Year of publication 2005, number 15
The Boissevain Bulletin was put into our letterboxes in a new format and with a new design last year. It took a bit of getting used to after thirteen journals in a smaller format. Hopefully it will not cause you any inconvenience when stacking it on the bookshelf or binding it! Looking at the progress our Bulletin has made during that time, the committee and the editors see more and more improvements in the lay out, the clarity and the use of colours by the illustrations and the typeface in relation to the readability. I think that we might keep it this way for a while. The biggest change over the past year however, took place on our website. A lot of time, energy and money was put into this, but the result made it worthwhile. Jan Willem: thank you very much for this. I would like to refer to the article written by him with further details as to how to use this incredible medium.
I would also like to draw your attention to the good article about the journalist Charles Boissevain. Now maybe you will think: ‘him again?’. I can understand that question regarding our most famous family member, and many of our older readers will recognize certain information about his productive and personal life in the article. What is special about this piece is that it is written from the perspective of the ‘Drafna’ house in Naarden, that adds something to our knowledge about his private life. I thank the editor of the ‘De Omroeper’ - a Naarden magazine in which this article appeared early 2004 - for his permission to copy it. It is an informative and very readable article, which beautifully characterizes that era.
It is within the realm of our foundation to focus on the past of the Boissevains. I would therefore like to draw your attention to the following museums, which are interesting in the broader context of our family history. Near Montpellier (Southern France) lies the ‘Musée du Désert’ in the township of Mialet. With the help of documents, paintings and authentic objects, the stirring past of the Huguenots comes to life, including the so called ‘Desert-time’. Of a different order is the recently extended Maritime Museum in Rotterdam. Here one can view the ‘Treasures of Nedlloyd’ exhibition with more than one hundred of the most beautiful objects from the Nedlloyd-collection. For example ship models, paintings and placards to name just a few. Moreover the exhibition offers a wealth of information on the shipping companies and their ships. Through the website www.maritiemdigitaal.nl a lot of information can be held on, for example, the Steamboat company ‘Nederland’ or on the ms. ‘Boissevain’. And with the comming commemoration of 60 years of liberation it might be good to visit the -recently reopened- Resistancemuseum in Amsterdam (near the Artis entrance). At the end of the exhibition a beautiful example is held of the national party dress. By the way: Mies Boissevain-van Lennep gets a street named after her in Rotterdam.
At least as important as the past, is the present of the Boissevains and their mutual contacts. In November the committee met again and we appointed a family reunion on April 6, 2006. The big success of the last reunion has given many family members and relatives a taste for more and we will work towards that next year! Together with the other committee members I would like to thank you whole heartedly for your donations and/or your reactions by post, e-mail or via the website. We wish you a happy 2005 .
Charles F.C.G. Boissevain,
Chairman of the Boissevain-Foundation
We know Carel Faber (NP p 43 and 45) in our family for two reasons. First of all due to the fact that he - one after the other - married two daughters of Gedeon Jeremie Boissevain (1741 – 1808) and secondly because he often gets mixed up with Charles Faber Boissevain (NP p 102). What is a surname for one, the other has as a second first name. Carel was born in Amsterdam in 1767, and is partner in the shipping company Faber and Leefkens. When he was 27, he married Maria Charlotte Boissevain, who unfortunately died already in 1808. She was only 40 years of age. One-and-a-half years later Carel gets married again, this time to Suzanna, a younger sister of his deceased wife. This second marriage only lasts four years, as Carel dies in 1813. In these four years beautiful portraits have been painted of both of them by August Dietzer, a portrait painter who lived in Amsterdam on the Singel at number 507 ‘next to the Arnhem Postoffice’. From Cathrien Prior – Boissevain, a loyal deliverer of clippings and articles concerning our family during the past years until her death this year on 26 January, I received the photos with the announcement that they’ve always been her “favourites” and that those portraits are now in possession of her daughter. They are nice portraits, of which Suzanne’s one has been published as a loose supplement in the ‘green family book of 1937’. With pleasure we will now share our joy of these portraits with a wider public!
Charles Boissevain, Twello (NP p 116)
It has taken some time, but finally our new family website is ready. The new site is to be found under the new address www.boissevain.org. The old address www.boissevain.net will automatically redirect you to the new website. The development of the website was contracted out to a team of experienced webdesigners and developers. The site has moved to the host company Lycos. This was necessary because our last (free) provider couldn’t offer us the service we required. The website has been offered to us inclusive of a contents management system, so that we can maintain the site simply and efficiently.
