Year of publication 2004, number 14

 

Preface

Well, when you’re on holiday in June in Dordogne (France) you can’t really avoid going to Bergerac. And this in very hot weather which promised many more warm days in the days to come. When we were approaching Bergerac from the East (via Lalinde and Saint Capraise), I realised that it must have been sometime in the sixties that I had been there with my parents. Even though my father told us a little about the family history, the town was portrayed rather negatively. Probably to dampen the high expectations (ugly industrial town) of me and my brother who were folded up in the backseat of a Fiat 500 station wagon! I can actually not remember it anymore at all. The only memory I have is of a postcard with four little townscapes in those pale ‘60s colours. Not only do I have that postcard in an album, but I had that card sent to me several times during the next decade by different visitors to Bergerac. Through all this, the conviction that this place wasn’t much had firmly taken root with me. How different that proved to be the case last summer! A beautiful car-free inner city full of historical buildings, flowers everywhere, a flea market and nice outdoor cafés. It was a few pleasant hours with a walk through the old part of town (the Reformed Church was closed), lunch and visits to the tobacco museum annex local historical museum. The latter was not only a great place to sojourn because of the air-conditioning, but also because I ended up in the local archive depository. Along the walls were many beautifully bounded folios with baptismal-, marriage- and death registers from the 16 th and 17 th century. The archivist’s commentary revealed to me that it most certainly would contain ancestors as long as they had actually lived in the township of Bergerac. The details from ancestors in the district are held in the regional archive in Perigeux, the municipality that mostly upset the Huguenots. Because the details (of for example a baptism) are registered in a time order, you have to go through them page by page and you have to know the different variations to Bouissavy well by heart. Anyway, we didn’t have time for all that, maybe later someday after I retire. By the way, the archive is open to the public so feel free to delve in.

Within our family foundation a lot of work has gone into the website. Many functions have been added and it is very much worthwhile to have a look at it and comment on it. At least we now have heard from family members who previously didn’t respond. Hopefully we can now get some more family-information from the USA and Canada, because those countries lag behind despite the majority living there.

In any case, the committee wishes you a happy 2004 and some joyful reading.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain, president

 

Boissevains in the finacial world

Our ancestor Lucas didn’t have an easy life as a refugee in the Netherlands. Also his son Jérémie had a hard time keeping his head above water. His grandson Gideon Jeremie I clearly started to climb the social ladder and lived in a beautiful house on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. The real rise however began with his two sons: Daniël I (1772-1834) and Henri Jean. Daniël himself was still working in the (international) trade. Also two of his sons (Gideon Jeremie II 1796-1875, and Charles Faber 1806-1886) started their careers in trade, but soon became ship owners. With two other sons Daniël II (1804-1878) and Eduard Constantin (1810-1878) and their sons and grandsons began a long period in which many Boissevains held prime positions in the financial world of the 19 th and early 20 th century. Mainly in Amsterdam, but also in London and New York. Some as stockbrokers, others as member/partner in a banking firm, and some as insurers.

Daniël and Eduard Constantin were (co)founders of the stockbroker’s firm Holjé & Boissevain in 1836, later renamed Gebr.Boissevain. This company existed until well in the second half of the 20 th century. In, or shortly after, the second World War trading activities were discontinued and the company became a well known administrative office for American shares. As the last Boissevain, Gulian Daniel Willem (1891-1973, grandson of Eduard Constantin) discontinued the running of the business in 1953. Of Daniël’s sons, one(and later also his two sons) joined the firm, four others too started their careers there, but then developed into prominent bankers.

The financial world in those days was completely different to what it is today. The share market in Amsterdam was fairly disorganized. The city had a stock market building until the middle of the 19 th century, but it was in the open, so really it was more of an enclosed court. Initially everyone could trade on the share market, there were no rules. And the now well known trading banks with many branches and a varied financial provision of services concerning payments, receiving and lending moneys and often also arbitrating in the business of dealing in stocks and shares, didn’t develop until after 1900. They were quite sluggish in contrast to the private bankers who, through clever networking and ingenuity, could work much more efficiently also on the international market (mainly in London and New York). These bankers arose from trade businesses in e.g. grains, cotton and products from the tropics, and they financed it mainly with their own capital. And so too did several Boissevains.

