Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War

Last updated

Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War
335 years war locations.png
  Isles of Scilly
  Republic of the Seven United Netherlands
DateMarch 30, 1651 (1651-03-30) – April 17, 1986 (1986-04-17)
Result Status quo ante bellum
ScillonianCross.svg Isles of Scilly
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of Cornwall.svg Cornwall
Prinsenvlag.svg  Dutch Republic
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands
Commanders and leaders
ScillonianCross.svg John Granville
ScillonianCross.svg Roy Duncan
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Elizabeth II
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Margaret Thatcher
Flag of Cornwall.svg George Boscawen
Prinsenvlag.svg Maarten Tromp
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Beatrix
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Ruud Lubbers
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Rein Huydecoper
Casualties and losses
None None

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War (Dutch : Driehonderdvijfendertigjarige Oorlog, Cornish : Bell a dri hans pymthek warn ugens) was an alleged state of war between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly (located off the southwest coast of Great Britain), and its existence is disputed. It is said to have been extended by the lack of a peace treaty for 335 years without a single shot being fired, which would make it one of the world's longest wars, and a bloodless war. Despite the uncertain validity of the declaration of war, and thus uncertainty about whether or not a state of war ever actually existed, peace was finally declared in 1986, bringing an end to any hypothetical war that may have been legally considered to exist.




The origins of the war can be found in the English Civil War, fought between the Royalists and Parliamentarians from 1642 to 1651. [1] Oliver Cromwell had fought the Royalists to the edges of the Kingdom of England. In the West of Britain this meant that Cornwall was the last Royalist stronghold. In 1648, Cromwell pushed on until mainland Cornwall was in the hands of the Parliamentarians. The Royalist Navy was forced to retreat to the Isles of Scilly, which lay off the Cornish coast and were under the ownership of Royalist John Granville. [2]

Dutch Navy alliance

The navy of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was at the time allied with the Parliamentarians. The Netherlands had been assisted by the English under a number of rulers in the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), starting with Queen Elizabeth I. The Treaty of Münster (30 January 1648) had confirmed Dutch independence from Spain. The Netherlands sought to maintain their alliance with England and had chosen to ally with the Parliamentarians as the side likely to win the Civil War. [2]

The Dutch merchant navy was suffering heavy losses from the Royalist fleet based in Scilly. On 30 March 1651, Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp arrived in Scilly to demand reparation from the Royalist fleet for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them. [2]

According to Whitelocke's Memorials, a letter of 17 April 1651 explains: "Tromp came to Pendennis and related that he had been to Scilly to demand reparation for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them; and receiving no satisfactory answer, he had, according to his Commission, declared war on them." As most of England was now in Parliamentarian hands, war was declared specifically upon the Isles of Scilly. [3]

Royalist surrender

In June 1651, soon after the declaration of war, the Parliamentarian forces under Admiral Robert Blake forced the Royalist fleet to surrender. The Dutch fleet, no longer under threat, left without firing a shot. Due to the obscurity of one nation's declaration of war against a small part of another, the Dutch did not officially declare peace. [2]

Peace treaty

For many years in the Isles of Scilly, the local legend was that the state of war was still in effect. [4] In 1986, Roy Duncan, historian and Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, decided to investigate and wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London. Embassy staff found that no peace treaty had ever been signed, and Duncan invited the Dutch ambassador Jonkheer Rein Huydecoper to visit the islands and officially end the "conflict". Peace was declared on 17 April 1986, exactly 335 years after the supposed declaration of war. The Dutch ambassador joked that it must have been horrifying to the Scillonians "to know we could have attacked at any moment." [5]


Bowley (2001) argues that the letter in Whitelocke's Memorials [6] is the probable origin of the "declaring war" legend: "Tromp had no 'Commission' from his government to declare war on the rebels in Scilly; but he did come to try by a show of force, threats and even by violence perhaps, although this never happened to seek reparation for Royalist piracies, but short of resorting to any action which might offend the Commonwealth ... even if [a war] had occurred in 1651, all matters pertaining would have been resolved in 1654 as a part of the treaty between England and the United Provinces at the end of the First Dutch War". [3]

The reality of this war is also disputed by Graeme Donald. In his book Loose Cannons: 101 Myths, Mishaps and Misadventurers of Military History he argues that no such war could have existed because neither side was sovereign: "Tromp was an admiral, not a nation, and Scilly part of England". He goes on to describe it as "a great PR coup for the island's tourist board". [7] As The Isles of Scilly is part of the Duchy of Cornwall, and constitutionally distinct from England, it is possible that this is why peace was not declared.