The biggest change on the website is in the lay-out and navigation. On the homepage you can choose between English and Dutch. Then you get to the main page, where you will find the latest additions to the website. The black beam at the top of your screen is the menu, which is subdivided into subjects: Origin, Archives, Genealogical tree, Foundation, Publications and Other. The menu opens with a list of menu items when you roll with your mouse over a subject. Some items still have sub items. If, for example, you roll your mouse to ‘Inventory Boissevain Archive’ then you will get the names of family members of whom you can request the inventory. You will go to a page by clicking on the subject, item or sub item. In this way you can jump straight from the menu to the desired page. The menu is developed in Java script. Not all browsers support Java script, therefore the home page contains a link to a site-map. Via this link you get to a page that shows you the structure of the website. Via this structure you can reach every page. The pages will then be shown to you in a format without the border and the menu. With Microsoft Explorer you will not have any problems using the menu.
The contents of the site have not changed. On the pages however, links have been added to other websites. The Municipal Archives of Amsterdam have published our inventory on their website. On the Archive page of the Boissevain family you can recall the publication of is inventory. From within the Bulletin pages, links have been established to photos of e.g. resistance fighters, photos of grave-stones and paintings.
The most important aim of the website is to improve the communication between family members and relatives over the whole world. In this context a few extra options have been added under ‘Other’. The forum gives family members and relatives the possibility to express their opinion and to participate in discussion regarding the following subjects:
Boissevain stories: would you like to share stories about the Boissevain family with others? Familie members: are you looking for a Boissevain family member? Boissevain archives: are you looking for pictures or documents regarding the Boissevain family? Family reunion: the next family reunion: where, when and how?
If you want to contribute to the forum you first have to register. You will then receive a user name and password via e-mail. Explanation regarding the use of the forum you will find under ‘news’.
By filling in the form under contact you can:
o send articles for the Boissevain Bulletin or the website
o pass on corrections or additions to the family tree (births, deaths and marriages – these will be published under additions Patriciaat)
o pass on website links about the Boissevain family
o mention family news (either to be published in the website newsletter or not)
o ask questions
o comment and give feedback on the new website
Under news you will find announcements from the committee of the Boissevain Foundation or information on the use of the website. In the newsletter we have the latest developments concerning the family. You yourself can feed us this information and contribute. Ofcourse you can also make use of the guestbook to give feedback or comment on the website or the articles on the website. Questions, suggestions, contributions are always welcome. You can send this by filling in the form under contact.
Jan Willem Boissevain, Wassenaar (NP p 142)
Huguenots and their Walloon church
Late 17 th- early 18 th Century the Netherlands were enriched with a huge influx of refugees from France, the so-called Huguenots. Many established themselves permanently, among others also the Boissevains. On one of the genealogical websites, the editor of the Boissevain Bulletin found the following background information.
In the 16 th Century a Reformed Protestant movement originated in France following Calvijn. The followers of this religious doctrine received the name Huguenots. It is not certain where this name originated. There is a conjecture that this name is a corruption of Eidgenossen (eiguenots in French). Although the origin is purely based on theological principles, around 1560 a political movement developed amongst the Huguenots. Among them were people from every rank in society, even royalty. In the night of 23/24 August 1572, the so-called massacre of St. Bartholomew or Paris blood wedding, took place. With the consent of the queen-mother Catharina de Medicis the Catholic party created a carnage among the Huguenots. They happened to be in Paris at that time to celebrate the wedding of one of their leaders, Hendrik of Navarra (the later king Hendrik IV) to Magaretha (sister of king Hendrik II).
On 13 April 1598 this Hendrik IV, by now king and Catholic, proclaimed the Edict of Nantes. This Edict promised the Huguenots freedom of religion and gave them several towns, with certain rights. The Huguenots were now free to develop. They were allowed to build churches. These were however not allowed to be called churches and were therefore often named ‘temples’. They were also granted permission to hold certain ranks in the administrative machinery and in the army. On top of that they were also allowed to equip the army and be in garrison. During this period of freedom the followers of this doctrine grew until around 10 percent of the entire population of France. Because they were very dedicated to education, among other things, many prominent people and scholars evolved from within their group. Their freedom was however short lived. Already twenty years later, with the arrival of Lodewijk XIII and Richelieu, this only just achieved freedom started to be reined in. Richelieu ended a political position of power of the Huguenots. In 1628 he managed to take away their last ‘pawn town’ (La Rochelle). This Huguenot stronghold fell after a long siege with many casualties. The battles that followed were won with devasting defeats by the royal forces, which brought an end to the political and military power of the Huguenots.
