23: Chapter XXIII
<< 22: Chapter XXII || TOC
The widow of Barneveld had remained, since the last scene of the fatal
tragedy on the Binnenhof, in hopeless desolation. The wife of the man
who during a whole generation of mankind had stood foremost among the
foremost of the world, and had been one of those chief actors and
directors in human affairs to whom men's eyes turned instinctively from
near and from afar, had led a life of unbroken prosperity. An heiress in
her own right, Maria van Utrecht had laid the foundation of her husband's
wealth by her union with the rising young lawyer and statesman. Her two
sons and two daughters had grown up around her, all four being married
into the leading families of the land, and with apparently long lives of
prosperity and usefulness before them. And now the headsman's sword had
shivered all this grandeur and happiness at a blow. The name of the
dead statesman had become a word of scoffing and reproach; vagabond
mountebanks enacted ribald scenes to his dishonour in the public squares
and streets; ballad-mongers yelled blasphemous libels upon him in the
very ears of his widow and children. For party hatred was not yet
glutted with the blood it had drunk.
It would be idle to paint the misery of this brokenhearted woman.
The great painters of the epoch have preserved her face to posterity; the
grief-stricken face of a hard-featured but commanding and not uncomely
woman, the fountains of whose tears seem exhausted; a face of austere and
noble despair. A decorous veil should be thrown over the form of that
aged matron, for whose long life and prosperity Fate took such merciless
vengeance at last.
For the woes of Maria of Barneveld had scarcely begun. Desolation had
become her portion, but dishonour had not yet crossed her threshold.
There were sterner strokes in store for her than that which smote her
husband on the scaffold.
She had two sons, both in the prime of life. The eldest, Reinier, Lord
of Groeneveld, who had married a widow of rank and wealth, Madame de
Brandwyk, was living since the death of his father in comparative ease,
but entire obscurity. An easy-tempered, genial, kindly gentleman, he had
been always much beloved by his friends and, until the great family
catastrophe, was popular with the public, but of an infirm and
vacillating character, easily impressed by others, and apt to be led by
stronger natures than his own. He had held the lucrative office of head
forester of Delfland of which he had now been deprived.
The younger son William, called, from an estate conferred on him by his
father, Lord of Stoutenburg, was of a far different mould. We have seen
him at an earlier period of this narrative attached to the embassy of
Francis Aerssens in Paris, bearing then from another estate the unmusical
title of Craimgepolder, and giving his subtle and dangerous chief great
cause of complaint by his irregular, expensive habits. He had been
however rather a favourite with Henry IV., who had so profound a respect
for the father as to consult him, and him only of all foreign statesmen,
in the gravest affairs of his reign, and he had even held an office of
honour and emolument at his court. Subsequently he had embraced the
military career, and was esteemed a soldier of courage and promise. As
captain of cavalry and governor of the fortress of Bergen op Zoom, he
occupied a distinguished and lucrative position, and was likely, so soon
as the Truce ran to its close, to make a name for himself in that
gigantic political and religious war which had already opened in Bohemia,
and in which it was evident the Republic would soon be desperately
involved. His wife, Walburg de Marnix, was daughter to one of the
noblest characters in the history of the Netherlands, or of any history,
the illustrious Sainte-Aldegonde. Two thousand florins a year from his
father's estate had been settled on him at his marriage, which, in
addition to his official and military income, placed him in a position of
After the death of his father the family estates were confiscated, and he
was likewise deprived of his captaincy and his governorship. He was
reduced at a blow from luxury and high station to beggary and obscurity.
At the renewal of the war he found himself, for no fault of his own,
excluded from the service of his country. Yet the Advocate almost in his
last breath had recommended his sons to the Stadholder, and Maurice had
sent a message in response that so long as the sons conducted themselves
well they might rely upon his support.
Hitherto they had not conducted themselves otherwise than well.
Stoutenburg, who now dwelt in his house with his mother, was of a dark,
revengeful, turbulent disposition. In the career of arms he had a right
to look forward to success, but thus condemned to brood in idleness on
the cruel wrongs to himself and his house it was not improbable that he
might become dangerous.
Years long he fed on projects of vengeance as his daily bread. He was
convinced that his personal grievances were closely entwined with the
welfare of the Commonwealth, and he had sworn to avenge the death of his
father, the misery of his mother, and the wrongs which he was himself
suffering, upon the Stadholder, whom he considered the author of all
their woe. To effect a revolution in the government, and to bring back
to power all the municipal regents whom Maurice had displaced so
summarily, in order, as the son believed, to effect the downfall of the
hated Advocate, this was the determination of Stoutenburg.
