A+ A A-

The Black Tulip

by Alexandre Dumas 
A deceptively simple story and the shortest of Dumas's most famous novels, The Black Tulip (1850) weaves historical events surrounding a brutal murder into a tale of romantic love. Set in Holland in 1672, this timeless political allegory draws on the violence and crimes of history, making a case against tyranny and creating a symbol of justice and tolerance: the fateful tulipa negra.

The Black Tulip is a historical novel written by Alexandre Dumas, père.

The story begins with a historical event — the 1672 lynching of the Dutch Grand Pensionary (roughly equivalent to a modern Prime Minister) Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis, by a wild mob of their own countrymen — considered by many as one of the most painful episodes in Dutch history, described by Dumas with a dramatic intensity.

The main plot line, involving fictional characters, takes place in the following eighteen months; only gradually does the reader understand its connection with the killing of the de Witt brothers.

The city of Haarlem, Netherlands has set a prize of 100,000 guilders to the person who can grow a black tulip, sparking competition between the country's best gardeners to win the money, honour and fame. The young and bourgeois Cornelius van Baerle has almost succeeded, but is suddenly thrown into the Loevestein prison. There he meets the prison guard's beautiful daughter Rosa, who will be his comfort and help, and at last his rescuer.

The novel was originally published in three volumes in 1850 as La Tulipe Noire by Baudry (Paris).


William, Prince of Orange, afterward William III. King of England.

Louis XIV, King of France.

Cornelius de Witt, inspector of dikes at the Hague.

Johan de Witt, his brother, Grand Pensionary of Holland.

Colonel van Deeken, aide-de-camp to William of Orange.

Dr. Cornelius van Baerle, a tulip-fancier, godson of Cornelius de Witt.

Mynheer Isaac Boxtel, his rival.

Marquis de Louvois.

Count Tilly, Captain of the Cavalry of the Hague.

Mynheer Bowelt, deputy.

Mynheer d'Asperen, deputy.

The Recorder of the States.

Master van Spenser, a magistrate at Dort.

Tyckalaer, a surgeon at the Hague.

Gerard Dow.

Mynheer van Systens, Burgomaster of Haarlem and President of its Horticultural Society.

Craeke, a confidential servant of John de Witt.

Gryphus, a jailer. Rosa, his daughter, in love with Cornelius van Baerle.


back to top