Riebeeck was born in Culemborg in the Netherlands as the son of a surgeon. He
grew up in Schiedam,
he married 19 year old Maria
la Quellerie on
28 March 1649. (She died in Malacca,
part of Malaysia,
2 November 1664, at the age of 35). The couple had eight children,
most of whom did not survive infancy. Their son Abraham
Riebeeck, born at the Cape, later became Governor-General of
the Dutch East Indies.
India Company (VOC)
in 1639, he served in a number of posts, including that of an assistant
surgeon in the Batavia in the East
Indies. He subsequently visited Japan.
most important position was that of head of the VOC trading post in Tonkin, Vietnam.
he was called back from this post as it was discovered that he
was conducting trade for his own account.
he was requested to undertake the command of the initial Dutch
settlement in the future South
Africa. He landed three ships Drommedaris, Reijger and Goede Hoop at the future Cape
Town on 6 April
1652 and fortified the site as a way-station for the VOC trade route
between the Netherlands and the East Indies. The Walvisch and the Oliphant arrived later, having had
130 burials at sea. Van Riebeeck was Commander of the Cape from 1652 to 1662; he was charged
with building a fort, with improving the natural anchorage at Table
Bay, planting fruit and vegetables and obtaining livestock from the
indigenous Khoi people. In the Kirstenbosch
National Botanical Garden in
Cape Town there is a wild almond hedge still surviving that
was planted on his orders as a barrier. The initial fort, named Fort
Goede Hoop ('Fort
of Good Hope') was made of mud, clay and timber, and had four corners
or bastions. This first fort should not be confused with Redout
Duijnhoop or the Cape
Castle. The Castle, built between 1666 and 1679, several years
after Van Riebeeck's departure, has five bastions and is made of brick,
stone and cement.
Riebeeck reported the first comet discovered from South
Y1, which was spotted on December 17, 1652.
in Batavia (now renamed Jakarta)
the island of Java in 1677.
Riebeeck is of cultural and historical significance in South
Africa among many
of the Afrikaner population, who view him as
father of their
nation. This regard was also prevalent in that his image appeared
ubiquitously on stamps and the South
African currency from
the 1940s up until 1993 when the South
Reserve Bank changed
currency to an apolitical design of the fauna and flora of the region. 6 April
used to be known as Van
Day, and later as Founder's Day but the holiday was
abolished by the ANC government after the democratic elections of 1994.
His image no longer features on any official currency or stamps, but
statues of him and his wife remain standing in Adderley Street, Cape
towns and villages these days still have streets named after him. The
coat of arms of the city of Cape
Town is based on
the Van Riebeeck family coat of arms.