Michiel de Ruyter

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Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (24 March 1607 – 29 April 1676) is the most famous and one of the most skilled admirals in Dutch history. De Ruyter is most famous for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century. He fought the English and French in these wars and scored several major victories, the best known probably being the Raid on the Medway. The pious De Ruyter was very much loved by his sailors and soldiers; from them his most significant nickname derived: Bestevaêr (older Dutch for 'grandfather'.)


Early life

De Ruyter was born in 1607 in Flushing (Vlissingen) as the son of beer porter Adriaen Michielszoon and Aagje Jansdochter[1] Little is known about De Ruyter's early life, but he probably became a sailor at the age of 11. In 1622 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 steadily 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 fluently. He would occasionally travel as supercargo to the Mediterranean or the Barbary Coast. In those years he usually 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 probably 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.

In 1631 he married a farmer's daughter named Maayke Velders. The marriage lasted until the end of the year 1631 when Maayke died after giving birth to a daughter who followed her mother in death three weeks later[2].

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