Duchy of Gelre


July 5, 2022

The Duchy of Gelre, more fully referred to as 'Duchy of Gelre and County of Zutphen' (in 1339 and 1675, among others), is a former duchy in the east of the Netherlands (province of Gelderland), as well as in Dutch Northern and Central Limburg and the bordering northwest of the German Lower Rhine.



The first mention of the place name Gelre in a charter is from around 900. The spelling showed various variants: Gelre, Gielra, Gellero, Gelera and the like. The name variants with an inserted /-d-/ are younger than those of Gel(le)re. It is sometimes called Gelder, due to the "d" epenthesis (the insertion of a letter, here the "d"; hence the word derivations "Gelders" and "Gelderland").


Gellere (997), Gellera (1104/1105), Geldren (1167) may have originally stood for an elevated settlement on the swampy river Niers, or else Gellera could have been an intersection of the Niers.


In the present Netherlands, the historic duchy included Gelderland and a large part of North and Central Limburg. It also extended over a small part of the north of what is now the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, including the towns of Gelder and Viersen on the river Niers. Gelre was divided into four quarters, together they formed the States of the Quarters: Upper Gelre, also called "Kwartier van Roermond" or (after the German Oberquartier) "Overkwartier": the cities of Gelder, Roermond and Venlo Quarter of Nijmegen: between the major rivers Quarter of Veluwe (also: of Arnhem) Kwartier van Zutphen (the county of Zutphen)Opper-Gelre, the cradle of the duchy, encompassed the northern part of the present-day Dutch province of Limburg, including Venlo and Roermond, and the adjacent area in Germany around the town of Geldern or in Dutch Gelre ( Gelder, Gelderen), to which the Duchy of Gelre and later Gelderland owe their name. The last three quarters were located in the current province of Gelderland. In the Middle Ages, Gelre was an independent and important duchy. The independence finally ended in 1543. The northern quarters (Neder-Gelre) on the one hand and the southern Upper Gelre on the other did not form a geographically continuous whole. The Duchy of Cleves formed a wedge between the northern and southern territories. Politically, the two regions also went separate ways. During the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, the northern part formed one of the seven regions. Upper Gelre, on the other hand, was part of the Southern Netherlands. The duchy and the associated county of Zutphen included on the one hand the area of ​​the current province of Gelderland and on the other the north of Limburg (including Venlo, Venray and Roermond), as well as the adjacent southern part of the German district of Kleef. In this second part of the country, on the present German side, was also the tribal town of Geldern. Gelre also had possessions in present-day North Brabant, such as the village of Geldrop. The original southern area was separated from the northern area acquired later, which comprised the present-day province of Gelderland, together with Kleef and Emmerik. The southern part, which now lies in Limburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, has since been called Opper-Gelre or Overkwartier. The other areas could therefore be referred to as Neder-Gelre, but that term has never been used.



House Gelre

After Gelre had become a duchy in 1339, a battle broke out under Reinald III between the Heeckerens, supported by Reinald, and the Bronckhorsten, supported by Reinald's brother Eduard. At the battle of 1361 Reinald is captured and Edward becomes duke. Ten years later, Eduard is murdered, and Reinald is recovered, but he dies the same year. With this, the House Gel