Treaty of Breda (1667)

The Peace of Breda, often referred to as the Treaty of Breda was signed in the Dutch town of Breda, on 31 July 1667. It consisted of three separate treaties between England and each of its opponents in the Second Anglo-Dutch War: the Dutch Republic, France, and Denmark–Norway. It also included a separate Anglo-Dutch commercial agreement.

Treaty of Breda
Contemporary engraving of the signing of the peace at Breda Castle
ContextEngland, the Dutch Republic, France and Denmark-Norway end the Second Anglo-Dutch War
Signed31 July 1667 (1667-07-31)
Effective24 August 1667
Mediators Göran Fleming; Count Dohna Peter Coyet
NegotiatorsDenzil Holles; Henry Coventry
De Huybert; Van Beverningk; Van Jongestall
D'Estrades; Honoré Courtin
Paul Klingenberg; Peter Canizius [1]
Signatories Charles II of England
States General of the Netherlands
Louis XIV
Frederick III
Parties England
 Dutch Republic

Negotiations had been in progress since late 1666, but progressed slowly as both sides tried to improve their positions. This changed after the French invasion of the Spanish Netherlands in late May, which the Dutch viewed as a more serious threat. War weariness in England was increased by the June Medway Raid and the two factors led to a rapid agreement of terms.

Prior to 1667, the Anglo-Dutch relationship was dominated by commercial conflict; the Treaty did not end this entirely but tensions markedly decreased and cleared the way for the 1668 Triple Alliance between the Republic, England and Sweden. With the brief anomaly of the 1672 to 1674 Third Anglo-Dutch War, it marked the beginning of an alliance between the two that lasted for the next century.


The Second Anglo-Dutch War was caused by commercial tensions, heightened by Charles II, who saw trade as a way to reduce his financial dependence on Parliament. In 1660, he and his brother James founded the Royal African Company or RAC, challenging the Dutch in West Africa. Other investors included senior politicians such as George Carteret, Shaftesbury and Arlington, creating a strong link between the RAC and government policy.[2]

Huge profits from Asian spices led to conflict even in times of peace, as the Dutch East India Company, or VOC, first created, then enforced, their monopoly over production and trade. By 1663, indigenous and European competitors like the Portuguese had been eliminated, leaving only nutmeg plantations on Run.[3] These had been established by the British East India Company in 1616, before being evicted by the VOC in 1620; when the English re-occupied Run in late 1664, the Dutch expelled them, this time destroying the plantations.[4]

There was a similar struggle over the Atlantic trade between the Dutch West-Indische Compagnie, or WIC, and competitors from Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and England.[5] Sugar plantations in the Americas were cultivated by slaves from Africa, fed by colonies in North America, leading to conflict in all three regions. In August 1664, the English occupied New Netherland, later renamed New York; when another took WIC slave trade posts in modern Ghana, the Dutch sent a fleet to recapture them.[6] This bankrupted the RAC, whose investors saw war as the best way to recoup their losses.[7]

Despite the Franco-Dutch treaty of April 1662, Louis XIV initially remained neutral, as French and Dutch economic interests increasingly diverged over the Spanish Netherlands. The 1648 Peace of Münster permanently closed the Scheldt estuary, giving Amsterdam effective control of trade in North-West Europe.[8] Louis considered the Spanish Netherlands his by right of marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain but hoped to acquire them peacefully. Negotiations with the Dutch continually broke down over Antwerp; by 1663, he concluded they would never make concessions voluntarily and began planning a military intervention.[9]

In early 1665, England signed an alliance with Sweden against the Dutch, who suffered a serious defeat at Lowestoft in June, followed by an invasion from Münster.[10] Louis responded to these setbacks by activating the 1662 treaty, calculating this would make it harder for the Dutch to oppose his occupation of the Spanish Netherlands.[11]

He also paid Sweden to ignore their treaty with England and remain neutral, while influencing Denmark–Norway to join the war. Danish assistance saved the Dutch merchant fleet at Vågen in August, although this was accidental. Frederick II secretly agreed to help the English capture the fleet in return for a share of the profits, but his instructions arrived too late.[12]

By late 1666, Charles was short of money, largely due to his refusal to recall Parliament, while English trade had been badly affected by the war and domestic disasters. In contrast, the Dutch economy had largely recovered from its post-1665 contraction, while public debt was lower in 1667 than 1652; however, naval warfare was enormously expensive and financing it a challenge even for the Amsterdam markets.[13]

Both sides wanted peace, since the Dutch had little to gain from continuing the war and faced external challenges from competitors. Denmark resented concessions imposed at Christianopel in 1647, while the WIC's confiscation of Danish ships was an ongoing source of dispute; in early 1667, they joined Sweden and France in imposing tariffs on Dutch goods, impacting the Baltic grain trade.[14]

