City Fathers and Council of Forty

City Fathers - Vroedschap

The vroedschap, the city fathers, were the regents who were interested in the city's welfare. Originally, it was a larger group than the Council of Forty (Veertigraad), but by Leeuwenhoek's time in Delft, the two terms referred to the same group.

Council of Forty - Veertigraad

The Council of Forty had the smartest, most honorable, and richest men (de weisten, treffelijksten en rijksten van de stadsbevolking) from regent families to help the sheriff and magistrates govern the city. Boitet's Beschrijving lists 539 men who served from 1476 to 1725. They met the Staduis's largest room, the magistrate's chamber (schepenencamer), the one for which Leeuwenhoek was camerbewaarder.

Fifteen of Leeuwenhoek's van den Berch and Hogenhouck relatives were members of the Council of Forty, including Abraham Maertens Hogenhouck (right; click to enlarge), his great-grandmother Neeltje's nephew. Adding the van der Dussen and van Adrichem families they married into doubles the number.

The Council of Forty used a co-option system. The remaining members voted to replace a departed member. This resulted in many seats continuously occupied by successive generations of a family. Typically, a young man born into a regent family would replace a father or older brother who died or, after the 1618 reorganization, turned the mandatory retirement age of 70. There was always a van der Dussen and almost always a Hogenhouck among the members.

After serving in some of the minor offices, some of young men would become magistrates. After some years, they might become mayors. I can find no record of any mayor who had not previously been a magistrate.

In a separate section (p. 93), Boitet specifies 25 men between 1521 and 1558 who occupied a city office, harbor master, magistrate, and once a treasurer, before a seat opened for them on the Council of Forty.

Who served?

A handful of family names occur repeatedly on Boitet's lists. In a town as small as Delft with an even smaller set of regent families mostly living along the same two grachts, the Oude Delft and Nieuwe Delft, there was a lot of intermarriage. The van Dussens had two branches, one Protestant, one Catholic. The names Berg/Burch/Berch are so variously spelled that the total here probably represents several distinct families. One of them was Leeuwenhoek's. His mother was a van den Berch and a Hogenhouck on her father's side, united by great-grandmother Neeltje Jans Hogenhouck.

Leeuwenhoek was descended from among the most distinguished, public-service minded families in Delft.

The totals below are numbers of appointments, not numbers of people. These families had many members involved in city government. These members also tended to be appointed to more offices.

Between three and four hundred appointments:

  • van der Dussen
  • van Bleiswijk

Leeuwenhoek's van den Berch relatives and their relationship to Neeltje Jans Hogenhouck


Sebastiaan Cornelis great-grandfather husband
Jacob Sebastiaans grandfather son
Maarten Sebastiaans great-uncle son

Between two and three hundred:

  • van den Berch/Berg/Burch
  • Meerman
  • van der Meer

Between one and two hundred

  • van Santen/Zanten
  • van Groenewegen
  • Graswinkel
  • van Lodensteijn
  • Hogenhouck

Leeuwenhoek's Hogenhouck relatives and their relationship to Neeltje Jans


Jan Jacobsz - great-great-grandfather, Neeltje's father
Maarten Jansz - Neeltje's brother
Adriaan Maartensz - Neeltje's nephew
Jacob Maartensz - Neeltje's nephew
Abraham Maartensz - Neeltje's nephew
Cornelis Maartensz - Neeltje's nephew
Pieter Abrahamsz - Neeltje's nephew's son
Jacob Cornelisz - Neeltje's nephew's son
Maarten Pietersz - Neeltje's nephew's son

Between fifty and one hundred

  • van Diemen
  • Boogaert
  • Goes
  • van der Graaf
  • Duijst van Voorhout
  • Sasbout
  • Heemskerk van Beest
  • Aa
  • Pauw
  • Storm
  • Faillie

Other families related to Leeuwenhoek:

  • van Adrichem, 76 appointments
  • Uitenbroek, 37
  • van der Eijck, 20