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The County of Mark ( , colloquially known as Die Mark) was a county of the Holy Roman Empire in the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle. It lay on both sides of the Ruhr River along the Volmemarker and Lennemarker Rivers.

The Counts of the Mark were some of the most powerful and influential Westphalian lords in the Holy Roman Empire. The name Mark is recalled in the Märkischer Kreismarker, a district in lands south of the Ruhrmarker River in North Rhine-Westphaliamarker, Germanymarker. The northern portion (north of the Lippe Rivermarker) is still called Hohe Mark ("Higher Mark"). The former "Lower Mark" (between the Ruhr and Lippe Rivers) is — for the most part — the present Ruhr area and is no longer called "Mark".


County of the Mark and Ravensberg, 1645.
The County of the Mark enclosed an area of approximately 3,000 km² and extended between the Lippemarker and Agger Riversmarker (north-south) and between Gelsenkirchenmarker and Bad Sassendorfmarker (west-east) for about 75 km.

The east-west flowing Ruhrmarker separated the county in two different regions: the northern, fertile lowlands of Hellweg-Bördemarker; and the southern hills of the Süderbergland (Sauerland). In the south-north direction the southern part of the county was crossed by the Lenne. In the region of the Lower Lenne was the County of Limburg (1243-1808), a fiefdom of Bergmarker.

The seat of the Counts of the Mark was originally the Burg Altenamarker in Sauerland, but they moved to Burg Mark near Hammmarker in the 1220s. The county was bordered by Vest Recklinghausen, the County of Dortmundmarker, the Bishopric of Münster, the County of Limburgmarker, Werden Abbeymarker, and Essen Abbey.

Coat of arms

Coat of arms
The coat of arms of the county was "Or a fess chequy Gules and Argent of three". These arms have been`used by the city of Hammmarker since 1226. Many other places in the area include the red and white checkered fess in their arms as a reference to the county and often to their founders.


County of Mark in 1681.
Originally belonging to a collateral line of the counts of Bergmarker, the territory emerged under the name of Berg-Altena in 1160. The Counts of Altena then purchased Burg Mark ("Oberhof Mark") near Hammmarker from the Edelherren of Rüdenberg and made it the residence of the new "Counts of the Mark". The town of Hammmarker near Burg Mark was founded by Count Adolf I in 1226 and was soon the most important town of the county and often used as residence. Mark is the old German word for a border march.

In the Battle of Worringenmarker (1288), Count Eberhard I fought on the side of the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Berg. He fought against his liege, Archbishop Siegfried II of Westerburg (in his capacity as Duke of Westphalia). Because Brabant and its allies were victorious, the County of Mark gained supremacy in southern Westphalia and became independent of the Archbishopric of Cologne. The territory of Mark was for long restricted to the lands between the Ruhr and Lippe rivers ("Lower Mark"). New territories in the north ("Higher Mark") were gained during the 14th century in wars against the Prince-bishops of Münster.

Count Adolf III, the son of Adolf II married Margarete of Cleves, acquired the Duchy of Clevesmarker on the western banks of the Rhinemarker in 1368 and united it with Mark as "Cleves-Mark" in 1394.

The heir to the throne of Cleves-Mark married the daughter of the Duke of Berg in 1510, resulting in a personal union of Cleves-Mark and Berg (1521). Almost all of present North Rhine-Westphaliamarker (except for the clerical states) was then ruled by the dukes. The ducal dynasty became extinct in 1609, when the insane last duke had died. A long dispute about the succession followed, before the territory was granted to Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg in the 1614 Treaty of Xanten (generally accepted in 1666). It then became part of the Kingdom of Prussiamarker after 1701.

A contemporaneous map of the County of Mark in 1791.

In 1807 the County of the Mark passed from Prussia to France in the Treaties of Tilsit. In 1808 Napoleon then gave Mark to the elevated Grand Duchy of Berg, which was divided into four departments along the lines of Napoleonic France. Mark was in the Ruhr Department until the collapse of French power in 1813, when it returned to Prussia.

The Prussian administrative reform of 30 April 1815 placed Mark within Regierungsbezirk Arnsberg, Province of Westphaliamarker. The Hohenzollern Prussian sovereigns remained Counts of the "Prussian County of the Mark" until 1918.The "County of the Mark" has no official meaning anymore, but is used to informally refer to the region in North Rhine-Westphaliamarker.

Rulers of Mark



County of Mark in 1477



See also

  • de la Marck (French spelling of the family name which is often used in English)


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