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The Great Dutch Ship Robbery

Stern carving from the Royal Charles, c. 1660

This is possibly one of the most intriguing exhibits (for me) in the whole of the Rijksmuseum’s collection.  These arms of Charles II once adorned the stern transom, or ‘counter’, of the English flagship  the Royal Charles.  During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch bombarded then captured Sheerness before sailing up the Thames to Gravesend, then up the Medway to Chatham where they burned three of the British navy’s most important ships and other vessels before towing away the Unity and the Royal Charles to the Netherlands where they were broken up.   The counter decoration from the Royal Charles was preserved  to commemorate this remarkable Dutch triumph and the worst defeat in the Royal Navy’s history – and here it is in all its glory some 350+ years later.

Nearby hangs this painting by Willem Schellinks which depicts the extraordinary Dutch naval coup taking place.

Willem Schellinks
Willem Schellinks, The burning of the English fleet near Chatham, June 1667, during the second Anglo-Dutch war (1667-1678)

And this alternative take on it by Jan Van Leyden

Jan Van Leyden, The Dutch burning English ships during the Raid on the Medway, 20 June 1667 (c.1667-69)
Jan Van Leyden, The Dutch burning English ships during the Raid on the Medway, 20 June 1667 (c.1667-69)

I feel a paper coming on…