1 Invasion of England in 1688

The Glorious Revolution came about by an invasion of England by William III Prince of Orange and Stadholder of the United Provinces.

This page will focus on the naval aspects of the Glorious Revolution, the part that can labelled as the invasion of England. It starts with descriptions of the opposing navies, and then continues with the flow of events. One of the most intriguing questions about the invasion of England is whether it was a gamble. It seems that at first it was not at all a gamble. When it finally happened it did mean taking a calculated risk.

There are a lot of dates like 3/13 November on this page. The former denotes the English (Julian) date reckoning, the latter the continental Gregorian calendar. The map only gives the Gregorian.

2 The English navy in 1688

Effective English and Dutch fleets in October 1688
TotalRateEquippingIn serviceavg. gunsDutchavg. guns
91st--98--
112nd--88--
393rd102681163
414th1114462147
25th--?831
66th1117625
26burners512?8?

The English navy's failure to stop the 1688 invasion fleet is often attributed to contrary winds and tides at the moment it sighted the Dutch fleet. The real question is why it was not brought further forward when the winds were favorable. For this one should look at the effective strength of the English navy in 1688.

A statement that when the danger of invasion became clear a fleet of: 'Thirty ships of the line, all third rates and fourth rates, were collected in the Thames, under the command of Lord Dartmouth1 is not very specific. For the effective strength of the English navy in 1688 we have the order James II issued to Lord Dartmouth on 1/11 October 16882.

Based on the annex I´ve made the overview to the left which shows that it was hastily equipping ships. I've added the total number of ships the English fleet from a December list and the ships of the Dutch invasion fleet. By noting the 'in service' column, it explains why on 1/11 October the 57 Dutch ships were more than enough to escort their transport fleet.

2.1 The English navy during the first invasion attempt 19/29 October

The Dutch fleet sailed for the first time on 19/29 October. At that time the English fleet stayed at Oaze Edge, very near to the Thames. On 12/22 October the commander communicated that he was waiting for 6 ships to come in and on leaving the Thames would first go to The Downs. This was probably a correct decision because on 12/22 October the fleet only had 26 ships of the line and 2 light frigates and was defective in everything. During the First Invasion attempt the English fleet therefore did not even sail to meet the enemy.

For a more detailed explanation of the list to the left: The ships marked as not in the fleet on 3/13 November (Churchill; Woolwich; Saint-Albans and York) and the Swallow, Dreadnought, Plymouth and Diamond were absent on 12/22 October. The Elizabeth and Pendennis were not ready, the latter missing 240 men on 13/23 Oct. The Tiger was stil at Chatham on 15/25 Oct.

2.2 The English fleet that tried to intercept the Invasion fleet

The English fleet that did try to intercept the Invasion Fleet was the one that sailed from Oaze Edge to the Gunfleet on 24/3 November and left there on 30 October/9 November. On 17 October Dartmouth confirmed the arrival of the 'Portsmouth' ships that he could yet expect (Dreadnought; Plymouth; Diamond) and the expected arrival of the Elizabeth and Pendennis3. The Swallow was on of the last ships to join.

As mentioned below this fleet had its final composition on 29/8 November. This was 33 ships of the line, 2 light frigates and 13 burners. In the OOB of the main ships the missing ones are marked as not in the fleet on 3/13 November. It had serious defects in the number of men as well as in the quality of its crews. Hasty pressing of men/boys and using soldiers to fill up the crews had caused this. The quality of the ships themselves was also defective. A lot had probably been done to remedy this, but On 7/17 November Roger Strickland would still complain that none of the ships of his division were 'fit for him to engage in'4.

Another serious defect of this fleet was the lack of smaller vessels. Probably due to a lack of money, manpower and preparation, a lot of the burners in Dartmouth's fleet were 5th and 6th rates equipped as burners. Because of the lack of light frigates Dartmouth would be plagued by having to use ships of his line as scout vessels.

In this regard it might be interesting to wonder what would have happened if at the sighting on 3/13 November the English would have been able to get nearer the Dutch. They would have had to face 11 3-rates, 21 4-rates, 8 5-rates, 6 6th-rates and 8 burners. The Dutch would have been hindered by having to protect the transports, the English by their own deficiencies. It's quite probable that given the opportunity Dartmouth would have attacked. He would probably have faced a slightly longer Dutch line (33:40). In all probability Dartmouth could not have wun by the regular artillery exchange, but he could have suffered a serious defeat. Primarily because the longer Dutch line might have rolled up a part of his line, or the English might have prematurely lost ships due to their bad condition.

