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Some expressions

The Dutch Republic in 1672. Design Jona Lendering. The Dutch Republic in 1672


Group of Dutch artists in Rome, who supported each other. The members group gathered in a building they believed to be the ancient Temple of Bacchus (but was in fact the Mausoleum of Constantia near the Sant' Agnese), and were notorious for their drinking excesses. In 1720, the pope ordered that the group had to be dissolved.

Casanova, Giacomo Girolamo

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, chevalier de Seingalt (1725-1798), was an Italian adventurer. At the end of his life, he wrote a highly entertaining autobiography that became famous because of the almost endless list of his erotic conquests. This, however, is only a part of this book, which is in the first place a vivid account of daily life in eighteenth century Europe. Occasionally, Casanova was on a secret mission, for example to Calais, in Holland, and for the Venetian authorities.

Christian faiths

European Christianity is divided into several branches.
  1. Eastern Christianity, also known as the Greek orthodoxy
  2. Latin or Western Christianity, which is divided into
    1. Roman Catholicism
    2. Protestantism, which is divided into
      1. Lutheranism
      2. Calvinism
Only theologians understand the differences, but the main distinction between I and II has to do with the philosophical description of the nature of Jesus Christ, and is highly theoretical. Like the Greek orthodox Christians, the Roman Catholics of the west have priests who perform the rituals; their spiritual leader is the pope, who is the source of all authority. Protestants stress the importance of the study of the Scriptures and have no central spiritual authority. Calvinism can be more radical than Lutheranism, but the main differences are again too philosophical to explain.
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Michiel de Ruyter
Michiel de Ruyter

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) put an end to the wars between Catholics and Protestants. In the Dutch republic, religious tolerance was a matter of civilization, and a man like Cornelis de Bruijn had a sincere interest in other opinions.

De Ruyter, Michiel

Dutch admiral (1607-1676), first to organize a professional navy, and generally regarded as one of the greatest geniuses of naval warfare. Until then, naval engagements had been a despised type of war, fought by desperadoes in upgraded trading vessels; after De Ruyter, it was an honorable profession. He was active in three wars against the English, but on as many occasions, he fought together with them against the Berber pirates in the western Mediterranean. He was killed in action near Syracuse by the French.

De Witt, Johan

Dutch statesman (1625-1672), who dominated the international diplomacy of the third quarter of the seventeenth century. He preferred armed neutrality, which was necessary for intercontinental commerce. This did not prevent him from building a navy and cooperating closely with Michiel de Ruyter. It comes as no surprise that in his own country, he was supported by the rich merchants and the Estates General, and was opposed by the wealthy prince William of Orange, who might one day claim the title of stadholder. During the crisis of 1672, an attempt was made on his life by a man named Cornelis de Bruijn; later, Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were lynched in The Hague. Immediately, William of Orange took charge of the Republic. 

Estates General

Supreme political body in the Republic of the United Netherlands (which means Holland and several other provinces). It contained representatives of most provinces, who were, usually, selected from the mercantile elite. The stadholders, military commanders, were servants of the Estates, but because the stadholdership of wealthy Holland traditionally belonged to the Orange family, the prince of Orange could be very powerful. De Witt was able to neutralize this power, but after he had been killed by the Orangists, the stadholdership was again monopolized by members of the Orange family.

Great Northern War

Conflict between Sweden and an alliance that consisted of Denmark, Saxony-Poland, and Russia, which tried to break Sweden's control of the Baltic Sea. It lasted from 1700 to 1721. The Swedish king Charles XII was able to overcome all his enemies, but was eventually defeated by czar Peter the Great at Poltava (1709). Still, the war continued for twelve years. In the end, the Russians had gained access to the Baltic, the "window on Europe" they needed so much. This war marked the end of the cheap grain that was needed for Dutch prosperity: a blow to the economy of the Republic. The Great Northen War coincided with the War of Spanish Succession, in which France had to fight against a coalition of European countries. France and Swedish were allies but unable to support each other.

Peace of Westphalia

General European peace treaty (1648), which put an end to the Thirty Years of War in Germany and the Eighty Years of War in the Low Countries. It meant the recognition that there were to be several Christian religions in Europe and it established the principle of the "balance of power", which was challenged by the French king Louis XIV, and defended by De Witt and William of Orange.


A stadholder ("deputee") was responsible for a province when its duke or count was absent. In the sixteenth century, many Dutch provinces belonged to the Spanish empire, and the stadholders became provincial governors. When the Estates General had ended its allegiance to the king of Spain, the stadholdership of Holland became heritable in the Orange family, which now became a rival center of power. The Estates General have tried to curtail the power of the princes of Orange, but could not prevent William III from becoming stadholder in 1672.

Symbol of the VOC. Photo Jona Lendering.
Symbol of the V.O.C.


Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, the United East-Indian Company that was founded in 1602. It was the world's first incorporated company and multinational.

War of Spanish Succession

In 1701, Louis XIV of France tried to make his brother king of Spain, which would seriously disturb the balance of power. William of Orange, stadholder of Holland and since 1688 king of England, created an alliance of England, Holland, the emperor Leopold I of Austria, Portugal, Hannover, and Prussia, which successfully contained France. This war, which ended in 1714, coincided with the Great Northern War, in which Sweden fought against Denmark, Saxony-Poland, and Russia. Sweden and France were allies but unable to support each other. The significance of the wars is that the Dutch, without really loosing something, were unable to maintain their privileged position in the world of international trade. The future belonged to the British empire.

William III, king of England, prince of Orange, stadthouder of Holland, in 1677. Detail of a portrait by Peter Lely.
William III in 1677
Painting by Peter Lely (detail)

William III of Orange

As prince of Orange, William (1650-1702) was entitled to the stadholdership of Holland, but the Estates General and Johan de Witt carefully kept him out of this office, hoping to continue the policy of neutrality that was so beneficial to trade. In 1672, however, the French and British, allied to two German bishops, attacked the Dutch Republic, and Johan de Witt was killed. William of Orange was made stadholder and although he was no match for the French generals, admiral Michiel de Ruyter defeated the English and in the end, a daring expedition to Bonn by prince William forced the bishop of Cologne to leave the coalition. Two years after the war had begun, France was isolated.

In 1688, prince William of Orange accepted an invitation by a small, protestant minority to become king of England. He defeated the regular, parliamentarian army, conquered London, became king, and announced that he, as he was accustomed in Holland, would share power with the Parliament (the "glorious revolution"). This was the end of the bitter conflict between parliament and crown that had torn apart England since 1603.

As king of England and stadholder of Holland, he forged an anti-French coalition that was able to overcome the French attempt, in the War of Spanish Succession, to gain supremacy in Europe.

As a rival to Versailles, William built the palace Het Loo, which is smaller but less pompous than its French example, and has more delicate gardens.

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