1689: Silver Fleet & Iskendrun Fleet reach Holland

Smyrna fleet & Silver Fleet 1689
Spanish Dollar of Felipe V
A piece of eight or peso de ocho
Picture by Coinman62
Date:June 1688 - June 1689
Outcome:Alliance Feat
United Provinces

1689: Silver Fleet & Iskendrun Fleet reach Holland

1.1 A Dutch Silver Fleet

In the seventeenth century the yearly arrival of new money was one the most important European events. Each year a Spanish fleet would arrive in Cadiz with an enormous amount of silver. Hence the name 'Silver fleet'. From Cadiz this silver was then physically redistributed to other European countries, leading to a 'Dutch silver fleet', a 'French silver fleet' etc.1 Every Spanish silver fleet would also bring a physically big amount of cargo primarily meant for foreign merchants. Suffice to say that the arrival of a Spanish silver fleet to Cadiz would lead to smaller silver fleets for Holland, England and France.

1.2 The Nine Years War

In late 1688 the United Provinces were preparing to invade England. This meant that the fleet had to cross The Channel before the war with England started. It could then wait in Cadiz till that war ended. This meant that the fleet should be in Cadiz early.

The other potential enemy was France. In late September 1688 France would start to seize all Dutch ships in its ports. This meant that all merchants had to count with imminent hostilities by French warships and privateers, and had to be well manned and defendable.

In late September the 1688 the Iskendrun convoy commanded by Rudolph Swaen (cf. Iskendrun fleet 1687-1689) had just reached Cadiz when the tensions between the United Provinces and France and England held it there for some time. Shortly after that the 1688 convoy to Cadiz reached Cadiz. These convoys would be combined as the 1689 Cadiz to the United Provinces convoy sailing in April 1689. It was only escorted by 3 warships, but was still very capable of defending itself.

1.3 England and the Nine Years War

One might think that France had declared war on England when the Prince of Orange entered London in December 1688. This was not the case; by May 1689 France was still only at war with the United Provinces. This might seem strange, but actually made sense. Versailles was probably aware that a declaration of war, or measures against English shipping would definitely strengthen William III's party, and so English ships sailed unopposed. In May 1689 violent encounters with the English fleet took place in the 11 May Battle of Bantry bay and the 23 May battle in which the Nonsuch took Jean Bart. This made that only by late May 1689 France sent orders and commissions for privateers to take English ships OHC 26 May 1689.

2 The Holland Cadiz convoy

October 1688 Convoy Draecks arrives in Cadiz
Ship Captain next / notes Ship Captain next / notes
Warship Draex S. Anna Bart. Strobant Sevilla & Malaga
Warship Van Gendre S. NicolaesJoris Koster Sevilla & Malaga
J. ErkenraetPieter Harmensz. Bennebroek to the Straits Postilion Jan Kerstenmaker Sevilla & Malaga
Keizer AdolphusLeendert Reyne To Cadiz Kon. SalomonBooy Jansen Direct to Sevilla
Diamant Jacob Cornelisz. To Cadiz a small ship French Marseille
Jupiter Cornelis Claesz Bruyn To Cadiz Stad MarseilleFrench Marseille
San FernandoFrans Vos Sevilla & Malaga
Constantia Jacob Hoek Sevilla & Malaga
S. Maria Jan Vink Sevilla & Malaga
Based on the AC 9 Oct 1688

Now we come to our convoy that is connected with bringing the cargo of the Spanish Silver Fleet back to the United Provinces. It arrived when tensions with England (and France) were already mounting, and had two escorting warships of which we do not know the names.

It's also not clear to me when it was formed. On 14 June it was said that the convoys with ships to Cadiz and Bilboa would sail at the end of June, or early July OHC 15 June 1688. On 5 July the representatives of the Levant Company left to inspect the ships in Texel OHC 6 July 1688. On 6 July Captain van Gender arrived from Schoonevelt to Texel to escort to Cadiz &c. OHC 8 July 1688. On 17 July, the St Anna of Abraham Wendel had sailed ahead with 18-20 ships to France, by then is was known that the fleet to Cadiz would not choose its leaders before 27 July OHC 22 July 1688.

