How attacking a coach used to carry the death penalty: François Mourrand

On the day of the Queen’s Speech in 2010, a man threw a tea light holder at the golden coach that was carrying Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima. He was arrested and charged, but his case kept being taken to appeal. In the end, he was sentenced to five months in prison. As he had already been in custody for two years, he was immediately released. Although it wasn’t the first time a coach had been attacked, the history of the Prison Gate shows that people did not always come off so lightly.

Attack on the coach of the delegates from Dordrecht, 1786, anonymous, after Petrus Franciscus Greive, 1845 - 1855, Rijksmuseum
Coach with the delegates from Dordrecht stopped at the Stadhouderspoort, 1786, Reinier Vinkeles, after Jacobus Buys, 1794, Rijksmuseum
The Prison Gate as seen from the Plaats, Gerrit Adriaensz. Berkheyde, ca. 1690, collection Haags Historisch Museum
Attack on the delegates from Dordrecht in The Hague on 17 March 1786, anonymous, ca. 1786, Haags Gemeentearchief
The delegates from Dordrecht at the Stadhouderspoort in The Hague on 17 March 1786, Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove, ca. 1848, Haags Historisch Museum
Portrait of Francois Mourand, anonymous, ca. 1786, Haags Gemeentearchief

Was François Mourand, a barber from The Hague, a terrorist? And was this why he was sentenced to death?

In 1786, François Mourand, a court barber and wigmaker from The Hague, decided to take action at the Binnenhof. He dashed forward at the very moment when two delegates from Dordrecht wanted to ride through the Stadholder’s Gate in their coach. Mourand seized the reins and forced the coach to stop. He was immediately arrested; his deed was seen as an attack on the State, and he was therefore locked up in the Prison Gate. The States of Holland decided that he should be put to death without trial. Why did Mourand do what he did?

Patriots and Orangists

In the last quarter of the 18th century, Holland was in turmoil. Two social camps had slowly formed, and now they were at each other’s throats. On the one side, the supporters of stadholder Prince William V: mainly the common people, who had traditionally been Orangists. On the other side, the well-to-do classes or Patriots, who thought that the stadholder had too much power and wanted to take control themselves. The conflict between the two became fiercer. In 1786, the Patriots got the upper hand, and even managed to ensure that the stadholder left The Hague with his family.

The Stadholder’s Gate as taboo

In 1786, the Patriots tried to undermine Stadholder William V by violating one of his privileges. The stadholder was the only person with the right to travel by horse and carriage through the Stadholder’s Gate (between the Binnenhof and Buitenhof). The States of Holland decided that henceforth, this gate could also be used by members of the States during their meetings. Two members of the States of Dordrecht, Gevaerts and De Gijzelaar, put this to the test, and their coach made for the Stadholder’s Gate – until the court barber Mourand sprinted in front of it and prevented the men from driving through.

In the Prison Gate

The court barber Mourand ended up in the Prison Gate. Things were looking bad for him; the States of Holland wanted him executed without mercy. A scaffold had been built for him next to the Prison Gate and the garrison of The Hague had been called to arms. Fortunately, the gentlemen Gevaerts and De Gijzelaar stepped into the breach for Mourand.

The death sentence was commuted to lifelong imprisonment in the penitentiary in Gouda.

Changing times

Mourand was fortunate, because change was in the air. William V was aided by his brother-in-law, the King of Prussia, who brought an army of 20,000 men to set things straight in Holland. William V was restored to office and the Orangists regained control. Mourand was released. In the end, he spent one year in the penitentiary.

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