He did not pause to reflect whether the arm which had been strong enough
to smite to nothingness the venerable statesman in the plenitude of his
power would be too weak to repel the attack of an obscure and disarmed
partisan. He saw only a hated tyrant, murderer, and oppressor, as he
considered him, and he meant to have his life.
He had around him a set of daring and desperate men to whom he had from
time to time half confided his designs. A certain unfrocked preacher of
the Remonstrant persuasion, who, according to the fashion of the learned
of that day, had translated his name out of Hendrik Sleet into Henricus
Slatius, was one of his most unscrupulous instruments. Slatius, a big,
swarthy, shag-eared, beetle-browed Hollander, possessed learning of no
ordinary degree, a tempestuous kind of eloquence, and a habit of dealing
with men; especially those of the humbler classes. He was passionate,
greedy, overbearing, violent, and loose of life. He had sworn vengeance
upon the Remonstrants in consequence of a private quarrel, but this did
not prevent him from breathing fire and fury against the Contra-
Remonstrants also, and especially against the Stadholder, whom he
affected to consider the arch-enemy of the whole Commonwealth.
Another twelvemonth went by. The Advocate had been nearly four years in
his grave. The terrible German war was in full blaze. The Twelve Years'
Truce had expired, the Republic was once more at war, and Stoutenburg,
forbidden at the head of his troop to campaign with the Stadholder
against the Archdukes, nourished more fiercely than ever his plan against
the Stadholder's life.
Besides the ferocious Slatius he had other associates. There was his
cousin by marriage, van der Dussen, a Catholic gentleman, who had married
a daughter of Elias Barneveld, and who shared all Stoutenburg's feelings
of resentment towards Maurice. There was Korenwinder, another Catholic,
formerly occupying an official position of responsibility as secretary of
the town of Berkel, a man of immense corpulence, but none the less an
active and dangerous conspirator.
There was van Dyk, a secretary of Bleiswyk, equally active and dangerous,
and as lean and hungry as Korenwinder was fat. Stoutenburg, besides
other rewards, had promised him a cornetcy of cavalry, should their plans
be successful. And there was the brother-in-law of Slatius, one Cornelis
Gerritaen, a joiner by trade, living at Rotterdam, who made himself very
useful in all the details of the conspiracy.
For the plot was now arranged, the men just mentioned being its active
agents and in constant communication with Stoutenburg.
Korenwinder and van Dyk in the last days of December 1622 drew up a
scheme on paper, which was submitted to their chief and met with his
approval. The document began with a violent invective against the crimes
and tyranny of the Stadholder, demonstrated the necessity of a general
change in the government, and of getting rid of Maurice as an
indispensable preliminary, and laid down the means and method
of doing this deed.
The Prince was in the daily habit of driving, unattended by his body-
guard, to Ryswyk, about two miles from the Hague. It would not be
difficult for a determined band of men divided into two parties to set
upon him between the stables and his coach, either when alighting from or
about to enter it--the one party to kill him while the other protected
the retreat of the assassins, and beat down such defence as the few
lackeys of the Stadholder could offer.
The scheme, thus mapped out, was submitted to Stoutenburg, who gave it
his approval after suggesting a few amendments. The document was then
burnt. It was estimated that twenty men would be needed for the job, and
that to pay them handsomely would require about 6000 guilders.
The expenses and other details of the infamous plot were discussed as
calmly as if it had been an industrial or commercial speculation. But
6000 guilders was an immense sum to raise, and the Seigneur de
Stoutenburg was a beggar. His associates were as forlorn as himself, but
his brother-in-law, the ex-Ambassador van der Myle, was living at
Beverwyk under the supervision of the police, his property not having
been confiscated. Stoutenburg paid him a visit, accompanied by the
Reverend Slatius, in hopes of getting funds from him, but at the first
obscure hint of the infamous design van der Myle faced them with such
looks, gestures, and words of disgust and indignation that the murderous
couple recoiled, the son of Barneveld saying to the expreacher: "Let us
be off, Slaet,'tis a mere cur. Nothing is to be made of him."
The other son of Barneveld, the Seigneur de Groeneveld, had means and
credit. His brother had darkly hinted to him the necessity of getting
rid of Maurice, and tried to draw him into the plot. Groeneveld, more
unstable than water, neither repelled nor encouraged these advances. He
joined in many conversations with Stoutenburg, van Dyk, and Korenwinder,
but always weakly affected not to know what they were driving at. "When
we talk of business," said van Dyk to him one day, "you are always
turning off from us and from the subject. You had better remain."
Many anonymous letters were sent to him, calling on him to strike for
vengeance on the murderer of his father, and for the redemption of his
native land and the Remonstrant religion from foul oppression.
