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The Third Anglo-Dutch War or the Third English War (Dutch: Derde Engelse Oorlog or Derde

Engelse Zeeoorlog) was a military conflict between the England and the Dutch Republic, that lasted
between April 1672 and early 1674. It was part of the larger Franco-Dutch War.
In 1670, Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France concluded the secret Treaty of Dover,
intending to subjugate the Dutch state. England's Royal Navy joined France in its attack on the
Republic in 1672, but was frustrated in its attempts to blockade the Dutch coast by four strategic
victories of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. An attempt to make the province of Holland an
English protectoraterump state likewise failed. The English Parliament, fearful that the alliance with
France was part of a plot to make England Roman Catholic, forced the king to abandon the costly
and fruitless war.[1]


2The Merlin incident

3The invasion


5Second Peace of Westminster

6See also



Although England, the Dutch Republic and Sweden had signed a Triple Alliance against France in
1668 to prevent that country from occupying the Spanish Netherlands, Charles II of England signed
the secret Treaty of Dover with France in 1670, entailing that England would join Louis XIV of
France in a punitive campaign against the United Provinces. Charles, feeling personally humiliated
by the events of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, especially the Raid on the Medway, had engaged in
the Triple Alliance only to create a rift between the Dutch and the French, two former allies. [2] While
publicly trying to appease tensions between France and the Republic, making ambassador William
Temple avow friendship to Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, he secretly schemed to seduce Louis to
a campaign against the Dutch. He was promised that after a French victory, he would be rewarded
strategic coastal key positions to take as Crown possession. Walcheren, Cadzand and Sluys were

noted explicitly, but Charles also desired Brill, Texel, Terschelling and Delfzijl, to control the seaways
towards the main Dutch ports, including Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the latter of which was the
richest city in Europe.
Charles had hoped that an attack on the Republic could have begun in 1671, [3] but it had to be
delayed for a year because the French needed to establish secure diplomatic relations with two key
German principalities: the Bishopric of Mnster and the Archbishopric of Cologne. Normally the
Spanish Netherlands would act as a buffer between the Republic and France; to conquer the
strongly fortified towns of Flanders and the south of the Republic would be both too slow and too
costly for a swift and decisive campaign. Also, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I had promised not
to interfere with the French plans, on condition that the Spanish Netherlands would not be attacked.
For these reasons, Louis XIV and the two German bishops agreed that the French army would
advance through the Bishopric of Lige, a dependency of Cologne that intersected the Spanish
Netherlands, and attack the Republic unexpectedly from the east in its unprotected "soft side".
Ultimately Mnster and Cologne decided to join the invasion with their armies. [4]
Charles tried to use the delay to sow dissension between the Orangist faction in the Republic, which
wanted to restore the House of Orange (represented at the time by Charles's nephewWilliam III of
Orange) to the office of stadtholder, and the republican States faction headed by De Witt. When from
November 1670 William visited Charles to urge the House of Stuart to pay back a part of the large
debt it owed to the House of Orange,[5] Charles intended to make his nephew part of the conspiracy
and promise him to be made Sovereign Prince of Holland, apuppet state, in return for collaboration
with the invading forces. But he started his effort to recruit the young prince for his undertaking by
advising William to become Roman Catholic, as he believed Catholicism was best fitted
to absolutist rulers. William's horrified reaction to this proposal convinced Charles that it was best not
to reveal the Dover Treaty to him.[6]
Charles was hampered in his intrigue by needing Parliament to vote for sufficient funds to bring out a
strong fleet. England would not be involved with its rather weak army; apart from an English brigade
in the French army under the Duke of Monmouth, its military effort would be made only by the Royal
Navy: to defeat its Dutch counterpart and ideally blockade the Dutch coast. Charles was receiving
considerable subsidies from Louis, about 225,000 a year, but he preferred to spend these on the
luxuries of his own court. As the treaty with France was secret, he could not direct these subsidies to
the fleet anyway. Whereas in 1664 the country had been, in the words of Samuel Pepys, "mad for
war", in 1671 most English had begun to despair of ever being able to "beat the Dutch" and there
was considerable resistance against any additional taxation. To provide for short-term money,
Charles therefore on 2 January 1672 repudiated the Crown debts in the Great Stop of the
Exchequer, which gained him 1,300,000.[7]

The Merlin incident[edit]