2.3 The English navy after the landing

On 11/21 November Dartmouth reported 29 men of war present. The Montague, the docking Centurion and the Assurance 'bore away in distress' were not present. On 12/22 November the Saint Albans; Woolwich and Newcastle arrived. On 13/23 November Dartmouth wrote he wanted to exchange the Mary, Montague, Centurion and Assurance in Portsmouth, because he thought the ships unfit to continue in the season. He reported the Half Moon and Charles fireships as arrived. On 17/27 The Montague and Constant Warwick went into Portsmouth for repairs. In all probability the Jersey and Nonpareil were also left in Spithead 4b.

It then sailed against the Dutch with only 24 ships on 17/27. On the 19/29 November the fleet had only 22 ships together when it sighted the Dutch in Torbay at noon and could do nothing but retreat. On the way back the hospital ship Heldenburgh sunk. Pendennis lost her Bowsprit and foremast, the Pearl her foremast.

On 22/2 December the fleet reached Spithead. The Saudados and Bonaventure were in The Downs. The Speedwell had gone to Poole and lost her mainmast. The Newcastle had sailed into Plymouth, where she deserted. On 4/14 December the Rupert was declared unfit and the crew changed into the Warspite. The same went for the Montague/Edgar and Constant Warwick/Dunkirk. On 13/23 December the Catholic officers were forced to step down and the struggle against the Dutch ended.

3 The Dutch invasion fleet in 1688

On 'short' notice the Dutch were able to equip a fleet that was stronger than the English. It consisted of 57 ships which escorted the landing force. It would be a mistake to think that the Dutch navy therefore counted 57 ships in 1688. The potential strength was much higher, because none of the heavier (70+guns) ships had been equipped. The names of the ships on the below list were taken from a contemporary source5, but have been compared with data based on manscripts5b. I've also assigned an 'English' rating to the ships. It is probably only valid in comparison with the rates of English navy ships that actually sailed in 1688. In it the number of men on the English ships weighs less, on the Dutch side the number of guns weighs less.

There is an interesting note about the captains of the Dutch fleet: Cats, Boek, Steen, Bouts and two others had been made captain and would each command a ship of 28-30 guns14 Sep 1688.

The 1688 Dutch Invasion Fleet
RAdm.Ship Captain MenGuns 1689 orders?*Remarks
3MDe Maes RA Van Brakel 35068- Present at Beachy Head
3MDe Maegt van DortG. Callenburg/VA Almonde35068- Present at Beachy Head
3ZGekroonde Burg VA van der Putte 33062Y Present at Beachy Head
3ALeyden LA Bastiaense/LA Herbert31562-
3NNoorderkwartier (N)RA Dick 30064Y
3AWap. Utrecht RA Schey 30066?
3AZeelandia van der Dussen 29062-
3AVriesland Graef van Nassau 28562- Present at Beachy Head
3MDelft Snel 28056-
3ZTer Veer RA Evertsen 25060Y Sailed to the Mediterranean in early 1690
3ZCortgene Lt-Adm. Evertsen 24060Y
4AGideon Hardenbroeck 21060-
4ADe Akerboom Jan Bouwens 21060-
4ACastricum J.E. van Basse 20050- Present at Beachy Head
4AAgatha Joan Kuyper 20050- Present at Beachy Head
4ADe Beemster Hendrick Tol 20050-
4MSchielant Van Ede 20050- Still van Eden in April 1690 OHC
4AStad en Lande Pieter Laren 19050- Present at Beachy Head
4MHonselaersdijckRees van R'dam 19048Y
4ANoort Hollant Ph. van der Gijse 19046- Present at Beachy Head
4AElswout A.F. Van Zijl 19050Y Sailed to the Mediterranean in early 1690
4ANimwegen Gerrit Hooft 19046-
4ADe Vrede P.C. Decker 19046Y Possibly the same as Vrede in the Med.
4NWapen van HoornMuys 18044Y Sailed to the Mediterranean in early 1690
4AHarderwijck C. van der Zaan 17546-
4MZeelandia De Liefde 17046-
4AMaria ElisabethW. van der Zaen 17046
4ASchatterhoef Arnold Manard 14046Y capt Manard in Adam ohc3may1689. Ship Sailed to the Med. in early 1690
4MRotterdam Van Convent 17044-
4MGorcum Brakel 16042- still Brakel in jul 1690 OHC
4AEdam Abraham Taelman 16036-
4ASneeck Ph. van der Goes 16036-
5ADamiaten J. Hogenhoeck 14036Y
5ZGoes C.J. Mosselman 13030-
5AWulpenburg A. Noorthey 13032-
5AHasewint P. van der Dussen 13032-
5AOud Carspel Andries Stilte 13036-
5AAsperen D. Egmont van Nieuburg 13036-
5AJuffrouw Anna Dirk Schey 13034-
5MFreg. Den BrielVan Esch and Pr. of Orange13430 8 jun 1689 still van der Esch, also had Scheepers and VA van Styrum OHC 2 Nov 88
BABurn. KraanvogelW. Barentsz 22?Y
BABurn. De Paeu G.J. du Pon 22?
BABurn. StrombolusDaniel Roucksz. 22?
BABurn. Etna S.J. de Jongh 22?
BABurn. Zes gebroedersLouwrens Seelt 22?
BABurn. Vesuvius Varcke Visser 22?
BNBurn. Maegt v. Enkhuysen? ??
BNBurn. Kv Brandenburg? ??
6AL.Freg. PostillionJan Jansz. Bout 10024-
6AL.Freg. De BrackComm. Willem van Cats 10024-
6AL.Freg. NeptunusClaes Boeck 10024-
6AL.Freg. Bommel Comm. Dircx Steen 10024
6NL.Freg. MercuriusLeendert Cuypers 10030
6ZL.Freg. de SomerA. den Boer 10027
YAYacht De BruynvisHendrick de Veer 7020-
3AProv. Utrecht Lt-Adm. van Almonde 29562- One of the Utrechts was left in UP, Present at Beachy Head
* Page about Dutch navy

