise with his father when this was demanded by Philip's successor, Duke Charles the Bold. Charles had Duke Adolf captured and imprisoned in 1471 and reinstated Arnold on the throne of the Duchy of Guelders. Charles then bought the reversion (i.e., the right of succession to the throne) from Duke Arnold, who, against the will of the towns and the law of the land, pledged his duchy to Charles for 300,000 Rhenish florins. The bargain was completed in 1472–73, and upon Arnold's death in 1473, Duke Charles added Guelders to the "Low Countries" portion of his Valois Duchy of Burgundy. Upon Charles' defeat and death at the Battle of Nancy in January 1477, Duke Adolf was released from prison by the Flemish, but died the same year at the head of a Flemish army besieging Tournai, after the States of Guelders had recognized him once more as Duke. Subsequently, Guelders was ruled by Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, husband of Charles the Bold's daughter and heir, Mary.

The last independent Duke of Guelders was Adolf's son Charles of Egmond (1467–1538, r1492–1538), who was raised at the Burgundian court of Charles the Bold and fought for the House of Habsburg in battles against the armies of Charles VIII of France, until being captured in the Battle of Béthune (1487) during the War of the Public Weal (also known as the Mad War). In 1492, the citizens of Guelders, who had become disenchanted with the rule of Maximilian, ransomed Charles and recognized him as their Duke. Charles, now backed by France, fought Maximilian's grandson Charles of Habsburg (who became Holy Roman Emperor, as Charles V, in 1519) in the Guelders Wars and expanded his realm further north, to incorporate what is now the Province of Overijssel. He was not simply a man of war, but also a skilled diplomat, and was therefore able to keep his independence. He bequeathed the duchy to Duke William the Rich of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (also known as Wilhelm of Cleves). Following in the footsteps of Charles of Egmond, Duke William formed an alliance with France, an alliance dubiously cemented via his political marriage to French King Francis I's niece Jeanne d'Albret (who reportedly had to be whipped into submission to the marriage,[1] and later bodily carried to the altar by the Constable of France, Anne de Montmorency).[2][3] This alliance emboldened William to challenge Emperor Charles V's claim to Guelders, but the French, mightily engaged on multiple fronts as they were in the long struggle to against the Habsburg "encirclement" of France, proved less reliable than the Duke's ambitions required, and he was unable to hold on to the duchy; in 1543, by the terms of the Treaty of Venlo, Duke William conceded the Duchy of Guelders to the Emperor. Charles united Guelders with the Seventeen Provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands, and Guelders finally lost its independence.

Charles V abdicated in 1556 and decreed that the territories of the Burgundian Circle should be held by the Spanish Crown. When the Netherlands revolted against King Philip II of Spain in the Dutch Revolt, the three northern quarters of Gelderland joined the Union of Utrecht and became part of the United Provinces upon the 1581 Act of Abjuration, while only the Upper Quarter remained a part of the Spanish Netherlands.

At the Treaty of Utrecht, ending the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, the Spanish Upper Quarter was again divided between Prussian Guelders (Geldern, Viersen, Horst, Venray), the United Provinces (Venlo, Montfort, Echt), Austria (Roermond, Niederkrüchten, Weert), and the Duchy of Jülich (Erkelenz). In 1795 Guelders was finally conquered and incorporated by the French First Republic, and partitioned between the départements of Roer and Meuse-Inférieure.

Coat of arms of Guelders

The coat of arms of the region changed over time.

Blason ville fr Avanne-Aveney (Doubs)

before 1236

Blason comte fr Gueldre

from 1236

Armoiries Gueldre

from 1276

Guelders-Jülich Arms

Jülich-Guelders after 1393

Guelders in popular culture

William Thatcher, the lead character in the 2001 film A Knight's Tale played by Heath Ledger claimed to be Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland so as to appear to be of noble birth and thus qualify to participate in jousting.

Set in the late 1460s, the main character in Rafael Sabatini's 1929 novel "The Romantic Prince" is Count Anthony of Guelders, elder son of Duke Arnold and brother to Adolf "since then happily vanished". Sabatini weaves the historical characters and events of the period through the story.

