The Queen of Spain sails to England January 1690

The Spanish bride sails to England
Map of Anne of Neuburg's trip to England
Map of the trip to England
Date:Aug. 1689 - Feb. 1690
Outcome:Alliance Feat
Belligerents:
FranceEngland
United Provinces
Commanders:
N/aRussel

1 A royal marriage

King Charles II of Spain had married Maria Anne of Neuburg by proxy on 28 August 1689 in Ingolstadt. For the alliance it therefore became crucial to secure the unmolested arrival of the new queen in Spain. It was rather obvious that for reasons of economy her trip would have to be combined with that of the merchant fleets waiting to go to Spain.

This page is only about the queen's trip from the United Provinces to England. It faced faced many delays that would cascade all the way to the Battle of Beachy Head. It's also a place to note some facts that have little meaning for the main thread of history.

What is special about this trip is that it took place in winter, and that some details are known about the ships that took part. It might lead us to conclusions about warships that were blindingly obvious at the time, but were forgotten later on.

2 Two trips

At some time there was a plan for the new Queen of Spain to board a battleship squadron in Holland, and then to continue with that squadron and a big merchant fleet and even more warships to Spain. This would have resulted in one continuous chain of events, with Russel sailing to Holland, then to England and then through to Spain.

Actual events (delay and weather) made that there were two separate trips. With regard to ships there was little to no connection between the battleship squadron sent to Holland, and the big fleet that sailed to the Mediterranean in 1690. Suggestions to the contrary are enough reason to go into some detail about the queen's trip from the United Provinces to England.

3 The King of England sends his admiral

Ships that sailed to Vlissingen
RateShipgunsmenCaptain*Further activitynotes
4Newcastle54280David Lambertto Med. 1690
4Assistence48230?
4Hampshire46220Robert Robinson
5Guernsey30130Robert Arthur
6Saudados1275Francis Wivell
YMaria830Henry Collins
YFubbs1240John Johnson
Ships that Russel left in The Downs
RateShipgunsmenCaptain*Further activitynotes
2Duke92660Edward Stanleyto Med. 1690
3Berwick70460?to Med. 1690
3Suffolk70460Matthew Aylmerto Med. 1690
3Montague66355Thomas Leightonmentioned in Kinsale early feb 1690to Med. 1690
3Mary62375?
*captain in a 1689 list

3.1 It required the King's admiral

Of course William III could have opted to simply order the United Provinces to equip some warships to bring the queen over to England. The situation did however also offer an opportunity for William.

If the queen were to sail to England in an English squadron, it would show the world that the king of Spain ('his Most Catholic Majesty') dealt with the Calvinist William III as King of England. An act that further legitimized William's claims. (Note that this represents my idea about why the whole hassle with English ships took place.)

Sending Admiral Russel was likewise a matter of prestige. With regard to the size of the escort William could also have sent a Rear Admiral like Berkeley. But, for the Queen of Spain one sends someone befitting her station. Upon her majesty's coming on board, and during the whole time of her stay, he was ordered to wear the Union Flag at the maintopmast head, a thing never done before in the Channel, but by the Chief Admiral of the fleet1.

3.2 A feint maneuver

The expedition to get the Queen of Spain to England most probably involved some secrecy and misguiding. We have that 'On 21 December 1689 a fleet of 25 warships and 4 burners under Admiral Russel and Lord Berkeley left Plymouth in order to 'cruise at the end of the Channel and prevent the French landing supplies in Ireland'OHC 29 Dec 1689.' While a fleet of 30 ships under Lord Berkeley was indeed spotted later on, Russel was not on it. Lord Berkeley's fleet would return to Plymouth in early January.

3.3 A light escort

For Russel's movements we have word from Deale. It described that Admiral Russel had sailed to the United Provinces with a squadron of 5 warships and 2 yachts2. It furthermore noted the ships (cf. the table) that he had left in The Downs (an area just east of the Kentish coast). Russel himself sailed on the Fubbs.

What is strange about the list is that on arrival in Vlissingen there was talk of Russel staying outside on his 90 gun ship (cf. below). The number of 5 warships and 2 yachts reported in Vlissingen, is however in accordance with the Deale list. Taking a closer look at these ships, the heavy escort one would suppose proves to have been rather light. Russel left his serious warships in The Downs.

