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350 Years: Treaty of Westminster signed, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War

Authored by Rex Cleaver
Published on 19th February, 2024 3 min read

350 Years: Treaty of Westminster signed, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War

On this day (19/02/2024), 350 years ago, the Treaty of Westminster was signed. This concluded the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–1674). Primarily a naval conflict between England and the Dutch Republic, the Third Anglo-Dutch War was one of numerous European conflicts fought in the latter half of the seventeenth century between France, England, the Netherlands, and Spain. Driven by dynastic power struggles, territorial ambitions, and confessional differences spawned by the Reformation, these wars often overlapped with each other due to complex alliances and shifting allegiances. 

Part of the wider Franco-Dutch conflict fought between 1672–1678, the Third Anglo-Dutch War emerged following the alliance forged between England and France in 1670 via the Treaty of Dover. Charles II agreed to support Louis XIV of France in an attack on the Dutch Republic. Louis’ ultimate aim was to establish a ‘universal monarchy’ across western Europe. Charles, on the other hand, was endeavouring to restore the damage to his prestige following the so-called Raid on the Medway in June 1667—a successful attack by the Dutch navy on English ships. The treaty also guaranteed hefty secret payments to Charles which he hoped would render him financially independent of Parliament. 

With the support of the British navy, the French made significant early advances into the Dutch Republic between May and June in 1672, gaining control of three of the seven Dutch provinces. The offensive ground to a halt, however, after Willliam III of Orange (then leader of the Netherlands and who was proclaimed king of Britain and Ireland in 1689 following the Glorious Revolution) decided to open the dikes around Amsterdam, flooding large portions of the surrounding country. Rallying his forces behind this “Water Line”, the strategy bought crucial time for William, allowing the Dutch Republic to mobilise its defences and coordinate resistance against the invaders. 

The turning point of the war came following the diplomatic and military manoeuvres that culminated in the Treaty of Westminster in 1674. Recognising the untenable nature of its alliance with France, and facing mounting pressure at home and abroad, England sought reconciliation with the Dutch Republic. The treaty marked the formal end of hostilities between the two countries and, in turn, saw England abandoning its alliance with France. Charles II (uncle to William III) gained very little by agreeing to peace, yet he knew that Parliament would soon cease funding the war. Indeed, the Privy Council was now keenly aware of the secretive Treaty of Dover, whereby Charles had also promised Louis XIV that he would convert to Roman Catholicism at an opportune moment. Charles knew his position as king was becoming all the more fragile, and that his country was growing tired of war.   

The Treaty of Westminster ushered in a period of relative stability in Anglo-Dutch relations. This era was characterised by mutual recognition of each nation’s maritime and colonial interests. The treaty likewise brought about an exchange of colonies that each side had been fighting over for several decades. New Netherlands was returned to English possession, becoming New York once again, and Suriname, which had been captured by the Dutch in 1667, would remain a Dutch colony. Although occasional tensions and conflicts would continue to arise in subsequent years, the war had lasting implications in terms of the balance of power in Europe and the subsequent trajectory of colonial expansion and trade in the Atlantic world.

Authored by Rex Cleaver

Rex Cleaver

Rex is an Editorial Assistant at British Online Archives

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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