Online Dictionary of Dutch Women

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TURENNE, Maria Jacoba de (born The Hague 1666? – buried Maastricht, 8 June 1736), disguised as a man, she enlisted in the States army and attempted to murder her fiancé. Nothing is known about her parents. She married (1) Jacob Nijpels (1666-1697), soldier, on 21 February 1690 before magistrates in Maastricht; (2) Simon Nijpels (died 1716), brewer and wine merchant, on 8 January 1698. She had 2 sons and 3 daughters by her first husband, and 1 daughter and 1 son by her second husband.

Soldier De Turenne

The remarkable life of Maria Jacoba de Turenne is known from the court records connected with the crime of passion she committed in 1689 in Maastricht. Maria must have become acquainted with Jacob Nijpels of Maastricht, a soldier in the States army, around 1688 in The Hague. The couple became engaged, but Jacob soon left with his company for the Southern Netherlands. When Maria, left behind in The Hague, heard that Jacob was associating with women of ill repute, she broke off their engagement and tore up Jacob’s written promise of marriage. Not long after this, Jacob gave her another written pledge. After Jacob deflowered her in the Haagse Bos, the wood just outside The Hague, Maria maintained that she could no longer show her face at home. Jacob advised her to enlist in the States army, disguised as a man, so that she could join him. She was revealed to be a woman, however, and sent to the ‘spinhuis’ (the female house of correction) as punishment for her deception. There she was recognised by two gentlewomen of Hoorn, who apparently put in a good word for her, since she was released three days later. She made five more attempts to enlist as a soldier, but each time she was discovered and dismissed. The last time was in Sluis, in the summer of 1689. This time it was Willem Adriaan, Count of Hornes – then commander of Sluis – and his wife who recognised Maria. It is unclear whether this couple was related to the gentlewomen of Hoorn, and nothing is known about Maria’s relationship to them.

The attempted murder

In November 1689, Maria Jacoba de Turenne turned up in Maastricht. She was pregnant and had travelled in search of Jacob, then stationed in Maastricht, to demand that he marry her. Her trump card, she thought, was Jacob’s written promise of marriage, but Jacob refused to honour his pledge. Maria tried in vain to win her case in both magistrates’ court and the court martial in Maastricht, since Jacob was a soldier and therefore subject to military discipline. On 2 November 1689, Maria – at her wits’ end – put a pistol to Jacob’s chest. When the pistol backfired, she stabbed him several times with a knife, inflicting serious wounds. Maria was imprisoned in the Dinghuis.

A strange legal situation now arose: Maria was tried for attempted murder, but at the same time she brought a civil suit against Jacob for deflowering her and refusing to honour his pledge of marriage. Maria won the latter case, and so the accused – still in remand – married her victim on 2 February 1690. While in custody, she gave birth to her first child, a boy. On 2 September 1690, she was sentenced by the magistrates of the High Court of Brabant to six years in prison. She lodged an appeal with the Commissarissen Deciseurs (official arbiters) of Brabant, which was highly unusual, because at that time the criminal justice system did not allow an appeal in cases in which the accused had confessed to the crime. Maria won her case, however: her sentence was revoked and on 30 September 1690 she was acquitted. The ten months she had spent in prison were considered sufficient punishment for her indiscretion. Maria and Jacob swore to behave in future as exemplary spouses.

Maria’s life in Maastricht

Maria and Jacob’s marriage was reconfirmed on 12 November 1690 in the Roman Catholic Church of St Nicholas in Maastricht. The court records show that Maria Jacoba had originally been an adherent of the ‘reformed religion’. Evidently she had meanwhile converted to Catholicism. She and Jacob lived in a house in ‘Achter het Vleeschhuys’. Later they and their children occupied half of ‘De Hollandtsche Tuyn’, a house situated behind the Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk (Church of Our Lady), where Jacob probably worked as a brewer. Maria and Jacob had another son and three daughters. After Jacob’s death in 1697, Maria Jacoba received dispensation to marry Simon Nijpels, a relative of her late husband. In 1703 Maria and Simon, a brewer and wine merchant, bought the other half of ‘De Hollandtsche Tuyn’. With Simon, Maria had two more children: a son and a daughter. Simon Nijpels died in 1716; Maria lived another twenty years. She was buried in the Church of St Nicholas in Maastricht on 8 June 1736.

A remarkable woman

At the end of the nineteenth century, Maria Jacoba de Turenne became famous as a heroic woman who had helped to defend her country as a soldier. This image was created by F.A. Hoefer, who included her in his overview Nederlandsche vrouwen in dienst van Mars(1888). Hoefer’s source was a notarial act from 1689, which had just been published in De Navorscher. This document contained the testimony of witnesses who declared that Maria Jacoba de Turenne had enlisted in the States army disguised as a man. Hoefer knew nothing of the circumstances in which this document had been drawn up, nor had he done any research into the matter. Thus Maria Jacoba de Turenne went down in history as a female soldier who had bravely defended her country. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. She dressed as a man and enlisted as a soldier in order to follow her beloved. It was only after giving up her disguise that she actually reached for her weapons. This recently published ‘crime passionnel’ (Volbeda, 2005) gives a completely new twist to the story of this female patriot in men’s clothing.


  • Haags Gemeentearchief: Archief van Notarissen te 's-Gravenhage, beheersnummer 372, 906, September 1689.
  • Gemeentearchief Maastricht: Archief van de Brabantse Commissarissen Deciseurs, inv.nrs, 742 (1689/90), 743 (1689/90) and part 32; Brabants Hoge Gerecht, 6457, Gichten 20 December 1703; Visitatieboek van de St. Nicolaas Parochie 1691.


  • A.J. Servaas van Rooijen, ‘Vrouwen als soldaten’, De Navorscher 38 (Nijmegen 1888) 12.
  • F.A. Hoefer, Nederlandsche vrouwen in dienst van Mars (Rotterdam 1888) 36.
  • H. Ringoir, Hoofdofficieren der infanterie van 1568 tot 1813 (The Hague 1981).
  • Dick Wortel, Tussen eer en gerecht. Over het gebruik van het travestiethema in proza, poëzie en drama in de achttiende eeuw (Eigen beheer 1988) [Text of a lecture at the Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicografie in Leiden, Thursday 4-2-1988].
  • R. Dekker and L. van de Pol, Vrouwen in mannenkleren. De geschiedenis van een tegendraadse traditie. Europa 1500–1800 (Amsterdam 1989) 156.
  • M.J. Volbeda, Maria Jacoba de Turenne. Een jonge vrouw ‘gedesguiseert in mans cleederen’ in het Staatse leger 1688-1689 (Utrecht 2005) [Unpublished MA thesis Universiteit Utrecht].


The knife De Turenne used to stab Jacob Nijpels (Gemeentearchief Maastricht, photo: Marja Volbeda).

Author: Marja Volbeda

last updated: 13/01/2014