At last yielding to the persuasions and threats of his fierce younger
brother, who assured him that the plot would succeed, the government be
revolutionized, and that then all property would be at the mercy of the
victors, he agreed to endorse certain bills which Korenwinder undertook
to negotiate. Nothing could be meaner, more cowardly, and more murderous
than the proceedings of the Seigneur de Groeneveld. He seems to have
felt no intense desire of vengeance upon Maurice, which certainly would
not have been unnatural, but he was willing to supply money for his
assassination. At the same time he was careful to insist that this
pecuniary advance was by no means a free gift, but only a loan to be
repaid by his more bloodthirsty brother upon demand with interest.
With a businesslike caution, in ghastly contrast with the foulness of the
contract, he exacted a note of hand from Stoutenburg covering the whole
amount of his disbursements. There might come a time, he thought, when
his brother's paper would be more negotiable than it was at that moment.
Korenwinder found no difficulty in discounting Groeneveld's bills, and
the necessary capital was thus raised for the vile enterprise. Van Dyk,
the lean and hungry conspirator, now occupied himself vigorously in
engaging the assassins, while his corpulent colleague remained as
treasurer of the company. Two brothers Blansaerts, woollen manufacturers
at Leyden--one of whom had been a student of theology in the Remonstrant
Church and had occasionally preached--and a certain William Party, a
Walloon by birth, but likewise a woollen worker at Leyden, agreed to the
secretary's propositions. He had at first told, them that their services
would be merely required for the forcible liberation of two Remonstrant
clergymen, Niellius and Poppius, from the prison at Haarlem.
Entertaining his new companions at dinner, however, towards the end of
January, van Dyk, getting very drunk, informed them that the object of
the enterprise was to kill the Stadholder; that arrangements had been
made for effecting an immediate change in the magistracies in all the
chief cities of Holland so soon as the deed was done; that all the
recently deposed regents would enter the Hague at once, supported by a
train of armed peasants from the country; and that better times for the
oppressed religion, for the Fatherland, and especially for everyone
engaged in the great undertaking, would begin with the death of the
tyrant. Each man taking direct part in the assassination would receive
at least 300 guilders, besides being advanced to offices of honour and
profit according to his capacity.
The Blansaerts assured their superior that entire reliance might be
placed on their fidelity, and that they knew of three or four other men
in Leyden "as firm as trees and fierce as lions," whom they would engage
--a fustian worker, a tailor, a chimney-sweeper, and one or two other
mechanics. The looseness and utter recklessness with which this hideous
conspiracy was arranged excites amazement. Van Dyk gave the two brothers
100 pistoles in gold--a coin about equal to a guinea--for their immediate
reward as well as for that of the comrades to be engaged. Yet it seems
almost certain from subsequent revelations that they were intending all
the time to deceive him, to take as much money as they could get from
him, "to milk, the cow as long as she would give milk," as William Party
expressed it, and then to turn round upon and betray him. It was a
dangerous game however, which might not prove entirely successful.
Van Dyk duly communicated with Stoutenburg, who grew more and more
feverish with hatred and impatience as the time for gratifying those
passions drew nigh, and frequently said that he would like to tear the
Stadholder to pieces with his own hands. He preferred however to act
as controlling director over the band of murderers now enrolled.
For in addition to the Leyden party, the Reverend Slatius, supplied with
funds by van Dyk, had engaged at Rotterdam his brother-in-law Gerritsen,
a joiner, living in that city, together with three sailors named
respectively Dirk, John, and Herman.
The ex-clergyman's house was also the arsenal of the conspiracy, and here
were stored away a stock of pistols, snaphances, and sledge-hammers--
together with that other death-dealing machinery, the whole edition of
the 'Clearshining Torch', an inflammatory, pamphlet by Slatius--all to
be used on the fatal day fast approaching.
On the 1st February van Dyk visited Slatius at Rotterdam. He found
Gerritsen hard at work.
There in a dark back kitchen, by the lurid light of the fire in a dim
wintry afternoon, stood the burly Slatius, with his swarthy face and
heavy eyebrows, accompanied by his brother-in-law the joiner, both in
workman's dress, melting lead, running bullets, drying powder, and
burnishing and arranging the fire-arms and other tools to be used in the
great crime now so rapidly maturing. The lean, busy, restless van Dyk,
with his adust and sinister visage, came peering in upon the couple thus
engaged, and observed their preparations with warm approval.
He recommended that in addition to Dirk, John, and Herman, a few more
hardy seafaring men should be engaged, and Slatius accordingly secured
next day the services of one Jerome Ewouts and three other sailors. They
were not informed of the exact nature of the enterprise, but were told
that it was a dangerous although not a desperate one, and sure to be of
great service to the Fatherland. They received, as all the rest had
done, between 200 and 300 guilders in gold, that they would all be
promoted to be captains and first mates.
