Gedenk de goede tijden van zuiverheid en kracht.
|Apr. 28th, 2005 12:23 pm A poem by Sir John Denham|
I recently managed to finally acquire the diaries of Samuel Pepys, secretary to the admiralty in the reign of Charles II and James II. On the accounts of the Netherlandic raid upon Chatham, a poem was included by one Sir John Denham from Poems on State Affairs, which I thought fit to include in this journal.
"Painter! Let thine art describe a story,
Shaming our warlike island's ancient glory:
A scene which never on our seas appeared
Since our first ships were on the ocean steered;
Make the Dutch fleet, while we supinely sleep,
Without opposers, Masters of the deep;
Make them securely the Thames-mouth invade,
At once depriving us of that, and trade;
Draw thunder from their floating castles, sent
Against our forts, weak as our government:
Draw Woolwich, Deptford, London, and the Tower,
Meanly abandoned to a foreign power.
Yet turn their first attempt another way
And let their cannons upon Sheerness play;
Which soon destroyed, their lofty vessells ride,
Big with the hope of the approaching tide:
Make them more help from our remissness find,
Than from the tide, or from the eastern wind,
Their canvass swelling with a prosperous gale,
Swift as our fears make them to Chatham sail:
Through our weak chain their fire-ships break their way,
And our great ships (unmanned) become their prey,
Then draw the fruit of our ill-managed coast,
At once our honour and our safety lost:
Bury those bulwarks of our isle in smoke,
With their thick flames the neighbouring country choak;
The Charles* escapes the raging element,
To be with triumph into Holland sent;
Where the glad people to the shore resort,
To see their terror now become their sport.
But, Painter! fill not up thy piece before
Thou paint'st confusion on our troubled shore:
Instruct then thy bold pencil to relate
The saddest marks of an ill-governed state.
Draw th' injured seamen deaf to all command,
While some with horror and amazament stand:
Others will know enemy but they
Who have unjustly robbed them of their pay;
Boldly refusing to oppose a fire,
To kindle which our errors did conspire:
Some (though but a few) persuaded to obey,
Useless, for want of ammunition, stay:
The forts designed to guard our ships of war,
Void both of powder and of bullets are:
And what past reigns in peace did ne'er omit,
The present (whilst invaded) doth forget."
The Charles mentioned here is not King Charles II, but the ship Royal Charles which took part in the sacking and burning of the coastal town of Scheveningen at the onset of the Anglo-Dutch wars. Hence the line: "Where the people to the shore resort, to see their terror now become their sport."
The conquest of the Thames resulted in the signing of the Peace of Breda shortly thereafter, as English diplomats suddenly showed far greater willingness to compromise to Dutch demands.
Current Mood: listless13 comments - Leave a comment
|Apr. 16th, 2005 01:40 am|
Well my move into Iowa is nearing completion, and though I'll be much further removed from all manner of handy resources in studying the fall of Johan and Cornelis de Witt and the naval exploits of Michiel de Ruyter, I have most of my books in order again so should be posting soon enough. My next entry will most likely deal with the Buat/Sylvius conspiracy which perhaps marks the turning point for Johan de Witt's influence and marks the slow ascension of William III back into the States' General of the United Provinces.
Current Mood: Slightly homesickLeave a comment
|Apr. 12th, 2005 04:17 pm Tharrr, let's splice hands on it shall we?|
I have been meaning to update this journal for a very, very long time. Unfortunately I seem to have misplaced a few of my books on the Netherlands in the 17th century during my moves back and forth between Iowa and Amsterdam so, until I find or replace these, I will have to busy myself with some other things.
Today I decided to do some research into just how many well known and not so well known sayings and phrases there are in the Netherlands, which find their origin in the world at sea. Much to my surprise I've found far more than I myself even imagined. I think I'll be compiling all of these soon enough, but for now I'll share some of the most interesting and/or common ones with translation, meaning and, where possible, origin.
