This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.
The Third Anglo-Dutch War or the Third Dutch War (Dutch: Derde Engelse Oorlog "Third English War", or Derde Engelse Zeeoorlog "Third English Sea War") was a military conflict between the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic, that lasted between April 1672 and early 1674. It was part of the larger conflict between the Dutch Republic and her allies (the Quadruple Alliance) and France, and the third of a series of naval wars between the English and the Dutch.
In 1670, Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France concluded the secret Treaty of Dover, intending to subjugate the Dutch state. England's Royal Navy joined France in its attack on the Republic in 1672, but was frustrated in its attempts to blockade the Dutch coast by four strategic victories of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. An attempt to make the province of Holland an English protectorate rump state likewise failed. The Parliament of England, fearful that the alliance with France was part of a plot to make England Roman Catholic, forced the king to abandon the costly and fruitless war.
Although England, the Dutch Republic and Sweden had signed a Triple Alliance against France in 1668 to prevent that country from occupying the Spanish Netherlands, Charles II of England signed the secret Treaty of Dover with France in 1670, entailing that England would join Louis XIV of France in a punitive campaign against the United Provinces. Charles, feeling personally humiliated by the events of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, especially the Raid on the Medway, had engaged in the Triple Alliance only to create a rift between the Dutch and the French, two former allies. While publicly trying to appease tensions between France and the Republic, making ambassador William Temple avow friendship to Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, he secretly schemed to seduce Louis to a campaign against the Dutch. He was promised that after a French victory, he would be rewarded strategic coastal key positions to take as Crown possession. Walcheren, Cadzand and Sluys were noted explicitly, but Charles also desired Brill, Texel, Terschelling and Delfzijl, to control the seaways towards the main Dutch ports, including Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the latter of which was the richest city in Europe.
Charles had hoped that an attack on the Republic could have begun in 1671, but it had to be delayed for a year because the French needed to establish secure diplomatic relations with two key German principalities: the Bishopric of Münster and the Archbishopric of Cologne. Normally the Spanish Netherlands would act as a buffer between the Republic and France; to conquer the strongly fortified towns of Flanders and the south of the Republic would be both too slow and too costly for a swift and decisive campaign. Also, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I had promised not to interfere with the French plans, on condition that the Spanish Netherlands would not be attacked. For these reasons, Louis XIV and the two German bishops agreed that the French army would advance through the Bishopric of Liège, a dependency of Cologne that intersected the Spanish Netherlands, and attack the Republic unexpectedly from the east in its unprotected "soft side". Ultimately Münster and Cologne decided to join the invasion with their armies.
Charles tried to use the delay to sow dissension between the Orangist faction in the Republic, which wanted to restore the House of Orange (represented at the time by Charles's nephew William III of Orange) to the office of stadtholder, and the republican States faction headed by De Witt. When from November 1670 William visited Charles to urge the House of Stuart to pay back a part of the large debt it owed to the House of Orange, Charles intended to make his nephew part of the conspiracy and promise him to be made Sovereign Prince of Holland, a puppet state, in return for collaboration with the invading forces. But he started his effort to recruit the young prince for his undertaking by advising William to become Roman Catholic, as he believed Catholicism was best fitted to absolutist rulers. William's horrified reaction to this proposal convinced Charles that it was best not to reveal the Dover Treaty to him.
Charles was hampered in his intrigue by needing Parliament to vote for sufficient funds to bring out a strong fleet. England would not be involved with its rather weak army; apart from an English brigade in the French army under the Duke of Monmouth, its military effort would be made only by the Royal Navy: to defeat its Dutch counterpart and ideally blockade the Dutch coast. Charles was receiving considerable subsidies from Louis, about £225,000 a year, but he preferred to spend these on the luxuries of his own court. As the treaty with France was secret, he could not direct these subsidies to the fleet anyway. Whereas in 1664 the country had been, in the words of Samuel Pepys, "mad for war", in 1671 most English had begun to despair of ever being able to "beat the Dutch" and there was considerable resistance against any additional taxation. To provide for short-term money, Charles therefore on 2 January 1672 repudiated the Crown debts in the Great Stop of the Exchequer, which gained him £1,300,000.
