April 17 – Anniversary of the End of One of the World's Longest Wars!

Posted April 17, 2014

This is an odd story!

Peace at last, peace at last!” one might sing as 335 years of war were finally ended on this date in 1986.

Except not a single shot was fired during this “war”! Some say that the war lasted this long because there was never a peace treaty (until 1986) – but others ask if there ever really was a declaration of war, in the first place

I'm all for bloodless wars, but I got to wondering what this was all about, especially when I heard that the war was between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly. And I knew that the Isles of Scilly were part of the United Kingdom.

The Isles of Scilly,
looking much more tropical
than they really are!
So...the Dutch and the English waged a bloodless war for 355 years? Weirder and weirder.

It turns out that this “war” was declared as the result of a REAL war—a bloody one—the Second English Civil War. In England, the Royalists (supporters of the king) and the Parliamentarians (also called the “Roundheads,” with the military led by Oliver Cromwell) were fighting for power and control of the nation. The Dutch wanted to keep their alliance with England so decided to back the side that they thought would win: the Parliamentarians.

And the Dutch were right; the Parliamentarians did win.

In 1648, the Royalists had lost the mainland and had retreated to the Isles of Scilly. These islands are located in the English Channel, off the coast of Cornwall.

I love Dutch names.
This is Admiral Maarten
Harpertszoon Tromp.
The Dutch navy had suffered heavy losses from the Royalist navy, so in 1651 Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp went to Scilly, where the Royalist navy was now headquartered, and he demanded reparation (money repaid for the Dutch ships and goods destroyed or taken).

Apparently Tromp was told “no,” because he declared war on the Isles of Scilly.

And the letter announcing that Tromp had declared war on behalf of the Netherlands was signed on this date (April 17) in 1651.

Remember, even though the isles belonged to England, the Dutch were allies of the group that at that point ruled England, and the isles were under the rule of the defeated English forces.

Soon after Tromp declared war, the Parliamentarians forced the Royal fleet to surrender. The Isles of Scilly were then ruled by the Brits that were the allies (friends) of the Dutch, so Tromp and the rest of the Dutch ships left without firing a shot.

The problem is, they ALSO never bothered to declare peace or sign a peace treaty.

The unofficial flag of
the Isles of Scilly
The flag of the Netherlands
I wonder why the flags
are so similar!?!

Apparently, for the past few centuries, stories told have been told and retold, stories that claimed that the Isles of Scilla were still at war with the Netherlands. These stories began to be looked on as myths, and in 1985 a historian from the Isles of Scilly wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London to try to prove that the “war” didn't, in fact, exist. However, when the Embassy looked into the facts, the Dutch decided that the “myth” was true. So the British historian invited the Dutch ambassador to come to the islands and sign a peace treaty. They decided to sign it on April 17 so that the “war” was exactly 335 years long.

The Ambassador joked that it must have been so terrible to live in Scilla during those three centuries, knowing “we could have attacked at any moment.” 

(By the way, some historians argue that Tromp did not have a commission from his government to declare war on the Isles of Scilly, and despite the fact that he SAID he declared war, he hadn't really because he couldn't.)

Also on this date:

Bat Appreciation Day 

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