( Schipperen tussen Mars en MercuriusCollapse )
Current Mood: okay3 comments - Leave a comment
|Dec. 1st, 2004 06:56 pm Another unrelated matter, speaking of Japanese, Netherlandic, Portugese and American history.|
Again, while I am still struggling to untangle this web of diplomatic powerplay between Charles II, Louis XIV, Johan de Witt and other such figures, I thought I again post something revolving around the 17th century Netherlands. Something which I've always found quite fascinating and which I should research more in all ernest.
This time, my dear livejournal friend, I'd like to take you to the year 1600, and the place is exotic Japan.
The man-of'war 'De Liefde', or 'The love' in English, anchored off the coast of Japan in 1600, following an unsuccesful punitive expedition against Portugese and Spanish colonies in the East Indies. De Liefde had set sail with 4 other ships to plunder these colonies for spices with, in particular pepper. In those days pepper was an expensive commodity, to illustrate this, the Germans still have, to this day, the expression pfeffersack - 'bag of pepper' - as a synonym for a very rich man. De Liefde was the only ship to survive the expedition after heavy gales had scattered the squadron and sank the other 4 ships. De Liefde carried 24 half starved men, 23 Netherlanders and 1 Englishman. The emaciated seamen had left the port of Rotterdam 2 years prior and were lead by a Willem Adams.
At the time, civil wars raged all over Japan and it was thanks to the Portugese, and their introduction of blackpowder weapons that trade commenced between Japan and Europe, with the Japanese provincial leaders - the daimyo - being very keen to get their hands on these weapons. The Portugese brought other things than blackpowder weapons too. Christian missionaries were sent to Japan. Odu Nobunaga 1534 - 1582, the first of three unifiers of Japan, supported the influx of Christian missionaries as countermeasure against the powerful Buddhist cloisters which resisted his rule.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi 1537-1598, his successor and second unifier, had a more ambivalent attitude towards the Jesuit and later the more aggressive Franciscan missionaries. He was torn between toleration and a total ban, which had however never been fully enforced. During his rule, the plan was made for construction of the artificial island of Dejima, by Nagasaki, to offer a permanent base for Portugese traders. And, to ensure the halt in more missionaries entering Japan, trade would be limited with Portugal, with the Portugese not being allowed to leave the Dejima area. When Willem Adams arrived aboard de Liefde, the Portugese were quick to stress with the Japanese lords that the Netherlands were, in their eyes, nothing more than rebellious pirates (at this time the Netherlands was still deep in a war for independence against Spain).
In 1636 the shogun had finally ordered to construct the island of Deshima, and by this time, through endless negotiation by Willem Adams, the Portugese had been ousted from becoming Japan's exclusive trading partners. It was in fact, now the Netherlanders who were housed at Dejima and for over 250 years the Japanese only concluded trade with the Netherlanders. This brought to Netherlandic ports all manner of luxury items. Spices and Japanese porcelain - such as Imari and Arita - (which were later copied by the Netherlanders and became the famous Delft Blue porcelain painting technique) were but two products to be imported which would come at high demand in Europe. The limit of trade with the Netherlanders brought other exchanges as well, mainly in terms of culture and scientific advances, such as philosophy, mathematics and military code.
The Netherlanders managed to maintain their favourable position at the Japanese court by joining in with the annual Procession of Loyalty, which forced daimyo to pay hommage to the shogun in Edo (modern day Tokyo). Here the entire Netherlandic community of Dejima would travel to Edo and present such exotic gifts as elephants, camels and so forth. The procession drew attention of curious spectators who were very interested to see these pale, red and fair haired 'savages'. When national curiousity about these 'people from Dejima' spread, a thing called a "Nagasaki-e" was created. The Nagasaki-e were Japanese woodblock prints of the Netherlanders, their ships and produces and were intended for the common market, of people who would never have a chance of seeing these strange visitors themselves.
