The “King of Tintamarre” wasn’t a king, but his story remains one of St. Martin’s most popular tales. What is his story, and how has it remained so intriguing?
Diederick Crestiaan van Romondt was known as D.C., and his family was considered the wealthiest and most powerful family on St. Martin at the time. He owned the Mary’s Fancy estate, but left it in 1902, moving to Tintamarre reportedly to avoid paying local taxes.
On Tintamarre, he built a home and ran several businesses. He hired workers from St. Martin and Anguilla to grow sea island cotton and to raise cattle and sheep. They also produced butter and cheese on the island. He imported 30,000 old Dutch coins to pay his workers, who spent them at the store he built.
D.C. became “king” in 1913 when a French reporter wrote an article about him titled “Le Roi de Tintamarre” in a Paris newspaper. According to legend, this publicity attracted the attention of would-be queens in Europe who sent letters to him. He didn’t take a bride, and he moved back to Mary’s Fancy in 1932. In 1948, the van Romondt family name died along with D.C.
There are plenty of reasons why this story endures. The Caribbean is a wild and mysterious place, and Tintamarre is the wildest and most mysterious part of St. Martin. The idea of a rebellious individual creating their own kingdom in the wilderness is inspiring. The idea of independence is powerful on an island that has never been independent. He wasn’t a king, but in our imagination perhaps he is.
Like any story, there are a few questions lurking behind the fairytale. Is a wealthy person fleeing to avoid taxes an inspiring story to those of us who have never been rich? What was his relationship with the people who worked for him? Having control of the island, the currency and the only store is a perfect setup to take advantage of workers. Is this a story of a man striking out against the system, or powerful person using the system to his full advantage?
Do you find inspiration in the King of Tintamarre? What does this story mean to you? Write in to The Daily Herald, or to [email protected] and share your thoughts!