In October 1666, Charles began talks with the States-General of the Netherlands, under the pretext of arrangements to return the body of Vice-Admiral William Berkeley, killed in the Four Days' Battle. He invited the Dutch to negotiations in London and agreed not to seek the appointment of his nephew William as stadtholder as he had demanded in 1665; in return, he insisted on payment of damages, the return of Run and a trade deal on India. The States-General refused to attend peace talks without France; on territorial claims, they offered to continue the present situation, or revert to the position before the war, an option clearly unacceptable to the English.[15]

It is questionable how sincere this offer from Charles actually was, since his envoy in Paris, the Earl of St Albans, was simultaneously holding secret talks on an Anglo-French alliance. Louis agreed to ensure the Dutch complied with English demands, in exchange for a free hand in the Spanish Netherlands; by April 1667, diplomats in The Hague were predicting a deal was imminent. When talks eventually began, the English delegation felt their position was extremely strong.[16]


Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and the States of Holland rejected the proposal by Charles to hold talks in The Hague, a town dominated by the Orangist opposition. Their objections were shared by Louis, who viewed the Orangists as English agents.[17] When Charles used this to delay talks, the States of Zeeland, Gelderland, Groningen, Overijssel and Friesland, threatened to stop paying for a war 'continued only by Holland's obstinacy.' In March, Charles eventually agreed to negotiate in Breda, where he had spent part of his exile and his nephew William was the local magnate.[18]

An Orangist pamphlet campaign accused De Witt of helping Louis continue the Anglo-Dutch War to gain a free hand in the Spanish Netherlands.[19] This seemed confirmed in late March with the Franco-Portuguese Treaty of Lisbon, an alliance against Spain; military action was clearly imminent and De Witt now learned of the secret talks between Louis and Charles, increasing pressure to reach agreement.[20]

In peace discussions, the role of mediator provided prestige and the opportunity to build relationships with the parties in dispute. Louis and Leopold both wanted the position, so they compromised by using Swedish diplomats Peter Coyet, Count Dohna and Göran Fleming.[21] Swedish involvement arose from concerns over control of the Baltic trade in grain, iron and shipping supplies; they also hoped to remove commercial concessions imposed by the Republic in the 1656 Treaty of Elbing and end its alliance with Denmark.[22] Fleming was based at Breda, while Coyet was in The Hague, discussing a Swedish-Dutch treaty. He died on 8 June and replaced by Dohna, who was instructed to negotiate a Swedish-English-French alliance if talks at Breda failed.[23]

Although the States General appointed eight delegates, only those from Holland, Zeeland and Friesland were present in Breda. To reassure the English, two of the three were Orangists, Zeelandic Pensionary Pieter de Huybert and Friesland's van Jongestall; the delegate from Holland, Van Beverningh, was a member of De Witt's States Party.[24]

The English and French teams had been instructed to delay while awaiting external developments; on 24 May, Louis began the War of Devolution, quickly occupying much of the Spanish Netherlands and Franche-Comté.[9] Three days later, the Treaty of Madrid ended the 1654 to 1660 Anglo-Spanish War. Spain declared bankruptcy in 1661 and 1664 and needed peace; in return for commercial concessions, England agreed to mediate an end to the Portuguese Restoration War.[25]

Facing the dual threat of French expansion in the Spanish Netherlands and an Anglo-Spanish alliance, the Dutch sought to end the war as quickly as possible. Well aware of this, the English increased their demands and Van Beverningh told De Witt a major military victory was needed to improve their bargaining position.[26]

In late 1666, Charles had disbanded most of the Royal Navy to save money and the Dutch took full advantage in the June Medway Raid. Although the action had limited strategic impact, Charles was forced to conclude the war; it was a humiliation he never forgot.[27]

The English negotiators assumed this would extend, if not end, negotiations, but Clarendon instructed them to obtain a peace quickly "to calm people's minds" and "free the king from a burden which he is finding hard to bear".[28]


Article One of the Anglo-Dutch treaty stipulated a limited military alliance, obliging fleets or single ships sailing on the same course to defend each other against a third party.[29] Article Three established the principle of uti possidetis, or 'what you have, you hold', the cut-off date being 20 May (NS). The Dutch kept Willoughbyland, now part of modern Surinam, and Run, the English retained New Netherland, which later became the colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.[30]

Articles Four through Eight applied this principle to all losses of goods or ships, including those that occurred before the war. No indemnities could be levied or punishments imposed but all existing Letters of Marque were declared void.[31] To allow time to communicate these, Article Seven varied the date on which they would be enforced: 5 September for the English Channel and the North Sea, 5 October for the other European seas, 2 November for the African coast north of the equator and 24 April 1668 for the rest of the world.[29]

Article Ten required all prisoners to be exchanged without ransom, although the Dutch later demanded reimbursement of their living expenses, which the English viewed as the same thing.[32] After their failed 1666 coup, many Orangists sought refuge in England, with English and Scots dissidents going the other way. In Articles Thirteen and Seventeen, both sides undertook not to protect each other's rebels; in a secret annex, the Dutch also agreed to extradite any remaining regicides, those responsible for the execution of Charles I of England in 1649.[29] These articles were largely ignored.

