John Maurice of Nassau

From Academic Kids

John Maurice of Nassau (Dutch: Johan Maurits van Nassau, 1604-1679) was a count of Nassau-Siegen. His nickname was 'the Brazilian'.

He was born in Dillenburg. His father was Jan VII of Nassau; his grandfather Johan of Nassau, the oldest brother of Dutch stadtholder William "the Silent" of Orange.

John Maurice joined the Dutch army in 1621, at a very early age. He distinguished himself in the campaigns of his cousin, the stadtholder Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. In 1626 he became captain. He was involved in 1629 in the capture of Den Bosch. In 1636, he conquered a fortress at Schenkenschans.

He was appointed as the governor of the Dutch possessions in Brazil in 1637 by the Dutch West India Company on recommendation of Frederick Henry. He landed at Recife, the port of Pernambuco and the chief stronghold of the Dutch, in January 1637.

By a series of successful expeditions, he gradually extended the Dutch possessions from Sergipe on the south to São Luis de Maranham in the north. He likewise conquered the Portuguese possessions of Saint George del Mina and Saint Thomas on the west coast of Africa. With the assistance of the famous architect, Pieter Post of Haarlem, he transformed Recife by building a new town adorned with splendid public edifices and gardens, which was called after his name, Mauritsstad.

By his statesmanlike policy he brought the colony into a most flourishing condition and succeeded even in reconciling the Portuguese settlers to submit quietly to Dutch rule. His large schemes and lavish expenditure alarmed however the parsimonious directors of the West India company, but John Maurice refused to retain his post unless he was given a free hand, and he returned to Europe in July 1644.

He was shortly afterwards appointed by Frederick Henry to the command of the cavalry in the States army, and he took part in the campaigns of 1645 and 1646. When the war was ended by the peace of Munster in January 1648, he accepted from the elector of Brandenburg the post of governor of Cleves, Mark and Ravensberg, and later also of Minden. His success in the Rhineland was as great as it had been in Brazil, and he proved himself a most able and wise ruler.

At the end of 1652 he was appointed head of the order of Saint John and made a prince of the Empire. In 1664 he came back to Holland; when the war broke out with England supported by an invasion from the bishop of Munster, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Dutch forces on land. Though hampered in his command by the restrictions of the states-general, he repelled the invasion, and the bishop, Christoph von Galen, was forced to conclude peace. His campaigning was not yet at an end, for in 1673 he was appointed by the stadtholder William III to command the forces in Friesland and Groningen, and to defend the eastern frontier of the Provinces.

In 1675 his health compelled him to give up active military service, and he spent his last years in his beloved Cleves, where he died in December 1679.

The residence he built in The Hague is now called the Mauritshuis, and is now a museum of Dutch paintings.

The Brazilian author, Paulo Setúbal, wrote a historic novel about John Maurice and the Dutch settlement in Brazil, O Principe de Nassau ("The Prince of Nassau", translated into Dutch by R. Schreuder and J. Slauerhoff in 1933 as "Johan Maurits van Nassau").fr:Jean-Maurice de Nassau-Siegen


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