Museum BronbeekThe temporary display of the saber at Museum Bronbeek
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 10:29
A saber of the Indonesian resistance hero Diponegoro lay unseen in Het Loo Palace for decades. Until recently, virtually no one knew that the weapon in the palace is a special object of a man who has a legendary reputation in Indonesia as a fighter against Dutch colonial rule.
The expectation is now that Indonesia, which requested the return of a large collection of looted art last year, wants the saber back.
Dutch researchers have determined the origin of the weapon, they report today in NRC. A letter from 1956 offering the weapon for sale prompted their search. That letter was written by relatives of General Hendrik Merkus de Kock, the man who arrested Diponegoro in 1830 and put an end to the Java War. His descendants offered the saber for sale as the Diponegoro saber to the Bronbeek museum, which specializes in the military history of the Netherlands during the Dutch East Indies.
The researchers recently came across that letter in the archives of the Bronbeek Museum. “We did not have the saber in our collection, and we did not know where it was,” says researcher Pauljac Verhoeven in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “We immediately started looking.”
Diponegoro has been declared a national hero. For many Indonesians, his weapons contain the soul – the pusaka – of Diponegoro.
Researcher Pauljac Verhoeven
The museum never purchased the sabre; there was no money for that. But a saber that has been in Paleis Het Loo for years and was known as “De Kock’s coat of arms” turns out to be the saber of Diponegoro.
De Kock and his descendants carried the coat of arms for years after the conquest. “Like countless soldiers over the centuries, he kept the weapon of his main opponent as a memento of victory. It may also have been a kind of tribute to Diponegoro,” says researcher John Klein Nagelvoort.
The coat of arms was loaned to Paleis Het Loo by De Kock’s family in 1974 and later sold. Verhoeven says that no one made the link with Diponegoro’s saber, although the saber was presented to Bronbeek in 1956.
Het Loo Palace CollectionThe saber of Diponegoro
The fact that the origin of the saber was not recognized for so long is partly due to the special appearance of the weapon. The Indonesian saber was converted into a Dutch naval saber after its conquest. “You can’t tell that it is an Indonesian saber, you only see that when you take it out of the sheath,” says Verhoeven.
Verhoeven thinks there is a good chance that Indonesia will ask for the saber back. “Diponegoro has been declared a national hero, a kind of William of Orange in Indonesia. For many Indonesians, his weapons contain the soul – the pusaka – of Diponegoro.”
Paleis Het Loo informed the Indonesian embassy before announcing the rediscovery, the palace told NOS. Indonesia has not yet responded.