It was agreed that all the conspirators should assemble four days later
at the Hague on Sunday, the 5th February, at the inn of the "Golden
Helmet." The next day, Monday the 6th, had been fixed by Stoutenburg for
doing the deed. Van Dyk, who had great confidence in the eloquence of
William Party, the Walloon wool manufacturer, had arranged that he should
make a discourse to them all in a solitary place in the downs between
that city and the sea-shore, taking for his theme or brief the
Clearshining Torch of Slatius.
On Saturday that eminent divine entertained his sister and her husband
Gerritsen, Jerome Ewouts, who was at dinner but half informed as to the
scope of the great enterprise, and several other friends who were
entirely ignorant of it. Slatius was in high spirits, although his
sister, who had at last become acquainted with the vile plot, had done
nothing but weep all day long. They had better be worms, with a promise
of further reward and an intimation she said, and eat dirt for their
food, than crawl in so base a business. Her brother comforted her with
assurances that the project was sure to result in a triumph for religion
and Fatherland, and drank many healths at his table to the success of all
engaged in it. That evening he sent off a great chest filled with arms
and ammunition to the "Golden Helmet" at the Hague under the charge of
Jerome Ewouts and his three mates. Van Dyk had already written a letter
to the landlord of that hostelry engaging a room there, and saying that
the chest contained valuable books and documents to be used in a lawsuit,
in which he was soon to be engaged, before the supreme tribunal.
On the Sunday this bustling conspirator had John Blansaert and William
Party to dine with him at the "Golden Helmet" in the Hague, and produced
seven packages neatly folded, each containing gold pieces to the amount
of twenty pounds sterling. These were for themselves and the others whom
they had reported as engaged by them in Leyden. Getting drunk as usual,
he began to bluster of the great political revolution impending, and
after dinner examined the carbines of his guests. He asked if those
weapons were to be relied upon. "We can blow a hair to pieces with them
at twenty paces," they replied. "Ah! would that I too could be of the
party," said van Dyk, seizing one of the carbines. "No, no," said John
Blansaert, "we can do the deed better without you than with you. You
must look out for the defence."
Van Dyk then informed them that they, with one of the Rotterdam sailors,
were to attack Maurice as he got out of his coach at Ryswyk, pin him
between the stables and the coach, and then and there do him to death.
"You are not to leave him," he cried, "till his soul has left his body."
The two expressed their hearty concurrence with this arrangement, and
took leave of their host for the night, going, they said, to distribute
the seven packages of blood-money. They found Adam Blansaert waiting for
them in the downs, and immediately divided the whole amount between
themselves and him--the chimney-sweeper, tailor, and fustian worker,
"firm as trees and fierce as lions," having never had any existence
save in their fertile imaginations.
On Monday, 6th February, van Dyk had a closing interview with Stoutenburg
and his brother at the house of Groeneveld, and informed them that the
execution of the plot had been deferred to the following day.
Stoutenburg expressed disgust and impatience at the delay. "I should
like to tear the Stadholder to pieces with my own hands!" he cried. He
was pacified on hearing that the arrangements had been securely made for
the morrow, and turning to his brother observed, "Remember that you can
never retract. You are in our power and all your estates at our mercy."
He then explained the manner in which the magistracies of Leyden, Gouda,
Rotterdam, and other cities were to be instantly remodelled after the
death of Maurice, the ex-regents of the Hague at the head of a band of
armed peasants being ready at a moment's warning to take possession of
the political capital.
Prince Frederic Henry moreover, he hinted darkly and falsely, but in a
manner not to be mistaken, was favourable to the movement, and would
after the murder of Maurice take the government into his hands.
Stoutenburg then went quietly home to pass the day and sleep at his
mother's house awaiting the eventful morning of Tuesday.
Van Dyk went back to his room at the "Golden Helmet" and began inspecting
the contents of the arms and ammunition chest which Jerome Ewouts and his
three mates had brought the night before from Rotterdam. He had been
somewhat unquiet at having seen nothing of those mariners during the day;
when looking out of window, he saw one of them in conference with some
soldiers. A minute afterwards he heard a bustle in the rooms below, and
found that the house was occupied by a guard, and that Gerritsen, with
the three first engaged sailors Dirk, Peter, and Herman, had been
arrested at the Zotje. He tried in vain to throw the arms back into the
chest and conceal it under the bed, but it was too late. Seizing his hat
and wrapping himself in his cloak, with his sword by his side, he walked
calmly down the stairs looking carelessly at the group of soldiers and
prisoners who filled the passages. A waiter informed the provost-marshal
in command that the gentleman was a respectable boarder at the tavern,
well known to him for many years. The conspirator passed unchallenged
and went straight to inform Stoutenburg.
