The Contemplator's Short History of

the Anglo-Dutch Wars
The background music is The Drowned Lover
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns

The Netherlands and England were both great maritime nations and it was inevitable that a conflict would arise between then. There were three Anglo-Dutch Wars. The first from 1652 to 1654, the second from 1664 to 1667 and the third from 1672-1674. It was the end of the second war that gave the British New Amsterdam (which became, of course, New York). The Third Anglo-Dutch War was part of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1674), waged by Louis XIV of France who sought control of the Spanish Netherlands.

Highlights of The First Anglo Dutch War (1652-1654)

The First Anglo-Dutch war was precipitated by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell demanded tribute for herring caught within 30 miles of England (a practice begun by the Stuarts), required all ships in the Channel to salute English warships and passed the Navigation Act that required all goods imported to England be carried in English ships or ships of the country where the goods originated. The Navigation Act and the salute particularly angered the Dutch.

In 1652 Admiral Martin Tromp, then commander of the Dutch fleet ordered forty ships not to salue the English. In response Robert Blake (whom some regard as the greatest British admiral), opened fire. Later that year Blake attacked a Dutch herring fleet and Tromp's fleet was unable to intervene because of a storm. Because of Tromp's failure (though it was no fault of his own) he was temporarily replaced by de Witt. De Witt was quickly defeated by Blake, and Tromp was again placed in command. Despite Blake's protest the British Council of State sent English ships away from the Channel, and in November Tromp, with twice as many ships as Blake, won a victory off the Thames. At the end of 1652, neither side had gained a clear advantage.

In 1653 the Dutch States-General ordered Tromp's forces split in order to both defend their merchant fleet and attack the British. While escorting a merchant fleet through the Channel Tromp was attacked, beginning the Three Day's Battle (aka The Battle of Portland). Through brilliant maneuvering Tromp was able to escape with most of his fleet, but he lost a dozen warships and 50 merchant ships. Blake was wounded in the battle.

While recouperating from his wounds Blake drew up Fighting Instructions, a milestone in naval tactics. In June 1653 the fleets met at the Battle of the Gabbard, and George Monk, General in charge of the English fleet, instituted the Instructions. The result was a decisive victory for the English. The two fleets met again at the Battle of Scheveningen where Tromp's fleet was "overwhelmed by English firepower and outclassed by English tactics." (Potter, 50) Tromp was killed in the battle.

By April 1654 the English had captured more than 1000 merchant ships and came to terms with Cromwell.

Highlights of The Second Anglo Dutch War (1664-1667)

The Second Anglo Dutch War resulted from two incidents: the first in 1663 when an English squadron captured two Dutch posts in West Africa (because the Dutch were underselling the English in the slave trade), and the second incident, the taking of New Amsterdam in 1664.

The victories in West Africa and New Amsterdam were followed in 1665 by another victory at Lowestoft by James, Duke of York (the future James II). However, the Dutch Admiral de Ruyter, Tromp's protege and one of the greatest seamen of his time (who had not been at Lowestoft), captured a merchant fleet and engaged the British in the Four Days Battle. The battle ended only because of the exhaustion of supplies and both sides claimed victory.... The English lost 5,000 men and 20 ships, the Dutch suffered less than half the English casualties and lost seven ships - however, de Ruyter had withdrawn first.

Several English victories followed, including the sack of Terschelling. His financial position strained by the war and further weakend by the plague in 1665 and the London fire of 1666, Charles cut back naval operations. Therefore there was little opposition when the Dutch retaliated in 1667 by attacking Medway, wreaking havoc on the English fleet. De Ruyter controlled the southern coast of England until the Treaty of Breda was signed on July 31, 1667.

Captain Henry Morgan, of pirate fame, was also a figure in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Morgan commanded the British buccaneers in the Caribbean. During the war Morgan captured Camagey, Cuba, and sacked Portobelo on the Isthmus of Panama. In 1671 Morgan, with 36 ships and nearly 2,000 buccaneers, defeated a large Spanish force to take the City of Panama. If you look at the chronology you'll note this was done, in fact, after the Second Dutch War was over. Morgan was sent in chains to England. However, because of increasing tension with the Netherlands and the outbreak of the Third Dutch War, Morgan was released, knighted and made governor of Jamaica.

Third Anglo Dutch War (1672-1674)

Ironically, the Third Anglo-Dutch War was waged against the Dutch William of Orange - later King of England. The lord high admiral of England in the Second and Third Dutch wars was none other than James II, brother (Duke of York during the Wars) and eventual successor to Charles II. Although his reputation as King is poor, James was an effective administrator as high admiral. It was his interest that led to the taking of New Amsterdam in 1664 (hence its renaming in his honor).

With mutual interest in war with the Netherlands, the French and English signed the Treaty of Dover in 1670. In 1672 the British Navy supported the French invasion of the Dutch Republic. Although the French took several provinces, the Dutch opened the dikes around Amsterdam creating a "water Line," behind which William III of Orange rallied his troops.

There were four main battles of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. In all four de Ruyter proved his skills as a master seaman, saving his country from invasion and breaking attempts at blockade. The first battle was the Battle of Sole Bay. (Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich was killed during the Battle.) Two other battles were inconclusive, but in August 1673 at the Battle of the Texel, De Ruyter defeated Prince Rupert. (De Ruyter also defeated the French at Ostend (1672) and Kijkduin (1673). In 1673 the Spanish allied with the Netherlands and by the end of the year the French were out of the Netherlands. In 1674 the British signed the Treaty of Westminster with the Dutch.

As an afterward, James, Duke of York, became James II of England in 1685. In 1688 he was forced to abdicate and William of Orange, the husband of Mary (who was James II's daughter by his first wife), became King. William ruled both the Britain and the Netherlands until his death in 1702. William and Mary died without issue. John William Friso, a distant relative of William of Orange, succeeded William in the Netherlands, and Mary's sister Anne became Queen of England.

Much of this information is from:
*E. B. Potter, Editor, J. R. Fredland, Assitant Editor, The United States and World Sea Power. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1955.

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