To understand the events that led ordinary Dutch citizens to partake in cannibalism, it is important to understand that it was during a period of unrest in not only the Netherlands, but also much of Europe. Both England and the Netherlands were making the gradual shift from monarchies to a more democratic means of selecting rulers.
When Johan de Witt was selected as the country’s prime minister, the House of Orange held the hereditary first position of authority. England had recently overthrown (and executed) their monarchical power and de Witt sought to gain an ally by proclaiming that the next descendant of the House of Orange, William III, would not be allowed to inherit his father’s position. This declaration caused a rift among the Dutch that came to a head in 1672 when the Netherlands were attacked by three separate armies. In the resulting chaos, the House of Orange seized control, William III came into power, and Johan de Witt’s brother was imprisoned for treason. When Johan visited his brother in prison a riotous crowd gathered outside, forced their way in, killed the two brothers, and in their delirious fury, started eating the brothers’ flesh.
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Photo Credits / Sources:
After Jan de Baen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons