During 1672, which the Dutch refer to as the ”year of disaster” or rampjaar, France and England attacked the Republic during the Franco-Dutch War and the Orangists took power by force and deposed de Witt. Recovering from an earlier attempt on his life in June, he was lynched by an organized mob after visiting his brother Cornelis in prison.
After the arrival of Johan de Witt, the city guard was sent away on a pretext to stop farmers who were supposedly engaged in pilfering. Without any protection against the assembled mob, the brothers were dragged out of the prison and killed next to a nearby scaffold. Immediately after their deaths, the bodies were mutilated and fingers, toes, and other parts of their bodies were cut off. Other parts of their bodies were allegedly eaten by the mob (others allege they were taken elsewhere and cooked before being eaten). The heart of Cornelis de Witt was exhibited for many years next to his brother’s by one of the ringleaders, the silversmith Hendrik Verhoeff.