The Netherlands is known for its tolerance. The origin of this tolerance can be found in the Golden Age of the Netherlands. This is the time of regents and princes. The 17th century. But despite tolerance, the Dutch of the 17th century were not equal to each other. The social status was still unequal. This was already the case in the Middle Ages and in the 16th century. However, it was new that social status was now determined by income.
In the period of the Middle Ages, the clergy had much prestige and power. This wasn't the case anymore. Most of the power lay with the nobility and the merchants. Often noblemen went into trade and became merchants. Also some merchants bought a noble title. So we can count these two groups of people as one group.
After the nobility and merchants came the well-off bourgeoisy. This is an expensive name for high-profile citizens. These were often Protestant clergy, doctors, lawyers and senior civil servants. After the Dutch noblemen had freed themselves from the Spanish, they had founded their own republic. In this republic, it was increasingly common for people from the well-off citizenry to be chosen for administrative functions. Previously, only nobles were allowed to perform these functions. This was the beginning of civil administration.
The small self-employed were a step lower than the people of the well-off citizenry. These people often had their own business, which meant that they were slightly higher on the social ladder than, for example, workers or domestic workers. Yet the workers and domestic servants were always even more in esteem than the beggars or day laborers.
The most important people lived on the Amsterdam canal belt. This one was dug in the 16th century. In this period Amsterdam had become the most important trading city in the world. This was mainly due to the creation of the VOC. This was the Dutch trading company.
Thanks to this wealth, painters had plenty of work. One of the most important painters in Dutch history is Rembrandt van Rijn. He has lived and worked in Leiden and Amsterdam. His paintings are priceless these days. Yet he did not die rich. He led a life that was contrary to church regulations. As a result, fewer and fewer people wanted to buy paintings of him. He also chose to adapt his paintings to the wishes of his customers as little as possible. If he had, he might have died as rich as Mierevelt's. Van Mierevelt was a portrait painter. He painted the portraits of many wealthy merchants and noblemen. He was also a court painter at the Dutch court.
Nowadays, when we come across a portrait of an important person from the 17th century, it is usually painted by van Mierevelt. One of these important figures in history, for example, was Hugo the Great. Hugo de Groot was a legal scholar and writer. In 1613 he became the most important advisor to the city of Rotterdam. However, he remained for only 5 years, because in 1618 he was arrested by Prince Maurits of Nassau.
Maurits had led the rebellion against the Spaniards. But in 1618 there was a temporary peace. During this temporary peace another battle broke out in the Netherlands. Maurits was a Calvinist and wanted everyone in the republic to become a Calvinist. Hugo de Groot was Remonstrant. He was arrested for this and imprisoned. He was jailed for life at Lock Loevenstein. However, he only stayed here for 3 years. After three years, he escaped by hiding in a bookcase.