The sons of Daniel who chose the banking trade, did this in very different ways. The eldest, Gideon Marie (”Gi Mi”, 1837-1925), left the stock-tradingfirm Gebr.Boissevain as partner and became co-founder of the Kas-Vereeniging(~ cash-association), now called the KasBank. He became well-known as economist and prominent advisor of the Dutch government. His younger brother Mijnhard Johannes (1845-1917) was partner in the companies Baak & Boissevain and Buyn & Boissevain and later founded the company M.J.Boissevain. The latter could be described as ”promoter”, i.e. to establish relations between capital-searching businesses with wealthy clients, through business contacts. For a short period Mijnhart also became co-director of the Banque de Paris & des Pays-Bas. One of his sons became a banker in New York. A third son of Daniel, namely Athanase Adolphe Henri (1843-1921), has had several features in the Boissevain Bulletin. Together with an American business partner he founded the firm Adolphe Boissevain & Co. in 1875, initially mainly focused on introducing American shares at the Amsterdam stock exchange and stock-arbitration between New York, Amsterdam and London. In this last city he also founded the firm Blake, Boissevain & Co., in which his youngest brother Louis Daniel came to work. Slowly the firm Boissevain & Co developed more and more into a prominent banking firm. Adolph earned a good reputation in America with the railway development. As financer he was closely involved with Canadian Pacific and Norfolk & Virginia among others, and he played an important role with the reorganisation of the Union Pacific. But also in the Netherlands Boissevain & Co. held a prominent position with important financial operations. So when in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, some stock operators got into trouble, Boissevain & Co. participated for 10% as second largest firm, in setting up a support syndicate by banks and bankers. The name of the firm was later changed to Pierson & Co, now known as Mees, Pierson.

Robert Lucas (Bob) Boissevain (NP p74)

 

Uproarious Edna

From different sources via the internet, the editors of the Boissevain Bulletin received a picture of Edna St. Vincent Millay, second wife of Eugen Jan Boissevain (NP p 69) and the time in which she lived. We’re letting the review of her biography speak for itself.


Fans of Zelda, Nancy Milford's groundbreaking (and best-selling) biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald's tortured wife and muse, have been waiting impatiently since 1970 for Milford's promised follow-up about poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

 

It's finally here, and they will not be disappointed. Milford's vivid narrative limns an electric personality with psychological acuity while capturing the freewheeling atmosphere of America in the turbulent years following World War I. After "Renascence" was published (when she was only 20) and she moved to Greenwich Village, Millay was the queen of bohemia, taking lovers with zest and voicing the reckless gaiety of a generation in her famous lyric, "My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night; / But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends-- / It gives a lovely light." With her flame-red hair, milk-white skin, and a voice that thrilled audiences (making her poetry readings a welcome source of income), Millay was the archetypal "new woman": powerful, passionate, and not to be ignored. But Milford makes it clear that her first loyalty was to her mother and sisters, and her deepest commitment to her writing. This juicy chronicle has famous names aplenty--critic Edmund Wilson and Masses editor Floyd Dell were among the men devastated by her refusal to be faithful--and lots of dissipation: Millay drank heavily and became addicted to morphine. It also takes a perceptive look at how an artist draws material from her life and at the strategies she uses to protect the wellsprings of creativity. Brief passages interspersed throughout delineating Milford's interactions with Norma Millay, the poet's younger sister and literary executor, might have been self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing; instead they offer intriguing snapshots of the complex process by which biography is made. The resulting book is a tour de force, and wildly entertaining as well.