4 The Invasion of England

4.1 Reasons to invade England

The chief reasons for the United Provinces to invade England were James II's policy against Protestantism and the fear he might ally himself with France in the next war. In the long run it was in the Dutch interest to have a Protestant England. The birth of a crown prince to King James II on 10 June 1688 was therefore a trigger to invade. Even before that William had played with the idea of an invasion, for in late April he had indicated to Admiral Russel that if important Englishmen formally invited him he could come over by late September6. This formal invitation came about by the letter from the Immortal Seven on 18/28 June. After the birth of the crown-prince William had sent Zuylestein to congratulate. He also investigated the sentiments in England, and on his return he gave a very positive advice for the invasion.

4.2 Preparations

The invasion of England required a mobilization of the fleet and the army, hiring a very expensive transport fleet and hiring even more troops to stand-in for those moving to England. The first requirement to do all this was to have a lot of money. This was found by the States taking a loan of 4,000,000 guilders in order to repair the fortresses in the east. At the end of September it became clear that Prussia would march into the territory of Cologne, and then it was proposed to re-loan this money to William III for his invasion plans.

The Dutch fleet was secretly mobilized, but a part was displayed when 24 ships set sail on pretense of protecting the merchant fleet. The States also made a fund to pay 9,000 sailors. All this prompted James II to equip a fleet of about 15 ships under Roger Strickland, a Catholic.

A transport fleet of about 500 vessels was hired in divers Dutch ports. These had to carry the army with 11,000 horses, a supply train and 20,000 arms.

The national army was brought to strength by adding 10,000 troops.

On the death of the Elector of Brandenburg on 29 April 1688, Bentinck was sent to compliment the new elector. Bentinck negotiated with him; the Landgrave of Hessen and the Duke of Celle. The Duke of Hannover was ultimately swayed because his wife was in the line of succession to the English throne. All in all this brought 13,000 troops at the Dutch disposal. Here the crisis over the succession to the bishoprics of Cologne; Münster; Hildesheim and Liège was sufficient cover to mobilize troops.

The army destined for the invasion was then ordered to a two-month camp near Nijmegen. This forced the officers and men to bring their equipment to the field. In the beginning of October these troops were then marched to the Zuiderzee, where they embarked for Texel and then continued to Hellevoetsluis.

5 The First Invasion attempt

On 16/26 October the wind that had been west for so long turned east. That same day William took his leave of the States General. In the evening of the 19/29 October the fleet set sail for the first time. The next day the wind turned north and then north west. At night it turned into a storm. After a long struggle the order to return to Hellevoetsluis was given on the 21/31. On the 22/1 November the majority of the transport fleet was back in port. All other transport ships came in later. 500 horses had died, but were soon replaced. All men of war continued at sea, where they weathered a severe storm for six hours on the 27th/6th. The battle fleet then came in on the 28th/7th.

