Second Anglo-Dutch War

Commercial and colonial rivalries between the Dutch and the English led to the second of three naval wars fought between the two countries. Most of the engagements occurred in the English Channel and North Sea between Europe’s two strongest maritime powers. Aggressive actions from France hastened peace negotiations, which produced a compromise, the Treaty of Breda.

Summary of Event

Although the First Anglo-Dutch War ended in 1654, by the 1660’s issues flowing from that conflict had never been completely resolved. Political maneuvering within England and the Dutch Republic and the fact that both countries were aggressively seeking commercial advantages in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and northern Europe led to the outbreak of hostilities. [kw]Second Anglo-Dutch War (Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667)
[kw]War, Second Anglo-Dutch (Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667)
[kw]Dutch War, Second Anglo- (Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667)
[kw]Anglo-Dutch War, Second (Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667)
Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Trade and commerce;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Government and politics;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Expansion and land acquisition;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Europe;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Africa;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Caribbean;Mar. 4, 1665-July 31, 1667: Second Anglo-Dutch War[2210]
Anglo-Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)[Anglo Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)]

In October, 1663, an English fleet commanded by Sir Robert Holmes Holmes, Sir Robert captured a series of Dutch trading posts along Guinea’s Gold Coast (West Africa). The grand pensionary of the Dutch Republic, Johan de Witt, Witt, Johan de secretly ordered Dutch commander Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter Ruyter, Michiel Adriaanszoon de to recapture the posts, which he did in 1664. De Ruyter later harassed English ships in the Caribbean and off the coast of Newfoundland before returning to the North Sea. An English fleet captured the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam New Netherland;British conquest of in North America, without firing a shot, on September 7, 1664. To honor James James II (king of England) , duke of York and duke of Albany, the colony was renamed New York. In December, 1664, an English fleet attacked a Dutch merchant fleet returning from Smyrna to the Dutch Republic. All of these actions occurred before the English formally declared war on March 4, 1665.

Scholars of naval history note that the English navy totaled about 160 ships with 5,000 guns and 25,000 sailors, and the Dutch had 135 ships and only slightly fewer guns and sailors. In 1664, English merchants presented evidence to a committee in the House of Commons that the Dutch had hurt their trade. The chief complaint was that the Dutch had refused to hand over Pulo Run in the Banda Islands in the East Indies. These merchants with support from young English courtiers and the very anti-Dutch English ambassador to the Dutch Republic, Sir George Downing, Downing, Sir George were pushing for war. English claims to sovereignty of the seas in the English Channel and their demands that Dutch ships salute the English flag were issues left over from the First Anglo-Dutch War.

The first move after the declaration of war was the duke of York’s patrolling off Texel in the Netherlands with a fleet of 100 ships in late April, 1665, as a show of force, but he could not maintain this presence and retreated to the mouth of the Thames River. De Witt had strengthened the Dutch navy since the end of the First Anglo-Dutch War in terms of numbers of ships, and better provisioning and equipping, so when the two fleets met for the first clash of the war at Lowestoft Lowestoft, Battle of (1665) off the English coast on June 3, 1665, the English encountered more than 100 Dutch ships, the largest Dutch fleet ever assembled. In a bloody fight, the English defeated the Dutch, who lost 17 ships (including their flag ship) and some 5,000 men, whereas the English lost one ship and 700 men. The duke of York failed to follow up this tremendous advantage, so the Dutch were able to withdraw and regroup.

English fleets missed de Ruyter’s fleet returning from North America and another Dutch merchant fleet from Asia. The war widened when the English attacked Dutch merchant vessels in Bergen in Danish territory and the Danes fired upon the English from their fortress. The English declared war on Denmark in August, 1665. England’s troubles were compounded by the outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665 and the entry of the French into the war on the side of the Dutch in 1666.

The next great naval battle, the Four Days’ Battle Four Days’ Battle (1666) , occurred in the English Channel off Dover between June 1 and June 4, 1666, resulting in a Dutch victory. De Ruyter commanded 84 ships and 9 fireships; English commander George Monck Monck, George had 54 ships. This bloody battle exhibited substantial broadside firing, the boarding of ships, and use of fireships, causing the loss of 15 to 20 English ships and thousands of Englishmen. Dutch losses and casualties amounted to about half those of the English. Prince Rupert Rupert, Prince and his fleet of 22 English ships arrived two days after this enormous battle. His ships had been sorely missed by the English.