The Parliament was decidedly unenthusiastic about a new war. The king tried to incite the public
opinion in England against the Dutch by creating a serious incident. Lord Arlington put it this way:
"Our business is to break with them, yet to lay the breach at their door". Bennet sent the royal
yacht Merlin, with Temple's wife Dorothy Osborne aboard, on 24 August 1671 to sail through the
Dutch fleet at anchor off Brill for maintenance. The Dutch ships duly struck their flag in salute first, as
was mandatory under treaty, but refused to salute firing white smoke, because they were doubtful
the Merlin counted as a real warship. Charles ordered the intriguer George Downing, the new
ambassador in The Hague,[8] to demand that the admirals responsible be severely punished, which
the States General of the Netherlands refused. In early 1672, Downing, who already had made
himself profoundly hated by the Dutch population as ambassador in the previous war, had to flee
The Hague in fear of his life. Temple somewhat wryly as he was rather sympathetic to the Dutch
himself remarked to Charles that now both he and his wife had had the honour to have become
instruments of doom for the Dutch.[citation needed]
Though De Witt tended to believe the repeated diplomatic assurances by the French and English
that they had no invasion in mind, many Dutch politicians and military men interpreted the French
diplomatic activities in the German principalities, the preparing of the English Navy, and the raising of
large armies as sure signs of an imminent war. On 25 February 1672, William III, despite his youth,
was appointed Captain-General of the confederate Dutch army.[9] Factional strife and uncertainty
about the French strategy prevented establishing a strong field army; most of the 83,000 troops
(70,700 infantry and 12,710 cavalry in June 1672) [10] were assigned to the fortresses.[11] Whereas the
Dutch Republic was thus ill-prepared for a land campaign, it had a more favourable situation at sea,
even though the States General decided to limit the naval budget to 4,776,248 guilders (down from
an original projected budget of 7,893,992 guilders) in order not to provoke the English.
In 1667, the Dutch navy, after having destroyed the core of the English navy at Chatham, had been
the strongest in the world. By 1672 the English had regained parity, replacing the capital ships lost
while few Dutch ships had been built and one of the five autonomous Dutch admiralties, that
of Friesland, was unable to contribute many ships because that province was attacked by Mnster.
The Dutch nevertheless successfully prevented a blockade of their coast and any landing of enemy
troops, despite being outnumbered by a third by the combined Anglo-French fleet. Their success
was the result of the much improved training standards. In the major battles of 1666, the Dutch navy
still had to get used to its brand new, much heavier, warships, and commanders had made some
costly tactical mistakes. In addition, personal conflict between Lieutenant-Admirals Michiel de
Ruyter and Cornelis Tromp had damaged the unity of the fleet. De Ruyter used the summer of 1671
to execute many training manoeuvres employing the line-of-battle, perfecting the fire drill, and
installing a new sense of coherence and discipline. As a result, the Republic was in 1672 at the apex
of its naval power. In the English navy, however, Admiral Edward Spragge had grown jealous of
supreme commander Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Also, Spragge broke formation in two battles to

seek out his personal enemy Tromp, having vowed to kill him for having insulted his wife.
Cooperation between the English and the French navies was poor, plagued by misunderstandings
and suspicions.
Charles had intended to make William his creature by raising him from a position of unimportance to
that of nominal ruler, ensuring his subservience to the English king. The threat of an invasion,
however, had as an unintended side-effect strengthening the position of William independently. In
January 1672, William, by then having figured out the intentions of Charles, tried to exploit his
increased power by offering Charles to make the Dutch Republic a faithful ally of England. [12] In
return, Charles would have to demand from the States General that William be appointed
stadtholder and break with France. Charles did not take up this suggestion; without the threat of a
French invasion, he could hardly expect the Dutch to remain submissive.
As happened in the previous conflict, even before the formal outbreak of war, the English tried to
intercept the Dutch Smyrna Fleet, a yearly convoy of Dutch merchants from the Levantsailing with a
flotilla to protect them from the Barbary Corsairs. From 12 March 1672 (Old Style), Admiral Robert
Holmes attacked the convoy in the English Channel, but was beaten back byCornelis Evertsen the
Youngest, capturing a limited number of prizes.

The invasion[edit]

Battle sites of the Third Anglo-Dutch War: Solebayin the west, the Schooneveld in the south and the Texelin the

The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 7 June 1672 by Willem van de Velde the younger. De
Ruyter's flagship De Zeven Provincin is shown in the left background in close combat with the Vice-Admiral of
the Blue, Sir Joseph Jordan on Royal Sovereign. The ship to the right of the burning Royal James is that of
Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde.