5.1 The English measures

On 1/11 October Lord Dartmouth had taken command of the fleet that had been under Strickland's orders. As stated above it was still equipping. On 8/18 October King James told Dartmouth that though not all ships were ready, he could soon sail and should profit from the westerly wind in order to get free of the sands7. On 12/22 October Dartmouth communicated to James from a position near the Buoy of the Nore that he was just as eager to sail. He did however think it unwise to sail out in parcels and to get separated8. In other words his fleet was not complete. As particular Dartmouth mentions that except for the Advice, none of the Portsmouth ships had yet arrived. From the OOB above we can assume that these were the ships marked as at Portsmouth or Spithead (near Portsmouth). These would amount to 3 3rd-rates; 1 4th-rates and 4 burners, 4 other 4th-rates were also still missing.

On 17/27 October Dartmouth at Oaz Edge communicated that weather permitted the fleet would go to the Gunfleet9. On 19/29 October Dartmouth was still at Oaze edge. He communicated to Pepys that the wind was easterly, and again that he intended to go to Gunfleet10. On 24/3 November the fleet sailed at 08:00AM and at noon it anchored at the buoy of Gunfleet11. The fleet stayed at Gunfleet a while and was said to count 32 fighting ships and 13 burners on 29/8 November12. Yet, the OOB has 33 3&4 rates and 2 6th rates for this date. The difference can be explained by that on the 28/7 November Dartmouth had sent out the Bonaventure, Swallow and Foresight to reconnoiter.

On 30/9 November Dartmouth reported the wind had been blowing between north and N.N.E. most of the night, and that he unmoored at 04:00 AM. Since then he sailed with Ebb and the wind S.S.E., and hoped to clear the Galloper. That same day the fleet anchored at 06:00 PM, 'The Naze bearing W. and Balzy church N.W.', the wind due east13. The place of anchorage was put more precise by Collins as: 'between Sledway and the Longsand Head, the Naze bearing West and the church of Bawdsey (N.E. of Felixstowe) N.W. half N.' He also pointed out that the Katherine Yacht was sent east; the Kitchen Yacht south and the Saudados north.

The English fleet then most probably did not move at all from 31/10 till 3/13 November and did not get to The Galloper due to adverse winds, see Collins' remark below about weathering the sands. The end-result of all these preparations and maneuvers was that the fleet was not in a good position to intercept the Dutch. The cause why it did not sail earlier to achieve this position was its weakness. It was too small and its ships were not sea worthy enough for the season. Dartmouth probably knew both. The poor quality of the ships would be proven in the few weeks after the landing.

6 The Successful Crossing

6.1 Departure and entry into the Channel

On the evening tide of 1/11 November the invasion fleet sailed a second time. The wind blew strongly from the east. Up till noon of the 2/12th the fleet tried to steer north, but when that proved impossible it steered west.

On the English side 3 ships were still in the river. Of those the Woolwich and Newcastle were ready, but now held up by adverse winds. The Saint Albans was not. The Portland was ordered to be fit forth and the Phoenix was believed to be ordered shortly14.

On 3/13 November the fleet entered the English Channel. Before dusk it saw the Isle of Whight.

The English fleet under Dartmouth sighted some 6 Dutch ships, but was kept locked up at Gunfleet by the adverse wind and tide. In Dartmouth's account: 'Just at the break of dawn on Saturday morning (3/13 Nov), we saw 13 sail about three leagues to windward of us; etc', 'I got all ready to sail with the fleet on Saturday, but the sea came in so heavy, and the tide fell so cross, that we could not till yesterday (4/14 November) morning15. Collins stated that the fleet had lifted their anchors, but the ebb being almost spent, it did not succeed in weathering the Longsand Head and the Kentish Knock.

At noon on the 4/14 Russel came on board William's ship with pilots that had to steer to a position before Dartmouth (a place just south of Torbay), on the next morning.

On the English side the fleet sailed at 08:00AM on 4/14 November with a E.S.E. wind to the north. At 20:00PM the fleet rounded Southsands Head. At midnight it was near Dungeness16.

6.2 Landing at Torbay and Failure of the English interception

On morning of the 5/15 the fleet discovered it had sailed past Torbay. It thought it might have to settle for a landing near fortified Plymouth, because the wind was still blowing from the east, though somewhat calmer. All of sudden the wind then got calmer and turned south. On this spell of luck the fleet then sailed to Torbay in 4 hours time. Torbay is a natural harbor, and soon lots of officers and soldiers were on shore.

On the same 5/15th at 0:00AM the wind fell silent for the English fleet, and it could hardly keep up against the flood. At 9:00AM it was no further than Beachy Head. On 5/15 November Dartmouth sent a letter to King James II which nicely confirms which capital ships were in his fleet. He reports that Strickland, Berry and Davis entreated him not to engage the Dutch because the fleet was too weak. Dartmouth explains this by mentioning which ships were missing. For him missing meant originally assigned to him and now not with him. He mentions 2 fireships, 6 men of war that had sailed with him, and 4 that James II knew very well not to have sailed with him17.