There followed a period of relative calm until the Catholic king Louis XIV, after Mazarin’s death in 1661, personally took up governing. What followed was a politics of harsh measures against the Huguenots. This grandson of Hendrik IV was nicknamed ‘The Sungod’. Initially Louis was not very much interested in religion. But when he gained power in 1661, he wanted to go down in history as the ruler who turned France once again into a Catholic country. Bit by bit regulations were issued that affected the Edict of Nantes more and more. Finally the Edict of Nantes was recalled on 18 October 1685.
This had as a result that the position of the Huguenot became unbearable and their churches were destroyed. Those who held public positions were expelled from their offices, tradesmen were turned away from their guilds, Protestant schools were transferred to Catholic schools or closed down. Heavy new taxes were backdated and the only way to avoid them was by renouncing the Reformed faith in writing and to return to the Catholic church.
Many gave in but the ones that couldn’t be ‘converted’ had to endure ongoing terror. To convince them, cavalrymen and sodiers were sent out into the country for the so-called ‘mission with the boot’ (mission bottée). On royal authority troops were billeted on stubborn Huguenots, supposedly to protect them against Catholic violence. But you don’t get something for nothing. Those who were under this ‘protection’, had to feed and shelter the troops that were stationed in their house and also provide them with a daily allowance. The wealthier one was, the more soldiers were stationed there, so that in a very short period, the victim’s capital disappeared like snow in summer. And if one finally couldn’t keep up the demands, then the claim was paid by selling the owner’s house contents.
So the ones that didn’t return to Catholicism were finally forced to leave their home and land and flee abroad. This exodus had already started about 20 years prior to the recall of the Edict of Nantes. Especially countries like Switzerland, England, Netherlands, Germany (Brandenburg) and Cape of Good Hope (South-Africa) became their destinies. In those countries they have contributed significantly to the cultural and economical development through -among other things- their higher education. Around 1550 in South Dutch Walloon religious counties sprouted, that congregated in synods around 1560. They united initially with the North German Councils in 1571. In 1577 they congregated in synod in Dordrecht, after they had organised themselves separately.
Especially after the Edict of Nantes was recalled in 1685 the Walloon (French speaking) communities developed enormously through the influx of Huguenots who had fled, or refugees, as they were also called. The archives of the religious municipalities of Walloon are therefore extremely important for genealogical research. In Leiden you have the Bibliothèque Wallonne (the library of the Walloon municipalities) which is housed in the University library, situated on the Witte Singel 27 (Postbox 9501, 2300 RA Leiden, phone: 071-52 72 800). It is recommended to contact them before your visit. Apart from the Walloon archives, the collection consists of an extended collection of books and documents about the French Protestants and the ‘Fichier du Refuge’. For practical reasons one can only consult the ‘fichier’ in the Central Bureau of Genealogy, Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 22, 2595 BE ‘s-Gravenhage (Postbox 11755, 2502 AT ’s-Gravenhage, phone: 070-31 50 500).
Huguenot monument in South-Africa
Earlier this year I traveled through South Africa with my wife, where we tremendously enjoyed the diversity of atmosphere and culture. After having spend the night in Hermanus on the coast (Indian Ocean), we left for Frenchhoek where we were to visit the Huguenot monument. Here is also the beginning of the wine route, which has my special interest because of the many possibilities to savour alcoholic snacks and to discover wines that are not well known in the Netherlands.
The memorial was unveiled on 7 April 1948.That is exactly 350 years after the recall of the Edict of Nantes. The monument has a phenomenal size. There are several more small monuments of Huguenots in different parts of South-Africa, but this monument has been erected on a very grand scale. Frenchhoek has - as the name suggests - a French character. This influence is clearly to be seen in the architecture, which differs from the Dutch and the English. Streetnames often have a French name.
The monument is by virtue of its simplicity and calming effect, a remarkable phenomenon. Frenchhoek lies in a valley surrounded by mountains, which gives it a certain secluded feel. On a large field surrounded by roses the monument stands on the edge of a water garden. The three elegant arches symbolize the Trinity. On one of these arches a golden shining sun with a cross has been mounted on a long ‘spear’ and all this is beautifully reflected in the water. For the rest the monument is full of symbolism with sculptures and images, and big panels nearby explain all this.