In 1923, Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1950) became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for POETRY. To write her biography, Milford whose one other major publication is a highly praised and best-selling biography, Zelda persuaded Millay's younger sister and sole heir, Norma, to give her access to hundreds of Millay's personal papers, letters, and notebooks. Selecting from "this extraordinary collection," Milford meticulously integrates Millay's major poems, letters received and sent, reactions of friends, and comments from extensive interviews with Norma into an orderly and affecting narrative. The result is an intimate look at a complex, charismatic, imperfect woman, someone who evokes both admiration and sympathy. Among the less glamorous revelations are the sometimes damaging intertwining of the poet's life with that of her mother and two sisters, Millay's promiscuity and uncanny seductiveness, and the dynamics of her 27-year marriage to a man who adored and promoted her while enabling her infidelities and addictions. Milford's lengthy portrait is a testimonial to her scholarship, stamina, and commitment to her craft. This should serve as a model of a highly readable biography, as well as a standard source for future Millay studies. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/01.] Carol A. McAllister, Coll. of William & Mary Lib., Williamsburg, VA.

Millay scholars were frustrated for decades by the inaccessibility of a vast treasure trove of letters, journals, and other private papers jealously guarded by the poet's sister, Norma. Milford, the author of Zelda (1970), the best-selling biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, gradually earned Norma's trust during the 1970s and now presents the first comprehensive authorized biography of the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Red-headed, green-eyed, precocious, independent, and beguiling, Millay was born in Camden, Maine, in 1892, the eldest of three daughters of a divorced and renegade mother. Millay began writing as a girl, and her brilliant, original, and fearless early poems won her prizes and wealthy patrons who sent her to Vassar, where she conducted a great swirl of love affairs with young women and older men. Once established in Greenwich Village, the indefatigably lascivious Millay wrote daring yet lyric collections that sold in the tens of thousands at the height of the Depression. Milford is both meticulous and dynamic in her assessment of Millay's trailblazing work and complicated, controversial life right up to its sad and dramatic end, and she will continue her reclamation of a great American poet as editor of a forthcoming Modern Library edition of Millay's fire-and-diamond poetry.

Thomas Hardy once said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The most famous poet of the Jazz Age, Millay captivated the nation: She smoked in public, took many lovers (men and women, single and married), flouted convention sensationally, and became the embodiment of the New Woman.
Thirty years after her landmark biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, Nancy Milford returns with an iconic portrait of this passionate, fearless woman who obsessed America even as she tormented herself. Chosen by USA Today as one of the top ten books of the year, Savage Beauty is a triumph in the art of biography. Millay was an American original—one of those rare characters, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, whose lives were even more dramatic than their art.

Willem Frederik Lamoraal Boissevain (1852-1919)

On the 5 th of April 1919 the old-resident W.F.L. Boissevain (NP p 138) died at 66 years of age. He had a strong personality, a jewel of the “Interior Committee”, during his more than 35 years in office, in which he passed through every stage from trainee controller right up to resident. Born in Arnhem on November 28, 1852, he joined the (Dutch East)Indian service in 1874, and was controller in the districts Japara and Cheribon.

After sixteen years of service he became assistant-resident of Blora (1890), and then swapped this district for the districts Berbek (1892), Toeban (1897) and Toeloeng Agoeng (1899). Mainly in the districts Blora and Toeban did he have the opportunity to show himself to be a good policeman. More than 28 years passed after his entrance into office before Boissevain got appointed resident of Madioen. (As you see, promotions didn’t really occur frequently!) A district that was not easy to rule with such a large private industrial sector. The sugar industry, which enormously influences the economic development of the local peoples, was not one that Boissevain could count as his friends. He didn’t ignore the advantages that this industry undeniably has for the materialistic well-being of the inhabitants, but he knew from experience that the disadvantages were huge, that the native so happens to be a bad financier who leases his land to the sugar producer, and finally drops down from prosperous cultivator to day labourer. And at that time, sixteen years ago, the land lease prices were ridiculously low, more recently this has gradually improved. After 4 years of having ruled the Madioen district with a firm hand, resident Boissevain was called away by the government in 1907, to the more and more developed district Preanger-Regencies. A strong ruler was needed there and the choice fell on the man who had proven that he could take action without respect of persons and who could surely put an end to the old-fashioned situation in this district. For four years, from 1907 until 1911 (only interrupted by a half year leave to Europe, while retaining his position, very unique), did he rule this important district and it quickly became evident that a breath of fresh air was blowing from Bandoeng over the Preanger-departments, that with its hard feudal regencies, felt themselves to be the local kings.