In 1853 a black-hulled steam frigate appeared off the shores of Edo. The steam frigate turned out to be American, commanded by commodore Matthew Perry who, by command of the US government, sought to open up trade relations with the isolationist Japanese government. When Perry was met by members of the Tokugawa Shogunate, he was instructed to set sail to Nagasaki and forewarned that there could be little hope of opening trade with America, as the Japanese still preferred its isolation in trade and diplomacy. Perry however, refused to leave and demanded to present a letter by president Millard Fillmore, which authorised him to use force in the proceedings if the Japanese proved to not be forthcoming.
Japan had been living reclusely apart from modern technology, and the Japanese military forces could not resist Perry's modern weaponry; the "black ships" would then become, in Japan, a symbol of threatening Western technology and colonialism.
The Japanese government, so as to avoid naval bombardment, had to accept Perry's coming ashore. Perry proceeded ashore at Kurihama on july 14th, presented the letter to delegates present and left for the China coast, promising to return for a reply.
Perry returned in, Februari 1854 with twice as many ships, finding that the delegates had prepared a treaty embodying virtually all the demands in Fillmore's letter. Perry signed the document on March 31, 1854 and departed.
Donker Curtius became the last Dutch director of Dejima. In 1855, one year after the Americans, he was able to reach a new trade agreement with the Japanese shogun government. Thus the Dutch influence could be kept, but the once so profitable monopoly of trade with Japan had ended in 1855 with the Treaty of Kanagawa.
In 1945, during WWII, as we all know, Nagasaki was targeted with a nuclear bomb, destroying all of the city. Dejima is still to be rebuilt.
Current Mood: inquisitiveLeave a comment
Current Music: Kenji Kawai - Floating museum
|Nov. 21st, 2004 01:27 pm An intermezzo of different information.|
As you may or may not know, I am currently working my way through the information of the era between the conclusion of the second Anglo-Dutch war, and that of the Netherlandic year of disaster, 1672. Currently I am making slow progress, as I am confronted with a whole new range of ambassadors, officers, conspirators and other figures of notoriety, who all play a role of import in my delineation of this era in history, in one way or another.
So, as to not make this journal fall into neglect I shall post something which I found interesting - and which is slightly applicable - the church pennant.
The church pennant, as you can see, is a combination of the Netherlandic tri-colour and the English cross of Saint George on the gaf end of the pennant.
It is one of the last remnants of the Anglo-Dutch wars in terms of customs still employed by the navy today. The church pennant is flown from the mizzen mast of a ship to signify that the crew is in prayer or some other religious service. With both the Netherlands and England having a collective, Protestant tradition, it is not surprising that the Church pennant assumed the colours it has. During the second Anglo-Dutch war, this flag seems to have been first introduced and, in general (with there only being one exception), great care was taken not to commence hostilities when the Church pennant was flown, which was usually during early morning services.
With the ascension of William III to the English throne, after the 'glorious revolution', the use of the Church pennant truly became common practice on both sides. This may not be surprising, considering William III's Netherlandic descent.
It was however, not until 1778 that the Church Pennant was formally included in the British articles of war, which reads as follows;
Article 10 of the Additional Instructions:
"In order that the performance of Divine Service may meet with as little interruption as possible the ships are to hoist a common pendant at the mizzen peak before beginning the same and keep it flying until they have finished."
The pendant here mentioned became, again, the combination of the Cross of Saint George and the Netherlandic tri-colour, as it had already been in common use for well over a century.
The Church pennant is now in common use not only in the British Commonwealth and the Netherlands, but has also been included in the NATO signal book, where it has come in common use with all the other member states - though there are slight variations. (US vessels for example have replaced the Cross of Saint George with a black cross with yellow border). The NATO signal book also states that the Church pennant, in combination with other signal flags can be used to signify such things as: "Man overboard", "Working the cable" or "Recall the ship's boats".
Current Mood: Inquisitive but sadly tired1 comment - Leave a comment
Current Music: Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945
|Nov. 9th, 2004 07:22 pm A snarling peace. The Netherlandic-Anglo-French triangle.|
The peace signed at Breda required for its accomplishment all the feats of naval warfare I've mentioned in the past few entries. Yet all the prowess of sailors, admirals and the superb navy minister that de Witt had shown himself to be during these years would have gone for nothing if he had not also been a master of diplomacy and domestic politics. I therefore now want to retrace the story of the other side of the war, and for that I'll go back, with you my dear reader, to the year 1665.
