A British Isle and the Netherlands went to war for 335 years and no one died - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A British Isle and the Netherlands went to war for 335 years and no one died

The best kind of war is the rare kind where no one gets hurt. Leave it to the Netherlands to fight that kind of war. Back in 1651, England was in complete upheaval. Sick of King Charles Stuart, Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell began fighting Royalists who supported King Charles. 

Cromwell, would, as we know, eventually win the conflict and seize power in a virtual dictatorship for five years. The Dutch seemed to know that beforehand and sided with the Parliamentarians early on in the conflict. This understandably upset the Royalists and King Charles who were actually the seat of power. Until Cromwell was, of course. 

The Royalist forces fled the British mainland for the Isle of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall, England, which was the last city controlled by the Royalist faction. Scilly was an island entirely owned by a Royalist supporter, John Granville, so the court decided to hold out there for a while. The King’s Navy was also stationed on Scilly during this time. From there, they raided Dutch shipping to get back at their one-time ally for ditching them during the civil war. 

The English had a long history with the Netherlands, dating back almost a century. The English even helped the Netherlands in securing its independence from Spain. English ships stepped up their raiding game, inflicting heavy losses on Dutch merchant ships. 

A British Isle and the Netherlands went to war for 335 years and no one died
Cromwell’s castle seen from the sea, overlooked by the ruined King Charles’s Castle. (Wikimedia Commons)

Eventually the Netherlands got sick of their ships being harrassed by English Royalist ships and demanded the English crown pay for the damage it caused and any losses incurred in the raids. They sent the admiral of their fleet, Maarten Harpertszoon to Scilly to demand satisfaction. When he didn’t get it, he issued a declaration of war against the island. 

No one is quite sure if the admiral had the authority to issue a declaration of war while representing the Dutch Republic, but the general agreement was that he did, and the rest of the nation must have went along with the war, because by June 1651, the Dutch Navy was in the waters around Scilly, blockading its port. 

Then the Parliamentarian Navy finally showed up and forced the Royalist Navy to surrender. The island went to the control of Cromwell and the Parliament. When they finally arrived on the island, the Dutch fleet left without firing a single shot. But they didn’t declare a peace either. 

A British Isle and the Netherlands went to war for 335 years and no one died
Wikimedia Commons

So the war continued like this, no shots fired, no casualties, no killed in action. Just a prolonged state of war for more than three centuries. This means the Dutch and the English Crown were at war even as allies during two successive world wars. In fact, the war went on for so long that most people forgot about it, or never knew at all. 

The war eventually evolved to become more of a local legend than a historical event of any significance. In the mid-1980s, that all changed when a historian became fascinated with the local legend and decided. In 1985, he looked to the embassy of the Netherlands in London for help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious war. The government of the Netherlands did some digging of their own and was able to produce proof that the war was not only declared, but had never ended in any official capacity. 

On April 17th, 1986, the Netherlands sent its Ambassador to Britain, Rein Huydecoper to the island of Scilly to finally sign the peace treaty between them. Some 335 years had passed since the declaration, which gave the war its official name in history books, the 335 Years War.

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