See also

Related Research Articles

First Anglo-Dutch War Conflict between the Commonwealth and the Dutch Republic

Dates in this article are given in the Gregorian calendar, then ten days ahead of the Julian calendar in use in England.

Anglo-Dutch Wars Series of wars during the 17th and 18th centuries

The Anglo–Dutch Wars were a series of conflicts mainly fought between the Dutch Republic and England. The first three occurred in the second half of the 17th century over trade and overseas colonies, while the fourth was fought a century later. Almost all the battles were naval engagements.

Second Anglo-Dutch War Second conflict between England and the Dutch Republic (1665–1667)

The Second Anglo-Dutch War or the Second Dutch War was a conflict between England and the Dutch Republic partly for control over the seas and trade routes, where England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry, but also as a result of political tensions. After initial English successes, the war ended in a Dutch victory. It was the second of a series of naval wars fought between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Solemn League and Covenant

The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians in 1643 during the First English Civil War. On 17 August 1643, the Church of Scotland accepted it and on 25 September 1643 so did the English Parliament and the Westminster Assembly.

Robert Blake (admiral) 17th-century military commander of the Commonwealth of England

General at Sea Robert Blake was an important naval commander of the Commonwealth of England and one of the most famous English admirals of the 17th century. His successes have been considered to have "never been excelled, not even by Nelson" according to one biographer. Blake is recognised as the chief founder of England's naval supremacy, a dominance subsequently inherited by the British Royal Navy into the early 20th century. Despite this, due to deliberate attempts to expunge the Parliamentarians from history following the Restoration, Blake's achievements tend not to receive the full recognition that they deserve.

George Ayscue

Sir George Ayscue was an English naval officer who served in the English Civil War and the Anglo-Dutch Wars who rose to the rank of Admiral of the White. He also served as Governor of Scilly Isles (1647) and Governor of Barbados (1650–1652).

<i>Rampjaar</i> The year 1672 in Dutch history

In Dutch history, the year 1672 is referred to as the Rampjaar. In May 1672, following the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War and its peripheral conflict the Third Anglo-Dutch War, France, supported by Münster and Cologne, invaded the Dutch Republic, and it was nearly overrun. At the same time, it faced the threat of an English naval blockade in support of the French endeavor, though that attempt was abandoned following the Battle of Solebay. A Dutch saying coined that year describes the Dutch people as redeloos, its government as radeloos, and the country as reddeloos: senseless, desperate, and irrecoverable, respectively. The cities of the coastal provinces of Holland, Zealand and Frisia underwent a political transition: the city governments were taken over by Orangists, opposed to the republican regime of the Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, which ending the First Stadtholderless Period.

Second English Civil War Second civil war in England (1648)

The 1648 Second English Civil War is one in a series of connected conflicts in the kingdoms of England, incorporating Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Known collectively as the 1638 to 1651 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, others include the Irish Confederate Wars, the 1638 to 1640 Bishops' Wars, and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

Third English Civil War Last of the English Civil Wars (1650–1651)

The Third English Civil War (1650–1651) was the last of the English Civil Wars (1642–1651). It consisted primarily of an invasion of Scotland by an English army controlled by the Rump Parliament and commanded by Oliver Cromwell and a subsequent Scottish invasion of England by a Scottish army loyal to King Charles II and commanded by David Leslie. It ended after 14 months with Scotland conquered and garrisoned by the English, Charles in exile abroad, the English Parliament in control of the British Isles and Cromwell as the most influential man in the new Commonwealth.

Military history of the Netherlands

The Netherlands, as a nation-state, dates to 1568, when the Dutch Revolt created the Dutch Empire. Previously, the Germanic tribes had no written language during the ancient and early medieval periods, so what we know about their early military history comes from accounts written in Latin and from archaeology. This causes significant gaps in the historic timeline. Germanic wars against the Romans are fairly well documented from the Roman perspective; however, Germanic wars against the early Celts remain mysterious because neither side recorded the events. Wars between the Germanic tribes in Northern Belgium and the present day Netherlands, and various Celtic tribes that bordered their lands, are likely due to their geographical proximity.