The four mariners, last engaged by Slatius at Rotterdam, had signally
exemplified the danger of half confidences. Surprised that they should
have been so mysteriously entrusted with the execution of an enterprise
the particulars of which were concealed from them, and suspecting that
crime alone could command such very high prices as had been paid and
promised by the ex-clergyman, they had gone straight to the residence of
the Stadholder, after depositing the chest at the "Golden Helmet."
Finding that he had driven as usual to Ryswyk, they followed him thither,
and by dint of much importunity obtained an audience. If the enterprise
was a patriotic one, they reasoned, he would probably know of it and
approve it. If it were criminal, it would be useful for them to reveal
and dangerous to conceal it.
They told the story so far as they knew it to the Prince and showed him
the money, 300 florins apiece, which they had already received from
Slatius. Maurice hesitated not an instant. It was evident that a dark
conspiracy was afoot. He ordered the sailors to return to the Hague by
another and circuitous road through Voorburg, while he lost not a moment
himself in hurrying back as fast as his horses would carry him.
Summoning the president and several councillors of the chief tribunal,
he took instant measures to take possession of the two taverns, and
arrest all the strangers found in them.
Meantime van Dyk came into the house of the widow Barneveld and found
Stoutenburg in the stable-yard. He told him the plot was discovered, the
chest of arms at the "Golden Helmet" found. "Are there any private
letters or papers in the bog?" asked Stoutenburg. "None relating to the
affair," was the answer.
"Take yourself off as fast as possible," said Stoutenburg. Van Dyk
needed no urging. He escaped through the stables and across the fields
in the direction of Leyden. After skulking about for a week however and
making very little progress, he was arrested at Hazerswoude, having
broken through the ice while attempting to skate across the inundated and
frozen pastures in that region.
Proclamations were at once made, denouncing the foul conspiracy in
which the sons of the late Advocate Barneveld, the Remonstrant clergyman
Slatius, and others, were the ringleaders, and offering 4000 florins each
for their apprehension. A public thanksgiving for the deliverance was
made in all the churches on the 8th February.
On the 12th February the States-General sent letters to all their
ambassadors and foreign agents, informing them of this execrable plot to
overthrow the Commonwealth and take the life of the Stadholder, set on
foot by certain Arminian preachers and others of that faction, and this
too in winter, when the ice and snow made hostile invasion practicable,
and when the enemy was encamped in so many places in the neighbourhood.
"The Arminians," said the despatch, "are so filled with bitterness that
they would rather the Republic should be lost than that their pretended
grievances should go unredressed." Almost every pulpit shook with
Contra-Remonstrant thunder against the whole society of Remonstrants, who
were held up to the world as rebels and prince-murderers; the criminal
conspiracy being charged upon them as a body. Hardly a man of that
persuasion dared venture into the streets and public places, for fear of
being put to death by the rabble. The Chevalier William of Nassau,
natural son of the Stadholder, was very loud and violent in all the
taverns and tap-rooms, drinking mighty draughts to the damnation of the
Many of the timid in consequence shrank away from the society and
joined the Contra-Remonstrant Church, while the more courageous members,
together with the leaders of that now abhorred communion, published long
and stirring appeals to the universal sense of justice, which was
outraged by the spectacle of a whole sect being punished for a crime
committed by a few individuals, who had once been unworthy members of it.
Meantime hue and cry was made after the fugitive conspirators. The
Blansaerts and William Party having set off from Leyden towards the Hague
on Monday night, in order, as they said, to betray their employers, whose
money they had taken, and whose criminal orders they had agreed to
execute, attempted to escape, but were arrested within ten days. They
were exhibited at their prison at Amsterdam to an immense concourse at a
shilling a peep, the sums thus collected being distributed to the poor.
Slatius made his way disguised as a boor into Friesland, and after
various adventures attempted to cross the Bourtange Moors to Lingen.
Stopping to refresh himself at a tavern near Koevorden, he found himself
in the tap-room in presence of Quartermaster Blau and a company of
soldiers from the garrison. The dark scowling boor, travel-stained and
weary, with felt hat slouched over his forbidding visage, fierce and
timorous at once like a hunted wild beast, excited their suspicion.
Seeing himself watched, he got up, paid his scot, and departed,
leaving his can of beer untasted. This decided the quartermaster, who
accordingly followed the peasant out of the house, and arrested him as a
Spanish spy on the watch for the train of specie which the soldiers were
then conveying into Koevorden Castle.
Slatius protested his innocence of any such design, and vehemently
besought the officer to release him, telling him as a reason for his
urgency and an explanation of his unprepossessing aspect--that he was
an oculist from Amsterdam, John Hermansen by name, that he had just
committed a homicide in that place, and was fleeing from justice.
