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Jancko Douwes Douwama (1482 - 1533)

Jancko Douwama was a Frisian nobleman that fought to free Friesland from foreign rule.

Born in 1482 near Oldeboorn, Friesland, the son of the chieftain Douwe Douwama and his wife Riem Eesckes. Married to Teth Luersma.

Jancko Douwama and his third cousin, Pier Gerlofs Donia (Greate Pier) are considered the heroes of Friese freedom. Jancko Douwama lived in much troubled times during the final stages of a civil war in Friesland between the monastical factions called the Schieringers and the Vetkopers. The Schieringers employed the assistance of the Saxon ruler Albrecht in 1498 gaining the upper hand over the Vetkopers. Douwama a supporter of the Vetkopers then began his fight against the Saxon overlord. He did this firstly from Groningen, where his wife came from and where he has also had lived. In 1502 he returned to Friesland and recognized duke Albrecht in 1504 as its lord. Following the assassination of Albrecht in 1512 by the Vetkopers he escaped to Gelre and became employed by Duke Karel of Gelre (Charles Duke of Guelders). Karel had long held plans to conquer Friesland.

In 1514 Douwama was leader of Karel’s Gelder army that invaded Friesland. In 1517 disagreements between the Duke of Gelre and Jancko concerning the planning of the governing board of Friesland, and Gelre refusing to recognize Douwama as hereditary-lord eventually led to Jancko changing allegiances. In 1521 Jancko swore an oath of allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the arch-enemy of the Duke of Gelre. The Frisians chose Jancko Douwama as their imperial stadtholder in 1522.

The emperor Charles V, however, suspected that Jancko was an infiltrator for the Gelderse and in 1523 Jancko was locked up in castle Vilvoorde, Belgium, where he died in 1533.
Whilst imprisoned in castle Vilvoorde Jancko wrote his memoirs, titled the 'Boeck der Partijen' (Book of the Parties) which is considered one of the oldest written autobiographies, (1). The historical essay discusses the origins of the discord between the waring parties in Friesland and of the activities of the author followed by a refutation of the charge of treason against the author.
The memoirs gives Jancko's definition of the terms 'Schieringers' and 'Vetkopers'; 'Vetkopers (fatbuyers) were so called because they had much and could buy fat products. Then the poor adopted the name `Schieringers' because they had tried firstly discussion rather then violence. Because 'schieren' in Fries means the same as `speak'. 'Schiering' mean 'tale' and 'Schieringen' means 'much beautiful words' (2).

(1) Egodocuments, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
(2) 'Boeck der Partijen' (Book of the Parties), Jancko Douwama

Source: Part translation from *book review written in Dutch by Drs. W. Pelt, Lange Dreef 57, 2285 KA Rijswijk

*Een man van eer: Bloemlezing uít 'Jancko Douwama's Geschriften' , Uit het Nederduits vertaald, ingeleid en geannoteerd door Martha Kist en Harmen Wind, (Hilversum, Verloren 2003) ISBN 90-6550-769-8.

Owner of originalPart translation from *book review written in Dutch by Drs. W. Pelt, Lange Dreef 57, 2285 KA Rijswijk
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