Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547-1619), great statesman

In 1572 the jurist Johan van Oldenbarnevelt joined William the Silent in his revolt against Spain. He gained great political influence, made a career for himself, and in 1586 became the advocate (also called grand pensionary) of the powerful province of Holland.

Van Oldenbarnevelt was a leading figure in the political conflicts that flared up in the Dutch Republic following the conclusion of the truce with Spain (1609). Points of contention included the resumption of the war with Spain, the relationship between church and state, and, above all, the extent of the provinces’ independence. Van Oldenbarnevelt and the province of Holland advocated greater independence, which was vehemently opposed by Prince Maurice, stadholder of Holland and Zeeland. He ordered the arrest of his opponents in 1618 and Van Oldenbarnevelt was sentenced to death. On the morning of 13 May 1619, leaning on his walking stick, the elderly statesman mounted the scaffold in front of the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall) at the Binnenhof (Inner Court) in The Hague and was beheaded.

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