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Back to Brazil

Back to Pernambuco




Due to the cultivation of sugar and cotton, Pernambuco was one of the few prosperous captaincies (the other notable one being São Vicente). In the Summer of 1629, the Dutch, at war with Spain (the owner of the Portuguese colonies in America), equipped a fleet for obtaining Pernambuco,. The fleet was led by Hendrick Corneliszoon Loncq; and the Dutch West India Company gained control of Olinda by 16 February 1630, and Recife (the capital of Pernambuco) and António Vaz by 3 March.

Matias de Albuquerque, the Portuguese governor, led a strong Portuguese resistance which hindered the Dutch from developing their forts on the lands which they had captured.

The new colony was named Nieuw Holland and was a posession of the WIC, itself chartered by the Republic of the United Netherlands.

The first two governors and political councils had short terms of office but in 1636 Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, count of Nassau, was appointed as ruler of Nieuw Holland by the WIC on recom-mendation of Frederick Henry, then stadholder of the Republic. He landed at Recife, the port of Pernambuco and main stronghold of the Dutch, in January 1637. He was assisted by a Secret Council consisting of a triumvirate.

Nassau’s government built Maritania or Mauritsstad (Recife) on delta islands, which have similarities to Holland's topography. This moved the political focus from Olinda to Recife. Nassau’s Dutch administration was noted for advancements in urbanism, culture, and science. When his term ended in 1644, he returned to the Netherlands. The triumvirate was continued until 1654.


Administrators of Nieuw Holland

Hendrick Corneliszoon Lonck


Theodrus van Waerdenburg


Political Council

Mathias van Ceulen

Johan Gysselingh


Servatius Carpentier

Willem Sehott

Jacob Stachouwer

Baltazar Wyntgens

Ippo Eysens


Governor General

Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen


Secret Council

Mathias van Ceulen

Johan Gysselingh

Adriaen van der Dussen


Supreme Council of Government

Hendrik Hamel

Adriaen van Bullestraten

Pieter S. Bas


Administrative Council

Walter van Schonenborch

Van Goch

Simon van Beaumont




Theodorus van Waerdenburg

Lieutenant-Colonel in Brazil 1630-     


His family-arms in the lower margin of his portrait

(Coll. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

His arms were:


Arms: Gules, three pales vair and a chief Or, a fleur-de-lis Azure.

Crest: On a helmet lambrequined Gules and Or, a peacock issuant proper.[1]


These arms are derived from the arms of the famous French familiy of Blois-Châtillon.


Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen

 Governor General of Nieuw Holland 1636-1644


When a governor of Nieuw Holland the coat of arms of Johann Moritz was quarterly of Nassau-Katzenellnbogen-Vianden-Dietz and crested of Katzenellnbogen (center), Nassau (dexter) and Dietz (sinister).


·         Nassau: Azure strewn with billets a lion rampant Or, langued and unguled Gules.

·         Katzenellnbogen: Or, a lion rampoant guardant Gules, Crowned Azure.

·         Vianden: Gules, a fesse Argent

·         Dietz: Gules, two lions passant guardant Or.


The crests: Three pairs of wings, the first charged with discs of the arms of Katzenellnbogen, the second with bends embowed Argent, charged with leafs of lime Vert, the third with discs of the arms of Dietz.


His cypher was IMCD:

Iohannes Mauritius Comitis Dillenburgum

(John Maurice Count of (Nassau-)Dillenburg) [2]


This cypher was also on the flag of the colony being of three horizontal stripes red, white and blue, the crown in the red and the cypher in the white breadth.


His motto was QUA PATET ORBIS (As Far as the World Extends).


Later in his life, after his return to Europe, he surrounded his arms with the ribbon and elephant of the Danish Order of the Elephant and placed it on the eight-pointed cross of the Order of St. John. For the purpose the crests were replaced by a crown.


The Councils and the Captaincies


At their requests the administrations of the captaincies received their seals on which were their arms, designed by John Maurice himself.

These arms were:

Itamaraca received three bunches of grape because in Itamarica growed the most beautiful and savoury grapes of all Brazil. 

Usually the grapes ar in their natural colours on a white field


Parayba received some pyramidal sugar-loafs because it produced the best and laudable sugar and because, after it had become a Dutch possession there had been progress of the sugar-industry and of its production.

Usually the sugar-loafs are white on a blue field.

Pernambuco received a Virgin looking into a mirror the see her beauty, keeping a stalk of sugar-cane in her hand, symbolizing  the most important crop of the province and as a legend the name of the city of Olinda.

Usually the Virgin is in her natural colours on a white field.

Also special emblems were adopted for some of its Jurisdictions, that is to say:

For  I. Garasu three crabs

For Serinhaim a horse

. For Porto Calvo a rocky hill

For Alagoas three fishes

For Sergipe a sun and three crowns


Rio Grande is named after a river of that name and received a river and an ostrich on its bank because such birds occur in large numbers there.


Usually the arms are Or, the base Vert or Azure, the river Argent and the ostrich of its natural colours.


“And these arms were cut by Dutch engravers in silver and not in brass or iron to avoid their being affected by green oxidation or rust.” [3]


Once the arms for the captaincies created, arms for the High Council and a seal for the Political Council were designed.

The arms for the High Council were composed of the four emblems of the captaincies, symbolizing the whole of Nieuw Holland. They were crested with the arms of the Republic of the United Netherlands and had the cypher of the WIC at their base.

The emblem of the Political Council was the same as the arms of the High Council, above its shield the Goddess Astrea (Justitia) with a sword and a balance, the first menacing evildoers, the second the principle of trade. [4]


Barlaeus however, gives the arms slightly different:

Arms: Quarterly of Pernambuco, Itamaraca, Paraiba and Rio Grande and on an escutcheon the arms of the WIC.


ð See illustration in the head of this essay.


No prints of these arms and seal are available and the seals of the captaincies have probably been lost. Instead, Barlaeus gives the arms of the colony consisting of the arms quarterly of Pernambuco, Itamarca, Paraiba and Rio Grande and, as an escutcheon, the arms of the WIC, being a sailing vessel in full sail ensigned of the Republic.


No reconstructions of the seals are possible by the descriptions of Barlaeus alone.


The Aftermath


After Maurice was summoned back from Nieuw-Holland by the WIC board in 1643, the WIC lost control over the colony. Portuguese planters – under control when Maurits was gouvernor-general – organized a revolt against the Dutch. The Portuguese gained Várzea, Serinhaém, Pontal de Nazaré, the Fort of Porto Calvo, and Fort Maurits in 1645.

On December 13, 1647, the Dutch left Itamaraca and on January 28, 1654, the WIC lost control of Recife, leaving the Portuguese their colony of Brazil and putting an end to Nieuw Holland.

Seven years after the surrender of Recife, a peace treaty was organized between the Dutch Republic and Portugal. The Treaty of The Hague (1661) was signed on August 6, 1661, and demanded that the Portuguese pay 4 million reis over the span of 16 years in order to help the Dutch recover from the loss of Brazil.



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© Hubert de Vries 2011-11-29


[1] Rietstaps Armorial Général: Waerdenburg (van) [anciennement de Cocq van Waerdenburg] - Gueldre  De gu,  trois pals de vair; au chef d’or, ch. d’une fleur-de-lis d’azur (souvent sans fleur-de-lis). C.: une tête et col de paon au nat.

[2] Barlaeus, Caspar: Nederlandsch Brazilië onder het bewind van Johan Maurits van Nassau, 1637-1644. pp. 121-122

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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