Opposition and passive resistance was bound to happen, but the situation that long since had ceased to exist in the rest of Java, had to change; old-fashioned insights had to make way for new ideas. It was clear that this resident didn’t fool around; what he felt that needed doing, happened; he was a bit of a tyrant, he was a man of “l’Etat c’est moi”, but in those days such was necessary; the ruling of the Preanger people had slowly gone slack, business was merely sustained; administration was kept, but it wasn’t governed and among the local bureaucrats a sort of family-government was created with disastrous results. Boissevain put an end to this and when he resigned in 1911, he could hand over the governing of the district to his successor in a much better condition than in which he had received it. He was only able to enjoy 8 years of his well-earned retirement after such a fruitful life, but he still looked after the affairs of the corps Internal Affairs, as he was on the committee of the Union of Civil Servants in Internal Affairs for quite a while. With Boissevain, one of the most influential figures of Internal Affairs in a now closed period, has passed on. A man of action, not of words and “letter writing”, he had the habit of fast decision making without cautious questioning as to whether-or-not there is some history to consider or what the regulations might specify. It’s obvious that such a man appealed to the Governor-General van Heutsz, who valued his advice enormously and on several occasions gave clear testimony of his appreciation. A seat in the “Dutch East Indian” Council didn’t seem to be intended for him, however this position was taken by another resident of Java, who hadn’t served as long. This obviously hurt him and that, together with some other disappointments with the service in 1910, was the reason that he applied for retirement early in 1911, at 58 years of age, still in the prime of his life. He didn’t pursue popularity; he was very strict in the service, strict too for his officers and those below, he demanded a lot from them, but he also supported his subordinates where this was necessary, he stood up for them. Even though he was a tyrant, he didn’t push his opinion à tort et à travers, as long as one had solid proof that it was arguable. Then he admitted his wrong and appreciated that people would stand up for their beliefs. As resident of Madioen he received the Cross of the Dutch Lion, a well-earned award, but a greater reward is that his name will live on in the corps for whom’s interest he fought so energetically time and again.

R.I.P. van Bijleveld, ’s-Gravenhage

april 1919

 

Boissevain and Neptune

The following 23 rd of July, it is exactly 30 years ago that I came in possession of a Neptune-diploma in Amsterdam, presented on the “Boissevain”. The year 1974 was in my student days and I received Roland Pessers’s “passage ticket” glued onto some cardboard. He was a boy from our neighbourhood in Oisterwijk (NB), who often scoured the flea markets. On the back he had written: “For Charles’ birthday, that this family picture may always have a place on your wall, under penalty of my discontent”. Closer inspection of the diploma taught me something about the “Boissevain” and Neptune christenings on crossing the equator, and on the last stage of the heyday of the great shipping companies and of our colonial history in the Dutch East Indies. A glance behind the scenes is given.

The diploma

The text of the diploma is as follows:

I, NEPTUNE, GOD OF ALL SEAS

Patron of all Mermaids, Treasure-chest keeper

of all treasures which are thrown over board etc, etc,

declare herewith that: Soldier 1st class Maas, J.K. I-2-R.lt.LuA

crossed the equator on May18, 1947 and in my opinion

has been found suitable to defy all the dangers in the

Far East and, after services done, to be returned home safely

over my seas. Therefore it is pointed out to everyone,

that the person in possession of this diploma, may he

- land-dog that he obviously is -, again sail in my waters,

gets the homage he deserves, given to him by me

under penalty of my discontent.