On 3 September 1688 arrived in Cadiz: Warship of Captain Draex; Warship of Van Gendre; merchants: Juffrouw Erkenraedt, Pieter Harmensz. Bennebroek to the Strait; Keizer Adolphus, Leendert Reyne; Diamant, Jacob Cornelisz.; Jupiter, Cornelis Claesz. Bruyn all to Cadiz; St. Fernando, Frans Vos; Constantia Jacob Hoek; St. Maria, Jan Vinck; St. Anna, Bartholomeus Strobant; St. Nicolaes, Joris Koster; Postiljon Jan Kistemaker all to Seville and Malaga. The Koning Salomon of Boy Jansz. went straight through to Seville OHC 9 Oct 1688.

On 14 September the 2 warships went to Malaga with: Contantia; St Maria; St. Anna; St. Nicolaas and two French ships, one them the 'Stad Marseille', the Oostende ship Marquis de Gastanaga, the Hamburg ship Parel, and 2 Fluyts. On 17 September the Koning Ferdinand, Frans Vos, went to Seville. On the 23rd the St Anna of Pieter Meyster went to Faro OHC 26 Oct 1688. On 26 September the Maria of Joost Gillesz. arrived from Venice, reporting that he left Swaen near Alicante. The warships continued from Malaga to Alicante without escorting ships OHC 26 Oct 1688.

On the return voyage the warships probably brought the ship 'de Hoop' back with them OHC 9 Nov 1688. On 27 October the warships arrived back in Malaga OHC 20 Nov 1688. On 30 October Draecks and Van Gendere arrived back in Cadiz from Malaga. They escorted: Constantia; St. Maria; Postiljon and St Anna all ships that had come with them from Holland OHC 4 Dec. 1688. From this moment one can say that the convoys of Swaen and Draecks had merged.

3 The Silver fleet arrives in Cadiz

On 5 September 1688 6 Spanish warships and a burner sailed out of Cadiz under admiral Don Matheo Olaya to meet the fleet from New Spain. Also on the 5th Papachino came in from Gibraltar with 2 warships and he would join Matheo after taking in provisions LG 4 October 1688. By 11 October Olaya was back in Cadiz and taking in men and provisions for the relief of Oran. VA Papachino would take six ships and look for the fleet from New Spain. Chateaurenault had arrived in Cadiz with six ships LG 5 November 1688. By 4 November VA Papachino had sailed to look for the fleet with 6 warships LG 15 November 1688.

On 9 November 1688 the Spanish fleet from New Spain (a.k.a. the silver fleet) arrived in Cadiz OHC 23 Dec 1688. It numbered 19 ships: 13 from Vera Cruz; 1 from Santo Domingo; 2 from Campeche; 1 from Tabaica; and 2 from Havana, and was estimated at 20 million in silver.

This fleet carried all kinds of goods, like indigo, tobacco, skins, cacao and tropical wood. Most important of all was an enormous amount of silver. I was estimated at 20 million pieces of eight in silver and 5 million in merchandise LG 29 November 1688. It was this silver that brought the strong convoys of Holland and France to Cadiz. It was even probable that France first wanted to secure her share, before declaring war on Spain.

