The 17th-century naval hero Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter, born in Vlissingen, came from a modest background. He went to sea at the age of eleven, and quickly worked his way up to skipper. While still a seaman, in 1622 De Ruyter escaped from Spanish captivity. In these years he not only served the war fleet, but also captained merchant ships.
De Ruyter took part as commander in the First Anglo-Dutch War in 1652. Both countries were fighting for dominion over the sea. De Ruyter booked many great successes, was appointed vice-admiral and remained active in the struggle against England. Under his command, in 1667 a spectacular raid was launched against the ships, docks and warehouses in Chatham, east of London on the Medway River. The pride of the English fleet, HMS Royal Charles, was also captured. The famous admiral suffered serious injuries during a naval encounter with the French off the coast of Sicily in 1676 and succumbed to his wounds one week later. A tomb in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam marks the place where De Ruyter is buried.