A fascinating detour part 1 - New Characters for the campaign

Dutch Parliament building - Den Haag

As we are now regulars on the Newcastle-Ijmuiden run we like to visit new places on the way to/from Antwerp and Hamburg, the homes of Crisis and Tactica respectively.

Willem I Prince of Orange outside the Royal Palace

This trip we chose Den Haag with no particular expectations other than.. it is the capital of the Netherlands so it must have something about it!

Napoleonic era William of Orange

Despite its concrete-jungle appearance from a distance, up close it has lots of old Low Countries charm. We stayed in the old town right beside the Parliament building and found it to be replete with history, winding streets, fantastic shops and nice restaurants.

Jan de Witt exactly where he was murdered

On our walk in we were confronted by an imposing and elegant statue of a man in mid-late 17th century costume at the foot of which had been placed a fresh wreath in national colours... 'Friends of de Witt - forever remembered'. Who was this ancient chap still getting flowers from his fans?

The prison from which the brothers were dragged in the background. Statue on the death site.

Toggy Googled him - Jan de Witt, political colossus from 1650-1672. Together with his equally famous brother - distinguished sailor Cornelis (present at the famous victory with de Ruyter on the Medway in 1667 and at Solebay in 1672), they were both killed, lynched, disembowelled and partially eaten by an Orangist mob on the very spot on which we stood!

Jan de Witt incurred the wrath of Willem (1670s)

Suspicion for inciting the riot which murdered them lies squarely at the feet of William of Orange and Admiral Cornelis Tromp. Why? Because the de Witt Bros failed to protect Holland and invest in the army during the Rampjar (Disaster Year 1672). It is far more likely however that the killing took place because these Bros in da Hood were simply too popular, too powerful and Republicans into 'small government'. Basically these chaps were too big a threat to Willem's plans to lead the Dutch Republic and had become his major rivals in the 17th century X Factor.

Cornelis de Witt - naval commander and hero

Having walked around the palace gardens, parliament and the old town we took a trip to the Prison Museum which is housed in one of the old Gate Towers into the medieval city.

The tour started quite tamely and was delivered by the guide in Dutch (very odd as at least half of the tour group was foreign and all the Dutch people in the tour plus the guide spoke English!) although we had headphones giving limited English commentary. It soon hotted up though as the story of Cornelis and Johan (Jan de Witt) unfolded. Cornelis had been housed in the 'luxury room' of the prison. You know the type - bed, window, own privy, fireplace. Being allowed to bring his own furniture and charged the equivalent of a normal worker's annual wage for a two week stay he was initially ok, left alone and writing letters to the outside. This stopped when it was his turn to be tortured.

The Orangist authorities tried to get him to confess to treason and crushed both his legs in vices whilst beating him with bludgeons. Nice but I am sure, not unique to the Dutch!

The de Witts met this gruesome fate

Sticking to his story, he was found guilty but never admitted to anything. Crippled, he sent for his brother Jan to carry him from the prison. A mob gathered outside, ransacked the prison, killed the brothers as they left the jail and then cut them to pieces quite literally. Women apparently wore their intestines as scarves and others ate body parts including the hearts and other vital internal and external organs (some too mouth waterin-gly painful to mention). The finger of one brother and the tongue of the other are preserved in another Hague museum.

Arch Orangist Admiral Cornelis Tromp: implicated in the plot

And so, aged 46 and 49 respectively we cogitated over whether their descendants legitimate or otherwise could make an appearance as anti-Orangist Dutchmen in our Battle for Britain campaign. Now there would be a potential piece of sweet Orange revenge... watch this space as the Battle for Britain campaign unfolds. Any volunteers to woo the de Witts? (ouch)