Emanuel van Meteren

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Emanuel van Meteren

Emanuel van Meteren or Meteeren (6 September 1535 – 11 April 1612) was a Flemish historian and Consul for "the Traders of the Low Countries" in London. He was born in Antwerp, the son of Sir Jacobus van Meteren, Dutch financier and publisher of early English versions of the Bible, and Orrilia Ortellius, of the famous Ortellius family of mapmakers, and nephew of the cartographer Abraham Ortelius.

As a historian Van Meteren was special in that he was not merely a chronicler of the events of his time, but also a powerful and wealthy man who influenced those events:[1]

The van Meteren family...had fled the Netherlands for religious reasons. Van Meteren’s father, Jacob, played a key role in the publication of the first English Bible in the 1530s, and the family established itself as a pillar of the Protestant refugee community in London. As an adult, Emmanuel lived on Lime Street, became the consul for the Dutch merchants in London, and occupied the all-important office of postmaster. Reliable mail service was an essential component of any natural history network, since specimens ranging from tulip bulbs to rhinoceros horns needed to circulate between interested naturalists. Accompanying these specimens, of course, were the letters on which the European natural history community in particular, and the Republic of Letters more generally, depended in order to thrive...[V]an Meteren’s skillful management of the post...made him indispensable. When the artist Marcus Gheeraerts wanted to send smoked herring to Antwerp, or Ortelius wanted gifts to arrive at his sister’s house in London, they inevitably went through Emmanuel van Meteren and his formidable network of middlemen, merchants, sailors, and travelers to ensure that precious messages and gifts reached their destination.

In 1581 he was the Consul representing Dutch merchants in London. In that year he harbored Christiaen, the fourth secretary of William the Silent, Prince of Orange, while he was being pursued by enraged Spaniards. He related the surrounding events in his work Album.

To help thwart the plots of the Spanish Ambassador at the Court of Queen Elizabeth, William the Silent enlisted one Willem Janszoon van Hoorn, the captain of the Sea Beggar, to pretend to accept a bribe from the Spanish Ambassador and enter into a conspiracy to surprise the English garrison at Flushing. To avoid trickery Don Bernardino de Mendoza had insisted on having the captain's small son as a hostage. Since trickery was indeed intended, the captain was desperate as to what might befall his son. The Prince of Orange promised him on his word of honour that he would have the boy kidnapped from the Spanish Embassy in London and safely conveyed home. Christiaen (later called "The Elder") was commissioned to redeem at all costs the Stadtholder's given pledge. Van Meteren made some arrangements with the Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham, who was in charge of security for the embassy. Nevertheless Christiaen and the boy narrowly escaped the pursuit of the enraged Spaniards who scoured the banks of the Thames for him and the boy. Van Meteren was successful in concealing them and effecting their escape.

In 1599 van Meteren wrote a book titled Belgische ofte Nederlandsche Historie van onzen Tijden, detailing the events of the first part of the Eighty Years' War between the Netherlands and Spain. Some of the accounts detail events that van Meteren actually witnessed. For instance he was with the Prince of Orange during the siege of Zaltbommel by the Spaniards.

After Henry Hudson returned from his second voyage he related to van Meteren that there had been a mutiny in 1609, originating in quarrels between Dutch and English sailors. Van Meteren had access to Hudson's journals, charts and logbooks, and recorded these events in Historie der Nederlanden.

He also chronicled the adventures and demise of the French merchant François Le Fort.

Van Meteren is also the author of Historia Belgica.



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