On this day in 1658, the Battle of the Dunes, also known as the Siege of Dunkirk, took place. The Battle was a siege carried out by France and England to take the city of Dunkirk, Spain's greatest privateer base. The victory led to the surrender of the city by Spain and eventually to the conclusion of the Franco-Spanish war with the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659).
The battle occurred while the French, who were under the command of Vicomte Turenne, carried out a siege of Dunkirk. Prior to this, French King Louis XIV had formed an alliance against Spain with Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and had promised to give the British Dunkirk in return for their support. As a result, Cromwell sent his envoy William Lockhart with 6,000 men and blockaded the port with their warships.
The Spanish King Philip IV, in need of support for his troops, decided to ally himself with the exiled Charles II of England and French Louis II de Bourbon, 4th prince de Condé. On June 13 1658, the Spanish troops led by Juan José de Austria arrived to relieve Dunkirk. They were also joined by a rebel French force commanded by Louis II and several regiments of English, Scottish and Irish royalists led by the Duke of York (who would later be crowned James II).
The Spanish army camped northeast of Dunkirk and Turenne decided to attack them on the following day. Taking advantage of the turning tide, he decided to deploy his troops in two lines on the beach, so that he would directly expose the Spanish to his cavalry.
Turenne began the battle by bombarding the Spanish troops and quickly began to advance. The Spanish reserves were also bombarded by the British warships from the sea. In the meanwhile, the British troops led by Lockhart assaulted the fortified dune held by the Spanish and took it. Even though the latter's cavalry fought with great resolution, they failed to resist the Anglo-French troops.
The battle lasted two hours and resulted in great losses for the Spanish forces. Over 1,200 of their soldiers were killed, while the French only lost 400. When the Spanish finally retreated, a small body of English royalists held out and agreed to surrender only on terms that they be allowed to rejoin their king Charles II, at Ypres. Soon afterwards, the Spanish surrendered Dunkirk.
The victory at Dunkirk put an end to the Franco-Spanish war with the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). This treaty established that France would gain Roussillon, Perpignan, Thionwhille, Montmédy and other parts of Luxembourg, as well as Artois and towns in Flanders. Moreover, a new border with Spain was fixed at the Pyrenees. It also forced Spain to recognize all French gains in the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
Ten days after the battle, the French kept their promise and handed Dunkirk to the British. However, Cromwell passed away two months later and was succeeded by his son’s protectorship, which lasted nine months. As a result, Cromwell’s Commonwealth fell into confusion and Charles II returned to the throne in May 1660. Two years later, he sold Dunkirk back to the French.
- battle of the dunes
- franco-spanish war
- philip iv
- charles ii
- louis xiv
- peace of the pyrenees