Saturday, June 7, 2008

Vlaggetjesdag and Dutch-English history

june 7 2008

Today is an important traditional day for those who love herring.

It's vlaggetjedag.

It's the day that the new herring arrives at Scheveningen and is presented to the public.

This year the fishingseason for herring has started earlier, and I've enjoyed the taste of herring since wednesday, but vlaggetjesdag is more than herring alone.

The fisherships parade through sea in front of the coast, and the public can see how the people used to live in this traditional herringfishing village.
A new rescueboat of the KNMR (Koninklijke Nederlandse Reddingsmaatschappij/Royal Dutch Rescue organisation) will be presented to the public too.

Last year more than 250.000 people crowded Scheveningen and this year at least as many people are expected.

Scheveningen is now part of The Hague.
It lies between the main part of The Hague and the sea.

Scheveningen is already mentioned in 1280, as "Sceveninghe".
Because it was situated near rich fishingareas in the sea, the main source of income was fish.

On august 10 1654 the battle of Scheveningen was fought between the Dutch (United Provinces) and the Commonwealth of England.
It was the result of an English blockade of the Dutch coast which followed after the English won the battle of Nieuwpoort and with it the reighn over the North Sea.
The English had sunken quite a lot of Dutch ships and the blockade, with the capture of many Dutch merchant boats, meant unemployment and starvation for many Dutch people.
The Dutch were a seafaring nation and needed fishing and trading for a good stable economy.

The battle of Scheveningen was fierce. Many ships were sunk, and the Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp lost his life.
Nothing was told to the fighting men, so they wouldn't loose their morale.

Both fleet had to withdraw and both claimed victory.
The English because they thought themselves to be tactical superior, and the Dutch, because the blockade was lifted.

To make the story short: this all led to negotiotions and to the Treaty of Westminster in 1654. Which meant that the United Provinces had to recognise the Navigation Acts of Oliver Cromwell which required that only english ships could import goods into the Commonwealth of England, with the exception of certain ships from the countries of origin of the goods they were carrying.
The Treaty also entailed an Acrt of Seclusion: William III, Prince of Orange wouldn't become Stadhouder.

Both sides were unhappy though, so soon they had another war: the second Anglo-Dutch war, which lasted from 1665 to 1667.

Leading up to the war were many petty incidents with greeting the flag, political abuse and open conflicts which spread all over the world against the Dutch.

Robert Holmes, in service of the Royal African Company, was send to capture Dutch trading posts and colonies in West Africa, at the same time as the English attacked the Dutch Colony New Netherland in North America (at what now is called Governors Island).

Michiel de Ruyter went first to Africa to free the colonies and then went to America to do the same.

The English fleet attacked and as soon as the Dutch fired back the English declared the war.
It was march 4 1665.
In England the warmachine was fueled with propaganda against the Dutch. Stories of atrocities in Africa, which were based on nothing, were invented to demonise the Dutch.

The english wanted to break the Dutch tradingroutes and treaties.
Their ships were heavier than the Dutch.

But they miscalculated.
The English weren't able to replace their ships as fast and plenty as the Dutch.
Even though England was inhabited by 4 times as many people as The Dutch Republic, most of them were poor peasants. They had to lean on the money the cities could afford.
The Dutch however were able to raise more money and built more ships.

Added to it: England had to deal with the Great Plague and the Great fire of London, thus with great economical loss.

The first battle was won by the English: the battle of Lowetoft on june 13.
But Johan de Witt, one of the main political figures, joined the fleet himself. He swept bad officers and bad tactics from the table and reinstalled new ones.
When De Ruyter returned from America he was given command of a modernised fleet, which quickly grew as the Dutch shipyards produced about 7 times more ships than the English.
The economical difference between England and the Dutch grew when the Spice ships of the VOC returned safely home from the East Indies.

In secret the English managed to motivate the Bishop of M√ľnster, Bernhard von Galen, to invade the Dutch Republic, while the English wanted a Spanish-English coalition.

The French Louis IX wass bound by a treaty of 1662 to support the Dutch in a war with England, but he witheld his aid.
Then he was alarmed by the idea that the fall of the Dutch Republic would mean a large powerful area dominated by the Habsburgs (Germans).

He immediately started "negotiations" with the English, who were shocked by the idea that The Netherlands would either become a Habsburg possession or fall under the French protection. Both options would be disastrous for England, both strategically and economical.

So Clarendon was send to make peace.
He contacted the orangists who were about to seize power in the Dutch Republic, but Johan de Witt returned just in time to prevent this.

He decided to end the problems once and for all.
De Ruyter was send and they forced their way to Medway and attacked the last English naval ships.
The English HMS Royal Charles was towed back to The Netherlands as a trophy.
Ofcourse the Dutch left the Chatham Dockyard unharmed. The psychological supremacy was assured, no need to destroy a country economically. It would have made them as bad as the English during the blockade.

A peace treaty was signed on july 31, 1667, called the Treaty of Breda.
The English kept New Netherlands and renamed it New York, after James, the Dutch kept the sugar plantations of Suriname.
The Navigation Acts were modernised, so the Dutch were no longer excluded.

This opened up the sea trading routes again, and the Dutch fishermen could safely fish in their own waters again.

So far something about the historical past of the area where we now celebrate vlaggetjesdag.



  1. How interesting. It was the Tamale festival in our neighborhood.

    We have a lot of latinos in the area and its a way of celebrating what they have done for our city.


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