4 Cadiz to Holland convoy

4.1 French frigates halt Swaen

April 1689 Draecks, Van Gendere, Swaen's Homebound Iskendrun Convoy
Ship GunsCaptainnext / notes Ship Captain nextnotes
Warship ?Draecks n* 28Jacob ...
Warship ?Van Gender Ferdinand 24Frans Vos came with Draecks
Warship Catharina 46Swaen Constantia 20Jacob Hoeck came with Draecks
Postilion 20Jan Kistemakercame with Draecks
Roosendael 42Corn. van Beyeren came with Swaen # ..ten*** 16Joris van Korten
Nieuw Livorno 44Cornelis Swermer came with Swaen # Maria 16Jan Vinckcame with Draecks
St. Maria 48Joost Jillisz. vd Brande+# Concordia 18Adriaen van de Vijver
Stad Haerlem 40Gerrit Hendricksz. came with Swaen # Anna Sophia 22Paulus Dwyn
St. Anna 36Abraham Wendel Arr. Cadiz 5 Aug Fluit St. Jan Baptist Adriaen Claever
Vrije Zee 34Willem Ley came with Schrijver # Jonas Prijs
Keyser Adolphus 30Leendert Reyne came with Draecks several Fluits etc.
Pieter en Paulus 32Cornelis Klaesz. arr. 5 sep from Med. AC 9 Oct 1688
Kon. Salomon** 28Nicolaes Bruyn
*ship name illegible
**ship name illegible, Nicolaes Bruyn commanded the Kon. Salomon in 1690
***ship name illegible, perhaps St. Marten of Joris Koster?
+ elsewhere as 56 guns 85 men OHC 28 Feb 1688

When Swaen's convoy arrived in Cadiz on 2 October news of the French hostilities to Dutch shipping had not yet reached Cadiz. Therefore Swaen's convoy probably started its usual business of buying and selling and loading and unloading. In mid October news of the Dutch fleet attempting to sail to England, and France seizing Dutch ships reached Cadiz OHC 23 Nov 1688.

Swaen decided to wait for Draecks and Van Genderen, especialy because Chateau Renault was in the bay of Cadiz with 5 heavy frigates OHC 23 Nov 1688. With so many of the merchants being defendable ships it's possible that the combined convoys would have been more than a match for the 5 frigates. However, in stead of speculating about this, it's wiser to make an attempt to find out the names of these 5 French frigates.

4.2 Cadiz during invasion of England

Apart from the previous, the ultimate question that Draecks and Swaen had to answer was another. If they could escape Cadiz, could they reasonably expect to reach the United Provinces? The answer was not affirmative. They simply could not know who would control the Channel when they reached it, and circumventing England would surely be a trip through enemy territory. Therefore the conflict with James II had to end first, and then they had to receive clear confirmation in Cadiz. In such case they could try to circumvent England.

Even if William III's 'adventure' (at the time its purpose was not completely clear) in England would be successful, the Dutch still had to count with French fleet. It was rumored that 5 of 8 French french frigates were captured and brought to Falmouth and Plymouth in late November OHC 09 Dec 1688 and were meant to cruise on the ships then in Cadiz OHC 09 Dec 1688 By mid December news reached Holland that the fleet and its 3 escorts would not be back in Holland before spring OHC 23 Dec 1688.

Meanwhile more warships and merchantmen had assembled at Cadiz. France and Spain were still at peace, probably because Versailles first wanted to collect the goods from the Indies that were due to its subjects OHC 14 Dec 1688. The French used this peace to put a squadron of 16 warships under Chateau-Renault in the bay of Cadiz. These were watching the moves of the richly laden Dutch ships, and so these decided not to leave without a strong escort OHC 20 Jan 1689.

4.3 The French retreat from Cadiz

The hostile English fleet was neutralized in mid December 1688 by James II abandoning London. By then the French were much stronger than the Dutch in Cadiz. On 31 December 1688 an express message for the French fleet reached C�diz via Madrid, and soon the Dutch saw the French packing. On 3 January the French squadron and their ships destined for the Channel sailed out in rough weather, setting a course to the Strait of GibraltarOHC 3 Feb 1689. The Dutch suspected that the express was about successes for the Prince of Orange in England, and that it could mean a fleet was underway.

While 5 French warships and 6 merchantmen dropped off a cargo of 14 Million florins (much silver) in France OHC 10 feb 1689, some others remained behind. Near Malaga 6-7 ships were noted as cruising later on OHC 15 Feb 1689.

4.4 the Convoy leaves Cadiz

By now France was not yet at war with England, even though James II only held Ireland in early 1689. The ship Tyger that sailed from Cadiz on 12 Feb indicated that the English and Dutch had agreed to leave Cadiz together with one convoy OHC 24 March 1689. On 18 February however, 8 English ships left Cadiz for England and Ireland OHC 26 March 1689. On 23 February 9 English ships came in, 6 of them from Turkey OHC 26 March 1689.

