War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families. Charles left an undivided Monarchy of Spain to Louis XIV's grandson Philip, proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700. Disputes over separation of the Spanish and French crowns and commercial rights led to war in 1701 between the Bourbons of France and Spain and the Grand Alliance, whose candidate was Archduke Charles, younger son of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. By the end of 1706, Allied victories in Italy and the Low Countries forced the French back within their borders but they were unable to make a decisive breakthrough. Control of the sea allowed the Allies to conduct successful offensives in Spain, but lack of popular support for Archduke Charles meant they could not hold territory outside the coastal areas. Conflict extended to European colonies in North America, where it is known as Queen Anne's War, the West Indies as well as minor struggles in Colonial India.
Related conflicts include Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, funded by France and the 1704–1710 Camisard rebellion in South-East France, funded by Britain. When his elder brother Joseph died in 1711, Charles succeeded him as Emperor, undermining the primary driver behind the war, to prevent Spain being united with either France or Austria; the 1710 British election returned a new government committed to ending it and with the Allied war effort now dependent on British financing, this forced the others to make peace. The war ended with the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, followed in 1714 by the treaties of Rastatt and Baden. In return for confirmation as King of Spain, Philip V renounced his place in the line of succession to the French throne, both for himself and his descendants; the Dutch Republic was granted its Barrier Fortresses, while France acknowledged the Protestant succession in Britain and agreed to end support for the Stuart exiles. In the longer term, the commercial provisions of Utrecht confirmed Britain's status as the leading European maritime and commercial power, while the Dutch lost their position as the pre-eminent economic power in Asia and the war marked their decline as a first-rank power.
Other long-term impacts include the creation of a centralised Spanish state and the acceleration of the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire into larger and more powerful German principalities. In 1665 Charles II became the last male Habsburg King of Spain. In 1670, England agreed to support the rights of Louis XIV to the Spanish throne in the Treaty of Dover, while the terms of the 1688 Grand Alliance committed England and the Dutch Republic to back Leopold. In 1700, the Spanish Empire included possessions in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and the Americas and though no longer the dominant great power, it remained intact. Since acquisition of the Empire by either the Austrian Habsburgs or French Bourbons would change the balance of power in Europe, its inheritance led to a war that involved most of the European powers; the 1700-1721 Great Northern War is considered a connected conflict, since it impacted the involvement of states such as Sweden, Denmark–Norway and Russia. During the 1688–1697 Nine Years War, armies had increased in size from an average of 25,000 in 1648 to over 100,000 by 1697, a level unsustainable for pre-industrial economies.
The 1690s marked the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, a period of colder and wetter weather that drastically reduced crop yields. The Great Famine of 1695-1697 killed between 15-25% of the population in present-day Scotland, Finland, Latvia and Sweden, with an estimated two million deaths in France and Northern Italy; the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick was therefore the result of mutual exhaustion and Louis XIV's acceptance that France could not achieve its objectives without allies. Leopold refused to sign and did so with extreme reluctance in October 1697. Unlike France or Austria, the Crown of Spain could be inherited through the female line; this allowed Charles' sisters Maria Theresa and Margaret Theresa to pass their rights as rulers onto the children of their respective marriages with Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold. Despite being opponents in the recent Nine Years War, Louis XIV and William III of England now attempted to resolve the Succession by diplomacy. In 1685, Maria Antonia, daughter of Leopold and Margaret, married Maximillian Emanuel of Bavaria and they had a son, Joseph Ferdinand.
