In the 17th century, England fought three wars with the Republic in a little over twenty years. Rivalry between the two mercantile nations and European power politics were the principal causes. In these wars, the Republic won some spectacular victories.
Eight major battles were fought in the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654). At first, the Republic’s fleet was able to claim the upper hand. But by 1653, the English managed to impose a naval blockade. On 10 August 1653, the Dutch broke out and the two fleets met off the Dutch coast near Terheide. Soon into the battle, the Dutch received a crushing blow. On board the Dutch flagship, engaging the English flagship of General at Sea George Monk, Admiral Maarten Harpertsz Tromp was killed. The fight continued in all its ferocity. Losses on both sides were huge and none could claim victory, although the English blockade had been broken. Both countries were exhausted and so, unable to fight on, peace was signed in 1654.
By 1665, relations between England and the Dutch Republic had again deteriorated. Major naval battles followed, among these the Four Days’ Fight. Two years later, negotiations started. These proceeded slowly. While talks continued, a contingent of Dutch ships under Admiral Michiel de Ruyter crossed the North Sea and sailed up the River Medway. At Chatham many of the English ships were docked. Six of the biggest ships were set on fire. The English flagship, the Royal Charles, was towed home in triumph. After Chatham, the English had no option but to agree a peace. In gratitude to De Ruyter, the States of Holland presented him with a cup decorated with engravings of highlights of the raid. For Michiel de Ruyter the raid on Chatham was a high point in an already glorious career.
Admiral Michiel de Ruyter also played a part in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674). This war centred on the French intention to invade the Dutch Republic. Various German princes had joined the alliance, and so too the English. The English navy supported the French fleet at sea. However, Michiel de Ruyter was more than a match. He managed to inflict enormous damage in a series of four engagements. That prevented the French from landing an army by sea. In fact the Dutch navy was not even at full strength. A major contribution to the Dutch success was the lack of trust and cooperation between the French and English.