The Dutch in the Thames

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It was one of the King's Yacht races that the King commanded Evelyn to investage the matter of the encounter between the French and his Spanish Ambassadors, and to consult with all the witnesses. But amidst all the mirth and jollity at Whitehall, sinister sounds, the booming of cannons, are plainly heard on the Thames.

Evelyn also hears them when walking in his garden at Sayes Court, Deptford, on the 1st of June, 1666, and mounts and rides off to Rochester, and the next day towards the Downs and sea coast, but meeting with the captain of a frigate, and learning from him that nothing had been heard at Deal, returns home.

On the 2nd of June Pepys hears them so plainly when walking in the park at Greenwich. After ordering his dinner, a dish of steaks, he walks to the water-side, and seeing the King and the Duke come down in their barge to Greenwich, he goes to them and reports the noises. They then go up the park to hear the guns of the fleet go off.

This preliminary engagement, which was at first hailed as a victory, turned out to be rather a disaster, for although the Dutch ships retreated, our own were fearfully shattered, and Evelyn sees at Sheerness the sad spectacle of nearly half of our navy more like wrecks than ships.

The sequel to this is all too well known. Soon after the great Fire, the Dutch entered the Thames, sailed up to Chatham, burnt many of our best men of war, and blockaded the mouth of the river up as far as the Hope, and great was the consternation and the fear of their coming up to London.

So nervous had the citizens become that when some chips and old ropes and other disused stores caught fire at Deptford and made a blaze, they thought the Dutch were there.

Scenes of the wildest confusion prevailed in London for a time, and people began to move their valuables, in hourly expectation of finding the enemy in possession of the streets.

The scare did not last long, for after one or two indecisive engagements, the Duke of Albemarle defeated De Ruyter on the 25th of July, 1666, and we hear no more of the Dutch in the Thames.

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