Between 1672 and 1678, the European continent lived on the impact of the Franco-Dutch War, which in 6 years and 5 months killed about 350,000 people. During this conflict, the Dutch Republic received support from the “Holy” Roman Empire, Spain and Brandenburg, Prussia.
In contrast, England, the Episcopal Principality of Münster (Prince-Bishopric of Münster) and Cologne supported the French between 1672 and 1674.
This war witnessed a unique event in 1672. During that period, the Bishop of Münster Christoph Bernhard von Galen did not hesitate to use chemical weapons against the Dutch, creating a state of panic among the various parties involved in the Franco-Dutch War.
Painting of Christoph Bernhard von Galen
Siege of Groningen
To this came the suggestion of chemical weapons since the sixteenth century. Through his distinguished works and suggestions in the military field, such as the design of the helicopter and the multi-shot cannon, the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci proposed the use of shells filled with arsenic and sulfur to target enemy forces and ships at sea. After nearly 150 years, the Bishop of Münster Christoph Bernhard von Galen did not hesitate to apply the words of Leonardo da Vinci.
An imaginary drawing of Leonardo da Vinci
During the siege of the Dutch city of Groningen from 9 July to 17 August 1672, Christoph Bernhard von Galen ordered his forces to use organic compounds derived from the belladonna plant, also nicknamed the deadly eggplant, to target the Dutch forces in Groningen. According to the sources of that period, these shells filled with chemicals caused nausea and fainting among the Dutch, led by Carl von Rabenhaupt, and led to the death of a number of soldiers.
A portrait of Carl van Robinhoppt
The first global agreement
Despite his reliance on this chemical weapon, Christoph Bernhard von Galen was unable to subdue Groningen, as he laid siege to the city from the south only without being able to cut its supply lines. Under the weight of the Dutch counterattacks, he was forced to lift the siege and retreat after more than a month, abandoning his ambitions to expand into Dutch territory. During the following weeks, the Episcopal Principality of Münster lost many of the lands it had previously wrested from the Dutch.
It is noteworthy that the news of the use of this chemical weapon during the siege of Groningen alarmed many European powers. In order to limit the use of such weapons, the “Holy” Roman Empire and France, which together with England and Spain were the two most important powers in Western Europe, concluded on August 27, 1675 the Strasbourg Convention for the prevention of the use of chemical weapons, setting a date with history where this agreement represented At the time, the first global agreement to prevent the use of chemical weapons.