Flying from the stern of the Princes Maria, a first-rate ship of the line belonging to the Amsterdam Admiralty, is the flag of Prince William III of Orange with the inscription PRO RELIGIONE ET LIBERTATE. This was the motto which William adopted when he sailed to England in 1688 to seize the throne from his father-in-law, the Catholic James II, and restore the Protestant religion.
The Princes Maria, one of the largest ships ever built in the Netherlands, carried 92 guns and a crew of 500. She was one of 36 warships laid down on William’s orders at the beginning of the 1680s in readiness for any hostilities with the French. It proved to be a wise move, for France declared war after William and his wife Mary Stuart were crowned King and Queen of England in 1689.
The Princes Maria was part of the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet, and played an all important part in the great sea battles that took place in the early years of the war with France. She flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Gillis Schey, who was promoted Vice-Admiral for his bravery at the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. The Princes Maria was so badly damaged in the fighting that she had to return port for repairs.
The other ships in the painting include an oared yacht with the flags of the City of Amsterdam, a kaag, a transom yacht and a boeier.
At one time this picture was in the famous collection of Jan Gildemeester Jansz. (1744-1799), and it features in the painting which Adriaan de Lelie made in 1794-1795 of Gildemeester in his art gallery on the Herengracht in Amsterdam.