Next to the monument there is a small museum with many antiquities from the pioneering time and it gives a nice portrait of the era and the harsh living conditions of the people that had to flee France from 1685. God-fearing and hard workers, who with honesty and determination planted their grapevines which they had brought over (tens of thousands of them!) in the fertile soil in a favorable climate. The French immigrants have put a very important mark on the community of the Zuid-Afrikaners, especially from an economical point of view. Today wine is an important export product of South-Africa, a business that has been set up to a large extend by the input of the Huguenots.
Jeroen Boissevain, Soest (NP p 145)
THIRD BOOK OF ALFRED VAN HALL
Abel, a farmer’s son from Groningen, comes by chance to a monastery in Brabant. In his private life as well as in his working life as a Member of Parliament he has become unstuck. At the invitation of the abbot of the monastery he describes the far-reaching incidents in his life, which have determined the sort of man he has become. Where does his emergency situation have its origin? Abel looks back at his parental home, in which the German occupier left deep marks for a long time. To his dismay, the anonimity of his sperm donorship is broken. His political ideals are crushed during street fights at the Binnenhof. His marriage is under pressure. In the monastery Abel’s crisis of faith comes strongly to the surface. Just like Job, Abel struggles with Eternity. He is restlessly searching for answers. When he leaves Brabant, he is recovered and in good spirits. During a sailing trip skincancer is revealed. He summons up courage to win the battle. The heartbreaking and compelling story about Abel, who moved away from his village Groningen, fascinates from beginning till the end. The story is a real life drama and is actually partly based on the author’s own experiences, who is the grandson of Jan van Hall and Hester Boissevain (NP p 68)
Title: Verloren man. Publisher: Servo, Assen. ISBN: 9057868520. Price: € 14,-.
Grand-master of the Dutch journalism in ‘Drafna’
On the Meentweg in Naarden stood until the Second World War a large Swiss house with the Norwegian name Drafna. The house dates from 1860 and initially served as summer residence and adjoining country estate for one of the large Dutch industrialists. Later on the house was permanently occupied by private individuals. It ended its history in 1941 as dilapidated schoolbuilding from a once renowned theosophical high school. During the war years a shoe polish manufacturer had the wooden building demolished and he rebuild a stone villa on the same spot with the same name. Since 1948 that house belongs to owners of one of the Netherlands biggest clothing concerns.
In this article we will talk about the journalist Charles Boissevain (1842-1927), also a resident at Drafna. Five years ago the author and columnist H.J.A. Hofland called this man ‘the journalist of the century’, but he added that journalists don’t write ‘of the century’ but rather ‘of the evening’, because the next day already their work is used to wrap up fish bones. Boissevain lived in the former Drafna for more than thirty years, from 1896 until his death. In 1911 his oldest son, young Charles, established the country estate Bergerac, which was also situated on the Meentweg. A bit further along, the De Duinen estate is located, with a house with the same name which was built in 1912, where Boissevains oldest daughter Mary lived, who was at that time married to the banker Cornelis van Eeghen. During that time the house Heerlijkheid was established right opposite Drafna by the Den Tex-Boissevain couple, cousins of Charles. Boissevains galore in the most beautiful path in Naarden, which was still called Oude Valkeveenscheweg in those days. Who those prominent people were with their French surname, is to be found in the municipal archives in Amsterdam. There you can consult the elaborate Boissevain archive under accessnumber 394. The following story is derived from this to a large extent.
The name was actually Bouyssavy. That is, this is what Lucas, one of the remote forefathers called himself when, in the 17 th century, he was a winegrower in Dordogne, East of Bergerac. This Lucas, a courageous and devout man, had to flee to Bordeaux, due to religious persecution. There he hid on board a ship full of wine barrels, at least that’s how the story goes, and landed around 1691 in Amsterdam. Thus the Dutch Boissevains descend from a family of Huguenot refugees. ‘Hunted down like a deer’, so wrote Charles about his ancestor Lucas, who managed to make a living for himself in Amsterdam by teaching French and by drawing. He died at only 44 years of age. His travel-mad son Jérémie (1702-1762), who’s wanderings took him all the way into Persia, later became ‘father’ of the Walloon orphanage. Another son, Gideon Jérémie (1741-1802), had some good fortune in trading, which made him able to obtain the social status that the family had always had in the olden days back in France. Daniël (1772-1834), the grandfather of the Charles in this story, was the third of eleven children of named Gideon Jérémie. By now he called himself Boissevain and also went into the trading business. And so did his son, the father of our Charles.