The Parliament was decidedly unenthusiastic about a new war. The king tried to incite public opinion in England against the Dutch by creating a serious incident. Lord Arlington put it this way: "Our business is to break with them, yet to lay the breach at their door". Bennet sent the royal yacht Merlin, with Temple's wife Dorothy Osborne aboard, on 24 August 1671 to sail through the Dutch fleet at anchor off Brill for maintenance. The Dutch ships duly struck their flag in salute first, as was mandatory under treaty, but refused to salute firing white smoke, because they were doubtful the Merlin counted as a real warship. Charles ordered the intriguer George Downing, the new ambassador in The Hague, to demand that the admirals responsible be severely punished, which the States General of the Netherlands refused. In early 1672, Downing, who already had made himself profoundly hated by the Dutch population as ambassador in the previous war, had to flee The Hague in fear of his life. Temple – somewhat wryly as he was rather sympathetic to the Dutch himself – remarked to Charles that now both he and his wife had had the honour to have become instruments of doom for the Dutch.
Though De Witt tended to believe the repeated diplomatic assurances by the French and English that they had no invasion in mind, many Dutch politicians and military men interpreted the French diplomatic activities in the German principalities, the preparing of the English Navy, and the raising of large armies as sure signs of an imminent war. On 25 February 1672, William III, despite his youth, was appointed Captain-General of the confederate Dutch army. Factional strife and uncertainty about the French strategy prevented establishing a strong field army; most of the 83,000 troops (70,700 infantry and 12,710 cavalry in June 1672) were assigned to the fortresses. Whereas the Dutch Republic was thus ill-prepared for a land campaign, it had a more favourable situation at sea, even though the States General decided to limit the naval budget to 4,776,248 guilders (down from an original projected budget of 7,893,992 guilders) in order not to provoke the English.
In 1667, the Dutch navy, after having destroyed the core of the English navy at Chatham, had been the strongest in the world. By 1672 the English had regained parity, replacing the capital ships lost while few Dutch ships had been built and one of the five autonomous Dutch admiralties, that of Friesland, was unable to contribute many ships because that province was attacked by Münster. The Dutch nevertheless successfully prevented a blockade of their coast and any landing of enemy troops, despite being outnumbered by a third by the combined Anglo-French fleet. Their success was the result of the much improved training standards. In the major battles of 1666, the Dutch navy still had to get used to its brand new, much heavier, warships, and commanders had made some costly tactical mistakes. In addition, personal conflict between Lieutenant-Admirals Michiel de Ruyter and Cornelis Tromp had damaged the unity of the fleet. De Ruyter used the summer of 1671 to execute many training manoeuvres employing the line-of-battle, perfecting the fire drill, and installing a new sense of coherence and discipline. As a result, the Republic was in 1672 at the apex of its naval power. In the English navy, however, Admiral Edward Spragge had grown jealous of supreme commander Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Also, Spragge broke formation in two battles to seek out his personal enemy Tromp, having vowed to kill him for having insulted his wife. Cooperation between the English and the French navies was poor, plagued by misunderstandings and suspicions.
Charles had intended to make William his creature by raising him from a position of unimportance to that of nominal ruler, ensuring his subservience to the English king. The threat of invasion, however, had the unintended effect of strengthening William's position. In January 1672, William, by then having figured out the intentions of Charles, tried to exploit his increased power by offering to make the Dutch Republic a faithful ally of England. In return, Charles would have to demand from the States General that William be appointed stadtholder – and break with France. Charles did not take up this suggestion; without the threat of a French invasion, he could hardly expect the Dutch to remain submissive.
As happened in the previous conflict, even before the formal outbreak of war, the English tried to intercept the Dutch Smyrna Fleet, a yearly convoy of Dutch merchants from the Levant sailing with a flotilla to protect them from the Barbary Corsairs. From 12 March 1672 (Old Style), Admiral Robert Holmes attacked the convoy in the English Channel, but was beaten back by Cornelis Evertsen the Youngest, capturing a limited number of prizes.
As agreed in the Treaty of Dover, England joined France, which had declared war on 6 April 1672 (New Style), by declaring war on 7 April, using as a pretext the Merlin incident. Many sources incorrectly state the English were the first to declare war on 27 March, a mistake caused by the fact that they were still using the Julian calendar, then ten days behind the Gregorian calendar in use at the Continent.