THUS DRAWN UP ABOARD m.s.”Boissevain”

led by the C.O.T.

The Lt.-Col. Der Art.

A. Tuytel

 

 

The ship

The “Boissevain” was used as transport ship for troops during WWII (1940 - 1945).

I have written about this before in one of the earlier Boissevain-Bulletins. On the 4 th of May 1946 the central government returned the ship to the KPM (Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij), the shipping company that was founded in 1888 by -amongst others- Jan Boissevain (NP p 52). Because the ship was fitted out for transporting troops, it was leased by the Dutch government for almost two years for the supply and removal of Dutch soldiers. These were supposed to uphold the authority of the fatherland in the former Dutch Indies. In May 1947 the last of these journeys took place, after which the ship was converted into a passenger ship by Taikoo Dockyard in Hong Kong, from July 1947 onwards. During this transformation the “Boissevain” got the colours of the KJCPL (Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart Lijnen). This is the name of the shipping company that came into existence on the 1 st of July 1947 after a merger between the here fore mentioned KPM and the Java-China-Japan Line (JCJL). Subsequently the ship, together with its sister ships “Ruys” and “Tegelberg”, was deployed on the route between the Far East and the east coast of South-America via South-Africa.

The journey

Before the m.s. “Boissevain” was converted in Hong Kong, it made its last journey as transport ship for troops in May 1947. It involved the transport of a second regiment anti-aircraft artillery, consisting of 1.000 troops of the D-division, otherwise known as the “Palmtree-division”. Actually it was a rather odd transport for the participants, for already in March 1947 it was clear that the air threat of the Indonesians was virtually non-existent. The regiment anti-aircraft artillery would therefore ultimately be used to supplement other divisions that were short-staffed, and it was thus that the men came to be at the disposition of the quartermaster general (QMG). The QMG was the man responsible for the supply and outfit of the army. The Transport Service Department was responsible for the transport of the troops that went to the Dutch Indies. The stamp on the diploma contains the inscription “Service of the quartermaster general, Dep. Of Transport Service, M.S. Boissevain, C.O.T.”. The abbreviation C.O.T. stands for Commanding Officer Troops, which is the commander of the troops that have been transported on the ship.

On the 25 th of April 1947 the troops boarded the “Boissevain” in Amsterdam, that departed the wharf at 17.30 hours. On board was the 1st battalion of the 2 nd regiment light anti-aircraft artillery (1-2-R.lt.Lua), of which the 17 th corps AAT (Supply- and Delivery Troops) was a part. Soldier J.K. Maas was one of them and lieutenant-colonel A. Tuytel was his boss.

On May 6 they entered the tropics and on May 17 was the arrival in Sabang on the most northern point of the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. The next day the ship crossed the equator at 14.20 hrs, the moment that the diploma refers to. On May 20 they reached their destination Batavia (now Jakarta, capital of Indonesia).

The ritual

Although the diploma states that it was presented on crossing the equator, this is not wholly correct. The equator was crossed in the Malacca Strait, just South West of Singapore.

This is a short and very busy route, in which there is certainly no time to hold a Neptune party. Therefore the christenings of the passengers and crew members for whom this was the first time, were in reality held on entering the tropics in the Indian Ocean. The christening ceremony had a sort of ragging feeling about it where a bucket or more of water wasn’t really an issue. For the more than 120.000 troops of the Royal Army, that served in the former Dutch-Indies between 1945 and 1949, this ritual was a welcome change to the month long journey. Why soldier Maas didn’t do a better job in looking after his material memory is a mystery to me.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain, Deventer (NP p 116)

 

Dissidents from Amsterdam

Eight people dined together in a restaurant on Saturday night. All eight of them belong to the same family, but they do not know one another. The owner of the Portuguese Restaurant Estoril on Daniël Stalpertstreet in Amsterdam didn’t quite understand it either, but this was however no reason to greet us less welcoming.