For his father, also a Gideon Jérémie (1796-1875), Charles held an enormous respect. He was shipowner by profession and lived on the Herengracht. The shipping trade naturally took a central place within the Boissevain family. “How I remember from my childhood”, Charles once wrote, “the importance of the powerful wind for seafaring Holland! In the mornings my father’s first job was to look out of the window in the garden room at the rooster on top of the Westertower to see where the wind came from. The ‘Nederland & Oranje’, the ‘Bestevaer’ and the ‘A. Falck’ were already held up for several weeks in Nieuwediep (Den Helder, red.), waiting for a favourable Eastwind, but see, the wind kept on blowing from the West, to great despair of the shipowners and the captains. What a nice bunch of people they were, these captains of fifty years ago! Those on my father’s ships usually came from Katwijk, from posh families, whos familyheads from father to son were captains of the Amsterdam Merchant Ships. I can still see them in front of me, the Duyvenbodes and the Van der Plassen, broad strong men, faithful, unimpeachably honest, as my father witnessed again and again. They brought the poetry of the sea into our livingroom when they came in for a cuppa after a safe return. Then they brought presents, one of which I have saved to this day, an Indian proa with sails and rowers completely made out of cloves. Pots of ginger, canaries from the Canary Islands, knickknacks from Java, they brought the smell of the East into our house on the Heerengracht. No wonder that I love the sea so much!”
Charles’ mother was Maria van Heukelom (1801-1866), the daughter of an important banker. At her wedding in June 1830, she received Dutch shares worth 40.000 guilders from her father, which shows that this family wasn’t short. Through the Van Heukeloms the family knew Mr Van Rossum on Zandbergen in Naarden and therefore it is nice to quote the following from Gideon Jérémie’s journal from Saturday 14 September 1839: “At 8 o’clock with Papa van Heukelom, & Jan & Margo (also Van Heukeloms, editor) went with the car & the Tilbury to Zandbergen above Naarden to Mr. I.P. van Rossum, walked around the place and the Zanderij, and looked at a young tree nursery. Had a light meal in the open. Went with Mr van Rossum carriage to the summerhouse of Mr Huidecoper (the pavilion), which cost f 75/m. Great views from the balcony: one can see Amsterdam, Hoorn, Harderwijk, Amersfoort and Utrecht. Got back to the city at 7.45 and had dinner, the weather was good.” There was admiration for Charles’ father in 1832, when he preferred Amsterdam to a much safer stay in the country, during the notorious cholera-epidemic. Almost everyone with money and friends elsewhere sought an untainted stay on sandy soil. The wealthy shipowner Boissevain on the contrary went to visit the sick! On the Prinsengracht he organised the use of an empty house and established headquarters there from where to combat the epidemic. He recuted personnel for the transport and care of the sick and mingled under the cholera patients himself. A courageous father thus, who, as he himself declared, was spared by our good Lord. He received a medal for this from the city of Amsterdam. This medal of honour was worth more to the family than several knighthoods.
For his mother too Charles had infinite admiration. She spoke her languages and was very well-read. She considered Goethe’s quote that youth is susceptible to the utmost happiness, to be of great importance. Charles’ childhood partly took place in the countryhouse ‘Duinvliet’ between Overveen and Aerdenhout, where the family -so they themselves say- spent the most fantastic summers, halfway through the nineteenth century. At an advanced age Charles, who had a very adventurous nature, glorified the rowing trips there, the horserides and the reading of ‘Ivanhoe, The Heir of Redclyffe’ under a big oak tree. ‘A magic story from the land of dreams’ he called the book. During those days he once stayed with his grandfather Van Heukelom at Leeuwenhooft in Haarlemmer Hout. On a Sunday in May he drove with him to Heemstede in a brake. In the church there he saw Nicolaas Beets on the pulpit. He was very moved by how touching and yet simple he delivered a sermon. In his parental house Charles also often met men of high standing in art and literature. After he finished school he felt himself drawn to literature and his naturally perceptive mind directed him as a matter of course to journalism.