The 1698 Treaty of the Hague or First Partition Treaty between France and the Dutch Republic made the six year old heir to the bulk of the Spanish Monarchy and divided its European territories between France and Austria. The Spanish refused to accept the division of their Empire and on 14 November 1698, Charles published his Will, making Joseph Ferdinand heir to an independent and undivided Spanish monarchy; when he died of smallpox in February 1699, a new solution was required. This was of doubtful legality but France and the Nethe
Michiel de Ruyter
Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter was a Dutch admiral. He was one of the most skilled admirals in history, most famous for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century, he fought the English and French and scored several major victories against them, the best known being the Raid on the Medway. The pious De Ruyter was much loved by his sailors and soldiers. Little is known about De Ruyter's early life, but he became a sailor at the age of 11, it is said that once, when he was a child, he climbed up ladders to get to the roof of his home town's church. Not knowing that De Ruyter was there, some workers removed the ladders. De Ruyter had to lift tiles on the church roof to get out the door. In 1622, during the Eighty Years' War against Spain, he fought as a musketeer in the Dutch army under Maurice of Nassau against the Spaniards during the relief of Bergen-op-Zoom; that same year he rejoined the Dutch merchant fleet and worked his way up. According to English sources, he was active in Dublin between 1623 and 1631 as an agent for the Vlissingen-based merchant house of the Lampsins brothers.
Although Dutch sources have no data about his whereabouts in those years, it is known that De Ruyter spoke Irish Gaelic fluently. He travelled as supercargo to the Mediterranean or the Barbary Coast. In those years, he referred to himself as "Machgyel Adriensoon", his name in the Zealandic dialect he spoke, not having yet adopted the name "De Ruyter". "De Ruyter" most was a nickname given to him. An explanation might be found in the meaning of the older Dutch verb ruyten or ruiten, which means "to raid", something De Ruyter was known to do as a privateer with the Lampsins ship Den Graeuwen Heynst. On 16 March in 1631, he married a farmer's daughter named Maayke Velders, but on December 31st of that year Maayke died after giving birth to a daughter. In 1633 and 1635, De Ruyter sailed as a navigating officer aboard the ship Groene Leeuw on whaling expeditions to Jan Mayen. At this point he did not yet have a command of his own. In the summer of 1636 he remarried, this time to a daughter of a wealthy burgher named Neeltje Engels, who gave him four children.
One of these died shortly after birth. In the midst of this, in 1637, De Ruyter became captain of a private ship meant to hunt for raiders operating from Dunkirk who were preying on Dutch merchant shipping, he fulfilled this task until 1640. After sailing for a while as schipper of a merchant vessel named "de Vlissinge", he was contacted again by the Zeeland Admiralty to become a captain, this time of the Haze, a merchant ship turned man-of-war carrying 26 guns, in a fleet under admiral Gijsels fighting the Spanish, teaming up with the Portuguese during their rebellion. A Dutch fleet, with De Ruyter as third in command, beat back a Spanish-Dunkirker fleet in an action off Cape St Vincent on 4 November 1641. After returning, he bought his own ship, the Salamander, between 1642 and 1652, he traded and travelled to Morocco and the West Indies to amass wealth as a merchant. During this time, his esteem grew among other Dutch captains as he freed Christian slaves by redeeming them at his own expense.
In 1650, De Ruyter's wife, who in 1649 had given him a second son named Engel, unexpectedly died. On 8 January 1652, he decided the time had come to retire, he bought a house in Flushing. During the First Anglo-Dutch War, De Ruyter was asked to join the expanding fleet as a subcommander of a Zealandic squadron of "director's ships": financed warships. After refusing, De Ruyter proved his worth under supreme commander Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp, winning the Battle of Plymouth against Vice-Admiral George Ayscue, he fought at the Battle of Kentish Knock and the Battle of the Gabbard. De Ruyter functioned as a squadron commander, being referred to as a commodore, which at the time was not an official rank in the Dutch navy. Tromp's death during the Battle of Scheveningen ended the war, De Ruyter declined an emphatic offer from Johan de Witt for supreme command because he considered himself'unfit' and feared that it would bring him into conflict with Witte de With and Johan Evertsen, who had more seniority.