The French advanced surprisingly fast due to a new system of forward supply bases devised by the Marquess de Louvois. A French army of 130,000 (118,000-foot and 12,500 horse), exceptionally accompanied by Louis himself, from 7 May in a single month marched through Liège, bypassed the strong Dutch fortress of Maastricht, advanced along the Rhine, took the six Rhine fortresses of Cleves manned with Dutch garrisons, and on 12 June crossed the Lower Rhine into the Betuwe, thus invading the Republic and outflanking the IJssel Line. As a result, the province of Overijssel withdrew its troops from the already small Dutch field army to protect its own cities; soon after this province capitulated to Bernhard von Galen, the bishop of Münster, who marched north to occupy Drenthe and lay siege to Groningen.
William was forced to fall back to Utrecht with only nine thousand men, but the burghers refused to prepare the city for defence. Instead they opened their gates to the French army, to avoid a siege. William withdrew behind the Dutch Water Line, a deliberate flooding to protect the core province of Holland, but the inundations were not ready yet, having been ordered by the States of Holland only on 8 June and hampered by villages unwilling to let the water damage their property.
Meanwhile, the first sea battle had taken place. After the English declaration of war, the States General had increased the naval budget with 2.2 million guilders. De Witt, seeking a decisive naval victory, had decided on an aggressive strategy and sent out De Ruyter with the mission to destroy the Allied fleet. On 7 June, he surprised it when resupplying on the English coast; it was only saved from a severe defeat in the Battle of Solebay by a sudden turning of the wind, causing De Ruyter to lose the weather gage. Nevertheless, the damage incurred — including the death of Admiral Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich — was so extensive that the Allies would be prevented from executing major naval actions for the rest of the season, apart from a failed attempt to intercept the Dutch East India Company (VOC) Return Fleet from the Dutch East Indies. A blockade of the Dutch coast failed. Johan de Witt's brother Cornelis de Witt had accompanied the fleet to make the States regime share in the glory, but the events on land nullified this.
The sudden appearance of a hostile army in the heart of the Republic caused a general panic. On 14 June, the States of Holland decided to ask for peace conditions from France and England. This convinced Louis that the war was already won and, on the advice of de Louvois, he began negotiations to reach a treaty as favourable as possible for France. The city populations rioted, blaming the States regime for the disaster and calling for the Prince of Orange to take over government. Most city councils turned Orangist or were replaced by threat of force with Orangist partisans. Charles had always supported the Orangist faction; now they repaid him by accusing the States faction of wanting to betray the land to the French and depicting Charles as the only man able and willing to save the Dutch from French subjugation. In Dutch history, the year 1672, the national annus horribilis, subsequently became known as the "Year of Disaster" (Rampjaar). A Dutch saying was coined to describe the situation of the state: Redeloos, radeloos, reddeloos, meaning: "unreasonably" (the people), "in dispair" (the authorities), "helpless" (the country).
Despite this general mood of defeatism, the situation was not as immediately desperate as the population believed. De Witt had assumed the conflicting interests of England and France would prevent their successful co-operation. The two kings, motivated by a shared lust for revenge, had put their differences aside as long as their immediate common goal of humiliating the Republic had not been reached. Now that it was, each began to worry the other would benefit too much from the war; neither would allow a complete domination of the Republic, and its huge mercantile assets, by his formal ally. When a Dutch mission arrived suing for peace, Louis demanded only Delfzijl, by far the least important port Charles desired, for the English. Yet, when he was offered the southern fortresses of the Republic — the French possession of which would make the Spanish Netherlands indefensible — and ten million guilders, he refused. Knowing that the mission was not allowed to make any concessions on the point of religion and the territorial integrity of the provinces themselves (the southern fortress cities of Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch and Maastricht were in the Generality Lands), Louis demanded – besides twenty million guilders and an annual embassy from the States General to Louis asking pardon for their perfidy – either religious freedom for the Catholics or lordship over Utrecht and Guelders, his sole motivation being to humiliate the Dutch a bit further. But he did not continue his military advance, fearing to drive the Dutch into the hands of Charles.
