The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks

The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks by Paul Simpson Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks by Paul Simpson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Simpson
workhouse to be suckled.
    In fact, there was almost an epidemic of prison breaks by members of the Arminian movement. From 1619, ministers Johann Grevius and Prins were held at the workhouse in Amsterdam under a strict regime. Their families weren’t allowed to visit, candles were withdrawn so they couldn’t read in the evenings and after they made a slight complaint, the fires weren’t lit. However, around the middle of June 1621, conditions improved for a short time, and Dominicus Sapma was involved with planning an abortive break out using ladders to ascend the walls. When Sapma himself was arrested, the plans were put on hold in case he was sent to the same workhouse; however the day after Sapma had used his wife’s clothes to escape from the jail to which he had been consigned, some of the Arminians tried again, and only narrowly escaped without being discovered.
    Nothing further happened until the summer of 1622, when word came that Grevius and Prins were going to be moved to Loevenstein Castle. Sapma knew that any rescue attempt had to be tried before that took place and on the night of 12 June, ladders dyed black were placed against the high walls of the workhouse. A group of men then ascended to the top of the wall, and let rope ladders down the far side into the inner courtyard. It didn’t help that the local dogs were roused by the noise of the men bringing the ladders and the rest of their gear to the prison walls, and it was quite surprising that no one within was woken to raise the alarm.
    As the first group were rappelling down the ladders as quickly as they could to get to the rooms where the prisoners were sleeping, and a second group was sitting on the roof, a local man came storming out of his house, his sword drawn, to attack the men who were waiting at the base of the ladders. He tried to raise the alarm, claiming that the men were thieves who were trying to steal the money from the almshouses, next door to the workhouse. The conspirators tried their best to shut him up, and in the end told him the truth – they were helping the Arminian ministers to escape. According to the contemporary report, “the man stood as if he had been thunder-struck, left off crying, looked a little at the work, and then wishing them good success, but in such foul language as the mob are used to utter, retired into his house.” As if that weren’t enough, one of the criminals inside the workhouse heard the noise of the escape attempt, and cried out, “The Arminians are getting out!” Luckily the guards at the workhouse were used to hearing him scream odd things at different times and ignored him.
    By this point, the raiding party had reached the cell doors, and used copy keys that they had previously been able to make to open the two locks. Grevius and Prins were quickly assisted to ascend the rope ladders, and go down the other side. Three other prisoners joined in the escape, with all of them getting clean away. The next morning authorities were baffled when they found the empty cells. The locks were still fastened: how could the men have disappeared? It was only when two of the ladders were found outside the prison that all became clear.
    Many of the Arminians went into exile until the death of their prime persecutor, Prince Maurice of Orange in 1625; they were formally allowed to reside in all parts of the Republic from 1630. Their propensity for escape has, with the exception of Hugo de Groot, been mostly forgotten over the years!
    Sources:
    Davies, Charles Maurice:
History of Holland from the Beginning of the Tenth to the End of the Eighteenth Century
(Parker, 1842)
    Murray, John:
A hand-book for travellers on the continent
(John Murray, 5th edition, 1845)
    Brandt, Gerard:
The history of the Reformation and their Ecclesiastical Transactions in and about the Low Countries
(John Nicks, 1723)
    Slot Loevenstein website: www.slotloevestein.nl/ (History/Hugo Grotius pages)
    Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies,

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