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Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine

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Johann Wilhelm II
Portrait by Jan Frans van Douven, c. 1715
Elector Palatine
Count Palatine of Neuburg
Reign2 September 1690 – 8 June 1716
PredecessorPhilip William
SuccessorCharles III Philip
Born19 April 1658
Düsseldorf, Duchy of Palatinate-Neuburg, Holy Roman Empire
Died8 June 1716(1716-06-08) (aged 58)
Düsseldorf, Duchy of Palatinate-Neuburg, Holy Roman Empire
(m. 1678; died 1689)
(m. 1691)
FatherPhilip William, Elector Palatine
MotherLandgravine Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Johann Wilhelm II, Elector Palatine (Jan Wellem in Low German, English: John William; 19 April 1658 – 8 June 1716) of the Wittelsbach dynasty was Elector Palatine (1690–1716), Duke of Neuburg (1690–1716), Duke of Jülich and Berg (1679–1716), and Duke of Upper Palatinate and Cham (1707–1714). From 1697 onwards Johann Wilhelm was also Count of Megen.

Early life and background[edit]

He was the son of Count Palatine Philip William of Neuburg and Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt and was born in Düsseldorf, where he resided, rather than in Heidelberg, which had been largely destroyed by French troops during the Nine Years' War. He was educated by the Jesuits and in 1674 he made a grand tour to Italy.

Equestrian portrait of Johann Wilhelm by Anthoni Schoonjans, 1702

His brother was Franz Ludwig, Count Palatine of Neuburg, his sisters were married to Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Peter II of Portugal, and Charles II of Spain.


As a gift to Johann Wilhelm and his new bride, Archduchess Maria Anna Josepha of Austria, Johann Wilhelm's father ceded to them the Duchies of Jülich and Berg in 1679.[1]

Johann Wilhelm later also succeeded his father as Elector Palatine in 1690. In the Peace of Rijswijk (1697), he was restored to many of the possessions which had been taken by the French, with the provision that the Electoral Palatinate not revert to Protestantism. This provision made him unpopular in the Palatinate and with Protestants.

During the War of the Spanish Succession Johann Wilhelm received also the Bavarian Upper Palatinate, which was returned to Bavaria in 1714. He died in Düsseldorf and was buried in the St. Andreas Church. Having no son, Johann Wilhelm was succeeded by his brother Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine.

Double portrait of Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz and Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici


On 25 October 1678, in Wiener Neustadt, Johann Wilhelm married Archduchess Maria Anna Josepha of Austria. She was a daughter of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, and his third wife, Eleanor of Mantua. The wedding ceremony was performed by Archbishop Leopold Karl von Kollonitsch.

The couple settled in Düsseldorf, where they led an elaborate royal household.[2] During their marriage, Maria Anna Josepha gave birth to two children, but neither survived infancy:[3][4]

  • A son (b. and d. Düsseldorf, 6 February 1683)
  • A son (b. and d. Vienna, 5 February 1686)

Maria Anna Josepha died in 1689 of tuberculosis. A couple of years later, on 29 April 1691, Johann Wilhelm married by proxy Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. She departed for Düsseldorf on 6 May 1691, accompanied by her younger brother, Gian Gastone. Johann Wilhelm surprised her at Innsbruck, where they officially married.

Anna Maria Luisa became pregnant in 1692; however, she miscarried.[5] Historians believed incorrectly that shortly after her arrival, she contracted syphilis from her adulterous husband, which might have explained why Anna Maria Luisa and Johann Wilhelm failed to produce any children.[6][7][8] In 2012, after concern caused by the 1966 Flood of the Arno River, the bones of Anna Maria Luisa were exhumed. A scientific examination found no traces of syphilis.[9]

Art collections[edit]

He was more popular in Jülich-Berg, where he erected impressive buildings such as the Bensberg Castle and led a lavish court which gave work to many artists and artisans, including the court painters Johannes Spilberg, his daughter Adriana, her later husband Eglon van der Neer, Adriaen van der Werff, Jan Frans van Douven, Herman van der Mijn, Jan van Nickelen, his daughter Jacoba Maria van Nickelen, her husband Willem Troost, Anthoni Schoonjans, Rachel Ruysch, Godfried Schalcken, and Jan Weenix with his daughter Maria Weenix.[10][11] His enormous collection of paintings by Rubens can still be seen in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

His widow Anna Maria Luisa was the last scion of the House of Medici. A patron of the arts, she bequeathed the Medicis’ large art collection, including the contents of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, and the Medicean villas, which she inherited upon the death of her brother Gian Gastone in 1737, and her Palatine treasures to the Tuscan state, on the condition that no part of it could be removed from the capital Florence. Therefore, these treasures are still to be visited in Florence today.

In Düsseldorf, the Jan-Wellem Square is named after Johann Wilhelm.




  1. ^ "Kurfürst Jan Wellem". www.geschichtswerkstatt-duesseldorf.de. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  2. ^ K. Strauven: About Artistic life and work in Dusseldorf to Düsseldorf school of painting under Director Schadow, H. Voss, 1862, p. 12.
  3. ^ Gustav Prümm: A win for life, Books on Demand, 2009, p. 54.
  4. ^ "Complete Genealogy of the House of Wittelsbach". genealogy.euweb.cz. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  5. ^ Galleria Palatina (2006). "Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici – Biografia" (in Italian). www.polomuseale.firenze.it. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  6. ^ Hale, J.R. (John Rigby), 1923-1999 (2001). Florence and the Medici (Pbk. ed.). London: Phoenix. p. 189. ISBN 1-84212-456-0. OCLC 47036968.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Hale, p. 188–189
  8. ^ Hibbert, Christopher (1979). The rise and fall of the House of Medici. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 304. ISBN 0-14-005090-6. OCLC 6389386.
  9. ^ Abbott, Alison (2013). "The last Medici may not have died of syphilis after all". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12435. S2CID 74812676.
  10. ^ (German) court painters Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine who worked for Johan Wilhelm, according to the Dusseldorf museum website
  11. ^ Anthon Schoonjans at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (in Dutch)

External links[edit]

Media related to John William, Elector Palatine at Wikimedia Commons

Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine
Born: 1658 Died: 1716
Regnal titles
Preceded by Duke of Jülich and Berg
Succeeded by
Count Palatine of Neuburg
Elector Palatine