During the second English war the aims of both sides remained little changed during the two and a half years of fighting. The central purpose of Charles II and his nation was to establish sovereignty over the adjacent seas in order to garner for themselves profit in fishing, shipping and trade, at the expense chiefly of the Netherlanders. For the intended victim the aim of the war was simple in the extreme - to thwart the purposes of the foe, to restore the status quo ante bellum. De Witt put the situation plainly and forcefully to D'estrades (The French foreign minister of that time) some months after the war began. If the English are envious of Netherlandic trade and the opulance it produces he said, let them compete with us as traders. If they try to deprive us of our livelihood by means of war, we'll fight to the very end. He would later write a letter at the conclusion of the second Anglo-Dutch war to Charles II, expressing similar sentiments (as I've pointed out a few entries ago), but to which Charles II gave no reply.
Yet Charles II was able to shift the centre of attention from English ambitions to Netherlandic recalcitrance and to paint himself as desirous of peace and de Witt as the principal obstacle to its achievement. He picked up the subject of the Prince of Orange's advancement which he had put aside so soon after the death of Princess Mary and let the Netherlanders think all they had to do in order to bring the war to an end and to make eternal friends of the English was to name William III stadholder and captain general. If the Netherlanders took him at his word, he would gain control over their state, and their ability to contest the English claim for maritime supremacy would cease to exist. If they refused to give William these offices, then he could incite the Orangist party to oppose and even overthrow the regime of the "True Freedom." Either way, he would be able to shift the burden of responsibility for the continuation of the war away from himself, and perhaps persuade Louis XIV to refuse his support for the Netherlanders, as the presumed aggressors.
( Diplomatic fencing during wartimeCollapse )
But before the States General could make good effect to Charles II's requests, de Witt returned from the fleet in November and rallied the States Party to prevent its adoption. One of the deputies to the States General was certain it would have won if the "Schoolmaster" had stayed away another month. This pattern of maneuver and counteraction would continue for the duration of the war. Charles would trumpet his readiness to grant peace if only the Netherlanders elevated his nephew William III, and de Witt would have to remind his countrymen how much more that implied, and how much more the king really wanted.
Current Music: Philip Glass - Seward SanatoriumLeave a comment
|Oct. 28th, 2004 09:13 pm Some random tidbits of 17th century art|
A painting on the four day battle by Abraham Storck, which can be seen in the London Maritime Museum.
This painting depicts the capture of the English warship 'Royal Prince' by the 'Gouda'.
( 17th century art on the Republic of the Seven Provinces, its heroes and great momentsCollapse )
Portrait of Michiel de Ruyter by Ferdinand Bol, who was an apprentice of Rembrandt van Rijn, whose influence can clearly be seen in Bol's use of light and dimension by offering a see-through to de Ruyter's flagship 'Zeven Provincien' . In his hand Michiel de Ruyter holds his command staff, and the small medailion around his neck is that of the order of Saint Michel, as was awarded by Louis XIV for de Ruyter's achievements during the 2nd Anglo-Dutch wars. Resting his arm on a globe, Ferdinand Bol makes a perhaps not-so-subtle reference to de Ruyter's work area: the Seven Seas.
Current Mood: Enthused for knowledgeLeave a comment
Current Music: Radiohead - There There
|Oct. 26th, 2004 04:54 pm The humbling of the foe. The English perspective.|
The raid of Chatham by the Netherlands has another curious historical link, in that it played an emminent role in the famous diaries of Samual Pepys, of which I will include some passages here to give an impression on the English perspective on the second Anglo-Dutch war. On top of this I've also included some newspaper articles from the London Gazette. Issue 165 of June 16th must certainly rank as a classic of deliberate understatement, and shows that propaganda is not an invention of the 20th century, though it has most certainly been refined since the release of this paper.
