Many theories have been surmised about how Groot Constantia received its name.
The Latin meaning of Constantia translates to constancy or steadfastness, attributes Simon van der Stel held in high esteem.
The oldest supposition put forward by the German traveller Peter Kolbe (1675-1725) in his book Caput Bonae Spei Hodiernum (1719) and also by the traveller Francois Valentijn (1666-1727), was that it was named after Van der Stel’s wife. The idea, however, does not fit in with the fact that her name was Johanna Jacoba.
The French engineer and writer Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814) said the farm was named after Van der Stel’s daughter. That also did not make sense as her name was Catharina.
The American naval chaplain CS Steward, who visited Constantia in 1830, had yet another improbable theory. According to him, the French Constantia grape was the first to have been planted on the farm and this grape made the farm well known. However, French varietals were not planted by Van der Stel, but by his son Frans (c. 1668-1718).
There is also a theory that the farm was named after a VOC yacht with the name Constantia which sailed between the Netherlands and Batavia. On one occasion the Constantia and two flutes, or supply ships, the Wapen van Hoorn and Alphen, anchored in Table Bay.
In 1716, a farm, which formed part of Constantia, was bought from Theunis van Schalkwyk (died 1717), then by Jan Brommert, who at that stage was in charge of equipping VOC ships in Table Bay. Because this farm had the name Alphen, there is conjecture that both farms may have been named after ships.
The most romantic theory came from the writer Hymen Picard, who claimed the name commemorated the daughter, named Constantia, of Pieter Sterthemius, commander of the fleet with which Van der Stel sailed in 1659 from Batavia.
According to Picard, she and Simon had fallen in love during the voyage. Constantia died in the Netherlands some time later.
Another candidate was the daughter of Van Goens, whom Van der Stel may have honoured out of gratitude for Van Goen’s support of his original application for the land.
A final possibility is that the word, derived from Latin, means constancy or steadfastness, and these were attributes Van der Stel held in high esteem.
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