As agreed in the Treaty of Dover, England joined France, having declared war on 6 April 1672 (New
Style),[13] by declaring war on 7 April, using as a pretext the Merlin incident.[14] Many sources
incorrectly state the English were the first to declare war on 27 March, a mistake caused by the fact
that they were still using the Julian calendar, then ten days behind the Gregorian calendar in use at
the Continent. Due to a new system of forward supply bases devised by the Marquess de Louvois,
the French advanced surprisingly fast. A French army of 130,000 (118,000-foot and 12,500 horse),
exceptionally accompanied by Louis himself, from 7 May in a single month marched through Lige,
bypassed the strong Dutch fortress of Maastricht, advanced along the Rhine, took the six Rhine
fortresses ofCleves manned with Dutch garrisons, and on 12 June crossed the Lower Rhine into
the Betuwe, thus invading the Republic and outflanking the IJssel Line.[15] As a result, the province
of Overijssel withdrew its troops from the already small Dutch field army to protect its own cities;
soon after this province capitulated to Bernhard von Galen, the bishop of Mnster, who marched
north to occupy Drentheand lay siege to Groningen.
William was forced to fall back to Utrecht with only nine thousand men, but the burghers refused to
prepare the city for defence. Instead they opened their gates to the French army, to avoid a siege.
William withdrew behind the Dutch Water Line, a deliberate flooding to protect the core province of
Holland, but the inundations were not ready yet, having been ordered by the States of Holland only
on 8 June and hampered by villages unwilling to let the water damage their property.
Meanwhile, the first sea battle had taken place. After the English declaration of war, the States
General had increased the naval budget with 2.2 million guilders. De Witt, seeking a decisive naval
victory, had decided on an aggressive strategy and sent out De Ruyter with the mission to destroy
the Allied fleet. On 7 June, he surprised it when resupplying on the English coast; it was only saved
from a severe defeat in the Battle of Solebay by a sudden turning of the wind, causing De Ruyter to

lose the weather gage. Nevertheless, the damage incurred including the death of Admiral Edward
Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich was so extensive that the Allies would be prevented from
executing major naval actions for the rest of the season, apart from a failed attempt to intercept
the Dutch East India Company(VOC) Return Fleet from the Dutch East Indies.[16] A blockade of the
Dutch coast failed. Johan de Witt's brother Cornelis de Witt had accompanied the fleet to make the
States regime share in the glory, but the events on land nullified this.
The sudden appearance of a hostile army in the heart of the Republic caused a general panic. On
14 June, the States of Holland decided to ask for peace conditions from France and England. [17] This
convinced Louis that the war was already won and, on the advice of de Louvois, he began
negotiations to reach a treaty as favourable as possible for France. The city populations rioted,
blaming the States regime for the disaster and calling for the Prince of Orange to take over
government. Most city councils turned Orangist or were replaced by threat of force with Orangist
partisans.[18] Charles had always supported the Orangist faction; now they repaid him by accusing the
States faction of wanting to betray the land to the French and depicting Charles as the only man able
and willing to save the Dutch from French subjugation. In Dutch history, the year 1672, the
national annus horribilis, subsequently became known as the "Year of Disaster" (Rampjaar). A Dutch
saying was coined to describe the situation of the state: Redeloos, radeloos, reddeloos, meaning:
"reasonless" (the people), "clueless" (the authorities), "rescueless" (the country).
Despite this general mood of defeatism, the situation was not as immediately desperate as the
population believed. De Witt had assumed the conflicting interests of England and France would
prevent their successful co-operation. The two kings, motivated by a shared lust for revenge, had put
their differences aside as long as their immediate common goal of humiliating the Republic had not
been reached. Now that it was, each began to worry the other would benefit too much from the war;
neither would allow a complete domination of the Republic, and its huge mercantile assets, by his
formal ally. When a Dutch mission arrived suing for peace, Louis demanded only Delfzijl, by far the
least important port Charles desired, for the English. Yet, when he was offered the southern
fortresses of the Republic the French possession of which would make the Spanish Netherlands
indefensible[19] and ten million guilders, he refused. Knowing that the mission was not allowed to
make any concessions on the point of religion and the territorial integrity of the provinces themselves
(the southern fortress cities of Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch and Maastricht were in the Generality
Lands), Louis demanded besides twenty million guilders and an annual embassy from the States
General to Louis asking pardon for their perfidy either religious freedom for the Catholics or
lordship over Utrecht and Guelders, his sole motivation being to humiliate the Dutch a bit further.

