Battle of Texel or Kijkduin, 11/ 21 August 1673

The battle of Texel or Kijkduin (11/21 August 1673) was the third of three inconclusive battles that prevented the British and French from landing an invasion army on the Dutch coast, and that helped to convince the British to make peace.

The British and French had hoped to defeat the Dutch with a two pronged invasion during 1672, but the amphibious part of that plan had been cancelled after the battle of Solebay (7 June 1672). The French had been unable to cross the Dutch water defences during the winter of 1672-73, and so a renewed naval effort was planned for 1673.

The combined British and French fleet, under the command of Prince Rupert of the Rhine and Admiral Jean Comte d'Estrées, made its first attempt to reach the Dutch coast at the end of May, but was twice foiled by a smaller Dutch fleet under Michiel de Ruyter (first battle of the Schooneveld, 28 May/ 7 June 1673 and second battle of the Schooneveld, 4/14 June 1673). After the second battle the British and French were forced back to port for repairs, and they were only able to return to sea in mid-July.

The Allied fleet was roughly the same size as during the earlier battles, with 62 British and 30 French ships of the line and frigates and 28 fireships. The Dutch had managed to increase the size of their fleet, and had 75 ships-of-the line and 22 fireships, still under de Ruyter.

The Dutch put to sea at about the same times as the Allies, and on 20 July came into sight of each other. At this point de Ruyter claimed to have offered battle, but been rebuffed by the Allies. After this first meeting the Dutch returned to their anchorage at Schooneveld, while the Allies moved further north along the coast, and threatened to land troops near the mouth of the Maas and then at Texel.

Neither landing was carried out. The Prince of Orange was known to be organising the defence on shore, and with the Dutch fleet still intact Prince Rupert couldn't risk being caught while landing his troops. The Prince of Orange then ordered de Ruyter to seek out the Allies, and the Dutch fleet put to sea on 28 July. The Dutch moved north-east along the Dutch coast, reaching the Texel on 7 August, and on 10 August the two fleets sighted each other. On that day the weather favoured the Allies, and so de Ruyter used the shallow coastal water to avoid battle, but on 11 August the wind turned in his favour, and the battle began.

Portrait of Cornelis Tromp by Abraham Willaerts
Portrait of Cornelis Tromp
by Abraham Willaerts

De Ruyter split his fleet into three unequal squadrons. Admiral Adriaen Banckers, in the van, was only given 10-12 ships, while de Ruyter in the centre and Tromp at the rear both had 32-33 ships.

The Allied fleet was split into three equal squadrons, with d'Estrées in the front, Prince Rupert in the centre and Sir Edward Spragge at the rear.

To his credit d'Estrées attempted to use his superior numbers to surround the Dutch van, ordering his leading sub-division to get to the windward of Banckers. This part of the manoeuvre succeeded, but the Dutch then managed to break through the main part of the French line and Banckers was able to reinforce de Ruyter. The Frence were unable to return to the battle until later in the day.

The two British squadrons quickly drifted apart. Prince Rupert attempted to draw de Ruyter away from the Dutch coast, while Spragge simply waited for Tromp. Spragge and Tromp were both somewhat reckless, and their squadrons were quickly involved in a fierce battle fought at close range. Both men were forced to move their flag after their initial flagships were badly damaged, and Spragge was drowned while attempted to move for a second time.

Prince Rupert found himself outnumbered by de Ruyter and Banckers. De Ruyters managed to split Prince Rupert's squadron in two, using ten of his own ships to cut off a similar number of British ships, leaving Prince Rupert with thirty-two ships to face an attack by forty-two Dutch ships. Eventually the British were able to extract themselves from this trap, and Prince Rupert decided to move towards Spragge's squadron. De Ruyter followed, and the centre and rear squadrons on both sides were soon reunited. The fighting quickly resumed, and continued until about 7.00pm, when the French squadron finally made its way back into the battle and de Ruyter withdrew into shallower water.

Despite the hard fought nature of the battle neither side lost any ships-of-the line during the battle of Texel. The Allies suffered heavier casualties, partly because many of their ships were packed with troops expecting to land in Holland.

The battle of the Texel was the last major clash of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The British people were already more inclined to support the Dutch than the French, and the perceived poor performance of the French squadrons during the four major naval battles of 1672-73 did nothing to endear them to their allies. Peace negotiations soon began, and the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster on 9 February 1674. The Franco-Dutch War continued on for another four years, but in 1677 Princess Mary of York married William of Orange, a sign that Britain was moving close to an alliance with the Dutch, and in the following year, his invasion plans having failed, Louis XIV also made peace.

Subject Index: Anglo-Dutch Wars

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 August 2009), Battle of Texel or Kijkduin, 11/ 21 August 1673 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_texel_1673.html

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