The Two Days’ Battle Two Days’ Battle (1666) , or St. James Day Fight, of July 25-26, 1666, was an English victory for Monck over de Ruyter, and Holmes ravaged 150 Dutch ships along the Dutch coast. He also sacked the Dutch town of Westerschelling on the island of Terschelling in an action called Holmes’s Bonfire Holmes’s Bonfire (1666)[Holmess Bonfire (1666)] . However, in late 1666, the English began to suffer a notable shortfall in revenue, partly because of the plague, the Great Fire of London (September), and the disruption of trade because of the war. As a consequence, the English government did not have enough money to equip and maintain the fleet, which curtailed naval activity and led to the worst English disaster of the war—the Dutch attacks on the Thames and Medway Rivers in June of 1667.

Ironically, these raids took place while peace negotiations at Breda were underway. The majority of the English fleet was in port at Portsmouth and Harwich, and along the Medway and Thames Rivers. English informants from the Netherlands warned the English government that the Dutch were preparing a major expedition that might attempt a landing in England. The English government ignored the warning, believing that the Dutch would not want to jeopardize the peace negotiations and also because Louis XIV, king of France, had launched an attack on the Spanish Netherlands, starting the War of Devolution (1667-1668).

Bohemian-born Prince Rupert fought for the English as a naval commander.

(Library of Congress)

De Witt’s bold plan was successful because he recruited disaffected English sailors with knowledge of the Thames and Medway Rivers. The objectives were to destroy the English ships on the Medway and at the dockyards at Chatham. Although the commanders and officers were reluctant to undertake such a bold strike because of the treacherous Medway River and its chain barrier to protect it, the Dutch succeeded in an amazing attack from June 11 to 14, 1667, in which they towed away the English flagship Royal Charles and burned or sunk the Royal James, Loyal London, Royal Oak, and several other ships. In the meantime, Dutch raiders had attacked the Isle of Sheppey and destroyed the fortress of Sheerness. This humiliating defeat for the English allowed the Dutch to equalize the number of warships had by each navy. The Dutch now dominated the English Channel and the North Sea, which caused the English to push for a swift conclusion to the peace negotiations.


The Treaty of Breda, Breda, Treaty of (1667) July 31, 1667, ended the conflict. The Dutch kept Pulo Run, which they had turned over to England in April, 1665, but had recaptured shortly thereafter. Surinam, captured from England in 1667, remained in Dutch possession and New York (New Amsterdam) was retained by the English. The procedures for search of cargoes were defined, and the Dutch were to strike their colors for English warships in the English Channel and North Sea. A major gain for the Dutch was a modification of England’s Navigation Act (1660) Navigation Acts (1660-1663) which allowed the Dutch to transport to England in Dutch ships merchandise from the Dutch Republic, Spanish Netherlands, and German territories.

Along the Guinea coast, the English retained Cape Coast Castle, which enabled them to continue a profitable trade in slaves and ivory. Both sides benefited and both sides made concessions. In January, 1668, England, the Dutch Republic, and Sweden signed the Triple Alliance against French aggression, but in 1670, France and England signed the secret Treaty of Dover Dover, Treaty of (1670) to prepare for a joint war against the Dutch, resulting in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674) and the French-Dutch War (1672-1678).

Further Reading

  • Boxer, C. R. The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1974. This short work, which is profusely illustrated, provides a concise summary of the wars.
  • Bruijn, Jaap R. The Dutch Navy of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. This detailed work summarizes the conflicts in which the Dutch fought but also analyzes policy, tactics, administrative structure, and the development of the officer corps, and describes the crews and ships.
  • Hainsworth, Roger, and Christie Churches. The Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars, 1652-1674. Phoenix Mill, England: Sutton, 1998. This work describes the wars and places them within the context of the wars of the seventeenth century. It has many illustrations and maps that enhance the reader’s understanding of the battles.
  • Jones, J. R. The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century. New York: Longman, 1996. This analytical work argues that economic factors were not the primary motivations for English involvement in the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i><br />

Charles II (of England); James II; George Monck; Samuel Pepys; Prince Rupert; Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter; Peter Stuyvesant. Anglo-Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)[Anglo Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)]