Dumas, Alexandre – The Black Tulip

Dumas, Alexandre – The Black Tulip

Dumas, Alexandre – The Black Tulip

Chapter 1

A Grateful People

On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of the Hague, always

so lively, so neat, and so trim that one might believe every

day to be Sunday, with its shady park, with its tall trees,

spreading over its Gothic houses, with its canals like large

mirrors, in which its steeples and its almost Eastern

cupolas are reflected, — the city of the Hague, the capital

of the Seven United Provinces, was swelling in all its

arteries with a black and red stream of hurried, panting,

and restless citizens, who, with their knives in their

girdles, muskets on their shoulders, or sticks in their

hands, were pushing on to the Buytenhof, a terrible prison,

the grated windows of which are still shown, where, on the

charge of attempted murder preferred against him by the

surgeon Tyckelaer, Cornelius de Witt, the brother of the

Grand Pensionary of Holland was confined.

If the history of that time, and especially that of the year

in the middle of which our narrative commences, were not

indissolubly connected with the two names just mentioned,

the few explanatory pages which we are about to add might

appear quite supererogatory; but we will, from the very

first, apprise the reader — our old friend, to whom we are

wont on the first page to promise amusement, and with whom

we always try to keep our word as well as is in our power —

that this explanation is as indispensable to the right

understanding of our story as to that of the great event

itself on which it is based.

Cornelius de Witt, Ruart de Pulten, that is to say, warden

of the dikes, ex-burgomaster of Dort, his native town, and

member of the Assembly of the States of Holland, was

forty-nine years of age, when the Dutch people, tired of the

Republic such as John de Witt, the Grand Pensionary of

Holland, understood it, at once conceived a most violent

affection for the Stadtholderate, which had been abolished

for ever in Holland by the “Perpetual Edict” forced by John

de Witt upon the United Provinces.

As it rarely happens that public opinion, in its whimsical

flights, does not identify a principle with a man, thus the

people saw the personification of the Republic in the two

stern figures of the brothers De Witt, those Romans of

Holland, spurning to pander to the fancies of the mob, and

wedding themselves with unbending fidelity to liberty

without licentiousness, and prosperity without the waste of

superfluity; on the other hand, the Stadtholderate recalled

to the popular mind the grave and thoughtful image of the

young Prince William of Orange.

The brothers De Witt humoured Louis XIV., whose moral

influence was felt by the whole of Europe, and the pressure

of whose material power Holland had been made to feel in

that marvellous campaign on the Rhine, which, in the space

of three months, had laid the power of the United Provinces


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Dumas, Alexandre – The Black Tulip

Louis XIV. had long been the enemy of the Dutch, who

insulted or ridiculed him to their hearts’ content, although

it must be said that they generally used French refugees for

the mouthpiece of their spite. Their national pride held him

up as the Mithridates of the Republic. The brothers De Witt,

therefore, had to strive against a double difficulty, —

against the force of national antipathy, and, besides,

against the feeling of weariness which is natural to all

vanquished people, when they hope that a new chief will be

able to save them from ruin and shame.

This new chief, quite ready to appear on the political

stage, and to measure himself against Louis XIV., however

gigantic the fortunes of the Grand Monarch loomed in the

future, was William, Prince of Orange, son of William II.,

and grandson, by his mother Henrietta Stuart, of Charles I.

of England. We have mentioned him before as the person by

whom the people expected to see the office of Stadtholder


This young man was, in 1672, twenty-two years of age. John

de Witt, who was his tutor, had brought him up with the view

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