From the Life of King Gorilla

The Dutch King William III (r. 1849-1890) was not the most subtle of personalities. In 1887, not long before the monarch’s seventieth birthday, he was targeted in the pamphlet From the Life of King Gorilla, which scourned his violence, his alcoholism, his visits to brothels and his generally rude, boorish behaviour. Although the pamphlet was published anonymously, its author was later revealed to be the socialist Sicco Roorda van Eysinga, who advocated the abolition of the monarchy.

The libel did well, selling tens of thousands of copies within weeks, but also ignited an “Orange fury” by staunch monarchists. A few years later, after William’s death, another critic published a design for a statue in honour of King Gorilla, depicting him as a crowned ape with a struggling woman in one hand and a bottle of booze in the other.


• Dennis Bos, Willem III, Koning Gorilla (Soesterberg 2002)

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