VELDE, Willem van de, the Elder
(b. 1611, Leiden, d. 1693, London)

The Council of War on Board 'De Zeven Provincien', the Flagship of Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter, on 10 June 1666

Oil on canvas, 117 x 175 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The most famous admiral in Dutch history, Michiel de Ruyter, enjoyed an international reputation and received numerous honours from other countries. De Ruyter was born in Flushing port in 1607, and first went to sea when he was only eleven years old. His navigating skills brought him rapid advancement. De Ruyter was employed by the Admiralty, in Zeeland in 1652 and in Amsterdam a year later. As vice-admiral of the fleet he took part in the numerous sea battles the Dutch fought against England. In 1665 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Dutch fleet. He won a number of victories, but the pinnacle of his career was undoubtedly the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674), in which his superior tactics enabled him to keep a large Anglo-French fleet away from the Dutch coast. De Ruyter was killed at Syracuse in 1676, and was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

This pen drawing by Willem van de Velde depicts the council of war on the eve of the four-day naval battle during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667). The battle, which took place on 11-14 June 1666, was won by the Dutch fleet under De Ruyter's command. The result, however, was disappointing: the English fleet was not destroyed, and losses on the Dutch side were almost as great.