Dutch Republic, 1672-1702 French Foreign Policy, 1661-1715 Brandenburg, 1640-1701 Austria 1648-1740
Spanish Netherlands, 1600-1713 Münster, 1650-1713 Cologne 1648-1723

Dutch War of Louis XIV., 1672-1678

A.) Prehistory of the Conflict

The Dutch Republic dominated overseas trade and enjoyed a trade surplus with all her European neighbour countries, a fact which caused the envy of merchants and state administrators abroad, as well as counter-measures generally referred to as Mercantilism. The Dutch Republic had a powerful navy and used her to interfere in conflicts such as the First Northern War 1655-1660; however the Republic, for reasons of both financial and domestic-political nature, neglected to keep a standing army, trusting in a dense network of waterways and a number of fortifications to hold off eventual enemies until an army could be recruited.
In the Dutch Republic, traditionally, the command over the army lay with the stadholder, a position for which only members of the House of Orange qualified. In 1618/1619 stadholder Maurice had used his power to arrest, have sentenced and executed Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, Grand Pensionary of the Estates of Holland. These Estates of Holland, who paid 57 % of the state revenue, feared monarchic ambitions of the House of Orange and since 1650 refused to appoint a stadholder. Until 1672, none was needed.
King Louis XIV. of France, by introducing a standing army, revolutionized warfare on land. The Dutch Republic posed a rich and inadequately defended prize.

B.1) The War : the Northern Front

French diplomacy prepared the war; in a secret treaty, England was promised subsidies in case she entered the war on the Dutch Republic (which she did, see Third Anglo-Dutch War). The Princebishop of Liege had been pressured into granting passage for French troops; The Princebishops of Münster and Cologne actively entered the war as French allies.
The French army invaded suddenly; the IJssel Line, the first intended line of defense, could not be held. The French took a number of fortifications, among them Naarden. The Dutch flooded a stretch of land in order to halt the invaders. Meanwhile Munsteran troops laid siege to Groningen.
The French and English had devised a plan, to turn the Dutch Republic into a monarchy, with William III. of Orange as king. He, however, did not want to become king by the grace of Louis XIV. and energetically pursued the defense of the republic.
Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt accepted the inevitable and appointed William III. stadholder of Holland for life, trying to control him via the budget (which for the larger part had to be paid by the Estates of Holland). However, public opinion blamed him for the disaster; he and his brother Cornelis were lynched by the mob.
Exceptionally cold weather in December 1672 caused the waterline to freeze over and permitted the French to cross; however they retreated days later, fearing to be cut off by the thaw. The siege of Groningen had been lifted after a month of futile bombardment. Now the Dutch side went on the counteroffensive, liberated some occupied territory.
Imperial and Brandenburgian troops, in Sept. 1672, appeared in the lower Rhineland, forcing France to draw troops off the Dutch theatre of war. In late 1673 William III. succeeded in taking the French arsenal at Bonn. On February 19th 1674 England signed peace, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Münster followed April 22nd, Cologne May 11th.
In 1675 French diplomacy landed another coup; Sweden invaded Brandenburg, drawing her troops off the Rhineland front (the Swedish-Brandenburgian War).
On the Dutch front, the theatre of war had moved to the southern (Spanish) Netherlands, with France and the Emperor now being the main opponents. The most memorable military event was the Battle of Seneffe (in Hainaut, Aug. 1674), a French victory over the allies. The war was ended by the Treaty of Nijmegen Aug. 10th 1678; it left a number of Spanish Habsburg territories, amongst others the Franche Comte, in French possession.

B.2.) The War : the Southern Front

Spain, with the Spanish Netherlands affected, was drawn into the war in 1673. French troops occupied the Franche Comte (1674). Spanish forces invaded Roussillon, a province ceded by Spain to France in 1659. A French fleet threatened Spain's possessions in southern Italy, the Kingdoms of Sicily, Naples and the island of Sardinia. A Dutch fleet under Admiral Michiel Adriaenszn. de Ruyter sailed into the Mediterranean to destroy the French naval supremacy there. The Dutch were victorious in the Battles of Stromboli and Mt. Etna (1676); however, Admiral de Ruyter was mortally wounded in the latter. Then the French were victorious in the Battle near Palermo.

B.3.) The War : the Colonies

A Dutch fleet attacked, but failed to take Martinique 1674. In May 1676 Dutch Admiral Jacob Blinck took Cayenne and Tobago; in Dec. 1676 French Vice-Admiral Jean d'Estrees retook Cayenne. The French captured Tobago (1677) and Goree (off Senegal, also in 1677), holding on to their conquests in the Treaty of Nijmegen 1678.

C.) Legacy

The Dutch War of Louis XIV. was just the beginning of his quest for hegemony in Europe. Dutch stadholder William III. was too aware of that and made it his life's object to thwart Louis' objective. William would become the soul of an anti-French alliance that would oppose him in the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-1697) and in the War of Spanish Succession 1701-1714.
The war of 1672-1678 had been very costly on the Dutch Republic; her Golden Age came to an end, she was no longer capable of playing the role of a great power, and she would see her overseas trade decline. During the Dutch War of Louis XIV., the Catholic minority in the Dutch Republic, despite having treated as a despised, suspicious element in Dutch society, had not come out in support of the French. After the Treaty of Nijmegen, the Dutch authorities were more careful in their treatment of the Dutch Catholics.

Article Hollandse Oorlog, Vrede van Nijmegen, Slag bij Kassel (1677), Waterlinie, Willem III. van Oranje-Nassau, Johan de Witt, in Wikipedia Dutch edition
Article Guerre de Hollande, Traite de Nimegue, in Wikipedia French edition
Article Franco-Dutch War, Treaty of Nijmegen, Dutch Water Line, William III. of England, Johan de Witt, from Wikipedia English edition
Article Französisch-Niederländischer Krieg, from Wikipedia German edition
Dutch Wars : War of 1672-1678, from infoplease
1672-1795 : the Age of Gold and Silver, from Amsterdam Heritage, on ecenomic consequences of French Invasion
Biographies of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde; of Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne; of Marechal Vauban, three military commanders of Louis XIV. in the Dutch War, posted by Elena Steingrad
Rampjaar 1672 (Year of Desaster, 1672), from Maurice & Tonia, in Dutch
Paranormale indrukken van de Oorlog van 1672, by Albert Metselaar, in Dutch
De Munsterse Oorlog (The Munster War), from Stichting Oudheidkamer, in Dutch
Vauban, from L'histoire de Roussillon
Article Franche Comte, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Map : Netherlands in 1672, features area occupied by the enemy; from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, from Mees, Historische Atlas, 1865
Louis XIV.'s Declaration of War against the Dutch Reoublic, from Hillsdale
Eenige spot-printen der Fransen tegen de Hollanders, 1673 (a number of satirical prints of the French against the Dutch), posted by E.R.P. Klouwen
Pamphlet : Resonnantie van den Munsterschen Trommelslagh op den Hollandschen Toon, posted by J. Helwig
The London Gazette, Nov. 9th-12th 1674 Nov. 4th-8th 1675, Apr. 24th-27th 1676, July 8th-11th 1678 from Electronic Historical Publications
The Siege of Puigcerda (Roussillon), 1678, from Hillsdale
Jetons 16, click Louis XIV 1673-1678
Counter commemorating the French capture of Tobago, 1677, from National Maritime Museum, London
REFERENCE Maarten Prak, The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge : UP 2005, pp.51-56

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 1st 2003, last revised on May 12th 2006

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