The Dutch sent out 2 small ships ('barcken'), to recon, and these returned on 31 March without having seen any French. The fleet then decided to sail in the next few days, and thought it probable that the 2 English warships would join OHC 26 April 1689. On 4 April 1689 the convoy of Captain Draeckx, Captain van Gendere and Captain Swaen set sail from Cadiz OHC 10 May 1689. It contained about 30 merchant ships, but left the Juffrouw Erkenraet behind.

One hoped that the fleet would arrive in Holland safely, because: Most ships, except the escorts, are well manned and gunned, and do not have to fear privateers. We also have an 'OOB' of the Draecks Van Gendere Swaen convoy as it left Cadiz. It is damaged, but remarkable because it gives details about the guns of the merchant ships AC 12 May 1689. It's not known whether the swivel guns ('Bassen') were also counted in this, but a separate note giving the Maria of Joost Jillesz. 8 more guns suggests this is only counts real cannon. There was also a note: the rest are Fluyts and other ships of little defense.

4.5 the Convoy arrives in Holland

Contrary winds kept the fleet near the coast of Portugal for 5 weeks, and this caused a lack of food. The fleet therefore decided to sail through the Channel. On 2 June in the evening captains Jonas Prijs and Adriaen van de Vijver left the fleet near Dover and they arrived in Middelburg next day OHC 7 June 1689. On 4 June at 9 AM, a sailor of the ship of Joost Jillesz. left the fleet at the latitude of Egmont aan Zee, and reported that there were no ships missing OHC 7 June 1689. In the end the main part of the convoy entered the harbors of Holland on 6 June 1689. The fluit St. Jan Baptist, Adriaen Claever ran aground OHC 9 June 1689.

5 The English Silver fleet

On 9 April, that is 5 days after the Dutch left, the English ships Andalucia and Friston2 left Cadiz for England with two English FrigatesOHC 10 May 1689. The frigates where the Saphire(32), but probably not the Tyger, a ship 'Tyger' had arrived in Cadiz on 4 January OHC 12 Feb 1689, but on 14 March it had arrived back in London OHC 24 March 1689. The reason that these English ships sailed separate from the Dutch was probably that France did not yet attack English shipping (cf. above).

On 35 degrees latitude some English ships transporting silver to Plymouth OHC 26 May 1689 overtook the Dutch convoy, and this were probably these English ships. The note of the arrival of the English fleet in England was closely followed by that of the arrest of the captain of the Warship Saphire OHC 26 May 1689. The convoy also met a lot of small French privateers in the Channel. This was right at the time that France started hostile action against English shipping, so it's not yet clear whether these did not dare to attack, or were not yet allowed to do so. Contact with the Andalusia had been lost on the latitude of Lisbon on 24 April OHC 4 jun 1689.

In all probability James II made an attempt to seize this English fleet. On 26 April a small French vessel arrived in Cadiz, and rumor had it that its only mission was to hand a letter from James II to Commander Killegrew3, who had recently left. The fact that the French vessel left the day after it arrived renders credibility to a supposition that James II perhaps hoped that Killegrew would seize the silver for him, and that might be the reason for Killegrew's arrest in England. As the letter did not reach Killegrew, he had little chance to get implicated. Later on Killegrew would command the Saphire on a trip to the Mediterranean in 1690.

6 Sources

Most of this page is based on two papers published at the time. 'OHC 5 Aug 1689' stands for the Oprechte Haarlemse Courant of 5 August 1689, and it can be found at Delpher the site of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Dutch Library). The same goes for AC, which stands for Amsterdamsche Courant. I did not make an effort to standardize names like Van der Saen. In the digital age looking for Van der Saen with the original orthography will probably be much more effective.

7 Notes

1) Note that in turn this silver would be used to buy goods in the East Indies.
2) Others had that the Friston was a frigate and would sail with the Dutch fleetOHC 7 April 1689, but probably not correct.
3) Commander Killegrew, not the Vice-Admiral