But he did not continue his military advance, fearing to drive the Dutch into the hands of Charles.

Louis waited while the mission returned to ask for new instructions, which would take some time
given the decentralised nature of the Dutch administration; all the city councils would have to be
consulted on the issue. Meanwhile, the water gradually filled the polders of the defence line. On 7

July, the inundations were fully set and the province of Holland was safe from a further French
advance. Louis was not overly worried by this, being entirely focused on Amsterdam. As an early
attempt to take the city by a sudden cavalry assault had failed, he had decided in any case to avoid
an expensive and inevitably very muddy siege by waiting till winter. He expected reasonably so in
the Little Ice Age that his troops would then be able to advance over the ice. Leaving his main
force behind, he returned to France on 26 July, taking 18,000 men with him and freeing 20,000
Dutch prisoners of war, to avoid having to pay for their maintenance.

Heeswijk Castle, where the Accord of Heeswijk was signed

On 4 July, William was appointed stadtholder of Holland;[21] on 16 July, of Zealand. In early July,
Charles had decided to secure his share of the booty and sent Lord Arlington, one of the few English
politicians privy to the Treaty of Dover, together with the Duke of Buckingham to the Republic to
convey his peace conditions. Arlington landed in Brill accompanied by a group of Dutch Orangist
exiles and travelled to William at the Dutch headquarters in Nieuwerbrug. He was cheered along the
way by Dutch crowds believing he had come to promise English support against the French.

Arriving on 5 July, he brought William the good news that Charles insisted on his nephew being

made Sovereign Prince of Holland. All would be well for the Dutch, if William would in return consent
to an equitable peace, including paying the English ten million guilders for their efforts, paying a
yearly sum of 10,000 for the North Sea herring rights, and reinstating the clauses of the
1585 Treaty of Nonsuch about Brill, Sluys andFlushing being English securities. Far from finding
William grateful to his uncle for having brought about his rise to power, Arlington soon discovered
that the stadtholder was outraged by these demands, the prince uncharacteristically losing his
temper in public. He yelled that he would rather "die a thousand times than accept them". [23] Arlington
in response threatened the Dutch state with total annihilation if William did not comply; in the end the
meeting turned into a quarrel and Arlington left without having achieved any gains. He subsequently
travelled to Heeswijk, the headquarters of the French army in vain besieging 's-Hertogenbosch,
where on 16 July he concluded the Accord of Heeswijk with the French, each party agreeing on a
minimal shared list of demands and promising never to conclude a separate peace. William refused
these demands on 20 July.

On 18 July, William received a letter from Charles, very moderate in tone, in which the king claimed
that the entire campaign was directed against the States regime only and that the one obstacle to
peace was the continued influence of the De Witt faction. William responded by offering the herring
rights, 400,000, Sluys and Surinam; in return Charles should make him Sovereign Prince and
conclude a separate peace. Annoyed, Charles answered by accusing William of being unreasonably
obstinate and scheming behind his back with politicians of theCountry Party, the later "Whigs".[24]
De Witt had had to resign from his function of Grand Pensionary after he had been wounded by an
assassination attempt in June. His brother Cornelis had been arrested on (probably false) charges of
having plotted to murder William. On 15 August, the stadtholder published Charles' letter to further
incite the population against De Witt.[25] There were many new riots; on 20 August, Johan de Witt
visited his brother in prison; both were on this occasion murdered by an Orangist civil militia that had
been instructed by Tromp, the Orangist admiral.[16] William's power was now secure from internal
The Allies at this point of the war found themselves in a rather awkward position. If the Battle of
Solebay had not prevented it, they would have been able to force the Dutch population to surrender
by starvation, as it was dependent for its survival on supplies of Baltic grain. Now they had no
clear exit strategy; they could only wait hoping the Dutch would at last understand the hopelessness
of their situation and capitulate. Meanwhile, their own situation deteriorated. The war was very
expensive and Charles especially had trouble paying for it. Mnster was in an even worse condition;
in August it had to abandon the siege of Groningen. Before the end of 1672, the Dutch
retook Coevorden and liberated the province of Drenthe, leaving the Allies in possession of only
three of the ten (despite the number traditionally given of seven[27]) Dutch provincial areas. The
supply lines of the French army were dangerously extended. In the autumn of 1672, William tried to
cut them off, crossing the Spanish Netherlands via Maastricht in forced marches to attack Charleroi,
then a French border city close to the supply route through Lige.
Adding to the Allied difficulties, the German states, although having promised Louis to remain
neutral, had become very worried by the French success and especially by its refusal to withdraw
from the Duchy of Cleves. On 25 July, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I, concluded
a defensive treaty with the Republic in The Hague and, together withBrandenburg, of which Cleves
was a dependency and which had declared itself a Dutch ally on 6 May, sent an army of forty
thousand to the Rhine.[28] Though this force did not attack the French army, its presence was enough
to draw it to the east in response.[29] On 27 December after a severe frost, the Duc de
Luxembourg began to cross the ice of the Water Line with eight thousand men, hoping to sack The
Hague. A sudden thaw cut his force in half and he narrowly escaped to his own lines with the