The honest quartermaster saw no reason why a suspected spy should go
free because he proclaimed himself a murderer, nor why an oculist should
escape the penalties of homicide. "The more reason," he said, "why thou
shouldst be my prisoner." The ex-preacher was arrested and shut up in
the state prison at the Hague.
The famous engraver Visser executed a likeness on copper-plate of the
grim malefactor as he appeared in his boor's disguise. The portrait,
accompanied by a fiercely written broadsheet attacking the Remonstrant
Church, had a great circulation, and deepened the animosity against the
sect upon which the unfrocked preacher had sworn vengeance. His evil
face and fame thus became familiar to the public, while the term Hendrik
Slaet became a proverb at pot-houses, being held equivalent among
tipplers to shirking the bottle.
Korenwinder, the treasurer of the association, coming to visit
Stoutenburg soon after van Dyk had left him, was informed of the
discovery of the plot and did his best to escape, but was arrested
within a fortnight's time.
Stoutenburg himself acted with his usual promptness and coolness. Having
gone straightway to his brother to notify him of the discovery and to
urge him to instant flight, he contrived to disappear. A few days later
a chest of merchandise was brought to the house of a certain citizen of
Rotterdam, who had once been a fiddler, but was now a man of considerable
property. The chest, when opened, was found to contain the Seigneur de
Stoutenburg, who in past times had laid the fiddler under obligations,
and in whose house he now lay concealed for many days, and until the
strictness with which all roads and ferries in the neighbourhood were
watched at first had somewhat given way. Meantime his cousin van der
Dussen had also effected his escape, and had joined him in Rotterdam.
The faithful fiddler then, for a thousand florins, chartered a trading
vessel commanded by one Jacob Beltje to take a cargo of Dutch cheese to
Wesel on the Rhine. By this means, after a few adventures, they effected
their escape, and, arriving not long afterwards at Brussels, were
formally taken under the protection of the Archduchess Isabella.
Stoutenburg afterwards travelled in France and Italy, and returned to
Brussels. His wife, loathing his crime and spurning all further
communication with him, abandoned him to his fate. The daughter of
Marnix of Sainte-Aldegonde had endured poverty, obscurity, and unmerited
obloquy, which had become the lot of the great statesman's family after
his tragic end, but she came of a race that would not brook dishonour.
The conspirator and suborner of murder and treason, the hirer and
companion of assassins, was no mate for her.
Stoutenburg hesitated for years as to his future career, strangely
enough keeping up a hope of being allowed to return to his country.
Subsequently he embraced the cause of his country's enemies, converted
himself to the Roman Church, and obtained a captaincy of horse in the
Spanish service. He was seen one day, to the disgust of many spectators,
to enter Antwerp in black foreign uniform, at the head of his troopers,
waving a standard with a death's-head embroidered upon it, and wearing,
like his soldiers, a sable scarf and plume. History disdains to follow
further the career of the renegade, traitor, end assassin.
When the Seigneur de Groeneveld learned from his younger brother, on the
eventful 6th of February, that the plot had been discovered, he gave
himself up for lost. Remorse and despair, fastening upon his naturally
feeble character, seemed to render him powerless. His wife, of more
hopeful disposition than himself and of less heroic mould than Walburg de
Marnix, encouraged him to fly. He fled accordingly, through the desolate
sandy downs which roll between the Hague and the sea, to Scheveningen,
then an obscure fishing village on the coast, at a league's distance from
the capital. Here a fisherman, devoted to him and his family, received
him in his hut, disguised him in boatman's attire, and went with him to
the strand, proposing to launch his pinkie, put out at once to sea, and
to land him on the English coast, the French coast, in Hamburg--where he
The sight of that long, sandy beach stretching for more than seventy
miles in an unbroken, melancholy line, without cove, curve, or
indentation to break its cruel monotony, and with the wild waves of the
German Ocean, lashed by a wintry storm, breaking into white foam as far
as the eye could reach, appalled the fugitive criminal. With the
certainty of an ignominious death behind him, he shrank abjectly from
the terrors of the sea, and, despite the honest fisherman's entreaties,
refused to enter the boat and face the storm. He wandered feebly along
the coast, still accompanied by his humble friend, to another little
village, where the fisherman procured a waggon, which took them as far as
Sandvoort. Thence he made his way through Egmond and Petten and across
the Marsdiep to Tegel, where not deeming himself safe he had himself
ferried over to the neighbouring island of Vlieland. Here amongst the
quicksands, whirlpools, and shallows which mark the last verge of
habitable Holland, the unhappy fugitive stood at bay.
