White Jacket (mr_machiavelli) wrote in sailors_daily,
White Jacket

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I don't think this entirely in lieu with the point and purpose of this community, all the same what I am posting here might, hopefully, spark some interest. If not I apologise for the inconvenience and will slowly see this entry sink beneath the waves of the digital ether.

I am currently reading several biographies on famous Dutch admirals. I have already finished the one on Michiel de Ruyter, who you may or may not know as the Dutch admiral who sacked the British fleet in their very own port on the Thames. So now I am left with a hefty tome on 'Maerten and Cornelis Tromp' (Father and son), and these biographies are so intriguing that they start to sound more like fictional novels than real events.

Maerten Tromp was a pious, charismatic admiral, who always worked to the best interest of his sailors and the country, and never for personal gain. Whenever money was short to stock enough food and supplies aboard his ships before going on campaign, he would make sure there would be enough by paying for it himself with his own money. Maerten Tromp, as high lord Admiral, gained the nickname of 'Bestevaer' which means both Grand father and best sailor in old Dutch. In short, he was extremely loved by his men for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

Cornelis Tromp on the other hand, always felt he stood in the shadow of his father and as such took a very machiavellian approach to gain more power. All the same he was outdone by Michiel de Ruyter in terms of understanding naval tactics and sea warfare. Knowing he would never rise above the rank of vice-admiral in the Dutch navy as long as Michiel de Ruyter was alive, he concocted a very elaborate scheme. At the time of Michiel de Ruyter the Netherlands were a Republic, as the house of Orange had been stripped of power. Cornelis Tromp, along with William III of Orange, convinced the English, French and several German counts to wage war against the Netherlands, creating such unprecedented level of public fear and outrage that the Republican leaders would soon find themselves the target of an angry mob. The angry mob in this case were royalist sailors sent by Cornelis Tromp. With the republican leaders killed, William III quickly took power, managed to score some 'miraculous' victories against the French and Germans, who quickly backed out of the war.

What neither William III or Cornelis Tromp took into account, was that Michiel de Ruyter scored several amazing victories against both the French and English at sea. Routing an Anglo-French fleet which was more than twice the size of his own, and killing the English admiral, Prince Rupert. The Republican Michiel de Ruyter had now gained such a level of popularity that it would be impossible to either sack or kill him.

Instead William III sent the now 72 year old Admiral to the mediterranean with an under equipped and under strength fleet to assist the Spanish in driving the French from Seracuse. The Spanish fleet was both outdated and lacked the experience the Dutch had, nevertheless William III promised the Spanish that they would have overal command of the fleet. When it turned out that Michiel de Ruyter's fleet of 17 ships would only be supplemented by 4 Spanish galleys he resigned himself to his fate, starting to realise what had happened. When he finally met the French armada the unthinkable happened, he again scored a victory and managed to send the French retreating, even after the Spanish had abandoned him. Unfortunately, Michiel de Ruyter had been hit by a cannonball, severing his right foot, and also sustaining a bad head injury. As his crew realised he would die soon, they lowered the admiral's flag and set back to the Dutch ports. The French admiral, seeing the admiral's flag being lowered approached the Dutch fleet but kept his distance, only offering the soon-to-be-dead admiral a parting salute to offer his respects, even going so far as to escort the Dutch fleet out of the mediterranean.

It turned out that this particular French admiral (I forgot his name), was the only one willing to sail out to confront the almost mythological Michiel de Ruyter. Other admirals, who were his superior by many years did not dare to leave port. When they finally learned what had happened they did everything to catch up with the battered Dutch fleet, but the French admiral had already safely guided the Dutch fleet out of hostile waters, after which the good man resigned, refusing to take any acclaim or credit for slaying Michiel de Ruyter.

Cornelis Tromp finally became admiral, but all naval wars would soon be over, his conscience would come to haunt him and he died of old age in his own bad, never having seen action when he rose to the rank of Lord High Admiral.

Stories like these, I simply love them and I think it is a shame that people here know so little about these events, or the underhanded ways in which the current Dutch monarchy came into power.

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