A separate commercial treaty amended the Navigation Acts; goods transported along the Rhine or Scheldt to Amsterdam could be carried by Dutch ships to England without being subject to tariffs. England also accepted the principle of "free ships make free goods", which prevented the Royal Navy intercepting Dutch ships during wars in which the Republic was neutral.[33] The commercial treaty was preliminary; a definite text was signed on 17 February 1668.[29]

The Danish and French treaties followed the Anglo-Dutch version in waiving claims for restitution of losses. In addition, England returned the French possessions of Cayenne and Acadia, captured in 1667 and 1654 respectively, although the exact boundaries were not specified and handover delayed until 1670. It regained Montserrat and Antigua, with the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts split between the two countries.[34]

After the treaties were signed on 31 July, they were sent to each country for ratification; the process was completed by 24 August and followed by public celebrations in Breda.[35]


By exchanging the New Netherlands and Run, Breda removed two major areas of dispute, reducing Anglo-Dutch tensions overall and clearing the way for the 1668 Triple Alliance between the Republic, Sweden and England.[36] The Alliance is often credited with forcing France to return most of their gains at Aix-la-Chapelle, whereas the terms had already been agreed by Louis and Leopold in January 1668.[37]

However, it marked the point when the English and Dutch came to see France as a common threat; although Charles' preference for a French alliance led to the 1670 Treaty of Dover, the long term trend was against him.[38] Widespread support for re-asserting English naval power provided limited backing in the Third Anglo-Dutch War but ended once that had been achieved.[39]

The treaty disappointed Orangists by failing to restore the House of Orange or allow exiles home, as promised by Charles. When Zeeland and Friesland, in response to the French advance, proposed William be made Captain-General of the Dutch States Army, the States of Holland responded on 5 August with the Perpetual Edict. This abolished the position of Stadholder of Holland, while a second resolution agreed to oppose that any confederate Captain-General or Admiral-General would become stadtholder of another province.[40] Since the army was viewed as an Orangist power base, spending on it was deliberately minimised; this had catastrophic effects in 1672.[41]

Breda was also a success for Sweden, who used their position as mediators to improve the Elbing provisions, break the Dutch-Danish agreement and join the Triple Alliance. The Spanish regained Franche-Comte and most of the Spanish Netherlands; more significantly, the Dutch now viewed them as a better neighbour than an ambitious France.[42]

Overall, the Dutch considered Breda and the creation of the Alliance as a diplomatic triumph, while the period following is often considered the high point of the Dutch Golden Age.[43]


  1. Davenport, Paullin 1929, p. 120.
  2. Sherman 1976, pp. 331-332.
  3. Le Couteur, Burreson 2003, pp. 30-31.
  4. Le Couteur, Burreson 2003, pp. 32.
  5. Rommelse 2006, p. 91.
  6. Rommelse 2006, p. 112.
  7. Rommelse 2006, p. 196.
  8. Israel 1990, pp. 197-199.
  9. Geyl 1936, pp. 311.
  10. Musa, Shavana. "The Peace of Breda (1667)". OPIL. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  11. De Périni 1896, p. 298.
  12. Kelsall 2008, pp. 206-207.
  13. Veenendaal 1994, p. 124.
  14. Kelsall 2008, p. 223.
  15. Geyl 1939, p. 257-258.
  16. Pincus 1996, pp. 389-390.
  17. Grever 1982, p. 237.
  18. Grever 1982, p. 241.
  19. Grever 1982, p. 243.
  20. Gooskens 2016, p. 69.
  21. Gooskens 2016, pp. 65-66.
  22. Gooskens 2016, pp. 57-58.
  23. Gooskens 2016, p. 70.
  24. Grever 1982, pp. 245-246.
  25. Newitt 2004, p. 228.
  26. Blok 1925, pp. 153.
  27. Boniface, Patrick. "The Royal Navy's Darkest Day: Medway 1667". Military History. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  28. Geyl 1939, p. 266.
  29. Lesaffer, R. 2016. "De Vrede van Breda en de Europese traditie van vredesverdragen". In: Ginder 't Vreêverbont bezegelt : Essays over de betekenis van de Vrede van Breda 1667, pp. 124-138, Breda: Van Kemenade
  30. Farnham 1901, pp. 311, 314.
  31. Davenport & Paullin 1929, pp. 129-130.
  32. "The Diary of Samuel Pepys; 8 September 1667". Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  33. Israel 1997, pp. 316-317.
  34. Davenport & Paullin 1929, pp. 138-140.
  35. Gooskens 2016, p. 71.
  36. Boxer 1969, pp. 70.
  37. Davenport, Paulin 1917, p. 144, 152.
  38. Lee 1961, p. 62.
  39. Rommelse 2006, pp. 198-201.
  40. Geyl 1939, pp. 269-270.
  41. Geyl 1936, pp. 312-313.
  42. Lynn 1996, p. 108.
  43. Swart 1969, pp. 1-24.


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