John Maurice of Nassau

John Maurice of Nassau, 1604–79, Dutch general and colonial administrator, a prince of the house of Nassau-Siegen; grandnephew of William the Silent. The Dutch West India Company appointed him (1636) governor-general of its newly acquired possessions in Brazil. He conquered NE Brazil from the Portuguese and, in order to insure the supply of slave labor, seized several Portuguese strongholds on the Guinea coast of Africa. An able administrator, John Maurice consolidated Dutch rule in Brazil. He built up the state of Pernambuco and rebuilt the city of Recife. He supported science and arts in the colony: pioneering studies on the botany, zoology, and diseases of Brazil were published by his court physician and a German naturalist, while artists including Frans Post painted Brazilian scenes. Rising Portuguese hostility and Dutch criticism of his expenses led him to request he be recalled in 1643. He subsequently held commands in Europe in the Thirty Years War, governed, after 1647, Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg for the elector of Brandenburg, and in 1652 was made a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite his advanced age, he won new distinction in the Dutch Wars. After his retirement in 1675 he lived at Cleves. He was known for his patronage of the arts and his residence at The Hague is the celebrated Mauritshuis.

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