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The Peace of Breda (1667)

By: Shavana Haythornthwaite

The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667) can be attributed to a multitude of factors, while views vary widely as to which factors were most significant. Burgeoning political and personal ambitions of those closest to the British King Charles II (1661–1685), along with tensions relating to Protestantism, are merely two. These, alongside the fierce commercial competition, and ensuing disputes, between the British monarchy and the Dutch Republic of the United Provinces, paved all the disagreements within England on one common path towards one common goal, that of war, victory, and all the wealth that was expected to come with it. The Dutch on the other hand would do everything in their power to defend their economic interests. From an English point of view, victory over the Dutch was expected, especially after their first success off Lowestoft in 1665. Little did the English know that the Dutch would fight to the very end with resilience. This would cause a weakening of relationships within the internal political structure of England. As a result, by 1667, peace was virtually demanded by English mercantilist factions and Parliament. And with the added pressure of the plague and the Great Fire, financial growth had already come to a halt and made the signing of a treaty an absolute necessity.

Great Britain and the Dutch Republic were not the only two countries involved in this maritime conflict. France had, in 1664, already tried to mediate between the two rivals to prevent war from breaking out. These attempts had failed. But this mediation did not derive from an altruistic source. Louis XIV (1643–1715) had a powerful motivation to minimise the risk of war because he was under an obligation to aid the Dutch if attacked by any enemies, as per the treaty signed by France and the Dutch Republic on 27 April 1662 (7 CTS 139). Should France join forces with the Dutch Republic, there was potential for an Anglo-Spanish alliance that would not help the soon-to-be French claims to the Spanish Netherlands. War did eventually break out in 1665, with continued French mediation again a failure. The French joined the war in 1666.

Although England was hopeful of an alliance with Denmark, the Danish joined France and the Dutch Republic as a fellow belligerent a month after the French entered the war. A further blow to the English came when Brandenburg also allied with the Dutch. The English, however, had concluded a treaty with Sweden on 1 March 1665 (8 CTS 263), which was specifically a defensive alliance of the two nations against the Dutch. Sweden had not forgotten the Dutch assistance to Denmark during the Dano-Swedish Wars and Dutch refusal to rescind the 1659 Elucidation Treaty (5 CTS 309), preventing Sweden from many commercial claims. Sweden did not want a possible Dutch victory to place an obstacle in the way of its ambitions to reclaim certain territory, such as Delaware. With French successes in the Caribbean and the domestic turmoil in England, all hope for English victory was dashed. It was time for peace.

The English, Dutch, French, and Danish all attended the Peace Conference at Breda in 1667. Swedish ambassadors were also present as mediators to the peace negotiations. Although The Hague was proposed as the initial location for negotiations, the fear that England might underhandedly entice and collaborate with the Orangists meant that Breda was chosen as a more acceptable location. All powers would enter into separate treaties following their bilateral talks. The negotiations initially seemed promising for Great Britain. The Dutch were at the point of making fair treaty terms, through the application of uti possidetis equally to both sides. France was also mindful of its interests in the Spanish Netherlands and wanted to guarantee English neutrality. Unbeknown to the English, however, the Dutch were planning to take advantage of the lack of attention the English were paying to their Navy. As far as the English were concerned, the war was over, their fleet had been paid off, and Chatham was deemed a safe place for the ships to sit whilst negotiations in Breda took place.

Dutch ships sailed into the Thames and attacked English ships in the Medway and, on 24 June 1667, all in Breda heard news of the aggressive attack. Michiel de Ruyter and Cornelis de Witt’s triumphant ‘Raid on the Medway’ would go down in history as England’s ‘most humiliating defeat’ (Boxer 1974). This was the point at which England knew that any favourable terms had been compromised. It would have to give in to Dutch demands and make considerable concessions. This good news arrived at a good time for the Dutch, who were also anxious to make peace after a French attack on Flanders.

