The Three-Hundread-And-Thirty-Five Years’ War is a name given to the peaceful war between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly lasting over a 335-year period without a single shot fired.

The War

Origins

The origins of the war can be found in the Second English Civil War (1642-1648), fought between the Royalists and Parliamentarians between 1642 and 1652. Oliver Cromwell had fought the Royalists to the edges of the Kingdom, in the south of England this meant Cornwall was the last Royalist stronghold. In 1648, Cromwell pushed on, until mainland Cornwall was in the hands of the Parliamentarians.

The Royalists’ major asset was the Navy, who had declared themselves for the Prince of Wales. In the south, the Royalist Navy was forced to retreat to the Isles of Scilly, under the ownership of Royalist Sir John Grenville.

Dutch Navy Alliance

The United Provinces of the Netherlands navy was allied with the Parliamentarians. The Netherlands were assisted by the British under Queen Elizabeth I in the Eighty Years’ War, which saw Dutch independance from Spain in January, 1648.

The Dutch Navy was suffering heavy losses from the Royalist fleet based in Scilly. Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (1597-1653) demanded reparation from the Royalist fleet for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them. Upon receiving no satisfactory answer, Tromp declared war12. War was declared specifically upon the Isles of Scilly in 1651.

Royalist Surrender

Soon after war had been declared on the Cornish islands, the Parliamentarian forces under Admiral Robert Blake (1599-1657) forced the Royalist fleet surrender in June 1651. This meant the Netherlands fleet was no longer under threat, so left without firing a shot. Due to the war’s obscurity of a nation’s declaration upon small part of a country, the Dutch forgot to officially declare peace.

Declaration

According to Whitelocke’s Memorials3, 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 good taken by them; and receiving no satisfactory answer, he had, according to his Comission, declared war on them.”

As most of England was now in Parliamentarian hands, war was declared specifically upon the Isles of Scilly.

Peace Treaty

In 1985, local councillor and historian, Roy Duncan wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London in regards to myths of no peace treaty being signed. The Dutch Embassy found the myth to be accurate and so was invited to the islands in order to sign a peace treaty2. The peace treaty was signed between Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, Roy Duncan, and Dutch Ambassador in London, Jonkheer Huydecoper on 17 April 1986, 335 years after war had been declared.45

Authenticity

Bowley argues3 that the letter in Whitelock’s Memorials is the probable origin of the ‘declaring war’ legend: “Tromp had no ‘Comission’ 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 offen the Commonwealth. …even if (a declaration of 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 1st Dutch War.”

References

  1. Scilly peace”. The Times, 19 April 1986.

  2. Dutch round off small war in Scillies”. The Times, 3 April 1986. 2

  3. Bowley, RL (2001). Scilly At War, pp. 37, 38 & 65. Isles of Scilly, UK: Bowley Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-900184-34-5. 2

  4. Dutch Proclaim End of War Against Britain’s Scilly Isles”. The New York Times, 18 April 1986.

  5. Britain: Peace in Our Time”. Time Magazine, 28 April 1986.