15 February 2008

Did Willem Van Dort marry a Kandian Princess?

There is no records that would conclusively prove there being any truth in what my Grandfather, Aelian Van Dort mentioned about his parents background. His father, Willem Van Dort is said to have married the daughter of a deposed King of Kandy. Her name is Christine Botaju.

In trying to establish a corresponding time chart to at the least see if at all, such a claim is possible, I have perused several accounts of the Kandian History that was contemporary of Willem Van Dort’s life period.

Willem's known biodata

Willem Van Dort was born on 14-Mar-1833, died: ? unspecified/unrecorded.

Willem's first child , William was born in 1856. Hence Willem fathered his first born at around the age of 23.

My Grandpa Aelian the last of his children was born on 13-Aug-1880. That would indicate that Willem was 47 years old at Grandpa's birth.

Kandian Kings

Kandy Independence from foreign rule (1591-1815)

Vimala Dharma Surya I (1591-1604)
Senarat (1604-1635)
Rajasinha (1635-1687)
Vimala Dharma Surya II (1687-1707)
Narendra Sinha (1707-1739)
Sri Vijaya Rajasinha (1739-1747)
Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1763)
To the Netherlands (1763)
Kirti Sri Rajasinha (restored) (1763-1782)
Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782-1798)
Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815)

Brief Kandian Royal History

The Kandyan kingdom comprising the highlands of Lanka was ruled by a native king throughout its long period beginning from the Sinhalese dynasty namely from 543 BC up to 1815 AD exactly 2358 years.

On 15th February 1796 the British conquered the Maritime Provinces from the Dutch, who conceded power without much fighting.

On September, 20 1804 Capt. Johnston set out from Batticaloa with a military column of 200 troops and reached Kandy on 6th Oct. 1804. There he burned the Palace of Kundasale.

Governor North realised that although the British were well organised and well trained in the art of war the Kandyans were well fortified by their natural defences. The Kingdom was a country of forests, high mountains, rocks and rivers which barred attempts at invasion of the Kandyan Kingdom for centuries.

The jealousies and rivalries among Sinhalese Chiefs kept the Nayakkars in power. Pilimatalauwe, the most powerful Chief plotted against the cruel and despotic King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and brought about a war between the British and the Kandyan Kingdom. The opportunity to declare war against the Kandyan Kingdom arose when a number of Muslim Traders from the Maritime provinces who had come to barter their ware were brutally treated as spies, beaten up and mutilated before they were sent back empty handed. At the same time Kandyan villagers had set fire to a village under the British.

The British started to make extensive preparations for the invasion of the King’s dominion with the assistance of Ehelepola. The principal reasons stated for the invasion were the alleged tyranny of the king and his unwillingness to enter into any terms with the British.

The king, finding the situation hopeless, abandoned the capital and fled to Medamaha-Nuwara, where he took refuge in a house of a peasant. King Sri Vikrama Raja Singha was captured and taken prisoner with his Queen Venkata angammal.

On Mar 2, 1815, Lanka was ceded to the British under a treaty called the Kandyan Convention. With Sri Vikrama Raja Singha ended, not only the last vestige of national freedom but also a civilization based on an entire and unique ethno-religious social philosophy, which our forefathers, with their toil, sweat, blood, and tears, had protected for 2,358 years. The downfall of the Sinhala Kingdom was mainly caused by the disunity of the people themselves. The Lion Flag which King Vijaya had planted in 544 BC was finally handed down.

The King was taken to Colombo on Mar 6, 1815, where he remained until Jan 24, 1816, when he and all his relatives, dependents, and adherents, amounting about 100 individuals, were transferred to India. They were first sent to Madras and finally to the fort of Vellore, where Sri Vikrama Raja Sinha died of dropsy on Jan 30, 1832, aged 52 years. The ex-king’s body was cremated and ashes were floated down the river. The king had ruled for seventeen years.

The fall of the Kandyan Kingdom on the signing of the Convention on 2nd March 1815 completely erased the last lingering vestiges of Sinhalese Sovereignty which the Kandyan chiefs never dreamt of taking place.

The only case of an indigenous kinglet was the fate of the (Ceylonese) King of Kandy: after British forces finally defeated him in 1815, he and his entourage were wisked off to Vellore, Tamil Nadu, where he basically lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity on a government pension.

In another passage about King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, after he was captured, Sir John D'Oyly, who was appointed Resident of the newly acquired Kandyan Province on 2nd March 1815 had this to relate:  

After his capture king Sri Wickremarajasinghe had been greatly agitated fearing for his life and about the disgrace and abuse that may be caused to his queens and other young ladies of the royal family. This morning the king again desired to see me and formally presented to me his mother and his 4 queens, and successively placing their hands in mine, committed them to my charge and protection.

These female relatives who have no participation in his crimes, are certainly deserving of our commiseration and particularly the aged mother who appears inconsolable, and I hear she has been almost constantly in tears since the captivity of her son.

They had been alarmed by idle reports amongst other things that violent measures would be adopted against the king and his relatives subjected to disgrace and ill-treatment.

I ventured to assure them of their personal protection under Your Excellency's government and that no outrage would be committed against the life or person of the king.

The last King of Kandy was removed of all his power in 1815. Willem Van Dort was born in 1833. That denotes an interval of 18 years from the last King till the time that Willem was born.

At the age of 23 in 1856, Willem had his first child. The difference in years between 1856 and 1815 is 41 years.

The time frame supports the probability that the last Kandian King, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, although he was deposed and exiled by the British in 1815, he could have fathered more children preceding Willem's year of birth in 1833 or soon after 1833. There could possibly have been a girl child from his Royal family at a marriagble age for Willem.

Understandably, all the above is mere conjecture and there is no evidence to support. It may be argued that whatever my Grandfather about his mother being a Princess could be mere coincidence against history's time frame.

Separately, I have held discussions with Sri Lankan friends about this. They inform me that the name Boteju/Botaju is not a Royal Ceylonese name. It is possible that she
could have changed her royal family name in order to avoid being identified with her 
despotic and cruel King father amongst the natives as well as the British colonial masters.

Furthermore, they also advised me that in lieu of the protracted ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, no Sri Lankan would support anyone making claims or enquiring into the past Royal connections simply because towards the end of the Sri Lankan History of Kings and Queens, they were not of Ceylon citizenry but were from Southern India who wrested control in Ceylon and rose from regional chieftains to become Kings or Queens.

E & OE


Jasia said...

Thank you for submitting your article to the Carnival of Genealogy. It's a great article! It doesn't fit with our current topic but I will keep it on file and include it in the next Carousel editon (potpourri). I just know you will have many interested readers!

myvandort@gmail.com said...

Hi Jasia,

Whoops! perhaps I misunderstood what the Carnival of Genealogy is all about.
No harm done really.
Wish you all the best.