Entry 1- My Youth-September 22, 1515-1539
Now that I am twelve years of age I have decided to record the events of my life.
I was born a German princess on September 22, 1515 in Dusseldorf Germany. I was the second child born to Duke John III Of the Dutchy of Cleve’s. My mutter or mother was Mary of Julich. I am told my parents were disappointed that they did not have a son. It was no matter since a year later my brother William was born, and then after him my youngest sister Amelia was born.
Cleve’s was a wonderful place to grow up. It was situated on the Rhine
River, and it bordered Hapsburg, Netherlands. Nearby was the village
of Cleves. It was a small village with many common folk. We were
brought up as strict Catholics by my mother, however my father was a Lutherans. His view of religion was to love God, and hate the Roman Catholic
Church, and the Pope. Father did not agree with mother in being Catholic.
He was more interested in reform and breaking away from the Pope and Rome in promoting Lutheranism. Mother on the other hand was a devote
Catholic, and she tried to bring us up in the Catholic tradition, but father
would not allow it. Mutter (mother) used to take us to the Rhine River often to see the boats. I loved watching the fisherman on the Rhine when I was young. Life was simple in those days.
Mutter (Mother) was always spending time with us. She trained my sisters and I how to be good wives for our future husbands, by making us skilled in
stitching. Meine My Mutter (Mother) would spend hours with me since I was
clumsy with the use of the needle. Father sent William my brother away early for formal training. We all missed William when he left, most of all mother missed her
son dearly. My sisters, and I only received domestic training as was proper in Cleves at the time. It was a German tradition to prepare women to serve their husbands. Mother was a strict Catholic, and she brought us up to fear the lord, but father always had the final word, and we were considered Lutherans according to him. My Uncle, who was a Lutheran, influenced my brother William in his religious beliefs. Father believed in the reformation, and the teachings of the great scholar Erasmus, but mother had the upper hand in what religion we children would learn when father was not around. We seldom saw father except on holidays. He was always busy with the Duties of Duke of Cleves and the court.
Music in the court of Cleve’s was frowned upon as I was growing up. It
was believed to be a frivolous waste of time. Later some of the more
strict Protestants associated music with the devil. I would have liked to have
learned how to play a flute, if I had only been given the opportunity.
Sybilla, my older sister and I were very close and often played together pretending to be Princesses. Amelia, my other sister, was a little young for us so we did not share as much with her. I was mother’s favorite; at least that is what she told me. We spent many happy hours together over the years of my youth.
Swan Castle, Cleve, Germany, 1515
The castle of Cleve’s (Swan Castle) was a great old castle that stood across the Rhine from a village that was often governed by the French King. My room very large and was next to Sybille’s room. Amelia’s room was down the hallway from our rooms. I could see the Rhine River from my bedroom, and the mountains beyond. Growing up was blissful, and before I knew it at age 12, (1527), father was arranging for my marriage to Francis the 10-year-old son of the Duke of Lorraine. Fortunately, this proposed marriage was cancelled. I had no desire to leave my family, and marry someone I did not know. Mother said that it was my duty to marry to form allegiances with other Princes. I guess romance was never to be considered in a marriage? I am a simple German princess with simple ideas about marriage. Living a comfortable lifestyle was most important. No princess wanted a poor marriage, especially me.
We never enjoyed playing cards as they did in the England or the French courts. My mother taught me being a good wife was skill enough for any noble woman. At Swan castle in Cleves everything was provided for me making life easy for me. I wasn’t lazy; rather my mother and father spoiled me. I had dozens of servants waiting on me everyday
Sibylle of Cleves byLucas Cranach the Elder, 1526.