In 1865 already, Boissevain was then only 23 years of age, he wrote his first articles under the pseudonym ‘Fantasio’ in the leading Algemeen Handelsblad. They were the so-called ‘Irish Letters’, which, not only because of the contents but also because of the form in which they were put attracted a lot of attention. His youthful and fresh views on things quickly became a refreshing oasis in the then oh so dry and dull contents of the daily papers. It is therefore not surprising that very soon he became a member of the editorial staff of the paper. Charles became foreign correspondent and on one of his trips he met the Irish Emily MacDonnell, who would later become his wife. ‘A Scotts woman by name and descent’, said Potgieter the writer, who was a friend of Boissevain, when he introduced Emily to his confrère Busken Huet. In 1885 Charles Boissevain became chief editor of the Algemeen Handelsblad and two years later he started his own column ‘Van Dag tot Dag’. With this he introduced the “editor’s notes” in Dutch journalism. In his more than 4300 columns, which belong to the most popular reading matters of his time, he has been able to fully develop his own personal talent. There are not many subject that he hasn’t covered. Famous were his polemics with the Reformed politician Abraham Kuyper, and his support for the South-African Boers in their rise against the British.
Ons Amsterdam’ (1996 part. 10) described Charles Boissevain as follows: ‘Charles was a liberal through and through. Free entrepreneurship was more important to him than anything, but he strongly condemned the ‘Orange fury’ against the socialists in 1887. The conviction and expulsion of the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus in France in 1894 he found a disgrace, and in 1898 he was the first Dutchman to interview Emile Zola, novelist and Dreyfus’ wellspoken defender. On the other hand he condemned socialisme that was on the rise.’ This was to the dismay of the left-wing journalist Henri Wiessing, chief editor of De Groene Amsterdammer from 1907 until 1915, who characterized Charles as ‘the self-satisfied chief-liberal of those days’ who ‘on the basis of an accurate but second-rate writers talent and a greedy mind without any hesitation pushed himself and his entire family to the foreground’.
Initially Charles Boissevain lived with his wife, eleven children and the English nanny Polly Barker on the Herengracht no 332. His renowned brother Jan, who established the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland, lived a few houses down the road. When he was 54 years old, Boissevain bought Drafna and then Naarden became the residence of this famous Dutchman who was already nicknamed ‘the Pope of national journalism’. He incidently did not like that typification. Around the turn of the century the people from Naarden saw him riding to the train station every morning in a carriage pulled by a white cob. Later on he often travelled that distance in a three-wheeler.
Although he once, at Drafna in a play, made fun of the farmers in the Gooi for not knowing how to pronounce his name, since his move to Naarden he cherished a special love for the Gooi. Nature meant everything to him. He could write very passionately about trees and flowers, about the Dutch dunes and the sea, the beach, about a snowstorm and about nightly walks over the Gooi moors, where he was blown away by the light of the moon and the beauty of the starry sky. ‘Why March’, he thus wrote, ‘is called the spring month, I have only come to realize since I live in the country, here in the Gooi. For she is called spring month, because our poetic language is not born in the city, but first and foremost because she is filled with the feelings, thoughts and images of those that live on the land and cultivate it and for whom March is the time for sowing.’ In the summer of 1906 he wrote: ‘Last night for the first time this year since I have been at Drafna, some nightingales sang for me in the maple-tree alley, in the lee of the pineforest’.
Life at Drafna with the children and grand children in the midst of beautiful surrounding nature became the most important thing in the latter part of Charles Boissevain’s life. Many letters, plays, menus and photos are proof of the great and often festive atmosphere that dominated at Drafna. There Charles also wrote his ‘Zonnige uren’, papers which he wrote when ‘the sun looked down his inkpot’ and when he felt pleased about moments of the lovely and beautiful things which can make people feel better and give them hope. The book was dedicated to his grandchildren who, as Charles said “force us to stay youthful and happy; childrens hands iron out the wrinkles in our frowning foreheads.’ Charles was a great child-lover. He believed very strongly in the power that lies in the great intimate family, in domestic happiness.
