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|Bundesland: Nordrhein-Westfalen||North Rhine-Westphalia|
Kleve is situated at an elevation of 12 m near the river Rhine close to the border to the Netherlands. The oldest castle that was built on the hill that gave Kleve its name (Kleve means cliff), originated in the 10th/11th century. The name Cleve was first mentioned in a document of 1092. It was chartered as a town by the count of Cleve in 1242, and in 1275/1305 obtained the privilege of electing its own magistrates. When the counts of Cleve became extinct in 1368 the county was inherited by the Counts von der Mark. Cleve and Mark were united in 1398 (administered separately until 1461). In 1417 the counts of Cleve were elevated to the rank of dukes. In 1521 the duchies of Cleve and of Jülich were united as a personal union. Their dynasty became extinct in 1609 when the last duke died without male heir. The Duchy of Cleve was then jointly administered by the Electors of Brandenburg and the Count Palatines of Pfalz-Neuburg until the Treaty of Xanten in 1614 stipulated that Cleve and Mark became part of Brandenburg while Jülich and Berg came to Pfalz-Neuburg. During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) Cleve suffered heavily. During the same time, about two thirds of the town's population fell victim to the plague. After the war the town was rebuilt in splendid Baroque style. Another treaty in 1666 finally confirmed the distribution of the estates of Cleve and Jülich between Brandenburg and Pfalz-Neuburg. The right of free election of its magistrates was terminated in 1725 by Prussia. In 1794 Cleve was conquered by French troops and became part of France in 1801. Between 1806 and 1810 it became part of the newly formed Grand Duchy of Berg which was granted to General Joachim Murat as Grand Duke of Berg and Clèves. In 1808 Murat was given the Kingdom of Naples and the crown of Berg was given in 1809 to Napoléon Louis Bonaprte, second son of Louis Bonaparte. Because Napoléon Louis was only 4 years of age at that time he remained under the regency of his uncle, Emperor Napoleon I. In 1810 (effective 1 Januray 1811) the Grand Duchy was again annexed to France (département Roer, capital at Aix-la-Chapelle, i.e. Aachen). In 1814 Cleve became Prussian again. The Prussian province Cleve, however, was dissolved in 1822/1824 and was merged with the province Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) to make up the new province Rheinland (Rhineland) or Rheinprovinz. During two allied bomb rais in 1944 and 1945 the old town was almost completely destroyed.
The castle Schwanenburg [left] is the landmark of Kleve. The oldest stronghold at this site was built in the 10th century. The first residential building (Palas) was built in the last third of the 12th century. Around 1341 the castle became the regular seat of the counts of Cleve. The old keep collapsed in 1439 and was replaced between 1440 and 1448 by a new keep (the Schwanenturm, 'Swans' Tower'). Between 1663 and 1666 the castle was rebuilt in Dutch Baroque style. Between 1740 and 1820 the castle slowly fell into dereliction. In 1828 it became the seat of judiciary offices. and the castle was partly restored. Further restauration works followed in 1893–1897 and 1909–1914. On 7 October 1944 the old castle was almost completely destroyed by allied bombs. In 1950 the reconstruction of the Schwanenturm was completed, the remaining parts of the castle were rebuilt until 1953.
The best-known native of Kleve is certainly Anne of Cleves (1515–1557), fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England. They were married in 1540 but Henry divorced here after only a few months. She remained in England as the King's adopted sister and after her death was buried in Westminster Abbey.
The artist Joseph Beuys (1912–1986) also was born in Kleve.