Nick Name: Bestevaêr
Birthday: March 24, 1607
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Michiel Adriaanszoon De Ruyter, Michiel Adriaenszoon
Born Country: Netherlands
Born in: Vlissingen, Netherlands
Famous as: Admiral
Spouse/Ex-: Anna van Gelder (m. 1652), Maayke Velders (m. 1631 – 1631), Neeltje Engels (m. 1636 – 1650)
father: Adriaen Michielszoon
mother: Aagje Jansdochter
children: Engel de Ruyter
Died on: April 29, 1676
place of death: Syracuse, Italy
Cause of Death: Killed In Action
Michiel de Ruyter was a 17th century Dutch admiral who is considered as the most successful and skilled admiral in the history of the Dutch Republic. Born in a time when the Dutch people had gained freedom from a rigid Spanish Catholicism, he began life at sea at an early age, and quickly learnt the ropes to become captain of whaling ship, which improved his fortunes drastically. He had this natural gift of knowing when to press and when to stay away from a conflict and added with his innovative streaks, his seafaring experience gave him immense success in battles. During his naval career, Michiel de Ruyter fought raiders around Europe and the Caribbean; the Spanish at Cape St. Vincent, the French at Biscay, the Portuguese, and the English in three different wars. He employed bold tactics, skillful maneuvering and excellent use of ship cannons to gain near miraculous victories against the English, especially when he was outnumbered; a prime example being the raid on the Medway. Above all, he was generous to those who worked with him and under him, which is why he was well loved and respected by his crews, associates and acquaintances alike.
Childhood & Early Life
Michiel de Ruyter was born on March 24, 1607, in Vlissingen, in the Dutch Republic, to Aagje Jansdochter (mother) and Adriaen Michielszoon (father).
Keeping with the Zeelander tradition, he was employed at sea at the age of eleven, working as an apprentice to a boatswain.
In 1622, he joined the Dutch Army as a musketeer during the ‘Eighty Years War’ to fight against the Spaniards.
Between 1623 and 1631, he worked as a mercantile fiduciary for the Lampsins Brothers, a Vlissingen-based merchant house in their Dublin office.
After the death of his first wife, he returned to the sea as first mate of a whaling fleet operating around the Jan Mayen Islands.
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In 1637, Michiel de Ruyter was given command of a private ship which was to hunt for raiders operating around Dunkirk, a duty that he fulfilled successfully for three years (1637 to 1640) years.
He captained the ‘Haze’ in 1641, a merchant ship refitted to man-of-war specifications to aid the Portuguese in their fight against the Spanish armada. Despite little success, he distinguished himself in naval combat.
After his fleet was disbanded, he returned to merchant service for the next decade or so. By 1651, he had made sizeable profits from trade and was ready to retire. However, the First Anglo-Dutch war a year later forced him out of retirement.
Between 1652 and 1654, he took command of a fleet of privately commissioned warships. In the Battle of Plymouth, he successfully protected America-bound, Dutch conveys from 47 English warships, defeating them in the process.
In 1653, he turned down the offer to become supreme commander of the Dutch fleet but was persuaded to accept the position of Vice-Admiral of Amsterdam Admiralty a year later, shortly before the war ended.
In 1664, he battled the English again and successfully took back the Dutch slaving stations off the coast of West Africa.
When the Second Anglo-Dutch War began in 1665, Michiel de Ruyter was tasked with attacking the English forts and shipping routes in the Caribbean, and while successful his fleet also sustained considerable damage to ships along with many casualties. The next year, he notched another significant victory in the Four Days’ battle.
Beaten in the St. James Day battle, he fell gravely ill in 1667, but recovered in time to lead an audacious raid on Medway in the heart of England. Such was the extent of this victory, that it ultimately forced the English to settle for peace.
Despite his failing health, he took command of his fleet again in 1672 to defend the Dutch Republic against an English invasion and defeated the English at Solebay. It was followed by a string of naval victories at Texel and Schoonveld the next year.
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Commanding a combined Dutch-Spanish fleet in 1676, he engaged the French fleet, and while he gained a victory at Stromboli, the battle of Agosta, four months later proved fatal for Michiel de Ruyter.
During the Second Anglo-Dutch war, he oversaw the Raid on the Medway in 1667. Leading the Dutch fleet, they sailed up the Thames estuary, caught the English Navy off-guard at the port, burned many of their ships, ruined the port, destroyed the cargo and even managed to tow an English flagship, HMS Royal Charles back home.
Awards & Achievements
For his heroics in liberating Nyborg from Swedish occupation in 1659, Michiel de Ruyter received a knighthood from Frederick III of Denmark.
He received the Order of St. Michael from Louis XIV in 1666.
Family & Personal Life
Michiel De Ruyter was thrice married. He married Maayke Velders on 16 March 1631, who died in childbirth later that same year. His second marriage was with Neeltje Engels in 1636, and their union produced four children. Two years after her unexpected passing, he married Anna van Gelder, a widow who bore him two children.
He passed away in Syracuse on 29th April 1676 after sustaining a fatal injury to his left leg a week before battle of Agosta.
He received a state funeral back home on 18th March, 1677, and was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.
There are numerous statues erected in his memory, prime among them being the one at his hometown Vlissingen, Hungarian town of Debrecen.
Six ships from the Royal Netherlands Navy are named after him and another seven ships carry the name of ‘De Zeven Provinciën’, his flagship.
Besides, many towns in Netherlands who have streets named after him, the 2015 movie ‘Admiral’ depicts his life.
He is also regarded as one of the founders of the Netherlands Marine Corps, which dates backs to 1665.