Louis waited while the mission returned to ask for new instructions, which would take some time given the decentralised nature of the Dutch administration; all the city councils would have to be consulted on the issue. Meanwhile, the water gradually filled the polders of the defence line. On 7 July, the inundations were fully set and the province of Holland was safe from a further French advance. Louis was not overly worried by this, being entirely focused on Amsterdam. As an early attempt to take the city by a sudden cavalry assault had failed, he had decided in any case to avoid an expensive and inevitably very muddy siege by waiting till winter. He expected — reasonably so in the Little Ice Age — that his troops would then be able to advance over the ice. Leaving his main force behind, he returned to France on 26 July, taking 18,000 men with him and freeing 20,000 Dutch prisoners of war, to avoid having to pay for their maintenance.
On 4 July, William was appointed stadtholder of Holland; on 16 July, of Zealand. In early July, Charles had decided to secure his share of the booty and sent Lord Arlington, one of the few English politicians privy to the Treaty of Dover, together with the Duke of Buckingham to the Republic to convey his peace conditions. Arlington landed in Brill accompanied by a group of Dutch Orangist exiles and travelled to William at the Dutch headquarters in Nieuwerbrug. He was cheered along the way by Dutch crowds believing he had come to promise English support against the French. Arriving on 5 July, he brought William the good news that Charles insisted on his nephew being made Sovereign Prince of Holland. All would be well for the Dutch, if William would in return consent to an equitable peace, including paying the English ten million guilders for their efforts, paying a yearly sum of £10,000 for the North Sea herring rights, and reinstating the clauses of the 1585 Treaty of Nonsuch about Brill, Sluys and Flushing being English securities.
Far from finding William grateful to his uncle for having brought about his rise to power, Arlington soon discovered that the stadtholder was outraged by these demands, the prince uncharacteristically losing his temper in public. He yelled that he would rather "die a thousand times than accept them". Arlington in response threatened the Dutch state with total annihilation if William did not comply; in the end the meeting turned into a quarrel and Arlington left without having achieved any gains. He subsequently travelled to Heeswijk, the headquarters of the French army in vain besieging 's-Hertogenbosch, where on 16 July he concluded the Accord of Heeswijk with the French, each party agreeing on a minimal shared list of demands and promising never to conclude a separate peace. William refused these demands on 20 July.
On 18 July, William received a letter from Charles, very moderate in tone, in which the king claimed that the entire campaign was directed against the States regime only and that the one obstacle to peace was the continued influence of the De Witt faction. William responded by offering the herring rights, £400,000, Sluys and Surinam; in return Charles should make him Sovereign Prince and conclude a separate peace. Annoyed, Charles answered by accusing William of being unreasonably obstinate and scheming behind his back with politicians of the Country Party, the later "Whigs".
De Witt had had to resign from his function of Grand Pensionary after he had been wounded by an assassination attempt in June. His brother Cornelis had been arrested on (probably false) charges of having plotted to murder William. On 15 August, the stadtholder published Charles' letter to further incite the population against De Witt. There were many new riots; on 20 August, Johan de Witt visited his brother in prison; both were on this occasion murdered by an Orangist civil militia that had been instructed by Tromp, the Orangist admiral. William's power was now secure from internal threats.
The Allies at this point of the war found themselves in a rather awkward position. If the Battle of Solebay had not prevented it, they would have been able to force the Dutch population to surrender by starvation, as it was dependent for its survival on supplies of Baltic grain. Now they had no clear exit strategy; they could only wait hoping the Dutch would at last understand the hopelessness of their situation and capitulate. Meanwhile, their own situation deteriorated. The war was very expensive and Charles especially had trouble paying for it. Münster was in an even worse condition; in August it had to abandon the siege of Groningen. Before the end of 1672, the Dutch retook Coevorden and liberated the province of Drenthe, leaving the Allies in possession of only three of the ten (despite the number traditionally given of seven) Dutch provincial areas. The supply lines of the French army were dangerously extended. In the autumn of 1672, William tried to cut them off, crossing the Spanish Netherlands via Maastricht in forced marches to attack Charleroi, then a French border city close to the supply route through Liège.
Adding to the Allied difficulties, the German states, although having promised Louis to remain neutral, had become very worried by the French success and especially by its refusal to withdraw from the Duchy of Cleves. On 25 July, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I, concluded a defensive treaty with the Republic in The Hague and, together with Brandenburg, of which Cleves was a dependency and which had declared itself a Dutch ally on 6 May, sent an army of forty thousand to the Rhine. Though this force did not attack the French army, its presence was enough to draw it to the east in response. On 27 December after a severe frost, the Duc de Luxembourg began to cross the ice of the Water Line with eight thousand men, hoping to sack The Hague. A sudden thaw cut his force in half and he narrowly escaped to his own lines with the remainder.
