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The grand pensionary (Dutch: raad(s)pensionaris) was the most important Dutch official during the time of the United Provinces. In theory he was only a civil servant of the Estates of the dominant province among the Seven United Provinces: the county of Holland. In practice the grand pensionary of Holland was the political leader of the entire Dutch Republic when there was no stadtholder (in practice the Prince of Orange) at the centre of power.

The Dutch name raad(s)pensionaris literally translates as "councillor or advisor pensionary". Indeed, other provinces could also have a raadspensionaris, e.g. Zeeland, but only the one of Holland was considered by foreign powers to be of any importance, so they called him the grand pensionary.

The position of the grand pensionary was in many ways similar to what through later political and constitutional developments came to be a prime minister.

Contents

The office of grand pensionaryEdit

The office started in 1619 and replaced the title of land's advocate. When there was a stadtholder, then the grand pensionary was often the second leader of the republic. Being the raadspensionaris of Holland, the grand pensionary acted as the chairman of States of Holland. He was appointed by the Estates and could be fired instantly by the Estates. A decision of the Estates was made by a summarizing of all the statements of the delegates by the grand pensionary, with an implicit conclusion about what collective decision had been made. He had the first say on a subject during a meeting of the Estates and controlled the agenda. This way, if he was a competent man, he could control the entire decision-making process, especially as one of his "duties" was to represent the ten members of the nobility delegates (the ridderschap) in their absence and phrase the single opinion they as a body had the right to express. The office existed because all delegates of the States were, although ranked according to ancient feudal hierarchy, still basically equal (pares) and none among them could thus act as a head.

The Batavian Republic first abolished the office but in its last year, 1805–1806, the title had to be reinstituted on orders of Napoleon as part of a number of measures to strengthen the executive power; Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck thus acted for a short time as the last grand pensionary. He officially functioned as a president of the entire Republic, not just of Holland.

Grand PensionariesEdit

The most famous and most significant grand pensionary was Johan de Witt, who held the office between 1653 and 1672. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who played an extremely important role in the Dutch struggle for independence should also be mentioned, though he held the position when it was still called "land's advocate".

The following is a list of Grand pensionaries of Holland, Zeeland and the Batavian Republic. During the time of the Dutch Republic, the Grand Pensionary was the most prominent member of the government. Though officially only a civil servant of the Estates, the Grand Pensionary was the de facto leader of the entire republic, second only to the stadtholder, and often served in a capacity similar to that of today's prime ministers.

HollandEdit

In the Seventeen ProvincesEdit

Grand Pensionaries of the province of Holland during the time of the Seventeen Provinces:

Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office
Barthout van Assendelft
(ca. 1440–1502)
1480 1489
Jan Bouwensz
(ca. 1452–1514)
1489 1494
Barthout van Assendelft
(ca. 1440–1502)
1494 1497
Frans Coebel van der Loo
(ca. 1470–1532)
1500 1513
Albrecht van Loo
(ca. 1470–1532)
1513 1524
  Aert van der Goes
(1475–1545)
May
1525
January
1544
  Adriaen van der Goes
(ca. 1505-1560)
30 January
1544
5 November
1560
Jacob van den Eynde
(ca. 1515-1570)
1560 1568

In the Dutch RepublicEdit

Holland formally adopted the Act of Abjuration in 1581 to become a province in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Grand Pensionaries of the province of Holland during the time of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands:

  Unknown/neutral
Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office
  Paulus Buys
(1531–1594)
1572 16 March
1584
  Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
(1547–1619)
16 March
1586
12 May
1619
Andries de Witt
(1573–1637)
12 May
1619
1621
Anthonie Duyck
(1560–1629)
1621 1629
  Jacob Cats
(1577–1660)
1629 1631
  Adriaan Pauw
(1585–1653)
1631 1636
  Jacob Cats
(1577–1660)
1636 1651
  Adriaan Pauw
(1585–1653)
1651 30 July
1653
  Johan de Witt
(1625–1672)
30 July
1653
4 August
1672
  Gaspar Fagel
(1634–1688)
20 August
1672
5 December
1688
  Michiel ten Hove
(1640–1689)
5 December
1688
24 March
1689
  Anthonie Heinsius
(1641–1720)
27 May
1689
3 August
1720
  Isaac van Hoornbeek
(1655–1727)
12 September
1720
17 June
1727
  Simon van Slingelandt
(1664–1736)
17 July
1727
1 December
1736
  Anthonie van der Heim
(1693–1746)
4 April
1737
7 July
1746
  Willem Buys
(1661–1749)
7 July
1746
23 September
1746
  Jacob Gilles
(1691–1765)
23 September
1747
18 June
1749
  Pieter Steyn
(1706–1772)
18 June
1749
5 November
1772
  Pieter van Bleiswijk
(1724–1790)
18 June
1772
5 November
1787
  Laurens Pieter van de Spiegel
(1736–1800)
9 November
1787
9 February
1795


ZeelandEdit

Grand Pensionaries of the province of Zeeland during the time of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands:

  Unknown/neutral
Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office
Christoffel Roels
(1540–1597)
3 July
1578
18 May
1597
Johan van de Warck
(died 1615)
25 March
1599
24 November
1614
Bonifacius de Jonge
(1567–1625)
18 February
1615
June
1625
Johan Boreel
(1577–1629)
28 October
1625
1 November
1629
Boudewijn de Witte 19 February
1630
23 March
1641
Cornelis Adriaansz. Stavenisse
(1595–1649)
19 April
1641
28 May
1649
  Johan de Brune
(1589–1658)
16 August
1649
7 November
1658
Adriaan Veth
(1608–1663)
29 November
1658
25 November
1663
  Pieter de Huybert
(1622–1697)
19 March
1664
9 October
1687
Jacob Verheije
(1640–1718)
10 October
1687
16 August
1718
  Caspar van Citters
(1674–1734)
28 November
1718
28 September
1734
Dignus Francois Keetlaer
(1674–1750)
2 November
1734
23 March
1750
Johan Pieter Recxstoot
(1701–1756)
31 May
1751
31 January
1756
Jacob du Bon
(c. 1695–1760)
3 January
1757
1 June
1760
  Wilhem van Citters
(1723–1802)
15 December
1760
25 May
1766
Adriaan Steengracht
(1731–1770)
26 May
1766
6 May
1770
Johan Marinus Chalmers
(1720–1796)
13 August
1770
12 May
1785
  Laurens Pieter van de Spiegel
(1737–1800)
22 September
1785
24 April
1788
  Willem Aarnoud van Citters
(1741–1811)
25 April
1788
1795

Batavian RepublicEdit

Grand Pensionaries of the Batavian Republic:

Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Faction
  Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck
(1761–1825)
15 May
1805
4 June
1806
Moderate
  Carel de Vos van Steenwijk
(1759–1830)
4 June
1806
18 June
1806
Federalist

See alsoEdit



Other provinces also had pensionaries. A list of some of them can be found here.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Rowen, H.H. (2003), John de Witt: Statesman of the "True Freedom", Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521527082
  • Brouwer, M. (2008), Governance and Innovation: A Historical View, Routledge, ISBN 0415437059
  • Bockel, J. van (2009), Gevormde kaders: bureaucratische en professionele reguliering van het werk van ambtenaren in de Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden [Embedded constraints: Bureaucratic and professional regulation of officials' work in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands] (in Dutch), Eburon Uitgeverij B.V., ISBN 9059723503