The folk/metalband Heidevolk, based in Gelderland, composed and performs a range of songs about Gelre/Guelders, amongst which a contemporary anthem "Het Gelders Volklied".

See also


  1. ^ Robin, Larsen and Levin, p 3
  2. ^ Strage, p 16
  3. ^ Hackett, p 419


  • Diana Robin, Anne R. Larsen, and Carole Levin, eds. (2007). Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance : Italy, France, and England. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 459. ISBN 978-1-85109-772-2.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Strage, Mark (1976). Women of Power: the Life and Times of Catherine dé Medici (1st ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. xiv, 368 p., ill: 16 leaves of plates. ISBN 0-15-198370-4.
  • Hackett, Francis (1935). Francis the First:First Gentleman of France (1968 revised ed.). London: Greenwood Press. p. 448. ISBN 9780837100937.

External links

Adolf, Duke of Guelders

Adolf of Egmond (Grave, February 12, 1438 – Tournai, June 27, 1477) was a Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen from 1465–1471 and in 1477.

He was the son of Arnold, Duke of Guelders and Catherine of Cleves.

In the battle of succession for Guelders, he imprisoned in 1465 his own father and became Duke with the support of Philip the Good, who also made him Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece. In 1468 he won the Battle of Straelen against Cleves, but Charles the Bold reinstated his father Arnold, and Adolf was imprisoned in Hesdin.

After the death of Charles the Bold in 1477, he was liberated by the Flemish.

He died the same year at the head of a Flemish army besieging Tournai, after the States of Guelders had recognized him as Duke. His body was buried in Tournai Cathedral.

Arnold, Duke of Guelders

Arnold of Egmond (14 July 1410 – 23 February 1473) was Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen.

Arnold was born in Egmond-Binnen, North Holland, the son of John II of Egmond and Maria van Arkel.

On 11 July 1423, Arnold, still a boy, succeeded Duke Reinald IV. Arnold was the grandson of Reinald's sister, Johanna. Although the Emperor Sigismund had invested the Duke of Berg with the duchy of Gelders, Arnold retained the confidence of the Estates by enlarging their privileges, and enjoyed the support of Duke Philip of Burgundy. Arnold was betrothed, and afterwards united in marriage to Catherine of Cleves, a niece of Philip of Burgundy. Subsequently, however, Duke Arnold fell out with his ally as to the succession to the see of Utrecht, whereupon Philip joined with the four chief towns of Guelders in the successful attempt of Arnold's son Adolf to substitute his own for his father's authority. Arnold gave up his claim on Jűlich only after his defeat in 1444 by Gerhard VII, Duke of Jülich-Berg.When Charles the Bold became Duke of Burgundy in 1467, after rejecting a compromise, Adolph was thrown into prison. Arnold, against the will of the towns and the law of the land, pledged his duchy to Charles for 300,000 Rhenish florins (1471). Upon Arnold's death two years later at Grave, Charles took possession of the duchy, starting a series of wars that would last more than 70 years.

Burgundian Circle

The Burgundian Circle (German: Burgundischer Kreis, Dutch: Bourgondische Kreits, French: Cercle de Bourgogne) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1512 and significantly enlarged in 1548. In addition to the Free County of Burgundy (present-day administrative region of Franche-Comté), the Burgundian Circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e., the areas now known as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and adjacent parts in the French administrative region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

The circle's territorial scope was reduced considerably in the 17th century with the secession of the Seven United Provinces in 1581 (recognized 1648) and the annexation of the Free County of Burgundy by France in 1678. The occupation and subsequent annexation of Imperial territory to the west of the Rhine river by Revolutionary France in the 1790s effectively brought an end to the circle's existence.

Charles II, Duke of Guelders

Charles II (9 November 1467 – 30 June 1538) was a member of the House of Egmond who ruled as Duke of Guelders and Count of Zutphen from 1492 until his death. He was the son of Adolf of Egmond and Catharine of Bourbon. He had a principal role in the Frisian peasant rebellion and the Guelders Wars.