What do you do when, being A. Boissevain in Amsterdam, you now and again receive a phone call from a complete stranger, with a message for indeed an A. Boissevain in Amsterdam, but you don’t happen to be it?. A total of not less than nine Boissevains are in the phonebook, but only one is familiar. In such a case, a family reunion could be helpful but the frequency and scale of these sometimes prevent a more intimate acquaintance with fellow townsfolk. Even though on those occasions it is tried to get participants to communicate with each other by pinning on a (first) name, the place of residence is usually not mentioned. That is understandable since it is not a genealogical indication. Even if this were the case, the chance that one actually ends up talking to “fellow townsfolk” among the 300 odd that are usually present, is rather small. We needed a solution to this. What’s the point in counting family members in the United States as your best friends when you don’t even know the ones in your own hometown even though you all carry the same name? 'A good neighbour….' what is actually so wrong with that? Wouldn’t it be possible to at least get those people together who are so closely listed together in the phonebook? It would at least shed some light on who to refer to, in case of a wrong number or address.

And so it came to be that on a Saturday evening in April of this year eight Boissevains from Amsterdam came together and were seated around a table with Portuguese tapas: Sacha, Wim, Annemie, Marianne, Saskia, Huub, Stans and Aviva. An introductory round proved to be helpful and essential: most of them had never seen or talked to each other before. Who was actually born in Amsterdam? How did the others come to be there? On hearing the different stories of people’s lives the Huguenot blood luckily still flows strongly among all eight: the flight motive, for Saskia, Marianne and Aviva in the first place the main reason to exchange the former stuffy place of residence for the queen of all towns; the journalist blood, represented by the same Marianne; the French input, still present in Wim le Rütte (son of Heleen Boissevain who died at a young age); the artistic, represented by Annemie (Foundation committee member) and Stans; the business mentality, fully utilized by Huib, econometrist and co-founder of the successful investment firm Annexum Invest; and finally the worthy, born and bred in Amsterdam, from opus internum to opus ad extra grand old lady Sacha. Even the unsuccessful photo that was taken that evening of all those present was of course completely in style with the Huguenotic aversion to “images”.

Even though this is regarded by the family committee as an underground dissident movement, it must be obvious that that is not at all the case: not undermining in the least, but rather only supportive and increasing integration within the family. We hope to have set an example for many family members elsewhere and possibly have set the tone for a new tradition: namesakes of all towns, unite!, in a small and personal way. Then you can skip a few people at the next reunion, knowing that you will speak with them again sooner or later. The Amsterdam people look back on a very successful evening and use this to make an appeal to anyone who -one way or another- is related to the Boissevain family (carrying this last name is not compulsory) and who lives in Amsterdam: please pass your details on to yours truly, then we hope to welcome you at the next cosy and intimate family diner, planned for 2004. Welcome!

Aviva Boissevain (NP p 76)

 

Various

All in three

On the 3 rd day of the 3 rd month of the 3 rd year of the 3 rd millennium, the 3 rd child of Sue Boissevain and Ron Post was born.

Tough ancestors

Our ancestors were often quite tough. Physically their life was often much harder than ours is today, as is obvious from an excerpt from a letter which Gideon Jeremie Boissevain (1796-1875) wrote to his aunt Susanne Elisabeth Huskus-Boissevain (1783-1870):

”In this cold it pleases me, that our stock market building has been covered, because standing out in the open for more than an hour at 10 to 12 degrees was not pleasant (note: Fahrenheit is meant here, i.e. -11 to -12 degrees Celsius). I have managed to keep it up for 34 years. Our descendant will not be able to understand that we were so hardened”.

Signet-ring for Boissevain

In previous Bulletins the subject ”Family coat of arms and” has been touched upon. Lately the signet-ring has gained some popularity after many years of people throwing suspicious glances at it (stuck-up and old-fashioned). The sixties and seventies of the last century lay behind us now, when signet-rings disappeared into the back of drawers. We now have a generation of people who enjoy wearing a signet-ring. The family foundation often receive questions on the correctness of certain forms and what “is or is not allowed”.

