In 1665 the neutral harbour of Bergen in Norway, at that time under the sovereignty of Frederick III of Denmark, had become a gathering place for some so richly laden Dutch merchantmen waiting to be escorted safely home by a fleet of men-of-war, now that the Dutch and English were at war again.
The English were especially interested in the homeward-bound fleet of Pieter de Bitter, which had anchored in Bergen on 8 August 1665, carrying 'booty that would pay for the powder and shot of a twelvemonth's war', according to a contemporary English source. The cargo consisted of over 200,000 rugs, tapestries and cotton fabrics; 121,600 pounds of mace; 314,000 pounds of nutmeg; 440,000 pounds of cloves; 22,000 pounds of indigo; 1,500,000 pounds of nitre; 18,000 pounds of ebony; 8,690 catti of Chinese silk (1 catti = 0.62 kg), 4,000,000 catti of pepper; 500,000 pounds of Ceylon cinnamon; 3,084 uncut diamonds; 2,933 rubies; 18,151 ounces of pearls, and 16,580 pieces of porcelain. Lord Sandwich wrote about this treasure, which was estimated at 11 million guilders: 'I am apt to beleive scarce at any time in one place soe great a mass of wealth was ever heaped together'.
Dutch trust in the neutrality of the Danish king proved to be misplaced, although they didn't find that out till much later. Frederick III informed the British envoy at his court that he would be prepared to turn a blind eye to an English attack on the Dutch ships at Bergen in exchange for half the booty and strict secrecy. Immediately upon hearing this Charles II ordered Lord Sandwich, Lieutenant- Admiral of the British fleet, to send a squadron of men-of-war to Bergen to capture the Dutch merchantmen. Frederick would instruct General Ahlefeldt, commander of the Danish forts and troops in Bergen, to put up a show of resistance. Luckily for the Dutch, Ahlefeldt had not yet received this message when, on the 10th of August, 14 English ships and three fireships under Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Teddiman reached Bergen. He indignantly refused the request of the English envoy for permission to enter the harbour and attack the Dutch ships and insisted the English leave immediately. Teddiman, however, ignored this refusal and dropped anchor at the entrance of the bay, thereby manoeuvring so clumsily that two of the ships ran aground and the rigging of a third almost got caught in that of the admiral's ship. In the midst of all this chaos they omitted to salute the Danish flag, whereupon the Danish punished this outrage by firing a few shots at them.