The Blue Blot

notes, finds & fragments of research

Are you going to Arnemuiden Fair? ~ Adriana’s tragic Death in 1594


Als ik de vrienden besoekende was
Om blijdschaps vermeeren
Heb ik dese Jaar markt met mijn
Begravinge moeten vereêren.
Deur ’t lichtveerdig schieten
Ende ’t loods vermaken
Heb ik den bittere dood
Moeten smaaken.
Vliedende nochtans de schoote
Als den schutter gemikt heeft.
Wie kan de dood ontvlieden
Als ’t Godt alsoo geschikt heeft.

Adriana Fa Gisleni
Bogaart Ætatis sue 14
Obiit 22 Augusti
15    94


When performing historical research a confrontation with death is rather inevitable, and often it is the last chapter when writing a biography. The saddest part is that for the majority of past populations it is the only decently documented moment of their lives.

Death also knows many variations. There is the slow fading kind of the elderly. We know the abrupt and heart-breaking kind of a women dying while giving, or shortly after, childbirth. Also inevitable is the bloody death of many men (and women) who died on the battlefield or otherwise in war time. Quite fascinating can be the gruesome and destructive kind of death where blood spatters from the old documents. And there is bad luck, which makes us shiver, shake our heads pitifully, or even -it happens- laugh.

This particular footnote in history falls in the category of pitifully shaking one’s head. I had this note (the text above) for some time in a special folder. Recently, I was in the opportunity to see if I could find more about it. Alas, it has nothing to do with parsley, sage, rosemary, nor thyme. It tells the sad story of an accident which caused the death of a young girl. She was shot, most likely by accident. It is a tough job to translate old Dutch when it is set to rhyme like this text. This time I won’t even try, as it would end up unreadable. But I did write a translation for the sake of conveying the message of the text.

When I was visiting our friends / to bring my part of joy, / I honoured the annual fair / with the event of my burial. / Because of frivolous shooting / and idle amusement / I had to taste / the bitter tang of death. / For howbeit eluding the shot / when the rifleman laid for his aim; / who can escape death – / when it has God’s assent?

Adriana, daughter of Gislenus Bogaart, died aged 14 on August 22nd, 1594, in the city of Arnemuiden. She was visiting family[1] during the fair. What should have been a joyful visit full of entertainment, ended as a tragedy. It is not likely that she was buried in Arnemuiden. I gather that she was brought home and buried there. Where that is, is yet unknown. The text doesn’t hint about her origins other than giving us the name of her father. Perhaps, one day, it shall be known where the poor girl was from. The problem is that this is the end of the 16th Century and few written sources are still available.[2] I did try my luck on a few records that date from this period, but without result. None of them, even in those records where I expected at least a short allusion, mentioned the event.

It could have been her relatives who commissioned the decorated wooden panel, it could also have been made (and almost certain it was altered) in later times. But, it survived. In the late 18th century, around 1780, a drawing[3] was made of it, showing the panel with the text as given above and on the top, in the tympanum: A red heart. It is recorded again in a manuscript dating from about 1797 when it still hangs in the church of Arnemuiden.[4] About a century later it is still present in the church, but now it no longer hangs up, but has been put on a little table.[5] During the last century it must have somehow disappeared, for no recordings are made of it anymore. To be absolutely sure I visited the local museum, hoping that perhaps it was still there in a dusty little corner. There I spoke to a man who also happened to be a churchwarden for the last 25 years. Unfortunately he didn’t know about it and had never seen anything that could have resembled either the panel or the remnants of it.

Whomever was responsible for having it made, and whatever happened to it, at least it was publicly displayed in the church for 300 years, where it served as a reminder to the sad event and, quite possibly, as a warning to those who enjoyed themselves a bit too much during the annual fair.

Short as it may be, with this blog post her tragic death is again brought back to memory.
So, please, when you visit the fair, think of poor Adriana for a moment and have a drink to her memory. And when you pick up a rifle, think twice…


[1] In Middle Dutch and early Modern Dutch the word ‘Vrienden’ can have the connotation of both friends and family. It is, however, likely that she was visiting family. From 1579 until his death in 1595 Mr. Jan Bogaert or Boogaart is mentioned in various records as a dignitary of the small town of Arnemuiden. He’s recorded as a magistrate (‘schepen’), a surgeon and also mentioned as the owner of both a brewery and (small) salt refinery. In 1581 he is mentioned as the brother of Geleijn Bogaert, who could very well be the mentioned Ghislenus Boogaart, father of Adriana.

[2] A lot of archives in the direct area are lost, due to a number of reasons. Others weren’t kept that detailed yet. With the start of the 17th Century, the archives in general become more elaborate but especially on matters like this.

[3] Zeeuws Archief (Archives of Zeeland), Koninklijk Zeeuwsch Genootschap der Wetenschappen (Royal Zeeland Society of Sciences), Zelandia Illustrata II (inventory 295), no. 51

[4] Zeeuws Archief [in photocopy], J.P. Rethaan Macaré, ‘Wapenborden en wapens op tombes, monumenten en grafgesteenten in de kerken van de voormalige provincie Zeeland tot in 1798 aanwezig geweest. Afgetekend en opgenomen voor de opruiming (1798)(manuscript), Vol. IIb, Church of Arnemuiden (p.223-234), no. 18

[5] Mr. M.F. Lantsheer and F. Nagtglas, Zelandia Illustrata, Vol. 1 (Middelburg 1879), p. 626-627. And, subsequently: Mr. P.C. Bloys van Treslong Prins, Genealogische en Heraldische gedenkwaardigheden in en uit de kerken der Provincie Zeeland (Utrecht 1919), p. 18-19.


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