Firstly: everything is allowed in principal. Everyone is free to wear what s/he wants. Whether something is proper or not is not always the point. Do you want to decorate your coat of arms with Mickey Mouse? By all means, go ahead, but you might have to put up with some looks and remarks at a family reunion.

There are many “wrong” signet-rings in circulation. Many rings go back to before 1935 when the “wrong” trees got printed. These are the pine-trees with the high trunks. In 1935 the family decided that the trees were not pine-trees (possibly derived from Bois-sapin) but buxustrees derived from the word “bouis”. So the trees of our coat of arms are VERY low on the ground with short trunks. The Buxustrees are pyramid-shaped. There are many wrong images in circulation. Until recently the wrong coat of arms was depicted on our internet site. This wrong coat of arms is also carried as town arms of the township Boissevain in Manitoba (Canada).

But a signet-ring that gets inherited from generation to generation and that surely is so old that the coat of arms cannot be the correct one, has obviously got it’s charm because of it’s age. So don’t meddle with it!

 

Wrong

Right

 

You really have to watch out, even at the renowned jeweller merchant Backers en Zoon on Noordeinde in The Hague. After the first signet-ring for my eldest daughter was manufactured by Backers in perfect detail according to the depiction in “Het Stamboek”, I assumed that the ring for my second daughter didn’t need any instructions. “No that’s ok, we’ve got the image of the Boissevain ring in our files!”, I was told.

Not so. A ring was engraved from an old file and therefore with the long pine trees. They’ve got a huge archive, also on the Boissevain family, but unfortunately the wrong one! Luckily the Bakkers firm gives a really good service and without any further costs they engraved a new stone. So never rely on promises that all will be fine. Make sure that you satisfy yourself that all is well.

So how is it when we order the manufacture of a new ring: what comes on it and how. First of all, don’t let the jewellers tell you anything, we Boissevains will decide, thank you very much!

Tradition prescribes that the direct descendant (son or daughter) inherits the ring from the parent in the year that s/he turns 18. Sometimes this is done at 21. There are no strict rules for carrying the ring on the right or left hand. Left is often easier when one is right-handed etc. The choice of the ring is actually irrelevant. Big, small, the gold colour or the stone. In short: plenty of choice and people’s taste differs.

The Boissevain coat of arms has been described in great detail but of importance is the coat of arms itself: the crest with helmet and the mantles with the wreath. Underneath it is the motto: Ni regret etc.

1. The direct male descendant (son) gets the complete coat-of-arms engraved, i.e. the coat-of-arms itself complete with shield, the crest, the mantles and the wreath. So the buxustrees in their proper form and the crest being a buxustree in the same form. It is not common to also engrave the motto. Besides, this would become too small to read!

2. The direct female descendant (daughter and still single) gets far less. In a diamond shape the coat-of-arms is depicted with the three trees. Thus the “bare” coat of arms, without the shield. The space outside the diamond is free. When there is enough room (if the stone is big enough to allow this) one can engrave some ornamental decoration to make the stone not so bare. One could think of e.g. an oak branch or a cord with tufts and tassels etc. But the diamond shape for the unmarried woman “bare” remains essential. When this woman gets married later on then she will continue to wear the “diamond”. So her own inherent coat of arms and not (what many think) all of a sudden after the wedding her husband’s coat of arms in an oval with or without the crest. Wrong.

3. The daughter-in-law can carry her husband’s coat of arms in a special design. Custom is that her husband’s coat of arms in the shield is put next to hers in an oval (leaning against each other). Above that, so above both coat of arms, comes the crest, the wreath and the mantles so that both coat of arms are embraced by the mantles.

Jeroen Boissevain (NP p 145)

 

With thanks to the Messrs. H. Slettenaar (paper-editor of the Association of old-employees of the “Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart Lijnen N.V.”/Royal Interocean Lines and also crewmember of the “Boissevain” between 1954 and 1956) and drs. ing. W.C.M. Smit (director Institute for Military History) c.s.