Meantime information had come to the authorities that a suspicious
stranger had been seen at Scheveningen. The fisherman's wife was
arrested. Threatened with torture she at last confessed with whom her
husband had fled and whither. Information was sent to the bailiff of
Vlieland, who with a party of followers made a strict search through his
narrow precincts. A group of seamen seated on the sands was soon
discovered, among whom, dressed in shaggy pea jacket with long
fisherman's boots, was the Seigneur de Groeneveld, who, easily recognized
through his disguise, submitted to his captors without a struggle. The
Scheveningen fisherman, who had been so faithful to him, making a sudden
spring, eluded his pursuers and disappeared; thus escaping the gibbet
which would probably have been his doom instead of the reward of 4000
golden guilders which he might have had for betraying him. Thus a
sum more than double the amount originally furnished by Groeneveld,
as the capital of the assassination company, had been rejected by the
Rotterdam boatman who saved Stoutenburg, and by the Scheveningen
fisherman who was ready to save Groeneveld. On the 19th February, within
less than a fortnight from the explosion of the conspiracy, the eldest
son of Barneveld was lodged in the Gevangen Poort or state prison of the
The awful news of the 6th February had struck the widow of Barneveld as
with a thunderbolt. Both her sons were proclaimed as murderers and
suborners of assassins, and a price put upon their heads. She remained
for days neither speaking nor weeping; scarcely eating, drinking, or
sleeping. She seemed frozen to stone. Her daughters and friends could
not tell whether she were dying or had lost her reason. At length the
escape of Stoutenburg and the capture of Groeneveld seemed to rouse her
from her trance. She then stooped to do what she had sternly refused to
do when her husband was in the hands of the authorities. Accompanied by
the wife and infant son of Groeneveld she obtained an audience of the
stern Stadholder, fell on her knees before him, and implored mercy and
pardon for her son.
Maurice received her calmly and not discourteously, but held out no hopes
of pardon. The criminal was in the hands of justice, he said, and he had
no power to interfere. But there can scarcely be a doubt that he had
power after the sentence to forgive or to commute, and it will be
remembered that when Barneveld himself was about to suffer, the Prince
had asked the clergyman Walaeus with much anxiety whether the prisoner
in his message had said nothing of pardon.
Referring to the bitter past, Maurice asked Madame de Barneveld why she
not asked mercy for her son, having refused to do so for her husband.
Her answer was simple and noble:
"My husband was innocent of crime," she said; "my son is guilty."
The idea of pardon in this case was of course preposterous. Certainly if
Groeneveld had been forgiven, it would have been impossible to punish the
thirteen less guilty conspirators, already in the hands of justice, whom
he had hired to commit the assassination. The spectacle of the two
cowardly ringleaders going free while the meaner criminals were gibbeted
would have been a shock to the most rudimentary ideas of justice. It
would have been an equal outrage to pardon the younger Barnevelds for
intended murder, in which they had almost succeeded, when their great
father had already suffered for a constructive lese-majesty, the guilt of
which had been stoutly denied. Yet such is the dreary chain of cause and
effect that it is certain, had pardon been nobly offered to the
statesman, whose views of constitutional law varied from those of the
dominant party, the later crime would never have been committed. But
Francis Aerssens--considering his own and other partisans lives at stake
if the States' right party did not fall--had been able to bear down all
thoughts of mercy. He was successful, was called to the house of nobles,
and regained the embassy of Paris, while the house of Barneveld was
trodden into the dust of dishonour and ruin. Rarely has an offended
politician's revenge been more thorough than his. Never did the mocking
fiend betray his victims into the hands of the avenger more sardonically
than was done in this sombre tragedy.
The trials of the prisoners were rapidly conducted. Van Dyk, cruelly
tortured, confessed on the rack all the details of the conspiracy as they
were afterwards embodied in the sentences and have been stated in the
preceding narrative. Groeneveld was not tortured. His answers to the
interrogatories were so vague as to excite amazement at his general
ignorance of the foul transaction or at the feebleness of his memory,
while there was no attempt on his part to exculpate himself from the
damning charge. That it was he who had furnished funds for the proposed
murder and mutiny, knowing the purpose to which they were to be applied,
was proved beyond all cavil and fully avowed by him.
On the 28th May, he, Korenwinder, and van Dyk were notified that they
were to appear next day in the courthouse to hear their sentence, which
would immediately afterwards be executed.
That night his mother, wife, and son paid him a long visit of farewell
in his prison. The Gevangen Poort of the Hague, an antique but mean
building of brown brick and commonplace aspect, still stands in one of
the most public parts of the city. A gloomy archway, surmounted by
windows grimly guarded by iron lattice-work, forms the general
thoroughfare from the aristocratic Plaats and Kneuterdyk and Vyverberg
to the inner court of the ancient palace. The cells within are dark,
noisome, and dimly lighted, and even to this day the very instruments of
torture, used in the trials of these and other prisoners, may be seen by
the curious. Half a century later the brothers de Witt were dragged from
this prison to be literally torn to pieces by an infuriated mob.