3.4 Heavy ships in foul weather

When Russel finally sailed in mid December, the winter season made using heavy ships rather dangerous. Events like the Great Storm of 1703, the 1690 Great storm of Galicia and the Storm that decimated the Dutch navy in the 1680's all point to this. A solution to this was to leave them in a roadsted like The Downs. Here the coast and the Goodwin Sands protected ships against the most violent waves, and the bottom made for solid anchorage. This way heavy warships could remain at sea and at hand without much danger.

4 The Spanish Bride sails

4.1 Russel arrives in Vlissingen

It seems the orders for Russel to sail to Vlissingen date from 4 December3. It's not yet clear whether Russel was delayed in reaching Vlissingen

In the afternoon of 22 December the English Squadron arrived in Vlissingen, Zeeland. It consisted of 5 warships and 2 yachts. According to the Dutch newspaper Oprechte Haarlemsche Courant, Russel's flagship of 90 pieces (The Duke, cf. the Deale list) waited outside the harbour while the other ships did enter VlissingenOHC 27 Dec 1689. With a view to the below statement (in the LG of 30 Dec., implicating that all ships were still anchored outside Vlissingen on 27 December), this seems to be only conjecture by a journalist who knew about the plans for this trip.

4.2 Anne arrives in Vlissingen

When news of Russel's arrival reached The Hague in the nigth of the 23rd - 24th, the Spanish Ambassador Colomma immediately left for Dordrecht, where Anne of Neubourg was waiting. In the afternoon of the 24th the Lords Duyvenvoorde, Van Haren and Lemker left The Hague to conduct Anne to Vlissingen. The Queen left Dordrecht in a Yacht for Vlissingen at 5 AM on the 26thOHC 29 Dec 1689. With her were also Van Voorst, Repelaar, Bors van Waveren and Van der Does, deputees of Holland, who accompanied her to Willemstad at the borders of their province. From the Spanish Netherlands the Count of Clermont hurried to Vlissingen.

At 2 PM in the afternoon of the 28th Anne and 10 yachts anchored within a mile of the English shipsLG 30Dec 1689, and it was believed she would board one of the English Yachts4.

4.3 The final trip to England

Once Anne had arrived in Vlissingen things seemed to get up to speed. In the afternoon of Saturday 4 January she boarded an English Yacht at Rammekens (few km east of Vlissingen). With the usual ceremony the guns of places and ships fired in saluteOHC 12 January 1690. It was a bit disappointing that contrary winds next forced her yacht back to Vlissingen.

On friday 27 January a new attempt was made. At about 8 in the morning her yacht took to sea. In the convoy she had 25 ships preceding her, and 10 trailingOHC 2 Feb 1690. On 29 January the queen arrived in The Downs. On the same day she continued west with all the ships from The Downs, except those heavily damaged by the recent stormOHC 2 Feb 1690. It seems that this voyage was uneventful and that she arrived in Portsmouth on 1 February or before. In England she would spend most of her time waiting on board.

5 Consequences of a delay

The delays in this trip amounted to at least 23 days in January, and perhaps also some in December. While some delays due to contrary winds were normal, the queen would again be severely delayed by the weather when the fleet next wanted to bring her to Spain. It seems that this delay was one of the first of a chain of delays and mishaps that would eventually lead to the alliance fleet being slightly outnumbered at Beachy Head.

6 Sources

Direct sources are the London Gazette, and Dutch newspapers, especially the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant (OHC).

It was probably Burchett who first told the events in his Memoirs of transaction at sea in 1703. His work suggests that Russel sailed to Vlissingen with his heavy ships, and did not mention the lighter ones were even there.

7 Notes

1) Burchett page 35 for flying the union flag. This flag did not have St. Patricks cross at the time
2) OHC and London Gazette agree with regard to this squadron.
3) Burchett page 35 for the date of Russel's orders in Old Style
4) Ditto LG 30 Dec 1689, note 'boarding a yacht' also points to the Duke not being present.