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Piet Pieterszoon Hein

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Title: Piet Pieterszoon Hein  
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Subject: Battle in the Bay of Matanzas, Capture of Bahia, List of privateers, Privateer, 1628
Collection: 1577 Births, 1629 Deaths, 16Th-Century Dutch People, 17Th-Century Dutch Military Personnel, 17Th-Century Dutch People, Admirals of the Navy of the Dutch Republic, Burials at the Oude Kerk, Delft, Dutch Folklore, Dutch Military Personnel Killed in Action, Dutch People of the Eighty Years' War (United Provinces), Naval Commanders of the Eighty Years' War, People Associated with the Dutch West India Company, People from Rotterdam, People of the Dutch Golden Age, People of the Dutch–portuguese War, Privateers
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Piet Pieterszoon Hein

For the Danish mathematician and poet, see Piet Hein (scientist).
Piet Pieterszoon Hein
— Pirate —
1629 copy after a lost 1625 original by Jan Daemen Cool
Born (1577-11-25)25 November 1577
Place of birth Delfshaven, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died 18 June 1629(1629-06-18) (aged 51)

Pieter Pietersen Heyn (Hein) (25 November 1577 – 18 June 1629) was a Dutch admiral and privateer for the Dutch Republic during the Eighty Years' War between the United Provinces and Spain.


  • Early life 1
  • Spanish treasure fleet 2
  • Lieutenant-Admiral 3
  • Commemoration 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8

Early life

Hein was born in Delfshaven (now part of Rotterdam), the son of a sea captain, and he became a sailor while he was still a teenager. In his twenties, he was captured by the Spanish, and served as a galley slave for about four years, probably between 1598 and 1602, when he was traded for Spanish prisoners. Between 1603 and 1607 he was again held captive by the Spanish, when captured near Cuba.

In 1607, he joined the Dutch East India Company and left for Asia, returning with the rank of captain (of the Hollandia) five years later. He married Anneke Claesdochter de Reus and settled in Rotterdam. In 1618, when he was captain of the Neptunus, both he and his ship were pressed into service by Venice. In 1621 he left his vessel behind and traveled overland to the Netherlands. For a year in 1622 he was a member of the local government of Rotterdam, although he didn't even have citizenship of this city: the cousin of his wife, one of the three burgomasters, made this possible.

In 1623, he became vice-

  • J.C.M. Warnsick (1938). Drie zeventiende-eeuwsche admiraals. Piet Heyn, Witte de With, Jan Evertsen. van Kampen. 
  • R. Prud'Homme Van Reine (2003). Admiraal Zilvervloot – Biografie van Piet Hein. De Arbeiderspers. 


  1. ^ Prud'Homme, p.69
  2. ^ Prud'Homme, p.85


  • Piet Hein, Dutch Admiral – Timeline
  • Isle of Tortuga

External links

See also

A song praising Admiral Hein's capture of the Spanish "silver fleet" written in 1844 is still sung by choirs and children at primary school in the Netherlands.

A direct descendant of Hein was Piet Hein, a famous 20th century Danish mathematician, physicist and poet.

The Piet Hein Tunnel in Amsterdam is named in his honor, as is the former Dutch Kortenaer class frigate, Hr. Ms. Piet Heyn.


He became, after a conflict with the WIC about policy and payment, Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland and West Frisia on 26 March 1629, and thus factual supreme commander of the confederate Dutch fleet, taking as flag captain Maarten Tromp. He died the same year, in a campaign against the Dunkirkers, the highly effective fleet of Habsburg commerce raiders and privateers operating from Dunkirk. As it happened his flotilla intercepted three privateers from Ostend. He deliberately moved his flagship in between two enemy ships to give them both simultaneous broadsides. After half an hour he was hit in the left shoulder by a cannonball and was killed instantly. He is buried in the Oude Kerk in Delft.


As a result, the money funded the Dutch army for eight months (and as a direct consequence, allowing it to capture the fortress 's-Hertogenbosch), and the shareholders enjoyed a cash dividend of 50% for that year. Hein returned to the Netherlands in 1629, where he was hailed as a hero. Watching the crowds cheering him as he stood on the balcony of the town hall of Leyden he remarked to the burgomaster: "Now they praise me because I gained riches without the least danger; but earlier when I risked my life in full combat they didn't even know I existed...". Hein was the first and the last to capture such a large part of a Spanish "silver fleet" from America.

After some musket volleys from Dutch sloops the crews of the galleons also surrendered and Hein captured 11,509,524 guilders of booty in gold, silver, and other expensive trade goods, such as indigo and cochineal, without any bloodshed. The Dutch didn't take prisoners: they gave the Spanish crews ample supplies for a march to Havana. The released were surprised to hear the admiral personally giving them directions in fluent Spanish; Hein after all was well acquainted with the region as he had been confined to it during his internment after 1603. The capture of the treasure fleet was the company's greatest victory in the Caribbean.

In 1628, Admiral Hein, with Witte de With as his flag captain, sailed out to capture a Spanish treasure fleet loaded with silver from their American colonies and the Philippines. With him was Admiral Hendrick Lonck and he was later joined by a squadron of Vice-Admiral Joost Banckert, as well as by the pirate Moses Cohen Henriques. Part of the Spanish fleet in Venezuela had been warned because a Dutch cabin boy had lost his way on Blanquilla and was captured, betraying the plan, but the other half from Mexico continued its voyage, unaware of the threat. Sixteen Spanish ships were intercepted; one galleon was taken after a surprise encounter during the night, nine smaller merchants were talked into a surrender; two small ships were taken at sea fleeing, four fleeing galleons were trapped on the Cuban coast in the Bay of Matanzas.

Spanish treasure fleet

Modern historians today often classify Hein as a pirate, though he was more properly a privateer; the Dutch Republic was locked in mortal combat with the Habsburgs and Hein was among the most successful and famous commanders it employed during the Eighty Years' War. While many privateers behaved no better than common pirates, Hein was a strict disciplinarian who discouraged unruly conduct among his crews and had rather enlightened views for the times about "Indian" tribes, slaves and members of other religions. Also, he never was an individual privateer but rather commanded entire fleets of warships.

In subsequent raids during 1627 at Salvador, he attacked and captured over thirty richly laden Portuguese merchant ships before returning to the United Provinces. [2]

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