When An Angry Mob Decided To Kill And Eat Their Prime Minister

When An Angry Mob Decided To Kill And Eat Their Prime Minister

Being a President or a Prime Minister now comes with high-end security that is always at the leader’s disposal. But maybe, back in medieval times, it was not so, and then an incident went down in history that is too gruesome to be recalled. And maybe, it was after that incident, that the supreme leaders might have thought that it isn’t ‘so safe’ to meet their own people after all.

The era was the seventeenth century and the times were good. The world was raging with wars and a revolutionary time. 17th century is earmarked as the Baroque era, an early modern period in Europe, that soon spread throughout the rest of the world.

It was also a period of the Dutch golden age, a century in which people saw great wealth and prosperity in The Netherlands. The Dutch golden age lasted for around one hundred years, starting in 1575, and ending in 1672.
Early Life And Political Success Of Witt

Witt particularly did not have a challenging or struggling life. He was born into a wealthy family, received a good education, his father was in politics, and it was only because of his father that he could explore various political fronts at a young age. He was well-traveled and well-read. Graduate of Leiden university back in the seventeenth century, Witt contributed to various diplomatic missions along with his father. He traveled to Italy, Switzerland, France, and England, along with his elder brother — Cornelius de Witt.

Once back from his diplomatic mission, Witt started studying law in one of the law schools in The Hague, and in 1650 when the then prince — Willem II (Prince of Orange) died, Witt was among the people who created a republican regime with full majority. He got elected as a pensionary of Dordrecht (a region in The Netherlands).

Once in front-line politics, Witt proved himself to be a remarkable leader and politician. Soon enough, he found himself climbing the ladder of success, and was elected as a counsellor pensionary, the highest position in the country at that time, which can be called equivalent to today’s Prime Minister or Presidential position.

But before Witt reached this position, he also made many political reforms and strengthened the Dutch economy with his great diplomatic skills. His efforts also led to the formation of the Triple Alliance in 1668— an alliance of diplomacy between Sweden, the Dutch Republic, and England.

A point to be noted here is that — under the supervision and leadership of Witt, the Dutch had an increasingly powerful economy at the time and a newly rebuilt navy. This alliance was only signed to turn these three countries into one big, powerful team against France. France was being ruled by King Louis XIV at that time, and he was waging war on the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium, which was a part of Holland at the time).

This alliance forced King Louis XIV to step-back, remain silent, and rather come up with a strategy rather than attacking violently on Holland. Louis started to work in order to break this alliance, and soon he succeeded as well when he signed the Treaty of Dover at the Dutch’s expense.
1672: Rampjaar (The Year Of Disaster)

If you go with the literal translation of Rampjaar in Dutch, it means the ‘Year of Pants’, but it is also loosely translated as the ‘Year of Disaster’ or the year when everything went south. Quite literally!

In 1672, Louis finally declared war, attacked on Spanish Netherlands, and tried to conquer a large part of the country. This event is also known as the Great Invasion of Holland in 1672. This was the beginning of the end for the then supreme-leader Witt. The Dutch people now turned to William III of Orange, for support and leadership, thereby denouncing Witt as a traitor.

Precisely in 1672, an incident occurred because of which the entire year is mentioned as the ‘Year of Disaster’. Witt was ruling the country as the elected counsellor pensionary, today’s equivalent of a Prime Minister. He was one of the most prominent figures in Dutch politics and government at the time.

When Witt was denounced as a traitor, some attempts were made on his and his brother’s life. His brother — Cornelis, was also arrested on trumped-up charges, stating that he plotted to assassinate Willem, the supreme head of the House of Orange. Witt decided to visit his brother in the prison, but it did not turn out to be a good decision.

Things soon went south and an angry mob attacked him. He was eventually killed on 20 August 1672 and both the brothers were hanged outside the same prison. But it did not seem enough, so the Dutch mob started to mutilate them. There are some sources and accounts that also state that the mob took home parts of their bodies to cook and eat them.

One man even admitted to having eaten an eyeball! Although stories might have been exaggerated, there are several counts of people taking home souvenirs from public assassinations during those times.

So, the angry mob took the statement ‘we hate him, so we ate him’ quite seriously and this episode is marked as one of the most shameful ones in the history of Europe.

Originally published on Medium