On the 6th the invasion force was shown a place where it could conveniently land horses. At the place the horses only had to swim for 20 yards. In a dead calm sea all horses were landed in 3 hours. At noon on the 7/17 the army was marching and covered 4 miles towards Exeter. A great storm rose from the west on 7/17, but did little damage to the Dutch fleet anchored at Torbay. The English fleet was still in pursuit and had reached the height of Whight or Portland when it met the storm. It could not resist it, was blown back to Beachy Head and finally anchored in The Downs. With this the attempt to intercept the Dutch fleet or disturb its landing had failed. The further adventures of the English fleet are described above.

7 The Land campaign

7.1 Exeter

On the 9/19th the army entered Exeter, and it stayed there for 10 days. This was to refresh the troops and to unload the heavy supplies and artillery at Topsham. It was also in hopes that Englishmen would come over to the Prince of Orange.

7.2 English naval attempt after the landings

After the Dutch army had started to land in Torbay on 5/15 November, the English fleet still had a chance to disturb the completion of this landing. While near Whight it was however hit by a storm from the west on 7/17 November and driven back with damage to the Downs. On 16/26 November the fleet sailed west again. On 17/27 the fleet arrived near the Isle of Whight. At noon on the 17/27 the fleet continued and on 18/28 November it reached a position 7 leagues W.N.W.. of Alderney with only 24 ships. At four 16:00 PM the fleet the fleet reached a position about 5 leagues S.S.E. of the Highland of St. Albans. At 01:00AM on the 19/29 November 09:00AM The Start was about 6 leagues N.N.E and 22 ships were together. At noon the fleet was near Berry and could see the Dutch fleet anchored in Torbay four leagues off. The English fleet had moved near in order to see whether it could do something, but it could only conclude that it was too outnumbered and left.

8 Sources

The most important sources for the English side of the naval aspects are the writings of Samuel Pepys; Admiral Dartmouth and James II. These have been published in an enormous amount of works. We also have the journal of Captain Grenville Collins, published in the work of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. On the Dutch side we have the good old Mercurius, Constantijn Huijgens junior´s diaries, and Burnet, who traveled with the Dutch and wrote. History of his own time.

9 Notes

1) For the statement about 30 ships of the line see Works of Lord Macaulay on page 238 of this edition.
2) Histoire Naval d'Angleterre Lyon 1751 vol. 2, page 682 has this 1/11 October 1688 list of the English navy. Slightly different, but preferrable is the list as printed in Memoirs of transactions at Sea during the war with France by Burchett, London 1703, page 12 and following.
3) Dartmouth to James II on 17/27 October, printed in Historical Manuscripts Commission, page 259 'All the Portsmouth ships that I can yet expect are now come to me'.
4) Strickland to Dartmouth on 7/17 November, printed in Historical Manuscripts Commission, page 187.
4b) OHC for 7 dec 1688: Portsmouth 28 Nov; The King's fleet commanded by Lord Dartmouth passed to the west in sight of this harbour yesterday, with an East by south east wind. The ships Montagu, Jersey, Nonpareil and Constant Warwick anchored at Spithead.
5) For the Dutch Invasion fleet: Hollandsche Mercurius for 1688, page 275
5b) Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewezen, by J.C. de Jonge, printed Kruseman 1860. See appendix I
6) Burnet's History of his own time for William's conversation with Russel.
7) James to Dartmouth on 8 October. Present in abstract in Memoirs of Great Britain by Dalrymple page 247 of the appendix
8) Dartmouth to James II on 12/22 October, Dalrymple page 248.
9) Dartmouth to James II on 17/27 October, Dalrymple page 249.
10) Dartmouth to Pepys on 19/29 October, Life Journals and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys vol. 2, page 166
11) Journal of Captain Grenville Collins on 24 Oct./3 Nov
12) Journal of Captain Grenville Collins on 26/5 Nov. and 29 Oct./8 Nov
13) Dartmouth to James II on 5/15 November, Dalrymple page 251
14) Pepys to Dartmouth on 1/11 November, The Manuscripts of the Earl of Dartmouth vol. 1 page 181 about the Woolwich and Newcastle.
15) Dartmouth to James II on 5/15 November, Dalrymple page 251, this in the second part of this letter.
16) Ditto Dartmouth to James II on 5/15 November, Dalrymple page 251, this in the second part of this letter.
17) Dalrymple page 251 of the appendix for Dartmouth's letter to King James II on 5 November