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor of Woodstock (18 June 1318 – 22 April 1355) was an English princess and Duchess consort of Guelders by marriage. She was regent of Guelders as the guardian of her minor son from 1343 until 1344.

Eleanor was born at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire to King Edward II of England and his queen Isabella of France. She was a younger sister of Edward III of England and the second wife of Reginald II of Guelders, "the Black". Eleanor's maternal grandfather was famous King Philip the Fair.


Gelderland (, also US: , Dutch: [ˈɣɛldərlɑnt] (listen)), also known as Guelders () in English, is a province of the Netherlands, located in the central eastern part of the country. With a land area of nearly 5,000 km2, it is the largest province of the Netherlands and shares borders with six other provinces (Flevoland, Limburg, North Brabant, Overijssel, South Holland and Utrecht) and Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia).

The capital is Arnhem (pop. 156,000); however, Nijmegen (pop. 175,000) and Apeldoorn (pop. nearly 161,000) are both larger municipalities (2017 figures). Other major regional centres in Gelderland are Ede, Doetinchem, Zutphen, Harderwijk, Tiel, Wageningen, Zevenaar, and Winterswijk. Gelderland had a population of just over two million in 2018.

Gerard I, Count of Guelders

Gerard I of Guelders (c. 1060 – 8 March 1129) was Count of Guelders (Gelre in Dutch). He was the son of Theodoric of Wassenberg.

He may have been married to Clementia of Aquitaine, although that proposed marriage seems to be based on a falsified document. It is also possible that he married an unnamed daughter of William I, Count of Burgundy.

Gerard had three children:

Jutta of Wassenberg, married Waleran II of Limburg.

Yolande of Wassenberg (Yolande of Guelders), married 1) Baldwin III, Count of Hainaut and 2) Godfrey II de Ribemont Châtelain de Valenciennes

Gerard II, Count of Guelders married Ermengarde of Zutphen, daughter of Otto II, Count of Zutphen.

Guelders Wars

The Guelders Wars (Dutch: Gelderse oorlogen) were a series of conflicts in the Low Countries between the Duke of Burgundy, who controlled Holland, Flanders, Brabant and Hainaut on the one side, and Charles, Duke of Guelders, who controlled Guelders, Groningen and Frisia on the other side.

The wars lasted from 1502 till 1543 and ended with a Burgundian victory. With this outcome, all of the Low Countries were now under the control of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

The latter portion of the wars intersected with the larger conflict between France and Spain known as the Italian Wars.

The conflicts were characterised by the absence of large battles between the armies of both parties. Instead small hit and run actions, raids and ambushes were common practices.

Still, the impact on civilians was large, hostilities and incidents occurred throughout the Low Countries and were not restricted to the region of Guelders, climaxing with the sack of The Hague in 1528 and the (failed) siege of Antwerp in 1542, under the command of the Guelderian field marshal Maarten van Rossum. The war ended with the total destruction and killing of nearly all inhabitants of the town of Düren, after which the other Gueldrian towns surrendered to Habsburg rule.

Mary of Burgundy

Mary (French: Marie; Dutch: Maria; 13 February 1457 – 27 March 1482), Duchess of Burgundy, reigned over many of the territories of the Duchy of Burgundy, now mainly in France and the Low Countries, from 1477 until her death. As the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Isabella of Bourbon, she inherited the duchy upon the death of her father in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. Owing to the great prosperity of many of her territories, Mary was often referred to as Mary the Rich.

Mary of Guelders

Mary of Guelders (Dutch: Maria van Gelre; c. 1434 – 1 December 1463) was the queen consort of Scotland by marriage to King James II of Scotland. She served as regent of Scotland from 1460 to 1463.


Meuse-Inférieure ([møz ɛ̃.fe.ʁjœʁ] "Lower Meuse"; Dutch: Nedermaas or Beneden-Maas; German: Niedermaas) was a department of the First French Empire in present-day Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. It was named after the river Meuse. Its capital was Maastricht. Its territory corresponded largely with the present-day provinces of Belgian and Dutch Limburg.