The misery of that midnight interview between the widow of Barneveld, her
daughter-in-law, and the condemned son and husband need not be described.
As the morning approached, the gaoler warned the matrons to take their
departure that the prisoner might sleep.
"What a woful widow you will be," said Groeneveld to his wife, as she
sank choking with tears upon the ground. The words suddenly aroused in
her the sense of respect for their name.
"At least for all this misery endured," she said firmly, "do me enough
honour to die like a gentleman." He promised it. The mother then took
leave of the son, and History drops a decorous veil henceforth over the
grief-stricken form of Mary of Barneveld.
Next morning the life-guards of the Stadholder and other troops were
drawn up in battle-array in the outer and inner courtyard of the supreme
tribunal and palace. At ten o'clock Groeneveld came forth from the
prison. The Stadholder had granted as a boon to the family that he might
be neither fettered nor guarded as he walked to the tribunal. The
prisoner did not forget his parting promise to his wife. He appeared
full-dressed in velvet cloak and plumed hat, with rapier by his side,
walking calmly through the inner courtyard to the great hall. Observing
the windows of the Stadholder's apartments crowded with spectators, among
whom he seemed to recognize the Prince's face, he took off his hat and
made a graceful and dignified salute. He greeted with courtesy many
acquaintances among the crowd through which he passed. He entered the
hall and listened in silence to the sentence condemning him to be
immediately executed with the sword. Van Dyk and Korenwinder shared the
same doom, but were provisionally taken back to prison.
Groeneveld then walked calmly and gracefully as before from the hall to
the scaffold, attended by his own valet, and preceded by the provost-
marshal and assistants. He was to suffer, not where his father had been
beheaded, but on the "Green Sod." This public place of execution for
ordinary criminals was singularly enough in the most elegant and
frequented quarter of the Hague. A few rods from the Gevangen Poort,
at the western end of the Vyverberg, on the edge of the cheerful triangle
called the Plaats, and looking directly down the broad and stately
Kneuterdyk, at the end of which stood Aremberg House, lately the
residence of the great Advocate, was the mean and sordid scaffold.
Groeneveld ascended it with perfect composure. The man who had been
browbeaten into crime by an overbearing and ferocious brother, who had
quailed before the angry waves of the North Sea, which would have borne
him to a place of entire security, now faced his fate with a smile upon
his lips. He took off his hat, cloak, and sword, and handed them to his
valet. He calmly undid his ruff and wristbands of pointlace, and tossed
them on the ground. With his own hands and the assistance of his servant
he unbuttoned his doublet, laying breast and neck open without suffering
the headsman's hands to approach him.
He then walked to the heap of sand and spoke a very few words to the vast
throng of spectators.
"Desire of vengeance and evil counsel," he said, "have brought me here.
If I have wronged any man among you, I beg him for Christ's sake to
Kneeling on the sand with his face turned towards his father's house at
the end of the Kneuterdyk, he said his prayers. Then putting a red
velvet cap over his eyes, he was heard to mutter:
"O God! what a man I was once, and what am I now?"
Calmly folding his hands, he said, "Patience."
The executioner then struck off his head at a blow. His body, wrapped in
a black cloak, was sent to his house and buried in his father's tomb.
Van Dyk and Korenwinder were executed immediately afterwards. They were
quartered and their heads exposed on stakes. The joiner Gerritsen and
the three sailors had already been beheaded. The Blansaerts and William
Party, together with the grim Slatius, who was savage and turbulent to
the last, had suffered on the 5th of May.
Fourteen in all were executed for this crime, including an unfortunate
tailor and two other mechanics of Leyden, who had heard something
whispered about the conspiracy, had nothing whatever to do with it, but
from ignorance, apathy, or timidity did not denounce it. The ringleader
and the equally guilty van der Dussen had, as has been seen, effected
Thus ended the long tragedy of the Barnevelds. The result of this foul
conspiracy and its failure to effect the crime proposed strengthened
immensely the power, popularity, and influence of the Stadholder, made
the orthodox church triumphant, and nearly ruined the sect of the
Remonstrants, the Arminians--most unjustly in reality, although with a
pitiful show of reason--being held guilty of the crime of Stoutenburg
The Republic--that magnificent commonwealth which in its infancy had
confronted, single-handed, the greatest empire of the earth, and had
wrested its independence from the ancient despot after a forty years'
struggle--had now been rent in twain, although in very unequal portions,
by the fiend of political and religious hatred. Thus crippled, she was
to go forth and take her share in that awful conflict now in full blaze,
and of which after-ages were to speak with a shudder as the Thirty Years'
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