Simon Van der Stel

Our Island might be a small dot on the world map but it has many a great reason to amaze the world. For instance, Mauritius is one of the rare nations capable of tracing back the name, history and burial place of its first official registered birth on its soil ! Can the French, the British or the Chinese show us the grave of the very first man born on theirs ?
In fact, Mauritius was only home to animals like dugongs, bats, tortoises and the legendary dodo until the Dutch decided to attempt a first human settlement in 1638 after having claimed the Island theirs in 1598.
As Adriaan Van der Stel, freshly appointed second administrator of new Dutch colony, was reaching our shores, his wife, the daughter of an Indian slave, gave birth to their first child on 14 October 1639 on board ship Le Cappel. The Van der Stels, who had boarded Le Cappel as a couple, were now disembarking in Mauritius as a family on 8 November 1639 with a precious cargo including the first sugar cane plants and deer from Java !
Simon spent the first six years of his life on the Island and left for Batavia with his parents on 19 May 1645. His father was posted as governor of Ceylon in 1646 and fell to a gruesome death which Simon is said to have witnessed in the same year. His Mother and him went back to Batavia. He lost her at 13 and went to further his studies in Amsterdam for 7 years.
On 23 October 1663, Simon married Johanna Jacoba Six, he was described as "Simon van der Stel, of the island of Mauritius" (Bedaux, 1998). On 14th October 1679, 40 years after his birth in Mauritius, he is officially installed as the first Governor of the Dutch Cape colony. He was to hold this office for 20 years bringing an incommensurable contribution to the history and development of South Africa. For instance, he is the founder of Groot Constantia, the oldest wine producing estate in South Africa and maybe in the whole Southern hemisphere. He also founded Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa.
« Simon Van der Stel of the Island of Mauritius » passed away in 1712, he was buried in the Groote Kerk, the oldest Dutch reformed church edifice in South Africa. I had the opportunity to visit the place in 2014 and got emotional at the idea that my first fellow citizen, if I could put it that way, was resting under the pulpit of this beautiful church in Cape Town.
This mixed blooded, first Mauritian, standing out as such a great figure to the country who was to invent apartheid indicates that greatness does not depend on the colour of the skin but on industry, creativity, audacity and resilience before adversity.



As a South African with close ties to Mauritius (property and pleasure) I found this article very interesting. Did you know there is not a single picture, drawing or sketch of Simon van der Stell in existence in South Africa. It would be quite something if you could find something like that in Mauritius, either of him or his parents.
Keep well.
Magnus Heystek

Great feature,Alain Jeannot.

Extremely interesting as well as very informative.

If only moving picture documentaries could be made about these events.

Indeed that little dot in the ocean has a lot to tell the world.

Thank you very much for your comments MBCTV ,
You might want to read the other article I have written on Simon Van Der Stel