BERG ~ Rhineland
County, later Duchy, in the Holy Roman Empire, in northwestern Germany, on the right bank of the Rhine and extending northwards from the northern slopes of the Westerwald to the River Ruhr east of Duisberg;
- A Grand Duchy in Napoleonic times.
Berg became a County in 1108 and took its name from a castle (now Burg) above the River Wupper, though from 1288 its capital was Düsseldorf. The county divided c.1160 into Berg and Altena (to the east, which later became the county of MARK). Berg itself passed by marriage in 1218/25 to the Dukes of Guelders and in 1348 to the first Duke of Jülich. When he died in 1361 Jülich passed to the Duke’s second son, whilst the County of Berg fell to his grandson, William, whose father had died before the Duke. Count William also inherited Ravensberg from his mother and in 1380 was created Duke of Berg.
His son inherited Jülich in 1423, and in 1511 the Jülich-Berg inheritance passed by marriage to the Duke of Cleves. The last Duke of Jülich-Cleves died in 1609, his inheritance being claimed by the representatives of his four sisters. In 1614 a temporary solution (made permanent in 1666) divided the territories between two of the claimants, Jülich and Berg falling to Wolfgang William, the son of the second sister and her husband, the Count Palatine of Neuburg. To make his claims the more acceptable to the Emperor, he had converted to the Roman Catholic faith and married the sister of Maximilian of Bavaria. His son became Elector Palatine in 1685 and in 1777 the Elector added Bavaria to his territories.
Berg was surrendered to France in 1806 by the King of Bavaria and became the core of a Grand Duchy bestowed on Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Murat. In 1806 the right bank lands of Cleves, parts of Nassau and the former County of Bentheim were added to it and in 1807 the County of Mark and part of the former Bishopric of Münster were acquired from Prussia. The Grand Duchy was a member of the Confederation of the Rhine from 1806. When Murat became King of Naples in 1808 the new Grand Duke was the four-year-old son of Napoleon’s brother, Louis. In 1810 the northern part of the Grand Duchy was annexed by the French Empire and in 1813 the German recovery destroyed the remnant.
In 1815 the former Duchy of Berg became part of the province of Jülich-Kleve-Berg (merged into the Rheinprovinz in 1824) of the Kingdom of Prussia. The old Duchy is now in Nordrhein-Westfalen, and part of its territory forms two Landkreise: Oberbergischer-Kreis and Rheinisch-Bergischer-Kreis in the Köln region. The north of the former Duchy is the Düsseldorf region.