In the winter of 1673 the French failed to cross the Water Line over the ice, thwarted both by further thaws and special Dutch sailor companies moving on skates, organised by temporary Lieutenant-Admiral Johan de Liefde. In the spring, attempts to drain the northern part of the line or to cross on rafts, proved unsuccessful. The attack from the east thus being considered impractical, the activities of the Royal Navy gained much more importance. It was ordered, in co-operation with a French squadron, to at least blockade the Dutch coast and, if possible, execute a landing on it, conquering the Republic from the west. How this should be accomplished exactly, was not very clear. The English navy, in contrast to the Dutch fleet, had little experience in shore landings. It was expected therefore, to directly take some Dutch port by assault, despite having insufficient recent information about the dangerous, constantly shifting shoals.
Before this could be achieved, the Allies would have to defeat the Dutch fleet. Although the English deliberately created the impression – to frighten the Dutch population into an invasion scare – that transports, carrying an army, were sailing immediately behind the war fleet, in fact the (rather small) invasion force formed by the Blackheath Army was left in Great Yarmouth, to be shipped only after a full control over the seas had been attained. In this the French would be of little help; they had received clear orders by Louis to give absolute priority to the survival of their vessels and inform him personally about what knowledge they had gained by observing the English and Dutch tactics. This meant that the French navy considered the campaign first of all to be a great learning opportunity; it would indeed be very instructive.
In May, Rupert advanced to the Dutch coast with superior forces; De Ruyter took up a defensive position in the Schooneveld. Rupert tried to outflank the smaller Dutch fleet hoping to force it to seek refuge in the naval port fortress of Hellevoetsluis, where it could be blocked while the transport fleet would be brought over to storm either Brill in Holland or Flushing on Walcheren in Zealand. Instead De Ruyter attacked, starting the First Battle of the Schooneveld. In the Battle of Solebay of the previous year, the French squadron had, on sight of the approaching Dutch fleet, sailed in a direction opposite to that of the English fleet. To counter English accusations that this had been done on purpose to let the English bear the brunt of the fighting, the French now formed the centre squadron. When a gap formed in the French line, De Ruyter suddenly tacked with his own centre and sailed through it. After a while the French disengaged – later writing enthusiastic reports to Louis about feeling honoured to witness the tactical genius shown by De Ruyter by this manoeuvre – exposing the Allied rear to encirclement by the Dutch rear and centre. On perceiving the danger, its commander, Spragge, abandoned the remainder of the rear with his flotilla to seek out Tromp, who was rather hesitantly attacked by Rupert in the van, fearing the shoals. Thus being outmanoeuvred and divided, the Allied fleet managed to reunite only because De Ruyter decided not to take any unnecessary risks by pressing his advantage; but the disorder was so persistent, it had to withdraw at nightfall.
After this setback, Rupert was at a loss how to continue the campaign; not daring to enter the dangerous Schooneveld again, he could hope only to lure the Dutch out. He was however, so convinced De Ruyter would never leave this ideal blocking position, that his fleet was unprepared when the resupplied Dutch fleet attacked on 14 June, starting the Second Battle of the Schooneveld. Rupert at the very last moment decided to invert his squadron order, causing such a chaos in the Allied fleet, that the Dutch and French were too astonished to fully commit themselves to the fight. Spragge exploited this disorder by again seeking out Tromp, without success. Much damaged and with its morale shaken, the Allied fleet returned to the Thames for repairs.
In late July, Rupert sailed out again, trying to lure the Dutch fleet to the north, pretending to attempt a landing at Den Helder. De Ruyter at first decided not to leave his Schooneveld position, but was ordered to do so by William to prevent a Dutch East India Company fleet, loaded with spices and treasure, from being captured. The loss of this fleet would have allowed the English to continue the war, alleviating Charles's lack of funds. This resulted in the final Battle of the Texel. Both sides no longer restrained their forces, striving for a decision; even the French fought hard, but for the fourth time allowed themselves to get separated from the English fleet. Spragge broke formation for the second time to duel with Tromp; on this occasion losing his life. Having incurred enormous damage, both fleets retreated. This tactical draw was a complete strategic victory for the Dutch, even though some ships of the Spice Fleet ultimately fell into Allied hands. For De Ruyter, the successful campaign, repelling attacks by much superior fleets to save his homeland, had been the highlight of his career, as the English readily acknowledged: the Duke of York concluded that among admirals, "he was the greatest that ever to that time was in the world". The English had to abandon their plans for an invasion from the sea, and the large costs of repair troubled Parliament.