( The London Gazette, June 16th 1667Collapse )
Though the London Gazette tried to minimize the magnitude of the humiliating reverse which the Nation had just suffered, the panic which gripped London and the home countries as the news of the Dutch advance spread, revealed that what had occurred was not a mere incident in a war, but a disaster which was bound to have momentous consequences.
The Distraction and Consternation was so great in Court and City, as if the Dutch had
not been only Masters of the River, but had really landed an Army of one hundred
thousand Men…… If the King’s and Duke’s personal composure had not
restrained Men from expressing their Fears, there wanted not some who would have
advised them to leave the City.
The stages in the panic are vividly related by Pepys in his diary, and his account is corroborated by other contemporary chroniclers. On 11 June Pepys remarked that he was kept up late trying to provide fireships in response to Sit William Coventry’s insistent and despairing demands. Then, wrote Pepys, he went home; he continued:
( The diaries of Pepys and EvelynCollapse )
After the raid it was necessary to clear up the debris of battle. A survey showed that the "Royal James” and the “Loyal London” could be salvaged. Having been scuttled they had burnt down to approximately the lower gun-ports. With half of each hull remaining it was decided to rebuilt them. At this time the facilities were not available at Chatham and it was necessary to move them, one to Deptford and the other to Woolwich. Even this was not accomplished without incident and drama.
In September, when the hulks had been jury-rigged and were ready to start, the crews mutinied and refused to trust themselves “on board two burnt-out wrecks” The Navy Commissioner reported to Whitehall “The “Royal James” and the “Loyal London” being ready to sail, we sent a warrant to Thos. Streton to take charge of the “London”
He came and threw it at us and refused to go, and Robert Sansum who had a warrant for the “James” will not go either.
Eventually fresh crews were found by drafting sixty seamen from ships just come in from sea and together with thirty-three dockyard ropemakers the remains of the “Royal James” and the “Loyal London” set of for the Thames on the 13th September. The burnt-out shell of the “Loyal London” took nearly three years to rebuilt and cost
₤ 20,470. King Charles himself came all the way to Depthford to see the launching in June 1670. He had hoped to persuade the City of London to bear some of the cost of rebuilding as they had done when the ship was first launched in June 1666, But this time, the City, impoverished by the Plague, the Great Fire and the war were not so accomodating and Charles, in a fit of temper, put a line through the word “Loyal” and henceforth the ship was known simply as “London”.
Current Mood: amusedLeave a comment
Current Music: Radiohead - Sail to the Moon
|Oct. 26th, 2004 04:29 pm The humbling of the foe. Results|
While the Netherlandic fleet was still plying the coast of England - frightening the English citizenry and hoping to put extra pressure on the Breda peace negotiations - de Ruyter's fever again returned to him, confining him to his cabin for the remainder of the expedition.
Michiel de Ruyter had started the expedition with a fever, and ended it with one. His poor advice to burn down some English villages might very well be a result of his now almost constant illness, though we might ascribe other reasons to this, but they remain but a matter of conjecture.
The English and the Netherlanders were quickly turning to become each other's arch enemies. The first envious of the other's merchant wealth, and offended by the ingratitude of the Netherlandic Republic, stating that it owned its very independence to the English crown, while the Netherlands itself had grown very distrustful of the English and in particular Charles II tendency to settle commercial rivalry with acts of war. The capture of New Amsterdam (now New York) by the English without a formal declaration of war had given rise to particlarly bitter feelings from the Netherlanders, as had the sacking and burning of the township of Scheveningen. We might assume, though never be certain, that Michiel de Ruyter too had grown to consider the English with a far greater degree of disdain than he had before.
On August 10th the Netherlandic fleet received word from the English that the peace of Breda had finally be signed. The English where to keep the New Amsterdam colony and in return the Netherlanders received the English colony of Surinam. The treaty stated however that hostilities would not end until September 5th, and until that time the Netherlandic fleet kept harrassing the English coastline, to make sure the English got the message that the Netherlands would fight back in times of war, and fight hard. Relationships between the two countries did however remain tense. Johan de Witt wrote a letter to Charles II after the conclusion of the peace of Breda, expressing his hope that "If Charles II is so concerned about the Netherlandic commercial wealth, that he compete with them as merchants and not as open adversaries in war." The letter however never received any reply from the English court.
