The widely respected jurist Grotius – as Hugo de Groot (1583-1645) wrote his name in pseudo-Latin – laid the foundations for international law. In Dutch history, however, he is perhaps more famous for siding with Grand Pensionary Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in his conflict with Stadholder-Prince Maurice. The points of contention were the relationship between the church and state, the independence of the provinces, and foreign policy. Maurice ordered the arrest of his opponents in 1618: Van Oldenbarnevelt was sentenced to death, De Groot to life imprisonment.
He was locked up in Loevestein Castle, the state prison, but managed to get out in a book chest in 1621. The spectacular escape so appealed to the imagination that the ‘original’ book chest has been preserved in various places. Hugo de Groot fled to France, settling in Paris, and was granted an annual pension by the French king. When De Groot returned to the Netherlands in 1631, he hoped he would be left in peace. However, he was threatened with arrest again six months later and left the Netherlands, this time for good.
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