Overall the war had been far from profitable. In previous conflicts many in England had gained riches by joining privateering enterprises; in this war Dutch raiders captured more English ships (over 550 merchantmen; 2800 vessels of all Allies) than vice versa. Being well aware that the war was waged by English and French nobles who disdained the Dutch as a nation of "cheesemongers", at least three privateers sailed under the name of the Getergde Kaasboer, "Provoked Cheesemonger". The English had failed to blockade the Dutch coast and were themselves largely blocked from the vital Baltic trade in wood and tar. The fact that the Dutch had retaken New York City (formerly New Amsterdam) in 1673 mattered little financially, nor did the temporary loss of Saint Helena, but it hurt the English reputation. In the East, on 1 September 1673 a Dutch East India Company fleet of thirteen vessels commanded by Cornelis van Quaelbergen defeated an East India Company squadron of ten ships under William Basse off Masulipatam, capturing two and sinking one British vessel. The material damage compounded a moral unease about the justifiability of the war; John Evelyn already after Solebay wrote: "the loss of my Lord Sandwich redoubled the loss to me, as well the folly of hazarding so brave a fleet, and losing so many good men, for no provocation in the world but because the Hollander exceeded us in industry, and all things else but envy". In November 1673 Parliament voted to deny Charles a war budget for 1674.
Meanwhile, the developments in the land war had also become very unfavourable to Charles. The ultimate goal of the French, and their deeper rationale for this war, was to conquer the Spanish Netherlands. Such a conquest would be very detrimental to the English strategic position: should the province of Holland capitulate to them also, the French would control the entire continental coast opposite England, as they would later achieve in the 19th-century Napoleonic Wars. For this reason Charles had in the Treaty of Dover explicitly reserved his rights to come to the aid of the Spanish Netherlands should his interests demand so; Louis had to delay the execution of his plans in this region until the Dutch affair was finished. Now that a deadlock had been reached, Louis' patience was severely tried. Eventually the temptation to take possession of the Southern Netherlands while they were so vulnerable became too great. He gradually turned his attention to this area, first by the capture of Maastricht in July 1673, in which Monmouth's brigade played an honourable rôle. Though this could be justified as improving the supply situation of the northern French army, its potential as a starting point for a Flemish campaign was not lost on the Spanish.
On 30 August, the Republic, the Empire, Spain and Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine (who wanted his duchy back from Louis) concluded the Quadruple Alliance, and William made sure peace negotiations held with France in Cologne failed. In November Bonn was taken by the alliance forces commanded by William; this forced the French army to abandon almost all occupied Dutch territory, with the exception of Grave and Maastricht. A final French victory over the Dutch at this point appeared most implausible; the war was changed into one about the dominion of Flanders and on this issue, the natural interests of England were opposed to those of France. The changed international situation was an important consideration for Parliament's decision to withhold funding, but internal events were even more decisive.
The Treaty of Dover was not only aimed at the Dutch Republic but also at the domination of Protestantism in England; Charles had promised Louis to try to end it. In accordance on 25 March 1672 he had issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, as a first step to complete religious tolerance. Parliament was shocked by this, but at first was unaware of the connection with the French alliance; in February 1673 it voted to start funding the alliance in exchange for a suspension of the Indulgence (and an issuing of the Test Act in March), not as yet seeing any contradiction in such policies. This would soon change, however. Arlington's former secretary, Pierre du Moulin, had after fleeing to the Republic begun to work for William; in the summer of 1673 he exploited the fears of the English population by starting a propaganda campaign, using one of the Dutch main assets: the world's largest printing capacity. Soon England was flooded with tens of thousands of pamphlets accusing Charles of wanting to make the country Catholic again in conspiracy with the French king. The campaign was a complete success, convincing the English people that such a plan really existed. It was greatly aided by the decision by Charles's brother James, the Duke of York, to lay down his position as Lord High Admiral, which was generally (and correctly) interpreted as a sign that James had in secret become a Catholic and was therefore unable to abjure the transubstantiation doctrine, as the Test Act demanded of all officials. In September James married the Catholic Mary of Modena, a beautiful young girl especially selected for him by King Louis. As Charles had no legitimate offspring, this marriage presented the strong prospect of a Catholic dynasty ruling England in the future.