Medio October the Netherlandic fleet returned to Hellevoetsluis and de Ruyter, van Ghent and Cornelis de Witt where received with all due ceremony, each receiving a golden cup with inscriptures and decorations of the crusade down the Medway. Portraits of de Ruyter where also put up in the five admiralties of the Netherlands, but it was Cornelis de Witt who would take the crown when it came to self-glorification. As steward of the city of Dordrecht he commissioned the painting of a large allegorie depicting Cornelis de Witt as victor on the crusade down the medway, with angels pouring out the spoils of victory from golden horns, while a backdrop offers a glimpse of the Netherlandic fleet burning several English ships. De Ruyter however did not such thing, and simply ordered a few portraits of him and his family. Again de Ruyter's popularity soared and many poems where written to commemorate his victory.
De zeedreak van 't hoovaerdigh Londen,
Die d'oceaen als wetten stelt,
Door Hollandts Ruyter is verslonden,
En zijnen trotsen kop gevelt.
The seadragon of the vainglorious London,
Who turns oceans into law,
Has by Holland's Ruyter been devoured,
And severed its prideful head.
Current Mood: lazy2 comments - Leave a comment
Current Music: The Kinks - Sunny Afternoon
|Oct. 26th, 2004 01:19 am The humbling of the foe.|
As de Ruyter's health worsened again, his command of the fleet for the coming crucial expedition to the heart of England became mostly a formality. Thankfully there were plenty of commanders and envoys who could carry out most of de Ruyter's duties. Cornelis de Witt could, in continuous correspondence with his brother Johan, take command of the fleet. Lieutenant Admiral van Ghent would be in command of the practical execution of the amphibious landings, who was also a colonel with the Netherlandic marine core.
In the event that de Ruyter's health would keep him from even retaining daily command of the fleet, Aert van Nes would be his replacement, just like had happened in 1666.
Because of his illness, de Ruyter's contribution to the preparation of the expedition to Chatham was minimal, while for many centuries de Ruyter was perceived as the chief architect of what is now known as one of England's most humiliating naval defeats.
When on the 7th of June the fleet, which counted 45 sails, set out to open sea, there was little of interest to report. De Ruyter's journals as well as those of other commanders report little of de Ruyter's illness during the first few weeks at sea, and we can assume the aging admiral felt better for a little while, more in his element on the open sea. The fleet, which in a few days had grown to 80 ships of the line and 20 burners, was divided into three squadrons under de Ruyter, Aert van Nes and van Ghent. In total the fleet carried 3300 guns and 18.500 soldiers and marines. The latter had joined the fleet to be deployed in the eventuality of an amphibious landing.
On the 18th of June the Netherlandic fleet appeared at the mouth of the Thames river, where a conference was held to decide the best course of action. It was decided to sail up the Medway with 17 light ships of the line, five yaughts, four burners and ten galleys which carried about a 1000 marines. This detachment came under the command of lieutenant-admiral van Ghent, while de Ruyter maintained command of the rest of the fleet which remained at the mouth of the Thames river, to prevent English ships from entering or leaving the river. Cornelis de Witt shipped himself aboard the Agatha with van Ghent to oversee the execution of the expedition.
The 19th of June 1667, a day which has been written in golden letters in Netherlandic history books, had arrived. The first two days where spent in slowly but surely advancing down the Medway towards Chatham, and breaking the heavy iron chain which had been spun across the Medway to halt the Netherlandic advance. Only on the 22nd of June did the first anchored English ships appear in view.
On request of Cornelis de Witt, de Ruyter had joined the small task force to oversee the proper execution of orders. In the early morning of June 22nd, the expedition didn't seem to make much headway, as the fleet slowly sailed past Queensborough. The arrival of the popular de Ruyter did however greatly improve the morale of the troops, as Cornelis de Witt must have expected himself.
