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Dutch attack on the Medway: the 'Royal Charles' carried into Dutch Waters, 12 June 1667

Ludolf Backhuysen, Dutch attack on the Medway: the ‘Royal Charles’ carried into Dutch Waters, 12 June 1667, oil on canvas,1219 mm x 1981 mm, dated 1667. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

In June 1667 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, 1665-67, the Dutch carried out a daring raid up the River Medway. They captured the ‘Royal Charles’ at Chatham, which was a particular humiliation for the English because originally the Commonwealth warship ‘Naseby’, which had brought back Charles II from the Netherlands at his Restoration in 1660 and had been renamed by him on that occasion. Bakhuizen depicts the English ship, considered to be one of the finest in the fleet, brought back to Hellevoetsluis in Holland in triumph – presumably as a commission for a Dutchman involved in the raid. The royal coat of arms, clearly visible on the ship’s stern, is now largely preserved in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. In this painting the ‘Royal Charles’ can be seen in the centre under small sail, with a Dutch Admiralty or States Yacht to the left, flying a white flag with an anchor as well as the Dutch pennant. To the left of the ‘Royal Charles’ is a man-of-war showing the Dutch flag and pennant at the main masthead. There are other smaller vessels amidst the larger ships. The artist was initially a calligrapher in his native Germany before moving to Amsterdam. There he was inspired by the grisaille drawings of van de Velde the Elder. Later he was introduced to marine painting in oils in the studios of van Everdingen and Dubbels. He was a contemporary of van de Velde the Younger and shared with him a concern for painting ships with accuracy and understanding.

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