In the winter of 1673 the French failed to cross the Water Line over the ice, [30] thwarted both by
further thaws and special Dutch sailor companies moving on skates, organised by temporary
Lieutenant-Admiral Johan de Liefde. In the spring, attempts to drain the northern part of the line or to
cross on rafts, proved unsuccessful. The attack from the east thus being considered impractical, the
activities of the Royal Navy gained much more importance. It was ordered, in co-operation with a
French squadron, to at least blockade the Dutch coast and, if possible, execute a landing on it,
conquering the Republic from the west. How this should be accomplished exactly, was not very
clear.[14] The English navy, in contrast to the Dutch fleet, had little experience in shore landings. It was
expected therefore, to directly take some Dutch port by assault, despite having insufficient recent
information about the dangerous, constantly shifting shoals.
Before this could be achieved, the Allies would have to defeat the Dutch fleet. Although the English
deliberately created the impression to frighten the Dutch population into an invasion scare that
transports, carrying an army, were sailing immediately behind the war fleet, in fact the (rather small)
invasion force formed by the Blackheath Army was left in Great Yarmouth, to be shipped only after a
full control over the seas had been attained. In this the French would be of little help; they had
received clear orders by Louis to give absolute priority to the survival of their vessels and inform him
personally about what knowledge they had gained by observing the English and Dutch tactics. This
meant that the French navy considered the campaign first of all to be a great learning opportunity; it
would indeed be very instructive.

The first battle of Schooneveld, 7 June 1673 by Willem van de Velde, the elder, painted c.1684.

In May, Rupert advanced to the Dutch coast with superior forces; De Ruyter took up a defensive
position in the Schooneveld.[31] Rupert tried to outflank the smaller Dutch fleet hoping to force it to
seek refuge in the naval port fortress of Hellevoetsluis, where it could be blocked while the transport
fleet would be brought over to storm either Brill in Holland or Flushing on Walcheren in Zealand.
Instead De Ruyter attacked, starting the First Battle of the Schooneveld. In the Battle of Solebay of
the previous year, the French squadron had, on sight of the approaching Dutch fleet, sailed in a
direction opposite to that of the English fleet. To counter English accusations that this had been done
on purpose to let the English bear the brunt of the fighting, the French now formed the centre
squadron. When a gap formed in the French line, De Ruyter suddenly tacked with his own centre
and sailed through it. After a while the French disengaged later writing enthusiastic reports to Louis
about feeling honoured to witness the tactical genius shown by De Ruyter by this manoeuvre

exposing the Allied rear to encirclement by the Dutch rear and centre. On perceiving the danger, its
commander, Spragge, abandoned the remainder of the rear with his flotilla to seek out Tromp, who
was rather hesitantly attacked by Rupert in the van, fearing the shoals. Thus being outmanoeuvred
and divided, the Allied fleet managed to reunite only because De Ruyter decided not to take any
unnecessary risks by pressing his advantage; but the disorder was so persistent, it had to withdraw
at nightfall.
After this setback, Rupert was at a loss how to continue the campaign; not daring to enter the
dangerous Schooneveld again, he could hope only to lure the Dutch out. He was however, so
convinced De Ruyter would never leave this ideal blocking position, that his fleet was unprepared
when the resupplied Dutch fleet attacked on 14 June, starting the Second Battle of the Schooneveld.
Rupert at the very last moment decided to invert his squadron ord