Welcome to the new series of Explore Utrecht mini tours! This year again, we’re bringing you on a discovery trip of our city through picture and word. Can you also follow the #exploreutrecht mini tours this year? Then follows us on Facebook en Instagram for more information on starting locations and theme topics.
Does the name Pieter Philip Jurriaan Quint Ondaatje (1758-1818) ring any bells for you? Well, it didn’t for me the first time, but now it does. It’s time to get to know this man. We’ll do this through a discovery trip through the city based on his life story.
‘My head smokes from all the turmoil that is now in our room. That eternal noise from those political friends bores me terribly!’ wrote Jacob Bellamy, Ondaatje’s housemate at Lange Nieuwstraat 18, to his girlfriend Francina. Ondaatje grows up in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. His father is a Tamil pastor and his mother an Amsterdamer. At 14 years old, Ondaatje leaves for the Netherlands to go to the Latin school in Amsterdam. He then studies art and philosophy at his father’s Alma Mater: the University of Utrecht. He is politically engaged. He becomes non-commissioned officer in the Utrechtse schutterij and is in 1783 one of the founders of the exercise company (military organization) Pro Patria et Libertate (for the fatherland and freedom). This militia serves to counterbalance the ruling power and the arrogance of the Utrecht city council. Due to large attendance, the militia trains in Sterrenbos park, where nowadays there is a square from 1873 and the Utrecht court.
While playing Santa, dropping of gifts, this morning I biked by the #Sterrehof and fell in love with this cute looking place. It is surrounded by new office buildings and a few historical (architectural) wonders like ‘De Inktpot’. I’m curious now, and would like to find more about this part of the city. If you have any information, drop me a comment. #history #buildings #architecturelovers
Patriots vs. regents
Ondaatje is a patriot through and through. He is a member of the editorial team for the patriotic magazine De Post van den Neder-Rhyn. He doesn’t want anything to do with the existing administrative structure in the city, or the role that governor Willem V has in it. Ondaatje has a leadership role within the patriot movement. Among others, he conducts citizen protests against the regents’ delay tactics. In 1785, there is a first big confrontation between patriots and regents, where Ondaatje fulfills an important task.
When the city council wants to appoint a new member, that candidate is an opponent of the patriots. The patriots are sick of nepotism. A strong protest begins against the appointment. An angry crowd surrounds the town hall. Ondaatje – as leader of the negotiations – tells the regents in a speech that they have to bow to the people, to whom they owe their position. The regents are intimidated and concede, after which Ondaatje sends the people back home. But as soon as the danger has passed, the regents themselves go into the attack. They immediately prohibit any form of gathering, and they start a smear campaign against Ondaatje.
After several attempts to force the troops to agree to the introduction of democratic rules, revolts once again take place around the town hall in 1786. Ondaatje doesn’t give up this time. A few months later, the militia sends the troop home, after which a patriotic council is sworn in on the Neude. This does not last long, because in 1787 the Prussian army comes to the aid of the stadholder William V. Like many other patriots, Ondaatje flees abroad. When the French conquer the republic in 1795, he also returns. He will hold all sorts of important functions within the republic until his death.