The department was formed in 1795, when the Southern Netherlands and the left bank of the Rhine were annexed by France. Before the French occupation, the area was divided in several bigger and smaller states, among which:

The County of Loon (Prince-Bishopric of Liège)

Austrian Upper Guelders (The part of Upper Guelders belonging to Austria)

Staats-Oppergelre (The part of Upper Guelders belonging to the United Provinces)

The County of Horne (Bishopric of Liège)

The abbacy of Thorn

Maastricht and part of the Lands of Overmaas (also divided between Austria, and the United Provinces)(The lands of the original medieval Duchy of Limburg were associated with the Overmaas lands, lying to their south. The two regions had long been governed together and referred to collectively with both names, but the original Duchy lands were not part of this new entity.)

The department was subdivided into the following arrondissements and cantons (situation in 1812):

Maastricht, cantons: Bilzen, Gulpen, Heerlen, Maasmechelen, Maastricht (2 cantons), Meerssen, Oirsbeek, Rolduc (now Dutch Kerkrade and German Herzogenrath) and Tongeren.

Hasselt, cantons: Beringen, Borgloon, Hasselt, Herk-de-Stad, Peer and Sint-Truiden.

Roermond, cantons: Achel, Bree, Maaseik, Niederkrüchten, Roermond, Venlo and Weert.Its population in 1812 was 267,249, and its area was 378,633 hectares.After Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the department (excluding Niederkrüchten and Herzogenrath which were assigned to the Kingdom of Prussia and are presently located in North Rhine-Westphalia) became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, as the Province of Limburg (with a part of the Roer département). (Hence they were named after a medieval Duchy which strictly speaking had been in a different but neighbouring territory.)

In subsequent events starting in 1830, a part of this Kingdom split out to become Belgium. By 1839 it was settled that the Hasselt canton of Limburg, plus significant parts of the other two, went into Belgium, while the rest remained in the Netherlands. Both provinces have kept the name Limburg.

Otto I, Count of Guelders

Otto I of Guelders (1150–1207) was a Count of Guelders and Zutphen from 1182 until his death in 1207. He was a son of Duke Hendrik of Guelders and Agnes of Arnstein. He married Richardis of Bavaria in 1184. Richardis was a daughter of Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria.

Philippa of Guelders

Philippa of Guelders (French: Philippe de Gueldres) (9 November 1467 – 28 February 1547), was a Duchess consort of Lorraine. She served as regent of Lorraine during the absence of her son.

Prussian Guelders

Prussian Guelders or Prussian G(u)elderland (Dutch: Pruisisch Gelre; German: Preußisch Geldern) was the part of the Duchy of Guelders ruled by the Kingdom of Prussia from 1713. Its capital was Geldern.

The Upper Quarter of the Duchy of Guelders was part of the Spanish-ruled Southern Netherlands by the end of the 17th century. In the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht during the War of the Spanish Succession, the Upper Quarter was partitioned between the Dutch Republic, Austria, and Prussia. Besides Geldern, other towns in the Prussian duchy were Horst, Venray, and Viersen, the latter of which was an exclave surrounded by the Duchy of Jülich. Prussian Guelders was part of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle within the Holy Roman Empire.

Prussian Guelders was occupied by Revolutionary France in 1794 and later annexed into the First French Empire as part of the Roer Department. After the Napoleonic Wars, the western regions became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while the eastern regions, such as Geldern and Viersen, were made part of the new Prussian province of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. These latter regions, until then linguistically and culturally Dutch, rapidly became Germanized.

Reginald II, Duke of Guelders

Reginald II of Guelders (Dutch: Reinoud), called "the Black" (c. 1295 – 12 October 1343), was Count of Guelders, and from 1339 onwards Duke of Guelders, and Zutphen, in the Low Countries, from 1326 to 1343. He was the son of Reginald I of Guelders and Marguerite of Flanders.