De Ruyter and De Witt became friends. Colonel Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam became the new Dutch supreme commander of the confederate fleet. De Ruyter – after refusing to become Obdam's naval'advisor' – remained in the service of the Dutch navy and accepted an offer from the admiralty of Amsterdam to become their Vice-Admiral on 2 March 1654, he relocated with his family to the city in 1655. In July 1655, De Ruyter took command of a squadron of eight and set out for the Mediterranean with 55 merchantmen in convoy, his orders were to protect Dutch trade. Meeting an English fleet under Robert Blake along the way, he managed to avoid an incident. Operating off the Barbary Coast, he captured several infamous corsairs. After negotiating a peace agreement with Salé, De Ruyter returned home May 1656; the same month, the States General, becoming more wary of Swedish King Charles X and h
The English Channel called the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world, it is about 560 km long and varies in width from 240 km at its widest to 33.3 km in the Strait of Dover. It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some 75,000 km2; until the 18th century, the English Channel had no fixed name either in French. It was never defined as a political border, the names were more or less descriptive, it was not considered as the property of a nation. Before the development of the modern nations, British scholars often referred to it as "Gaulish" and French scholars as "British" or "English"; the name "English Channel" has been used since the early 18th century originating from the designation Engelse Kanaal in Dutch sea maps from the 16th century onwards. In modern Dutch, however, it is known as Het Kanaal.
It has been known as the "British Channel" or the "British Sea". It was called Oceanus Britannicus by the 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy; the same name is used on an Italian map of about 1450, which gives the alternative name of canalites Anglie—possibly the first recorded use of the "Channel" designation. The Anglo-Saxon texts call it Sūð-sǣ as opposed to Norð-sǣ; the common word channel was first recorded in Middle English in the 13th century and was borrowed from Old French chanel, variant form of chenel "canal". The French name la Manche has been in use since at least the 17th century; the name is said to refer to the Channel's sleeve shape. Folk etymology has derived it from a Celtic word meaning channel, the source of the name for the Minch in Scotland, but this name was never mentioned before the 17th century, French and British sources of that time are clear about its etymology; the name in Breton means "Breton Sea", its Cornish name means "British Sea". The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the English Channel as follows: The IHO defines the southwestern limit of the North Sea as "a line joining the Walde Lighthouse and Leathercoat Point".
The Walde Lighthouse is 6 km east of Calais, Leathercoat Point is at the north end of St Margaret's Bay, Kent. The Strait of Dover, at the Channel's eastern end, is its narrowest point, while its widest point lies between Lyme Bay and the Gulf of Saint Malo, near its midpoint, it is shallow, with an average depth of about 120 m at its widest part, reducing to a depth of about 45 m between Dover and Calais. Eastwards from there the adjoining North Sea reduces to about 26 m in the Broad Fourteens where it lies over the watershed of the former land bridge between East Anglia and the Low Countries, it reaches a maximum depth of 180 m in the submerged valley of Hurd's Deep, 48 km west-northwest of Guernsey. The eastern region along the French coast between Cherbourg and the mouth of the Seine river at Le Havre is referred to as the Bay of the Seine. There are several major islands in the Channel, the most notable being the Isle of Wight off the English coast, the Channel Islands, British Crown dependencies off the coast of France.
The coastline on the French shore, is indented. The Cotentin Peninsula in France juts out into the Channel, whilst on the English side there is a small parallel strait known as the Solent between the Isle of Wight and the mainland; the Celtic Sea is to the west of the Channel. The Channel acts as a funnel that amplifies the tidal range from less than a metre as observed at sea to more than 6 metres as observed in the Channel Islands, the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsula and the north coast of Brittany; the time difference of about six hours between high water at the eastern and western limits of the Channel is indicative of the tidal range being amplified further by resonance. In the UK Shipping Forecast the Channel is divided into the following areas, from the east: Dover Wight Portland Plymouth The Channel is of geologically recent origin, having been dry land for most of the Pleistocene period. Before the Devensian glaciation and Ireland were part of continental Europe, linked by an unbroken Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge that acted as a natural dam holding back a large freshwater pro-glacial lake in the Doggerland region, now submerged under the North Sea.
