April 25th: Exactly 250 years ago a special event took place in The Hague

Hendrik Pothoven Collection Boymans van Beuningen

What preceded this special event on April the 25th in 1772:

Two young boys, Cupido and Sideron, arrived in in the sixties of the eighteenth century as enslaved children in The Hague at the court of the family of Orange. The about six years old Sideron came from Curaçao and the equally young Cupido from the Coast of Guinea in West-Africa.  

Albertus Frese, Cupido en Sideron in de Grote Kerk in Den Haag circa 1766

From 1772 a first financial signal was given that the two boys could survive well at court and managed to play the game between the court officials and servants. They apparently made sure that they were seen, appreciated and protected. From that year they were given, each year, the fixed interest rate of 25 guilders on a 1000 guilder bond put on their name.

But more happened that year concerning Cupido and Sideron.

April 25, 1772 Grote Kerk in The Hague

Cupido was baptized in the presence of the family Of Orange. Both the confession and the baptism of Cupido in the Grote Kerk made several newspapers and annual overviews:

On April 13, both Moors, in the service of the Lord Prince Hereditary Stadtholder, who had been taught the basic principles of the Reformed Religion for some time, had made their confession of faith.” this confession is a public testimony of the Protestant faith. From then on, they shared the faith identity of most people at court and had access to the other Protestant ritual: The Lord’s Supper.

Doop Willem Frederik Cupido in de St Jacobs of Grote Kerk van Den Haag 1772
Baptism of Willem Frederik Cupido in de St Jacobs / Grote Kerk in The Hague 1772

Willem V and Wilhelmina attended Cupido’s baptism in the Grote Kerk. De Leeuwarder Courant: ‘After the service ended, the Youngest Moor, in the service of His Serene Highness […] was baptized by the Reverend Rev. Muilman, and he was given the names of Willem Frederik.’

Doop Willem Frederik Cupido in Den Haag 25 april 1772
Doop Willem Frederik Cupido in Den Haag 25 april 1772

The church baptism document reads: ‘An elderly Person born in Paganism in the service of His Highness the Prince Hereditary Governor.’ At the time, ‘elderly’ meant ‘with years’.

Sideron did not need to be baptized because of his Catholic baptism in Curaçao.. The registration in the membership book states: ‘Guan Sidron, born on the island of Curaçao in his youth, baptized by a Roman priest, lives in the Molenstraat.‘ And also in this document: ‘Willem Frederik, born on the coast of Guinea, baptized in the Grote Kerk on 25 April 1772.’ Cupido too turned out to live in the Molenstraat, a narrow street next to Het Oude Hof / the Old Court ( nowadays the working palace of the king Noordeinde).

Wilhelmina of Prussia, the wife of Stadtholder William V, was pregnant with her first son during this ceremony on the 25th. Four months after Cupido’s baptism, on August 24, 1772, Wilhelmina gave birth to a son, a hereditary prince. At his baptism on September 27, he was also called Willem Frederik. In family circles they changed it in Guillaume because there were many men with those first names. The baptism of the future stadtholder took place with great ceremony, where the two young boys, Cupido and Sideron had a task. They walked behind the falconers and hunters and before the runners and footmen.

This Willem Frederik, born in 1772, would later become the first king of the Family of Orange in the Low Countries. Stadtholder Willem V and Wilhelmina already had a daughter, Louise born in 1770, but she was not allowed to succeed her father if she had a brother.

Baptism of prince Willem Frederik, 1772, in de Grote Kerk of The Hague Simon Fokke,

A beautiful print from 250 years ago showing the baptism of the young prince it shows in addition the public climing into the pillars hoping not to miss anything.

This may also have happened at Cupido’s baptism on April the 25th.

In the background the the monument to honour Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, 1665, by Bartholomeus Eggers can be seen.

The monument is still there.

The Van Wassenaer family was one of the most powerful families in The Hague.

