Sunday, 17 April 2016

The War That Never Was!

Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast
30 years ago today, the 335 Years’ War between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly ended with a peace treaty being signed. This war had been long forgotten and many people regarded it as a myth until historical records were unearthed showing they were technically still at war.

The origins of the conflict can be found in the mid-17th century with the Second English Civil War, fought between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell had managed to push the Royalists out to the edges of the kingdom, leaving Cornwall as the last patriotic stronghold, but in 1648 a further advance sent the Royalist Navy to retreat out to the Isles of Scilly (off the Cornish coast).

Meanwhile after being assisted by the English on numerous previous occasions throughout the Eighty years war, the Netherlands decided to maintain their alliance by entering the conflict on the side of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians, after identifying them as the most likely victors. This act infuriated the Royalists who considered themselves as their long term allies, causing them to avenge their former friends by raiding Dutch shipping lanes in the English Channel.

Admiral Tromp
In 1651 the Dutch, seeking an opportunity to recoup losses incurred from Royalist raids, sent a fleet of 12 warships to the Isles of Scilly to demand reparations. After receiving no satisfactory answer from the Royalists, the Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp subsequently declared war on the Isles of Scilly on the 30th March 1651.

3 months later in June 1651, Cromwell’s army forced a Royalist surrender reverting the Islands back to Parliamentarian control and subsequently the Dutch fleet sailed home forgetting to ever declare peace with the Scilly Isles.

Netherlands Embassy
In 1985 a Scillonian historian Roy Duncan wrote to the Dutch embassy in London in an attempt to clear up a long talked about myth of a war. Imagine the shock on both sides when they came across a number of documents suggesting the two were still technically at war with each other.

Consequently Dutch ambassador Rein Huydecoper was invited to visit the Islands and peace was finally declared by the signing of a treaty on 17 April 1986, 335 years after the "hostilities" began.

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