During this period the North Sea and all of the British Isles were covered by ice. The lake was fed by meltwater from the Baltic and from the Caledonian and Scandinavian ice sheets that joined to the north, blocking its exit; the sea level was about 120 m lower. Between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago, at least two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods breached the Weald–Artois anticline; the first flood would have lasted for several months, releasing as much as one million cubic metres of water per second. The flood started with large but localized waterfalls over the ridge, which excav
Williamite War in Ireland
The Williamite War in Ireland, was a conflict between Jacobites and Williamites over who would be monarch of the three kingdoms of Ireland and Scotland. It is called the Jacobite War in Ireland or the Williamite–Jacobite War in Ireland; the cause of the war was the overthrowing of James as king of the Three Kingdoms in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. James was supported by the Catholic "Jacobites" in Ireland and hoped to use the country as a base to regain his Three Kingdoms, he was given military support by France to this end. For this reason, the war became part of a wider European conflict known as the Nine Years' War. James was opposed in Ireland by the Protestant "Williamites", who were concentrated in the north of the country; some Protestants of the established Church in Ireland fought on the side of King James, however. William landed a multi-national force in Ireland, composed of English, Dutch and other troops, to put down Jacobite resistance. James left Ireland after a reverse at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and the Irish Jacobites were defeated after the Battle of Aughrim in 1691.
William defeated Jacobitism in Ireland and subsequent Jacobite risings were confined to Scotland and England. However, the war was to have a lasting effect on Ireland, confirming British and Protestant rule over the country for over two centuries; the iconic Williamite victories of the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne are still celebrated by unionists in Ireland today. The war in Ireland began as a direct consequence of the Glorious Revolution in England. James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland, a Roman Catholic, attempted to introduce freedom of religion for Catholics and bypass the English Parliament to introduce unpopular laws. For many in England, this was an unpleasant reminder of the rule of Charles I, whose conflict with the Parliament led to the outbreak of the English Civil War; the breaking point in James' relationship with the English political class came in June 1688 when his second wife gave birth to a son, which opened the prospect of an enduring Catholic Stuart dynasty.
This fear led some political figures to conspire to invite William III, stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic and husband of James’ daughter Mary Stuart, to invade England. William had indicated that such an invitation would be a condition for a military intervention, which he desired for military and strategic reasons; the Dutch Republic was at the brink of war with the France of Louis XIV the greatest military power in Europe. English Stuart Kings Charles II and James II had fostered a close alliance with France since the English Restoration, William wanted to detach England's resources of men and arms from France and put them at the disposal of his League of Augsburg. William invaded England in November 1688. William's invasion fleet was aided by favourable weather that gave him weather gage over the British fleet, allowing him to outmaneuver them and land unopposed. William landed at Brixham on 5 November 1688 with 18,000 troops. James fled to France after putting up only a token resistance.
In 1689, Prince William and his wife Princess Mary Stuart became co-regents as King William III and Queen Mary II of England. However, while James II was unpopular in England, he had widespread popular support in Ireland; the Irish were all Roman Catholics and had fought en masse for the Stuart dynasty in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 1640s, in the hope of securing religious toleration and political self-government. They had been defeated by 1652 and were punished by the English Commonwealth regime with land confiscations and penal legislation, they were disappointed with the failure of King Charles II to reverse this situation in the Act of Settlement 1662. The majority of Irish people were "Jacobites" and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is known, the Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.
James had given them some concrete concessions in the 1680s by appointing an Irish Catholic, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell as Lord Deputy of Ireland, by re-admitting Catholics as Army officers and into other public offices. When James fled England in 1688 he looked to Ireland to muster support for a re-conquest of his Three Kingdoms. In 1689 he held what became known as the "Patriot Parliament" in Dublin, which reversed the confiscations of the 1650s and confirmed his support from most of the Irish landed gentry. While Irish Catholics supported King James en masse, the Papal States had joined the League of Augsburg. Pope Innocent XI had lent William of Orange 150,000 Scudi for war purposes through his family's bank before his death in 1689. After William's landing in England, James' Lord Deputy in Ireland, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell took action to ensure that all strong points in Ireland were held by garrisons of the newly recruited Irish Catholic army, loyal to James; the northern province of Ulster, which had the heaviest concentration of English and Scottish settlers, was the only part of Ireland where Talbot encountered significant resistance.
