Hoeufft made a fortune from his diplomatic and business ventures, ultimately becoming one of the richest men in Europe outside of the royal families.
Early life and career
Jan Hoeufft was born in 1578 in Liège in the Spanish Netherlands to a family that originated from Roermond. His father, a merchant in timber, had moved to Aachen, Liège and Heinsberg after converting to the Reformed Church. Not much is known about Jean's early life,:4–5 he did not have children, and he never married.:4–5
Jean eventually settled in Rouen, where there was religious freedom under Henry IV of France.[a] He was naturalized in 1601.:37 He developed trade and ship owner activities and from 1609 until 1616 he was deeply involved in the salt trade from Hiers-Brouage, along with his Dordrecht-based brother Dirck. In 1620 they commissioned a ship-of-war, to be built in Amsterdam for Charles, Duke of Guise.[full citation needed] By 1621 he was appointed chamberlain to Louis XIII. In the 1620s he was involved in arms trading for Charles Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers. In 1628 he was allowed to collect taxes. In the 1630s he became a banker.
Hoeufft repeatedly advanced funds to the King, and took part in major financial deals. In 1634 Hoeufft participated in peace talks between the Dutch and Spain, in which also Jules Mazarin and Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange were involved. Hoeufft played a key part in diplomatic negotiations, despite having no official authority to do so. His appointment as Commissioner of the States General of the Netherlands was formalized in 1637. In 1639 his house in Rouen was sacked; it is likely he moved to La Rochelle or Paris. In 1643 he obtained the fief Fontaine-le-Comte, a former lake near Sacy-le-Grand.:159
Arms dealer and financier
At the time of the Thirty Year's War, arms dealing was a highly lucrative business in Europe. Hoeufft, described by a contemporary as “‘a man capable of speaking and acting’ as well as ‘[having] money to distribute to people should there be need,’” was well-suited to the job. Hoeufft delt with Axel Oxenstierna, Johan Adler Salvius, Hugo Grotius, Abraham de Wicquefort and Adriaen Pauw on the French support for the Swedish army; the money had to be allocated to the Amsterdam Wisselbank.
Hoeufft occupied a prominent place in the network of political interests that bound together France’s structure of alliances during the Thirty Years War. "In some sense, his political interests were so tightly interwoven with his financial and mercantile interests that they are difficult to disentangle."
The Hoeufft family invested over a million livres in reclamation of lakes and swamps in Picardie, Poitou and other parts of France, which for the most part were carried out between 1642 and 1653 by Dutch engineers such as Jan van Ens.
In 1650, Hoeufft was the director of the operation to drain the Poitou Marsh in western France. From the 1640s, one of his associates was David de la Croix, who seems to have married Hoeufft's niece, Marguerite Hoeufft. When Hoeufft died, de la Croix was among his beneficiaries and also took over the Poitou marsh operation.
Frédéric Otto Fabrice de Gressenich, Councillor and Maître d'hotel du Roi, the son of Jean's sister Anne, inherited the Sacy marshes along with his Hœufft cousins. As the only cousin living in France, he administered the lands on their behalf.:169
Death and legacy
Hoeufft died in Paris on 5 September 1651. He had two brothers and five sisters who scattered to Cologne, Dordrecht, London, and Utrecht.
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