Resistance to the Netherlandic advance was negligent, as panic spread throughout the English ships anchored near and around Chatham. By the end of June 22nd, six English ships had been burned and sunk, and the English flagship, the Royal Charles was taken as a prize - of which the Royal coat of arms still can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
On June 23d, the Netherlanders attempted to sail further down the river, and this time de Ruyter assumed full command of the expedition. Finding numerous English warships, de Ruyter boarded a dinghy and, at the head of several burners, approached the English ships. Three capital warships where burned down. These were the Royal James, Loyal London and Royal Oak. The Netherlanders thought better of sailing down the river the next day. The failing tide, the sunk English ships, the increasingly narrow and winding river and the now warned English all contributed to de Witt and de Ruyter's decision to sail back.
The panic which the invasion (as the English called it) had caused, was widespread and enormous, even causing panic in Ireland. The people and the court feared a full fledged invasion and perhaps even an attempt to explore the possibilities of committing a coup d'etat. A government official in Northern Ireland recalled de Ruyter having worked there in 1644 (!!) and noted how the now commander in chief of the Netherlandic fleet had regarded the city's defenses with great interest. People started to fear that the next target might be Londonderry which, if conquered, could be used as a folk plantation by the Netherlanders, as it was a lucrative market and distribution center of foodstuffs, hides and wood. This last example clearly illustrates how great the fear had become for the Netherlandic fleet and de Ruyter in particular, whose name alone was mentioned as the soul cause for the success of the Netherlandic expedition to Charles II.
In the Republic of the Seven Provinces too de Ruyter's name was on everyone's lips. People celebrated by lighting bonfires and a large amount of poems where written by some of the Netherlands more renowned poets like Vondel. The Netherlandic expedition on the Medway quickly garnered the desired effect on the peace negotiations in Breda, as English diplomats suddenly seemed much more pragmatic and willing to compromise. Still Johan de Witt was not satisfied with the results, and he reasoned that in order to force the English to make real concessions, they had to be kept under constant pressure. Only a few weeks after the expedition on the Medway, feelings started to arise in England that things could have been much worse had the Netherlanders pressed on, and their diplomatic stance was adjusted accordingly.
Receiving orders from Johan de Witt, the Netherlandic fleet was divided into several divisions to harrass the English coast from north to south. The main force of 30 sails under de Ruyter again entered the Thames river, but could not enter deeply enough, as it mainly consisted of heavy warships which had too deep a draft to navigate the river without the risk of running aground. Not only was the river too treacherous to navigate for heavier warships, the English had also sunk several more of their own ships to narrow the mouth of the Thames river and extra batteries of cannons had been deployed at the entry point of the Thames. It was then decided that the fleet would simply limit itself to a blockade of the Thames, but yet again Johan de Witt pressed for more and greater actions.
On the 12th of July, 1500 marines entered small boats and yaughts to mount an attack on Fort Landguard near Felixstowe, under personal command by de Ruyter and Cornelis de Witt. The opposition was immense however, and the Netherlanders saw no choice but to withdraw to the fleet. Similar attacks on fortresses along the English coastline failed miserably, but still caused a great deal of panic amongst the English populace. The Netherlandic fleet command now faced the difficult decision what to do next. An attack on a random location seemed desirable, as the English greatly feared a full fledged invasion. Much to the dismay of Cornelis de Witt, de Ruyter advised to to conquer several English villages along the channel to pillage and burn down farms and woodmills around the surrounding countryside. Cornelis de Witt renounced the proposition with some indignance, saying that such a plan was in breach with the "Civility and good conduct shown towards the English civilians by our forces thus far." Johan de Witt, with a sense of understatement, later wrote to de Ruyter that he felt de Ruyter's plan "...was unservicable and rather unchristian." The latter comment clearly was a subtle sneer towards the otherwise pious and humane admiral. So what then moved de Ruyter, to give such a rash and uncharacteristic advice?
More about that, in my second entry on this episode in history.
Current Mood: calmLeave a comment
Current Music: Mark Hollis - The daily planet
Back a Page