An attempted rising by the Protestant inhabitants of Bandon in County Cork was defeated by Jacobite forces. By November 1688, only the walled city of Derry had a Protestant garrison. A Jacobite army of around 1,2
HMS St David (1667)
HMS St David was a 54-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the English Royal Navy, launched in 1667 at Lydney. She foundered in Portsmouth Harbour in 1690 and was raised in 1691 under the supervision of Edmund Dummer, Surveyor of the Navy; the ship was hulked and sold in 1713
Nine Years' War
The Nine Years' War —often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg—was a conflict between Louis XIV of France and a European coalition of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain and Savoy. It was fought in India, it is sometimes considered the first global war. The conflict encompassed the Williamite war in Ireland and Jacobite risings in Scotland, where William III and James II struggled for control of England and Ireland, a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indigenous allies, today called King William's War by Americans. Louis XIV of France had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe, an absolute ruler who had won numerous military victories. Using a combination of aggression and quasi-legal means, Louis XIV set about extending his gains to stabilize and strengthen France's frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions; the Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France's new borders for twenty years, but Louis XIV's subsequent actions—notably his Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685— led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance.
Louis XIV's decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 was designed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims. Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, when the States General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French king faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions; the main fighting took place around France's borders in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, the Duchy of Savoy and Catalonia. The fighting favoured Louis XIV's armies, but by 1696 his country was in the grip of an economic crisis; the Maritime Powers were financially exhausted, when Savoy defected from the Alliance, all parties were keen to negotiate a settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace but was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired a Barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their borders.
With the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire embroiled Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in the War of the Spanish Succession. In the years following the Franco-Dutch War Louis XIV of France – now at the height of his powers – sought to impose religious unity in France, to solidify and expand his frontiers. Louis XIV had won his personal glory by conquering new territory, but he was no longer willing to pursue an open-ended militarist policy of the kind he had undertaken in 1672, instead relied upon France's clear military superiority to achieve specific strategic objectives along his borders. Proclaimed the'Sun King', a more mature Louis – conscious he had failed to achieve decisive results against the Dutch – had turned from conquest to security, using threats rather than open war to intimidate his neighbours into submission. Louis XIV, along with his chief advisor Louvois, his foreign minister Colbert de Croissy, his technical expert, developed France's defensive strategy.
Vauban had advocated a system of impregnable fortresses along the frontier that would keep France's enemies out. To construct a proper system, the King needed to acquire more land from his neighbours to form a solid forward line; this rationalisation of the frontier would make it far more defensible while defining it more in a political sense, yet it created the paradox that while Louis's ultimate goals were defensive, he pursued them by hostile means. The King grabbed the necessary territory through what is known as the Réunions: a strategy that combined legalism and aggression; the Treaty of Nijmegen and the earlier Treaty of Westphalia provided Louis XIV with the justification for the Reunions. These treaties had awarded France territorial gains, but because of the vagaries of the language they were notoriously imprecise and self-contradictory, never specified exact boundary lines; this imprecision led to differing interpretations of the text resulting in long-standing disputes over the frontier zones – one gained a town or area and its'dependencies', but it was unclear what these dependencies were.
The machinery needed to determine these territorial ambiguities was in place through the medium of the Parlements at Metz, Besançon, a superior court at Breisach, dealing with Lorraine, Franche-Comté, Alsace. Unsurprisingly, these courts found in Louis XIV's favour. By 1680 the disputed County of Montbéliard had been separated from the Duchy of Württemberg, by August, Louis XIV had secured the whole of Alsace with the exception of Strasbourg; the Chamber of Reunion of Metz soon laid claims to land around the Three Bishoprics of Metz and Verdun, most of the Spanish Duchy of Luxembourg. The fortress of Luxembourg itself was subsequently blockaded with the intention of it becoming part of Louis XIV's defensible frontier. On 30 September 1681, French troops seized Strasbourg and its outpost, Kehl, on the right bank of the Rhine, a bridge which Holy Roman Empire troops had exploited during the latter stages of the Dutch War. B
Battles of Barfleur and La Hougue
The connected battles of Barfleur and La Hougue took place during the 1688-1697 Nine Years' War, between 29 May and 4 June 1692. The first was fought near Barfleur on 29 May, with actions occurring between 30 May and 4 June at Cherbourg and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in Normandy, France; the French attempt to restore James II to the English throne by the War in Ireland ended in defeat in October 1691. Instead, a fleet of 44 ships of the line under Admiral de Tourville was to transport an invasion force commanded by Marquis de Bellefonds; the Anglo-Dutch ships wintered in separate ports and Tourville was ordered to put to sea as early as possible, hoping to intercept them before they could combine. However, when he did so in late May, the two fleets Admiral Edward Russell had met up and were 82 strong when they encountered the French off Cape Barfleur. Following his instructions, Tourville attacked but after an indecisive clash that left many ships on both sides damaged, he disengaged; the Anglo-Dutch fleet pursued the French into the harbours of Cherbourg and La Hogue, destroying a total of fifteen ships and ending the threat to England.