The Treaty of Breda (10 CTS 231) was signed on 31 July 1667 in quite a hasty manner with many advantageous clauses for the Dutch. This included the right of the Dutch to transport German goods to England, relaxing the Navigation Act of 1651. The Act had been a major cause of the first Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654), as it prohibited trading activities between the colonies and the Dutch Republic, France, and Spain. The Act’s aim was to ensure that trading benefits were limited to within the British Empire. It additionally prescribed that no goods could be imported from Asia, Africa, or America unless transported in English ships, and that goods produced in Europe could not be brought into England unless transported in English ships or unless the goods being shipped were in fact produced in the country exporting them. The Act severely restricted Dutch trade. The Treaty of Breda, however, made significant concessions, much to the favour of the Dutch, who sought complete freedom of the seas. Although the Dutch desired the complete removal of all mercantilist legislation, these demands were not accepted. Allowing German goods to be transported into England via Holland was as much as the English could accept, as affirmed by a separate friendship and navigation treaty also signed in 1667 (10 CTS 255). The scope of Dutch shipping in British ports was therefore expanded. Of additional importance in this navigation treaty was the recognition afforded by the British to neutrals and their trading rights during war.

Other clauses that were agreed included no restitution of property seized during the war and free exchange of prisoners. The colonies taken by either side before 20 May 1667 were not restored and both sides were allowed to keep territories that they had claimed during as well as before the War. This included England’s retention of New Netherlands, including New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York by King James II, as well as New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The Dutch kept possession of Surinam and Pulo Run in the East Indies.

The Peace of Breda was significant for a number of reasons. Its creation was a product of the imbalance of powers and strategic and shifting alliances of the great states, England, the Dutch Republic, and France. The separate friendship and commerce treaty between England and the Dutch Republic, however, was also signed because England’s hand was forced by the Dutch victory. The second Anglo-Dutch War, and what would ensue within subsequent treaties, can be seen to have had a major impact on international law and politics, so much so that it also added to the risk of future conflict, which would materialise in 1672 when England and the Dutch Republic would go to war again for the third time in that century. Despite England’s defeat, the Treaty did position the country, alongside France and the Dutch Republic, as a great nation in the European arena, and as Rommelse states, in the European ‘powerplay’. It also, however, saw the beginning of the Dutch golden age in international trade.

Treaties Forming the Peace of Breda (1667)

Treaty of Peace and Alliance between Great Britain and The Netherlands, signed at Breda, 21(31) July 1667, 10 CTS 231.

Treaty between Great Britain and The Netherlands, signed at Breda, 21(31) July 1667, 10 CTS 255.

Treaty of Peace between Denmark-Norway and Great Britain, signed at Breda, 21(31) July 1667, 10 CTS 287.

Treaty of Peace between France and Great Britain, signed at Breda, 21(31) July 1667, 10 CTS 215.

Related Treaties

Treaty between England and the Netherlands, signed at Westminster, 5 April 1654, 3 CTS 225.

Treaty between France and the Netherlands, signed at Paris, 27 April 1662, 7 CTS 139.

Treaty of Peace and Alliance between England and the Netherlands, signed at Whitehall, 4(14) September 1662, 7 CTS 193.

Treaty of Defensive Alliance between Great Britain and Sweden, signed at Stockholm, 1 March 1665, 8 CTS 263.

Treaty between Sweden and the Netherlands, signed at Elsinore, 29 September 1659, 5 CTS 309.


Charles Ralph Boxer, The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th Century, 1652-1674 (London: HM Stationery Office, 1974).

Gijs Rommelse, The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): International Raison D’État, Mercantilism and Maritime Strife (Hilversum: Uitgeverij Verloren, 2006).

JR Jones, The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century (London and New York: Longman, 1996).

Steven CA Pincus, Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideologies and the Making of English Foreign Policy, 1650-1668 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Jonathan Irvine Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

GJA Raven & NAM Rodger, Navies and Armies: The Anglo-Dutch Relationship in War and Peace 1688-1988 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1990).

David Roger Hainsworth & Christine Churches, The Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars 1652-1674 (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1998).