Previous, more popular and successful ruler of the Voronis system
van Cleef was a belter who came to the Voronis system in 1046, along with his partner Everard Silverberg. At the time the system was ruled by Baron Reginald von Walsingham as a tyrannical techno-feudal kingdom (his other title was King of Voronis) and no independent miners were permitted. Dissension was ruthlessly put down and every aspect of 'peasant' life controlled and taxed. Harsh and unfair treatment was extended to offworlders as well and van Cleef's ship was impounded as soon as it became known that it was fitted for asteroid mining.
A rebellion had just failed and the survivors were preparing to flee the system, but van Cleef rallied them and helped them establish a refuge; he then despatched jump torpedoes to all the other asteroid belts he'd ever visited, calling on free-minded belters to come and join the revolt. After all, if one jumped-up noble could crush free rock-chasers under his heel, he said, more might try the same thing.
From all across the subsector they came, grubby loners with little respect for authority, to defend a way of life. In six months they were ready, and struck for the capital asteroid. Waslingham's forces were overwhelmed and he himself died in vacuum after an ill-advised attempt to escape in an unspaceworthy vessel. Gordon van Cleef was hailed as a hero and elected Chief Councillor of the Belter Council. He proved a wise and skillful ruler, and over the years that followed unified the whole system as tight-knit association of free trade entities.
He died, mourned as a hero, in 1100 and was succeeded by his son Conrad, the parenting of whom was the only significant failure in his long and eventful life.