The opening battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. De Ruyter fell upon the combined English and French fleets as they lay in Southwold Bay. After a hard-fought battle in which Sandwiches flagship, the Royal James, was burnt, the Dutch were driven off, but not before the allied fleet had been so mauled that it was impossible to attempt the projected landing in Holland.
This drawing shows the Dutch fleet at sea shortly before the Battle of Solebay. The inscriptions refer to Vice-Admiral Jan de Liefde (Maagd van Dordrecht), Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (Zeven Provinciën), Lieutenant-Admiral Aert van Nes (Eendracht) and Vice-Admiral Enno Doedes Star (Groningen). The vessel on the right may be the galliot in which the artist was sketching.
Between 17 and 27 May the following order was issued. “The deputies and plenipotentiaries of their High Mightinesses the States-General of the United Netherlands on board the States fleet hereby direct and order with the advice of Lieutenant-Admiral De Ruyter… a galliot captain called Jan Lelij of the galliot Hollandia to take on board the person of Willem van de Velde, ship’s draughtsman, and to go with him ahead, astern, with and through the fleet wherever he may judge it expedient to make his drawings; and when this has been done, to come and report and await further orders.”