Reacting to the change in the public mood, Buckingham, who had learned of it during his trip to the Republic the previous year, began to leak the Dover Treaty to many fellow politicians, and Arlington soon followed. Thus in a short time Charles' own cabinet, the Cabal Ministry, went over to the "Dutch" peace party; Lord Shaftesbury, much shocked by the revelation, began to consider driving out the troublesome House of Stuart entirely. He induced his secretary, John Locke, to develop further the legal concepts which would later be the basis of the Two Treatises of Government, which justified the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
In this situation Charles felt that continuing the alliance was a grave threat to his personal position. He informed the French ambassador Colbert de Croissy that to his regret, he had to terminate the English war effort. He told the Dutch via the Spanish consul in London, the Marquess del Fresno, that, his main war aim to install his noble nephew as stadtholder having been attained, he no longer objected to concluding a lasting peace between the two Protestant brother nations, if only some minor "indemnities" could be paid. At first the States of Holland were disinclined to grant Charles's demands: as England had accomplished nothing in the war, it was, in their opinion, not entitled to any reward. Many members admitted their personal satisfaction in the thought that the British might be kept suffering a bit longer. But William convinced them that there was some chance of bringing Charles into the war against France eventually, and that this had to take precedence over petty considerations of retribution, unworthy of their high office. Furthermore, Spain had not yet declared war on France and was willing to do so only if England made peace, because it feared English attacks on its American colonies.
On 4 January 1674 the States General drafted a final peace proposal. On 7 January a Dutch trumpeter arrived in Harwich, carrying with him two letters for the Spanish consul. Though the herald was promptly arrested by the town mayor, the letters were sent to Lord Arlington, who hurriedly brought them in person to del Fresno; Arlington was in turn on 15 January impeached by Sir Gilbert Gerard for high treason, as by this very act he was shown to have secret dealings with the enemy. On 24 January the consul handed the letters, containing the peace proposal, to Charles, who pretended to be greatly surprised by this. This posing was marred somewhat by the fact that he had especially recalled Parliament, prorogued by him in November, for this occasion that very same day. While addressing both Houses, the King first emphatically denied the existence of the Treaty of Dover and then produced the peace proposal, to the great satisfaction of the members – who in turn had to pretend surprise although Parliament had been informed beforehand by the Dutch of the full content. After some days of debate, the treaty was approved by Parliament.
This news was met with open joy by the populace. Charles sent his own trumpeter to Holland, who was received by the States General on 1 February. In his message Charles announced the absolute agreement of himself and Parliament on this matter, to which institution Charles gladly deferred. On 5 February a Dutch trumpeter arrived in London, carrying the response of the States General. That very day Parliament advised the King to conclude a "speedy peace". A Royal Commission was appointed to make a final draft; the Treaty of Westminster was signed by the King on 9 February Old Style, 19 February New Style, 1674. It was ratified by the Lord Keeper on 10 February by placement of the Great Seal; on 17 February it was publicly proclaimed. It was approved by the States of Holland and West Frisia on 4 March (New Style) and ratified by the States General on 5 March. Due to the different calendars in use in the two countries and the complex procedure, when a single date is given the literature is not in agreement.
The treaty stipulated that New York (formerly New Netherland) would henceforth be an English possession and that Suriname, captured by the Dutch in 1667, would remain their colony, confirming the status quo of 1667. An "indemnity" of two million guilders was paid by the Dutch. Despite the peace, Monmouth's brigade would not be withdrawn from the French army and it would be allowed to recruit in Britain until the end of the Franco-Dutch War. In April that year William attempted to convince his uncle to enter the war against Louis but failed. Until the end of the War of Holland in 1678, Charles tried to negotiate between the two parties, at times pretending to consider a conflict with France, when such pretence was beneficial to him. In 1677 he forced his niece Mary to marry William; this would later prove to be a fundamental cause of the fall of his brother in 1688.