In 1912 the journalist Jan Feith paid him a visit at Drafna for an interview. ‘It was the day of his 70th birthday’, so wrote Jan Feith, ‘28 October 1912, autumn in full swing, a rejoicingly beautiful and colourful day in Holland, beautiful Gooi at its best. There he lived, just outside of Naarden facing the side of the calm Zuiderzee, on the rough Gooiside, in his idylic countryhouse made out of wood, the big garden as a park, undulating and forested. By the bend in the Huizerweg, along the manicured hedge, the sloping Irish-inspired lawn, in between the wide driveway, leading towards the chalet-style residence. Next to it was the completely smoothe shallow pond, now full of autumn leaves; the pineforest adjacent to that; and a rustic bridge over a little gorge. And behind the half Swiss half Norwegian house, between the spread out trees, the expansive view over the low, north facing meadows, closed of at the end by a rusty brown wall of the Valkenveensche forests. And then behind that the Sea, - “seawind, cleansed by the smell of pines!” as Charles Boissevain once referred to his own retreat.’
Charles Boissevain remained chief editor of the Algemeen Handelsblad until 1908. In that year his son Alfred Gideon (1870-1922) took over the reins, to the utter dismay of the editorial staff. Besides his journalistic works Charles wrote several books, among which was ‘Onze Voortrekkers’ written at ‘Drafna’ in 1906. This, by Algemeen Handelsblad printed piece of nearly 500 pages, tells of the history of some of Charles’ ancestors and ends with some of his own personal memories. The book was not published for public distribution only exclusively for members of the family and friends. In those circles they worshipped him. Drafna pre-eminently became familyhouse, where children and grandchildren loved to come, where granddaddy Charles tremendously enjoyed their company and fully devoted his energy to sing ‘Hop Marjannetje’ and ‘Schuitje varen, theetje drinken’ with the little ones.
Charles remained at Drafna until his death in May 1927. His final years were not easy. Six months before he died one of the editors of the Algemeen Handelsblad paid him another visit in the big room at Drafna, which overlooked the pond. The nearly 85-year old Charles entered the room supported by a nurse. The light that had so often shone through his inkpot he could harldy see anymore. For those who knew how much he loved to read, observe and write, this was a sad sight. But his mind was still sound and his interest in the Algemeen Handelsblad remained.
Very gently Charles Boissevain’s life cam to an end. As the sun, that slowly slides behind the horizon in the golden beauty of the Gooi’, as was written after his death on May 5th. Once when Charles Boissevain visited the grave of one of his sisters who had also entered her eternal sleep in May, he said: ‘There is no better month to part with the living, than the month of May, when everything renews, when all revives and resurrects once again to carry the new fruit. That symbol of eternal rebirth we celebrate, when we see our loved ones go before us.’ Charles Boissevain was burried at the Jan Tabak burial ground on midday onTuesday. At the exact moment that the sad procession, which consisted of many people from his large family and all the domestic staff, left Drafna, a curtain was very slowly pulled away and the woman who had spread light and love in Charles’ life for almost sixty years was seen standing there alone. She had remained in the house and through the window followed heartbroken her husband’s earthly remains. By the cemetery, so we read in the papers from those days, was a big delegation, among whom were journalists, the mayor of Naarden Van Wettum, the president of the Erfgooiers Emil Luden, and many other well known people from the Gooi area, to gather in honour of the famous and well-loved old man. The Bier was carried by his sons, sons-in-law and the older grandsons. Around the grave and against the green hedges were laid wreaths of roses, lilacs, arum lilies and rhododendrons. On the inside, the grave was lined with evergreen branches, white stock and lilacs. One of the Boissevain grandsons referred to all the good and beautiful things that their grandfather had ingrained in them and which could be to their advantage in their lives. Charles jr. remembered the close relationship that existed between the father and all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And when the Naarden bell tolled her broad funeral sounds far across the fields, everybody sang as valedictory song his favourite hymn from the songbook of the English Church:
Sun of my soul,
Thou saviour dear It is not night,
if Thou be near.
Henk Schaftenaar, Naarden
Mr H. Schaftenaar is editor of ‘De Omroeper’, the historical magazine for the township of Naarden. The article above is written by him and published in volume 17, no. 3.
2 Boissevain-sisters decorated
Almost simultaneously – on the occasion of the turn of the year 2002/03 – the sisters Marina de Brantes-Boissevain and Kyra Dickinson-Boissevain (NP p 76) received a high award for their social merits. Marina was personally decorated with the ‘Chevalier de la Legion d`Honneur’ as vice-president of Care International and president of the its French department in Paris, by president Chirac himself. Kyra was appointed an ‘Officer in the Order of the British Empire (OBE)’ by queen Elisabeth herself in London, for the work she has done for the Red Cross. Congratulations to both of you!