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Monday, August 20, 2007
The Disastrous Year
Dateline: August 20, 1672

It's been a rollercoaster of a year for the Dutch. For years they have been fighting the English and French to preserve their territory and way of life and government. The monarchies don't seem to think much of the stadtholder form of government which allows for some representation from the different areas of the Dutch Provinces. There is not enough room to go into all of the history that brought the Dutch to this pass, so I will concentrate on the de Witt brothers, Johan and Cornelius, whose murders on this date are now looked back upon as a dark day in Dutch history.

Twenty-two years before, in 1650, two significant things happened. William II of Orange, the stadtholder (rough translation: governor) of the United Provinces , died, and Johan de Witt became the leader of the deputation from Dordrecht to the States of Holland; Holland being only one of the United Provinces - but it was the largest and most powerful. In 1653, de Witt was appointed Grand Pensionary of the States of Holland.

In 1654, de Witt brought about the end of the first Anglo-Dutch War with the Treaty of Westminster. With Cromwell as Lord Protectorate in England, the secret provision called the Act of Seclusion, which forbid the son of William II from ever becoming a stadtholder, is understandable. William III was a grandson of Charles I (of England), whom Cromwell had executed in 1649.

Although years of unprecedented prosperity followed, by the time 1672 rolled around, however the Dutch were feeling the squeeze from not just England, but France as well. During that year, they were attacked by England, France, Muenster, and Cologne. As Grand Pensionary, de Witt was coordinating the defense and politics. Unfortunately, with the pro-Orange faction pushing to restore William III regardless of the Act of Seclusion, his popularity was waning.

In early 1672, things came to a head when the French (having created a secret alliance with the English, Cologne, and Muenster) invaded the United Provinces by circumventing the southern defenses and simply marching through Cologne and Muenster, coming in from the north. The citizens of the northern areas (Holland, Zealand, Utrecht) panicked when the Dutch army was easily defeated at IJssel and rose up against the government. Johan de Witt and his government resigned and the pro-Orange factions took over. One of William III's first acts was to strike the word "honorably" from de Witt's resignation. (A little petty, dontcha think?)

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for the citizens, who looked for a scapegoat to take out their revenge on. On August 20, 1672, Johan and his brother, Cornelius, were murdered by an angry mob. It was a grisly undertaking by all accounts as the bodies were mutilated and partially eaten by the crowd.

This Day in History: With all that happened, the Dutch now have a specific name for the year 1672. What is it?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
1672 is known in the Netherlands as the "Disastrous Year"


Blogger Denise Patrick said...
A good guess, Robyn, but since I already told you that in the title of my post, I'm looking for what the Dutch call it.

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