19 mei 2024

Where did Mr. Ghosn get the idea of escaping in a large box?

A big story at the end of December 2019 was how ex Nissan-CEO Ghosn (fig. 1), charged with financial wrongdoing, managed to sneak through a Japanese airport to a private jet that whisked him out of the country by hiding in a large, black music equipment case with breathing holes drilled in the bottom.

Where did he get the idea of escaping in a large chest? It was done in the Netherlands 400 (!) years ago.

Fig. 1: 2017, Mr. Ghosn Lebanon stamp

Anybody who went to elementary school in the Netherlands can tell you about Hugo de Groot’s escape in a book chest. A Dutch stamp issued in 1983 (fig. 2) shows a portrait of Hugo de Groot and a drawing of the book chest. There are other stamps of Hugo de Groot and there even was a ten guilder banknote with his likeness.

Hugo de Groot/Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645), was a Dutch humanist, diplomat, lawyer, theologian and jurist. He is considered to be one of the greatest contributers to the development of international law. He has been called the “father of international law.”

Fig. 2: 1983, Hugo de Groot stamp Netherlands

In the early 17th century a disagreement between the Remonstrants, (moderates), and the anti-Remonstrants, began to escalate. Severe rioting broke out between both parties. During the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618, it was decided that the moderates’ viewpoint was reprehensible and therefore banned.

Moderate members of the States of Holland were imprisoned immediately. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who was Advocate of Holland, Hugo de Groot, who was Pensionary of Rotterdam, and a few others were thrown into prison. After six months in custody, sentence was passed: Van Oldenbarnevelt was sentenced to death and was beheaded in 1619. De Groot was sentenced to life in prison and transferred to Loevestein Castle. (fig. 3)

Fig. 3: Loevestein Castle in 1621

Hugo de Groot read a lot in prison. Many books were brought and collected in a large book chest, which was thoroughly inspected by the guards on every delivery. Since the chest never contained anything other than books, the guards started to check it less often.

On 22 March 1621, Hugo Grotius escaped from Loevestein in the chest, fleeing to France. Hugo sent a request to the States of Holland asking for his wife and children to be sent to France. This request was granted on the condition that Hugo Grotius would never return to the Netherlands.

In 1634, Hugo Grotius was appointed Swedish Ambassador to France. In 1645, returning from a visit to Sweden, he was shipwrecked of the German coast. He did not survive the catastrophe and died in Rostock, Germany.” Although being banned from the Netherlands he must have been redeemed at the time of his death because the same year (1645) he was buried in the Grote Kerk in Delft (the Netherlands). For more information about Hugo de Groot’s extraordinary life I recommend clicking the second reference.

One wonders what Mr. Ghosn’s life will be from now on and how will it end?

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