Political History tales: Having the PM for dinner


Which country was it that found a politician good enough to eat and how long ago did it happen?

It looked just like a funny facebook meme but it piqued my interest so I went looking for articles to back up the story and discovered that the tale was based on fact.

In 1672 the Dutch Republic was at war with England and France. Many thought that Johan de Witt, the ‘Grand Pensionary’ – in effect, prime minister – of the republic had failed, and wanted strong leadership from the young Prince of Orange: Willem III, later William III of England. […]

An unsuccessful attempt was made on de Witt’s life, and his brother, Cornelis, was arrested on trumped-up charges of plotting to assassinate Willem. It was while visiting his brother in prison that de Witt was eventually killed, on 20 August, by a mob that had gathered outside – both brothers were hanged and mutilated. Willem’s complicity in this is unclear, though he failed to prosecute the mob’s ringleaders. There are accounts of some among the mob taking parts of the bodies, and eating them. One man is even said to have eaten an eyeball. Although the stories may have been exaggerated, people did often take ‘souvenirs’ of executions, such as those who dipped handkerchiefs in the blood of King Charles I.

The savage murder of a man history has judged a highly competent leader is regarded by the Dutch as one of the most shameful episodes in their history.



The Threatened Swan, c. 1650. A swan protects her nest against a threatening dog. The scene was later turned into a political allegory by referring to the swan as Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, protecting Holland against the Enemy.

[…] His brother was arrested on a charge of conspiring against the Prince and Johan was forced to resign from his post. On August 20, 1672, Johan de Witt went to visit his brother in the Gevangenpoort at The Hague.

While he was there, an angry mob burst into the prison and butchered Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelius. […] parts of their bodies were taken and eaten in a cannibalistic frenzy by some of the people among the mob.


In the hysteria that followed the effortless invasion by an alliance of three countries, he and his brother Cornelis de Witt were blamed and lynched in The Hague, whereafter rioters partially ate the brothers.The rioters were never prosecuted, and historians have argued that William of Orange may have incited them.



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