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Battle of Texel

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle at Texel
Willem van de Velde, 1683
The naval Battle of Texel took place between the Dutch and the combined English and French fleets on August 11 1673, and was the last major battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which was itself part of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1674), during which Louis XIV of France sought to establish control over the Spanish Netherlands. The English involvement came about because of treaty obligations and was highly unpopular.

The overall commanders of the English and Dutch military forces were James, Duke of York, afterwards King James II of England, and William III of Orange, James' son-in-law and also a future King of England. The Battle of Texel was joined when a Dutch fleet sought to oppose the landing of troops by a combined Anglo-French fleet.

Prince Rupert commanded the Allied fleet of about 92 ships and 30 fireships, taking control of the centre himself, with D'Estrees comanding the van, and Sir Edward Spragge the rear division. The Dutch fleet of 75 ships and 30 fireships was commanded by de Ruyter, with Banckerts in charge of the van and Tromp the rear.

Although outnumbered, De Ruyter gained the weather gauge and sent his van under Banckerts in to separate the Allied van (under D'Estrees) from the main fleet. His ploy was effective, and the French ships were unable to play a significant part in the remainder of the battle, which became a gruelling encounter between the bulk of the Dutch fleet and the English centre and rear divisions. Both suffered badly during hours of fierce fighting.

Spragge and Tromp, commanding their respective rear divisions, clashed repeatedy, each having their ships so damaged as to need to shift their flags to fresh ships three times. On third occasion, Spragge drowned when his boat took a shot and sank.

With both fleets exhausted, the English eventually abandoned their attempt to land troops, and both sides retired. No ship was sunk, but many were seriously damaged and about 3000 men died: two-thirds of them English or French. After the battle Prince Rupert complained that the French had not done their share of the fighting, but historians ascribe the lack of French impact on the battle to de Ruyter's brilliant fleet handling. Despite its inconclusive finish, the battle was a clear strategic victory for the Dutch.

In the months following, the Netherlands formed an alliance with Spain and the French withdrew. The war came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster between the English and the Dutch in 1674.