William Davidson

master in the linen trade during his apprenticeship in Amsterdam
Death or Burial date: 
January 1, 1689

William Davidson (1615? - 1689?), a Scottish cloth merchant, settled in Amsterdam as a young man. He married a Dutch woman, Geertruid Schuring, in 1645. He and Gertruid had four children. According to Bergvelt, two of them, Bernard and Elisabeth, were named in their father's will. According to van Seters, Anna inherited everything.

  • Pieter (Patrick) died a bachelor in October 1674 in Edinburgh.
  • Bernard was born around 1648 and died young in Amsterdam.
  • Anna was born around 1650. She married barrister Francois van den Burch in Dordrecht on August 16, 1671, and died in 1688.
  • Elisabeth was born around 1651. She married Scotch barrister David Dunmuir on 6 July 6, 1692.

Early in his career, he took on 16-year-old Leeuwenhoek as an apprentice for his business on the Warmoestraat. Davidson was probably acquainted with Leeuwenhoek's uncle Pieter Douchy, also a cloth merchant with whom Leeuwenhoek lived on the north side of the nearby Rozengracht while he was apprenticed to Davidson from 1648 to 1654.

According to the Amsterdam City Archive's Ondertrouwregisters (engagement registers), Davidson married twice more. While Leeuwenhoek was in his employ, he married Geertruijt van Dueren in 1652, when he moved to 't Nieuwe Eylant section of Amsterdam. She died six years later. In 1660, he married Elisabeth Klenck, with whom he had the son in the portrait below along with two daughters who, according to Bergvelt, were named in their father's will, Catharina Geertrui (1663-) and Agnes (1666-). Elisabeth died in 1667.

Politically active, Davidson had to leave the Dutch Republic during the first Anglo-Dutch War from 1652-1654. He gave Leeuwenhoek power of attorney to run his business while he was gone. He returned to Amsterdam around the time Leeuwenhoek left his employ and returned to Delft.

Through espionage, Davidson actively supported the exiled Charles II. Finally taking the throne in 1660, Charles II knighted Davidson and appointed him Conservator of the Staple at Veere, to protect Scottish trading privileges. On the death of Davidson's brother James in 1667, Charles appointed him Lord of Curriehill, near Edinburgh, where he died.

Little has been written about him.

He seems to have been enterprising and fairly courageous, a kindly friend, a good family man, a keen Churchman, and a most loyal and open-handed subject of the exiled King. On the other hand, he was vain, greedy, tactless, over-bearing, over-suspicious, and cantankerous to a degree!

source: Samuel, W. "Sir William Davidson, Royalist, (1616—1689) and the Jews".
Transactions (Jewish Historical Society of England)
vol. 14 (1935-1939), pp. 39-79

The portrait of Sir William with his son Charles was painted by Abraham Lambertsz van den Tempel around 1664, ten years after van Leeuwenhoek stopped working for Davidson and returned to Delft.