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Johan de Knuyt

Johan de Knuyt was, along with Adriaan Pauw, one of the main forces behind the Dutch-Spanish Treaty of Münster ratified on May 15, 1648. Whereas Pauw’s motives for supporting peace were clear, however, Knuyt remains something of a mystery. He represented the province of Zeeland and had served as mayor of Middelburg, the provincial capital. However, Zeeland was staunchly opposed to peace as it profited greatly from piracy and illicit trade in the New World, which was dominated by Spain. Knuyt was also in the service of Frederick Henry, the stadtholder. Knuyt’s push for peace seemed to precede Frederick Henry’s softening stance at the end of his life. Knuyt was closely associated with Frederick Henry’s wife, Amalia van Solms, and she may have pushed him to support peace.

With the death of Frederick Henry in 1647, Knuyt’s position became tenuous. The new stadtholder, William II, was strongly against peace, and Amalia van Solms had little influence with her son. Knuyt tried unsuccessfully to bring France into the Spanish-Dutch peace. The provincial estates of Zeeland denied him permission to appear at the ratification, and indeed Zeeland remained the lone vote against peace, Holland forcing its way in spite of the lack of unanimity (usually a requirement).