Reginald III, Duke of Guelders

Reginald III of Guelders (French: Rainaud or Renaud, known as "The Fat") (13 May 1333 – 4 December 1371) was Duke of Guelders and Count of Zutphen from 1343 to 1361, and again in 1371. He was the son of Reginald II of Guelders and of Eleanor of Woodstock, daughter of Edward II of England.With the death of his father in 1343, his mother held the regency until 1344. From 1350, his brother Edward asserted his rights and a quarrel of succession broke out between the two brothers until 1361. Reginald was overcome in Tiel and was imprisoned in the castle of Nijenbeek. There he became so large that he could not have left, even if the door had remained open—hence his appellation "The Fat". Edward died on 24 August 1371, having been mortally wounded in the Battle of Baesweiler, and Reginald was released (according to the legend, the walls had to be cut away so he could leave); he held the ducal throne for only a short period, dying a few months later. He was buried at Graefenthal Abbey.

As he did not have a legitimate child, the succession passed to his sisters: Mathilde (also, Machteld), who was married to John II, Count of Blois, and Maria, wife of William II of Jülich and mother to William I of Guelders and Jülich, on whose behalf she claimed the throne of Guelders. The sisters and their respective followers (the Heeckerens, from the party led by families of Van Heeckeren and their relatives, the Van Rechterens, supported Mathilde, while the faction known as the Bronkhorsters followed Maria) fought for the duchy of Guelders in the War of the Succession of Guelders.

Union of Utrecht

The Union of Utrecht (Dutch: Unie van Utrecht) was a treaty signed on 23 January 1579 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, unifying the northern provinces of the Netherlands, until then under the control of Habsburg Spain.

The Union of Utrecht is regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which was not recognized by the Spanish Empire until the Twelve Years' Truce in 1609.

The treaty was signed on 23 January by Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht (but not all of Utrecht) and the province (but not the city) of Groningen. The treaty was a reaction of the Protestant provinces to the 1579 Union of Arras (Dutch: Unie van Atrecht), in which the southern provinces declared their support for Roman Catholic Spain.

During the following months of 1579, other states signed the treaty as well, such as Ghent, cities from Friesland, as well as three of the quarters of Guelders (Nijmegen Quarter, Veluwe Quarter, Zutphen County). In the summer of 1579, Amersfoort from the province of Utrecht also joined, together with Ypres, Antwerp, Breda and Brussels. In February 1580, Lier, Bruges and the surrounding area also signed the Union. The city of Groningen shifted in favor under influence of the stadtholder for Friesland, George van Rennenberg, and also signed the treaty. The fourth quarter of Guelders, Upper Guelders, never signed the treaty. In April 1580, Overijssel and Drenthe signed on.

This leads to a general and simplified overview of the parts that joined:

the County of Holland

the County of Zeeland

the Lordship of Utrecht

the Duchy of Guelders

the Lordship of Groningen

the Lordship of Friesland

the County of Drenthe

the Lordship of Overijssel

the Duchy of Brabant

the County of Flanders

the cities of Tournai and ValenciennesAntwerp was the capital of the union until its fall to the Spanish.Flanders was almost entirely conquered by the Spanish troops, as was half of Brabant. The United Provinces still recognized Spanish rule after the Union of Utrecht. However, the Union contributed to the deterioration in the relationship between the provinces and their lord, and in 1581 the United Provinces declared their independence of the king in the Act of Abjuration.

The Twelve Years' Truce of 1609 essentially marked the end of the Dutch struggle for independence and a pause in one of history's longest running conflicts, the Eighty Years' War. As Pieter Geyl puts it, the truce marked "an astonishing victory for the Dutch." They gave up no land and did not agree to halt their attacks on Spanish colonies and the Spanish trade empire. In return the Spanish granted the United Provinces de facto independence by describing them as "Free lands, provinces and states against who they make no claim" for the duration of the truce.

Upper Guelders

Upper Guelders or Spanish Guelders was one of the four quarters in the Imperial Duchy of Guelders. In the Dutch Revolt, it was the only quarter that did not secede from the Habsburg Monarchy to become part of the Seven United Netherlands, but remained under Spanish rule during the Eighty Years' War.

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