The French victory at the Battle of Beachy Head two years earlier, in June 1690, had opened up the possibility of destroying a significant part of the Anglo-Dutch fleet and landing an invading army. King Louis XIV and his naval minister, Count Pontchartrain, planned to land an army in England and restore James II to the throne, they planned to launch the invasion in April 1692, earlier than the separate English and Dutch fleets were expected to put to sea and combine. Much of the invasion force was to be made up of the Irish Army which had gone into exile in the Flight of the Wild Geese after the Siege of Limerick in 1691. Troops were collected at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, the cavalry and guns were to be loaded into transports at Le Havre; the French commander Admiral Anne Hilarion de Costentin, Comte de Tourville was to bring the French fleet up from Brest, collect the transports and the troops fight off the English fleet and land the army in England. Despite Tourville being in command of the fleet, strategic decisions were to be taken by James II, François d'Usson de Bonrepaus and Bernardin Gigault de Bellefonds.
However, the French fleet was unable to concentrate in time. Tourville's Brest fleet was undermanned, when he sailed, on 29 April, he was forced to leave 20 ships under Chateau-Renault behind, his fleet was further delayed by adverse winds, did not clear Berteaume Roads until 2 May. Tourville entered the Channel with 37 ships of the line, accompanied by seven fireships, plus frigates and transports, he was joined on 15 May by Villette and the Rochefort squadron, seven ships of the line and attendant vessels, giving Tourville a combined fleet of 44 ships plus attendant vessels, 70 or 80 sail altogether. Meanwhile, the allied fleet was assembling at St Helens on the Isle of Wight. Vice Admiral of the Red Sir Ralph Delaval arrived on 8 May; the Dutch had despatched a fleet, under Philips van Almonde, from the Texel in April, making its way south. Admiral of the Blue Sir John Ashby sailed from the Nore on 27 April. Admiral of the Fleet Edward Russell was delayed until 29 April, but gained time by making a risky passage through the Gull channel.
He met Almonde at the Downs and a further Dutch squadron at Dungeness, arriving at St Helens in the second week of May. More detachments joined over the next few days, by 14 May Russell had a force of over 80 ships of the line, plus auxiliaries, thus by 14 May the allied fleet was assembled and the French strategic aim of acting with a concentrated force while the allies were scattered was lost. However, Louis XIV had furnished Tourville with strict orders to seek battle, strong or weak, this he proceeded to do; the fleets sighted each other at first light on 29 May 1692, off Cap Barfleur. The story that Tourville held a conference with his officers, whose advice, his own opinion, was against action seems inaccurate in view of Tourville's strict orders from the king to engage, he had been advised by James II's envoys to expect some defections by English captains with Jacobite sympathies, though none in fact did so. The fleets closed in the light southwesterly breeze—Russell from the northeast, Tourville, who had the weathergage, from the south, on a starboard tack to bring his line of battle into contact with Russell's.
Both fleets were in three squadrons, each split into three divisions and commanded by a flag officer. Owing to the calm conditions, it was not until after 10 am, four hours after first sighting each other, that the two fleets engaged; as long as he held the weathergage Tourville was able to break off the engagement when he had carried out his orders to damage the enemy. He had reinforced his centre, the White squadron under his own command, in order to engage Russell's Red squadron with close to equal numbers. Elsewhere, he sought to minimise damage by extending and refusing the van, to avoid them being turned and overwhelmed, while the rear was held back to keep the weathergage. Russell countered by holding fire as long as possible. From around 11 am, for the next few hours, both fleets bombarded each