Cromwells Castle

Cromwell's Castle is an artillery fort overlooking New Grimsby harbour on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. It comprises a tall, circular gun tower and an adjacent gun platform, and was designed to prevent enemy naval vessels from entering the harbour. The castle was built in two phases; Sir Robert Blake constructed the tower between 1651 and 1652 in the aftermath of the Parliamentary invasion of the islands at the end of the English Civil War, and Master Gunner Abraham Tovey added the gun platform during the War of Jenkins' Ear around 1739. The tower fell into disuse soon afterwards, and in the 21st century is managed by English Heritage and open to visitors.

King Charless Castle

King Charles's Castle is a ruined artillery fort overlooking New Grimsby harbour on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. Built between 1548 and 1551 to protect the islands from French attack, it would have held a battery of guns and an accompanying garrison, designed to prevent enemy vessels from entering the harbour. The castle is polygonal in design, constructed from granite stone, with the gun battery at the front, and a dining room, kitchen and living accommodation at the rear. An additional defensive earthwork was constructed around it during the 17th century. The design of the castle is unusual for the period, and is only seen elsewhere in blockhouses along the River Thames.

Events from the year 1651 in England, third and final year of the Third English Civil War and final year of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Isles of Scilly Chain of islands off the south-westernmost point of mainland Britain

The Isles of Scilly is an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. One of the islands, St Agnes, is the most southerly point in England, being over 4 miles (6.4 km) further south than the most southerly point of the British mainland at Lizard Point.

Between 1639 and 1651 English overseas possessions were involved in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of civil wars and wars that were fought in and between England, Scotland and in Ireland.

Castle Down

Castle Down is a windswept plateau of maritime heath in the northern part of the island of Tresco, Isles of Scilly. The area has a number of designations including Castle Down (Tresco) Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); is part of the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; part of the Isles of Scilly Heritage Coast; and part of Plantlife's Isles of Scilly Important Plant Area. There are a number of Schedule Ancient Monument's ranging in age from Bronze Age cairns to castles built in the 16th and 17th centuries to protect the anchorage of New Grimsby harbour.

This is a timeline of events leading up to, culminating in, and resulting from the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Old Blockhouse

The Old Blockhouse, also known as the Dover Fort, is a 16th-century fortification on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. It was built between 1548 and 1551 by the government of Edward VI to protect the islands against French attack.

Olivers Battery, Tresco

Oliver's Battery is a ruined artillery battery on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly off of Cornwall, England. It was built by the Parliamentarian admiral, Sir Robert Blake, after he invaded Tresco in April 1651 during the years of the interregnum. It was used to bombard the neighbouring island of St Mary's, which was still held by an opposing Royalist army, and forced its surrender several weeks later. The battery comprised a triangle of ramparts, constructed using earth and rubble, which, combined with the natural stone features on the site, produced a substantial, if crude, fortification. It is now ruined, and owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.



  1. Hemmings, Jay (2 March 2019). "The Three Hundred & Thirty-Five Years' War – The Longest War In History". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Young-Brown, Fiona (19 January 2016). "The Longest War in the World Had No Casualties". Atlas Obscura . Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  3. 1 2 Bowley, R. L. (2001). Scilly at War. Isles of Scilly, UK: Bowley Publications Ltd. pp. 37, 38 & 65. ISBN   0-900184-34-5.
  4. "Dutch Proclaim End of War Against Britain's Scilly Isles". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 April 1986. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  5. "Britain: Peace in Our Time". Time. 28 April 1986. Archived from the original on 24 August 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2015.(subscription required)
  6. Whitelocke, Bulstrode (22 December 1888). "Lieut.-col. whitelocke". Notes and Queries. s7-VI (156): 487. doi:10.1093/nq/s7-vi.156.487e. ISSN   1471-6941.
  7. Graeme Donald (15 March 2011). Loose Cannons: 101 Things They Never Told You about Military History. ISBN   9781849086493 . Retrieved 21 August 2018.