After their defeat by the English at the Battle of Lowestoft in tune 1665, the Dutch worked furiously to repair their shattered fleet in readiness for a second encounter. It was also decided to appoint a new commander-in-chief. The States-General chose Michiel Adriaensz. de Ruyter, but because he was still at sea somewhere in the North Atlantic Cornelis Tromp was selected to fill the post ad interim.
The fleet was on the very point of sailing with Tromp in command when the news arrived that De Ruyter was back. The provincial assemblies of Holland and West Friesland reacted to the popular rejoicing by appointing him Lieutenant-Admiral. The following day the States-General announced that he was to command the Dutch fleet under the supreme authority of three deputies, who were to sail with him.
The Ruyter hastened to the island of Texel off the north coast of Holland to receive his written instructions and swear the oath of loyalty. Shortly afterwards he went aboard Tromp’s flagship, where it was decided that he would command a newly formed fourth squadron. As his flagship he was given the Delfland, which had been hired from the Dutch East India Company and was the best-armed ship in the fleet.
The Delfland is on the left of Backhuysen’s painting, with the fleet in the background. From the mainmast is flying the Prince’s flag above the commander-in-chief’s pennant.
In the right foreground is a transom yacht of the Amsterdam Admiralty with the flags of the States-General, indicating that it was now serving as a states yacht. The two gigs in the centre are possibly taking De Ruyter and the three deputies across to the Delfland.
Discover more about Ludolf Backhuysen in his biography