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Koninklijke Marine - History

The Netherlanders had been a maritime people from the earliest antiquity. Under their medieval rulers, the counts of Holland and of Flanders and the House of Burgundy, they had rendered service at sea. The freemen owed the service known as the riemtal (riem, an oar). An admiralty office was established in 1397. But during the revolt against Philip II of Spain, new naval forces were formed which had no connection with the medieval navy, save in so far as the governments established in the different states which afterwards formed the Seven Provinces took possession of the jurisdiction and the dues of the medieval admiralty.

In the days of sailing vessels the navy of the Netherlands was a powerful one. During the rebellion against Spain in the latter part of the sixteenth century the vessels of the Dutch were of great assistance to the shore operations. As the contest went on the sea forces became strengthened and organized. The Dutch fleet arose out of the great struggle with Spain in the 16th century. The naval part of the war with Spain was for long conducted by the adventurers known as the "beggars of the sea," and was mainly confined to the coasts and rivers. In 1507, when the Confederation was formed and had provided itself with a common government in the slates-general, the need for a regularly organized seagoing fleet was felt. In that year the banner of the states-general, the red lion with the arrows in its paw, was first hoisted during the expedition to Cadiz in alliance with England. On 13 August 1597 the states-general issued the decree (Inslntclit) which regulated the naval administration of the Republic until 1795.

In 1607 the Dutch Admiral Heemskirk destroyed the Spanish fleet at Gibraltar. This brought about a truce of a dozen years and permitted the great and growing merchant marine of the United Provinces enormously to extend its scope and importance. The navy grew with the merchant service, and during nearly the whole of the seventeenth century both contended on equal terms with those of England.

The attachment of the Netherlanders to their local franchises was too strong to permit of the establishment of a central authority with absolute powers. It was therefore necessary to make a compromise by which some measure of unity was secured while the freedom of the various confederate states was effectually guarded. Five boards of admiralty (Admiralileits collegien) were recognized. They were: South Holland, or the Maas, sitting at Rotterdam; North Holland, or Amsterdam; Westfriesland (the western side of the Zuyder Zee), at Hoorn or Enkhuizen on alternate years; Zealand at Middleburg; and Friesland at Dokhum, or after 1645 at Harlingen. These bodies enjoyed all the rights of the admiralty and collected the port dues, out of which they provided for the current expenses of their respective squadrons. Extraordinary charges for war were met by grants from the province to which each board belonged.

When the stadtholdership was suspended in 1650 the powers of the admiral-general were absorbed by their high mightinesses (Hunne Hogtn Mogen) of the states-general. The staff of officers began with the lieutenant admiral-general and descended through the vice-admiral, the quaintly named Schoudt-bij-nacht, who was the rear-admiral, and whose title means "commander by night." These flag officers were named by the admiral-general or states-general. The captain was selected from the provincial list. The lieutenants were appointed by the local boards. No regular method of recruiting the corps of officers existed.

This compromise was in itself a bad system. With the exception of the board of North Holland, which was supported by the wealth of Amsterdam, the admiralties were commonly distressed for money. Unity of action was difficult to obtain. Much of the work of convoy which the state squadrons should have performed was thrown in the 17th century on directorates of merchants who fitted out privateers at their own expense. When there was no stadtholder, the local governing bodies trenched on the authority of the slates-general, and indulged in a great deal of favoritism. In one respect the navy of the Dutch republic might have been taken as a model by its neighbours. The feeding of the crews was contracted for by the captains, who were required to enter into securities for the execution of the contract, and who had a reputation for probity. The Dutch crews, being better fed and looked after than the English, suffered less from disease. The clumsy organization of the Dutch navy put it at a disadvantage in its wars with England, but the seamanship of the crews, their good gunnery, and the great ability of many of their admirals made them at all times formidable enemies.

In 1639, during the renewed war with Spain, Admiral Martin Trump annihilated a Spanish squadron off the Flemish coast, and seven months later defeated and dispersed the combined Spanish and Portuguese fleets off the British coast. In the period 1652-76 the Dutch fought many actions with the British and French fleets. In the majority of these they were victorious. In 1665 De Ruyter defeated the British fleet and compelled it to take refuge in the Thames, and in 1667 he entered the Medway and destroyed the British fleet as it lay at anchor. The union of England and the United Provinces relieved the Dutch from the strain of maintaining a very powerful navy, and during the next century it greatly declined.

The sympathy which the Dutch had shown for America induced Great Britain to declare war on them. The end which the cabinet of St. James had in view it attained in a great measure. The Dutch fleet indeed again showed itself worthy of its ancient fame; and Admiral Zouttman fought so bravely against the squadron of Admiral Hyde Parker at the Doggerbank, in 1781, that the victory remained undecided. But otherwise the Netherlands suffered the most severe losses everywhere. Their East Indian vessels fell into the hands of their enemies. Admiral Rodney took from them the island of St. Eustatius, whereby he inflicted on them a loss amounting to about $15,000,000. This was the end of the sea-power of the United Provinces.

No organic change was made till 1795, when the victories of the French revolutionary armies led to the formation of the Batavian republic. The five admiralties were then swept away and replaced by a committee for the direction of naval affairs, with a unified administration, organized by Pieter Paulus, a former official of the board of the Maas. The crushing of the Dutch navy by the British at the battle of CamperDown on October 1797, definitively marked the end of Dutch naval power as a significantforce in global politics. As Holland was now swept into the general convulsion of the French Revolution, it followed the fortunes of France. Its navy, after belonging to the Batavian republic, passed to the ephemeral kingdom of Holland, created by Napoleon in favour of his hrother Louis in 1806 and annexed to France in 1810. The Dutch navy then became absorbed in the French.

After the fall of Napoleon a navy was created for the kingdom of the Netherlands out of the Dutch fragments of the Imperial force. In the Napoleonic wars the Netherlands lost its independence and its fleet, and since that time it has never been a naval power of importance. Loss of naval power was accompanied by losses of overseas territories. The British empire permanently absorbed Ceylon, and the Dutch enclaves in South India, South Africa, and Jawa. Surinam, west Guyana, and Curacao weretemporarily captured. The decline of colonial power lasted in broad sense until 1949, when the Netherlands recognized Indonesia as an independent nation

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Page last modified: 08-09-2017 18:19:02 ZULU