Frederick Coyett

Frederick Coyett

Bust of Coyett in Tainan
12th Governor of Formosa
In office
30 June 1656  1 February 1662
Preceded by Cornelis Caesar
Succeeded by none
14th Opperhoofd at Dejima
In office
4 November 1652  10 November 1653
9th Opperhoofd at Dejima
In office
3 November 1647  9 December 1648
Personal details
Born c. 1615
Stockholm, Swedish Empire
Died 17 October 1687
Amsterdam, Dutch Republic
Nationality Swedish
Spouse(s) Susanna Boudaens (1645–1656)
Helena de Sterke (1658–?)[1]
Children Balthasar Coyett

Frederick Coyett (Chinese: 揆一; pinyin: Kuíyī; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kûi-it), born in Stockholm c. 1615, buried in Amsterdam on 17 October 1687, was a Swedish nobleman and the last colonial governor for the Dutch colony of Formosa. He was the first Swede to travel to Japan and China and became the last governor of Dutch-occupied Taiwan (1656–1662).


In common with many people of the time, Coyett's name was spelled differently at different times and by different people. Frederick could also be Fredrik or Fredrick, and Coyett was also spelled Coyet, Coignet or Coijet.

Early career

It is supposed Coyett was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in a family with Dutch/Flemish roots. His father, a goldsmith, died in 1634 in Moscow. Peter Julius Coyet was his brother. From 1647 (?) he worked for the Dutch East India Company. Coyett served twice as the VOC Opperhoofden in Japan,[2] serving as the chief officer in Dejima first between 3 November 1647 and 9 December 1648[3] and then between 4 November 1652 and 10 November 1653.


Frederick Coyett was the brother-in-law of François Caron, both involved in releasing ten Dutch prisoners. Their discussion centered on the Nambu affair of 1643, when the skipper Hendrick Cornelisz Schaep and nine members of the crew of the Breskens were captured in Yamada in Iwate Prefecture.

The Breskens and her sister ship the Castricum (under Maarten Gerritsz Vries) had been sent by order of the Governor General in the Dutch East Indies, Anthonio van Diemen, to search for the Gold and Silver Islands that were said to lie somewhere northeast off the coast of Japan. They were also to investigate a route to northern Asia. In June 1643 the Breskens, which had been separated from the Castricum in a storm, entered the bay of Yamada in Nanbu domain in the northeast of Honshu. While searching for fresh water and food, ten crewmembers under Captain Schaep were apprehended and brought to the domain capital of Morioka. They were later sent to Edo.

Unhappily for the Breskens’ crew, a group of four Jesuits intent on infiltrating into Japan had been caught at around the same time in a different part of Japan. As a result, bakufu officials were extremely anxious about the problem of coastal defenses. However after it was understood that the crew were Dutch and not Catholics, bakufu fears were calmed and the problem to be solved became one of deciding by which procedure the Dutch should be released.[4]

Governor of Formosa

Coyett is mostly known as the last Dutch East India Company ( Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC ) governor of Taiwan.

On 10 February 1662 he was forced to surrender Fort Zeelandia after a nine-month siege from a large Chinese force of 25,000 men and 1,000 ships under Koxinga.[5] Coyett said that Chinese were "little better than poor specimens of very effeminate men", when he believed that there was no plan to invade Taiwan. The Dutch then changed their tune to "Formosa is lost." once the invasion was underway.[6] With his army decisively crushed by the Chinese under Koxinga, Coyett left Taiwan after Siege of Fort Zeelandia with enough supply to reach Batavia. After three years imprisonment he was tried for High treason, due to his failure to hold Taiwan or preserve vital commercial interests. Coyett was pardoned and exiled to Rosengain, the most eastern of the Banda Islands, before he was released in 1674. In 1684 he bought a house on Keizersgracht, on a spot where the Hemony brothers used to have their foundry.

Coyett's son Balthasar Coyett, born to his first wife Susanna Boudaens in 1650, followed his father into service with the Dutch East India Company, eventually rising to become the Governor of Ambon.[7]

Published works

In 1675 he published Neglected Formosa (Dutch: 't Verwaerloosde Formosa). In the book he accused the Dutch East India Company of ignorance and refusing to send backup, which caused him to lose Taiwan.

See also


  1. "Coyett, Frederik" (in Dutch). Nieuw Nederlandsch biografisch woordenboek (New Dutch Biographical Dictionary).
  2. "Nederlanders in Japan" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  3. Historigraphical Institute (Shiryō hensan-jo), University of Tokyo, "Diary of Frederick Coyet"; retrieved 2013-2-1.
  6. Macabe Keliher, Yonghe Yu (2003). Out of China or Yu Yonghe's tale of Formosa: a history of seventeenth-century Taiwan (illustrated ed.). SMC Pub. p. 55. ISBN 957-638-608-X. Retrieved Dec 20, 2011. Coyett, declaring the news of an attack unfounded, and the Chinese soldiers "little better than poor specimens of very effeminate men." However, when Zheng and his epicine soldiers' ineluctable invasion became clear to the Dutch, the Batavia Council, and even the administrators in Holland, began to cry that "Formosa is lost."
  7. "Indonesia".


Political offices
Preceded by
Willem Verstegen
Opperhoofd at Dejima
3 November 1647 – 9 December 1648
Succeeded by
Dircq Snoecq
Preceded by
Adriaen van der Burgh
Opperhoofd at Dejima
4 November 1652 – 10 November 1653
Succeeded by
Gabriel Happart
Preceded by
Cornelis Caesar
Governor of Formosa
Colony surrendered
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