It is certain that Willem Frederik Cupido, like Guan Anthony Sideron, was taken at a very young age – probably by force – from his family and other loved ones. There is a chance that, unlike Sideron, he was born free and only later captured and made into a commodity. Because neither his African name nor the area he came from are known, it is almost impossible to find out who his parents were. What is certain is that Cupido never returned to Africa. There are now many descendants of Cupido living in the Netherlands.

detail cover

My book about Willem Frederik Cupido and Guan Anthony Sideron was published in 2017 in Dutch. It is about two boys who were given as gifts to Stadtholder William V. To prevent confusion: they are not the two, now famous, Ashanti princes in the novel by Arthur Japin: The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, but two enslaved children who stayed at court all their lives.

I was able to reconstruct most of their lives on the basis of thousands of documents, works of art, and letters from the Royal Archives, the National Archives, journals, newspapers, diaries and other archives in the Netherlands and abroad.

The book is unfortunately only published in Dutch. Apologies for any grammatical errors in this ‘translated’ text.

About me in short:

In 2008 I was guest curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues, Warburg institute Image of the Black in Western Art collection), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research for The Image of the Black in Western Art available to me.

In 2012 my Anniversary book: 100 years Schiller 1912-2012 was published. Initiative, idea, text and editing (ES). Design and photography Monica Schokkenbroek.

In 2013 my book Cobra aan de gracht / Cobra on the Canal was published by Samsara publications.

In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)

In 2017 I published a book (only in Dutch) about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. Info on this site, also in English.

Recent: Essays 2021 / 2022 in:

More on the page about me.

All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hisitate to contact me.

estherschreuderwebsite@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Wat weer geweldig veel informatie Esther!!
    Groet mirjam

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    Mirjam Westen
    Conservator Hedendaagse Kunst

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  2. Hoi Esther, hoe gaat het met je? Ik zag deze mail en realiseerde mij dat ik jouw Facebook niet meer zie. Ben je daarmee gestopt? Ik geniet nog elke keer van jouw zoektocht naar Cupido en Sideron en dat ik dit per toeval ontdekte. Wat ik nog wil vragen is het volgende: Heb jij nog overige documenten die jij niet hebt gebruikt in het boek maar die je wel kunt en mag delen vwb Cupido etc? Scans of foto’s van documenten. En zijn er nog weleens nieuwe foto’s vanuit de nazaten bij jou binnengekomen? Iemand van Felix zei toen op de nazaten dag dat hij ging zoeken naar oude foto’s. Hier hebben we een beroerd 2021 achter de rug. Mn moeder is op 12 januari 2021 aan corona overleden en Dick en ik hebben haar waarschijnlijk besmet. Zelf afgelopen jaar longcovid fysio gehad en Dick werkt nog maar 3 uur per dag voorlopig. Hoop dat het jou goed gaat. Hartelijke groeten, Alma Rebel- van Mourik

    1. Hi Alma wat vreselijk om te lezen. Elkaar besmetten was tamelijk onvermijdelijk als je enigszins sociaal bent. Gecondoleerd met dit grote verlies.
      Er is bij mij geen nieuwe informatie binnen gekomen de laatste tijd rondom Cupido en de nazaten. Wel info uit Indonesië waar ook nazaten wonen, geen foto’s helaas. Dat was meer kennisgeving, niet zozeer nieuwe informatie. Niet alle documenten met Cupido zijn gepubliceerd uiteraard, het zijn er heel veel. Veel is herhaling. En ik kan ze niet zomaar onbeperkt delen. De koninklijke verzamelingen wil er enigszins zicht op blijven houden, daar heb ik afspraken over gemaakt met betrekking tot mijn site.
      Er was ooit een plan om een website te maken met alle documenten via het Huygens Instituut, maar dat werd een te ingewikkeld verhaal en ging uiteindelijk niet door. Je kunt er vanuit gaan dat de echt bijzondere documenten wel in het boek staan of op mijn site.
      Met de familie Felix heb ik alleen contact gehad in mei 2018 dat was met Jasmijn Felix om de stamboom aan te passen. Dat was dus voor de nazatendag.
      Ik ben trouwens lang stil geweest op die Cupido en Sideron facebook pagina omdat ik inmiddels weer midden in een ander groot onderzoek zit (geen 18e eeuw).
      Hartelijke groet
      Esther

  3. Thank you Esther for sharing details about this special day in history about Cupido. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to discover so much about Cupido and Sideron through archival records.

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