Joseph Clemens

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Personalities >> Joseph Clemens

Bavaria, Joseph Clemens of

Archbishop-Elector of Cologne (1688-1723)

born 5 December 1671, Munich, Electorate of Bavaria

died 12 November 1723, Bonn, Electorate of Cologne


Joseph Clemens Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, painted by Josef Vivien – Source: Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Clemens was born in Munich in 1671. He belonged to the House of Wittelsbach. He was the fourth son of Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria and of Henriette Adelaide of Savoy. He was the brother of Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria.

The parents of Joseph Clemens destined him to an ecclesiastic career even though he would have preferred to undertake a military career.

In 1683, Joseph Clemens was ordained in the Catholic Church and became Coadjutor-Bishop of Regensburg.

In 1684, Joseph Clemens became Coadjutor-Bishop of Freising.

In 1685, Joseph Clemens was appointed Prince-Provost of Berchtesgaden, Prince-Bishop of Freising and Prince-Bishop of Regensburg.

In 1688, Pope Innocent XI appointed Joseph Clemens as archbishop of Cologne, a nomination which became of of the causes of the Nine Years' War (1688-1697). As archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Clemens was also Duke of Westphalia. However, his chancellor Johann Friedrich von Bebenburg assumed effective government.

In 1694, Joseph Clemens was appointed Prince-Bishop of Liège but abandoned his charges as Prince-Bishop of Freising and Prince-Bishop of Regensburg.

In 1695, Joseph Clemens was re-elected Prince-Bishop of Regensburg.

After the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Joseph Clemens gradually aligned with France, obtaining substantial subsidies.

At the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), in 1701, Joseph Clemens, as most members of the House of Wittelsbach, allied with France. At the end of October, Allied troops started to assemble near the Electorate of Cologne. By then, although allied with France, Joseph Clemens had not yet authorised French troops to enter into the electorate. However, Indeed his places were poorly defended. Rheinberg, who occupied a very strategic position on the Rhine near the Dutch border and some of the estates of the King of Prussia (Wesel, Emmerich, Rees), was defended by only 2 battalions and 3 dragoon companies. For its part, the garrison of Kaiserwerth consisted of only 1 battalion and 1 cavalry company. On 18 November, Joseph Clemens took the decision to ask for French assistance and stated his conditions to do so. On 20 November, the Elector of Cologne finally asked to the Comte de Coigny to send French troops to defend Rheinberg, Kaiserwerth, Neuss and Zons against the enterprises of the Allies. He also asked to the Marquis de Montrevel, commanding at Argenteau to occupy Liège as soon as possible. Joseph Clemens required that French troops would be designated as “Auxiliaries of the Circle of Burgundy”. On 21 November, Coigny threw 2 infantry regiments and 1 cavalry regiment in Neuss; a similar garrison into Kaiserwerth; a few regiments in Rheinberg and two battalions into Zons. The troops of the Elector of Cologne previously occupying these places were sent to Bonn along with some French regiments. On 9 December, the city councillors of Cologne introduced 4 Dutch battalions in the city as “Auxiliaries of the Circle of Westphalia”.

At the beginning of February 1702, the French had 25 battalions and 24 squadrons under the Marquis de Montrevel in the Electorate of Cologne at the request of Joseph Clemens. It was impossible to send more troops at that time of the year, forage being insufficient. However, 6 additional battalions were stationed on the Meuse in support of Montrevel. Around 15 March, the Allies started to leave their winter-quarters. A corps (Dutch, British and Palatine troops under the Prince of Nassau Saarbrück) assembled at Düsseldorf on the Rhine, threatening the Electorate of Cologne. For their part, the French had 7 battalions and 2 dragoon squadrons in Rheinberg; 5 battalions and 50 dragoons in Kaiserwerth; and 6 battalions in Bonn (in addition to the 6 battalions of the elector). On 16 April, the Prince of Nassau Saarbrück invested Kaiserswerth on the Rhine in the Electorate of Cologne. The siege lasted till 15 June when the French garrison capitulated with the honours of war after 58 days of open trenches. At the beginning of October, after having captured most French fortresses on the Meuse, the Allies sent a corps against Cologne. On 4 October, a French corps under Tallard encamped at Mulheim near Cologne. Joseph Clemens joined him at this camp. On 5 October, Tallard reconnoitred Cologne. On 8 October, he forced the city to accept neutrality, the Dutch regiments occupying the place were allowed to leave. In mid-October, Tallard was recalled to the Meuse, leaving a garrison in Bonn. Joseph Clemens' army accompanied him. On 21 October, an Allied corps invested Rheinberg but lifted the siege on 31 October. Joseph Clemens took refuge in Namur in the Spanish Netherlands. The same year, Joseph Clemens became Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim.

In 1704, Joseph Clemens established himself in Lille under the protection of the French Court.

In 1706, Joseph Clemens was put under the ban of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Joseph I and his estates were confiscated.

From 1709 to 1714, Joseph Clemens lived in Valenciennes.

In 1714, by the Treaty of Baden Joseph Clemens was reinstated as Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, Prince-Bishop of Liège and Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim.

In 1715, Joseph Clemens returned to Bonn.

Joseph Clemens died on 12 November 1723 in Bonn.



N.B.: the sections describing Joseph Clemens’ service from 1701 to 1702 are mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.