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after having spent three years trading with
Spanish colonies, the Merchant Royal and her sister ship, the Dover
Merchant, returned to Europe laden with cargo. The long voyage had made
her weathered and leaky, but she safely made port in Cadiz in Spain.
England and Spain were at peace, and the English were welcome to trade
By happenstance, a Spanish ship in Cadiz intended for payroll caught fire.
Captain Limbrey of the Merchant Royal volunteered to carry the pay, which
was in various ingots of gold and silver as well as coinage. It was some
fifty tons of gold, but Limbrey felt certain that he would be able to
deliver the pay to Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands (Flanders) on his
return to England.
"Interesting--it shows how a nation we consider
minor might have been much more influential had things gone just a tiny
bit differently at the right point." - reader's comments
setting out, rough weather began to show. Limbrey initially planned to
risk a storm, but the concerns of his men finally convinced him to put
ashore in France. Hasty repairs were made, just enough to sail again, and
the Merchant Royal set off for Flanders. The pay was delivered, and
Limbrey and his crew were sent off again with a handsome reward.
Officials in Flanders quickly used the money to pay their soldiers, who
were eager to spend the cash, flooding the market and causing skyrocketing
prices. To the north were the Dutch, who had been at war with Spain for
decades in what would become known as the Eighty Years' War or Dutch War
of Independence. They understood this market bubble from their own
experiences with land speculation, housing, cargo futures, and, most
infamously, tulips. Trade, both legal and illegal, soared between the two
countries. When the soldiers' money ran out, debts were called and
property bought cheaply, winning a vast stake in the Flanders economy for
"Amen." - reader's comments
became increasingly disinterested in the Spanish Netherlands. France had
declared war in 1635, Portugal had declared its independence in December
of 1640, Catalonia was rebellious, and the massive army sent in 1639 to
finish off the Dutch had been utterly destroyed, leaving the Netherlands
as having the most powerful navy in the world. Peace negotiations began,
but were slow to move forward. With the great stake in Flanders
economically as well as colonial successes in the East Indies and Brazil,
the Dutch gained a significant upper hand.
Finally, in 1648, the Peace of Munster was signed. The Spanish evacuated
the Netherlands and freed the territory to be picked up by the Dutch
United Provinces or returned to German princes. France made a bid for
their share, but the Dutch assured them diplomatically that war would be
fought. Fearing a bitter multi-front war, France conceded and returned to
fight Spain in the Pyrenees. Secure and growing, the Dutch turned their
interests back to colonialism (fighting, specifically, the Portuguese) and
strengthened their banking system.
Over the course of European history, the Dutch state would continue to
play a significant role. After defeating the English navy in the First
Anglo-Dutch War, they would continue to battle the English until the
conquest by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution. Dutch colonies
would continue in North America as well as the Caribbean and every
discovered continent. While they did not have the population alone to man
their colonies, they developed an intricate system of citizenship for
foreigners and inclusion of cooperative natives. Much of the eighteenth
century was spent solidifying its position in Europe and keeping the
French at bay to maintain their independence.
With the success of the American Revolution (much aided by the colony of
New Amsterdam, where George Washington had secretly stored goods and
hidden spies), Europe began a fever of revolution that also affected the
Netherlands. Massive devastation had come from the Fifth Anglo-Dutch War
in the 1780s, but the navies from the colonies had kept the defeat from
becoming a rout. The spirit of republicanism spread, and the Dutch joined
the French in securing the rights of man. Wars against the monarchs of
Europe would bring forth the great general Napoleon, with whom the Dutch
allied to preserve their republic. The gamble would prove faulty, though,
as Europe's coalitions eventually destroyed Napoleon and forced the
Netherlands into a monarchy of its own. Belgium, much of what had been
Flanders, would break away, and the Dutch glory had come to an end.
By this time, however, so much Dutch influence over the world had been set
that the old adage went, "There are two languages in the world: money and
Dutch, and the latter only talks of the former". A commonwealth would
build up over the course of the nineteenth century, sending great aid to
Europe in the German invasion during Second World War with Operation Torch
led by Dutch battalions liberating the homeland in 1942.