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JAMES II (1633-1701). King of England 1685-1688.
Fine Autograph Letter Signed in French ('Jacques') to Vice-Admiral Comte d'Estrées, 1½ pages 4to with integral address-leaf (seal-tear repaired), London, 24 August 1673. Assuring the Count that the messenger delivering the letter is fully acquainted with the events of the recent battle and wishes to dispell the rumours harmful to d'Estrées, and promising his support.
The reference is to the Battle of Texel, where d'Estrées led the French navy, Prince Rupert and Sir Edward Spragg the British, with Admiral de Ruyter commanding the Dutch. The Prince had been frustrated in his attempts to draw de Ruyter into battle for some time, and, despite the Dutch advantage of being to leeward, 'bore down at a great pace'. The Battle resolved itself into three separate engagements with d'Estrées in the van, Rupert in the middle and Spragg in the rear. The Prince fought bravely and successfully and was considered justified in his opinion that the Dutch would have been routed had it not been for Spragg's disobedience of his orders, and d'Estrées's allowing Bankaert's few ships to hold him in check. Spragg was drowned whilst leaving his crippled ship.
 It is suprising that James took d'Estrées' side in the matter, as he has behaved similarly in the Battle of Solebay the previous year. The French Squadron was to have taken the van, but in the confusion of battle found themselves in the rear. Instead of following the English fleet, however, they tacked in the opposite direction. It was never clear whether this was a mistake or deliberate. A young ensign who took part in the Battle was John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.
[No: 20232]


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