Account by Samuel Pepys
The diary of Samuel Pepys, as secretary of the Navy Board, is very often cited in descriptions of the raid, as it gives us direct information about
the attitude of the policy makers in this period and of the psychological impact of the attack.
Pepys at first seems to accept the consensus that the Dutch would not dare to launch an expedition in the London area; still on 18 April he writes:
"(...)then to the office, where the news is strong that not only the Dutch cannot set out a fleete this year, but that the French will not, and that
he [Louis XIV] hath given the answer to the Dutch Embassador, saying that he is for the King of England's, having an honourable peace, which, if
true, is the best news we have had a good while." At that moment De Ruyter had already been on De Zeven Provinciën for a week. Nevertheless he is
aware of the preparations at Chatham, writing on 23 March: "At the office all the morning, where Sir W. Pen come, being returned from Chatham, from
considering the means of fortifying the river Medway, by a chain at the stakes, and ships laid there with guns to keep the enemy from coming up to
burn our ships; all our care now being to fortify ourselves against their invading us." Also he is the next day present at the meeting where the
details are given: "all their care they now take is to fortify themselves, and are not ashamed of it: for when by and by my Lord Arlington come in
with letters, and seeing the King and Duke of York give us and the officers of the Ordnance directions in this matter, he did move that we might do it
as privately as we could, that it might not come into the Dutch Gazette presently, as the King's and Duke of York's going down the other day to
Sheerenesse was, the week after, in the Harlem Gazette. The King and Duke of York both laughed at it, and made no matter, but said, 'Let us be safe,
and let them talk, for there is nothing will trouble them more, nor will prevent their coming more, than to hear that we are fortifying
On 3 June Pepys becomes aware the Dutch are out in force: "the Dutch are known to be abroad with eighty sail of ships of war, and twenty fire-ships;
and the French come into the Channell with twenty sail of men-of-war, and five fireships, while we have not a ship at sea to do them any hurt with;
but are calling in all we can, while our Embassadors are treating at Bredah; and the Dutch look upon them as come to beg peace, and use them
accordingly; and all this through the negligence of our Prince, who hath power, if he would, to master all these with the money and men that he hath
had the command of, and may now have, if he would mind his business."
Only on 10 June Pepys understands that the Thames is the target: "news brought us that, the Dutch are come up as high as the Nore; and more pressing
orders for fireships." The next day a growing sense of panic becomes apparent: "Up, and more letters still from Sir W. Coventry about more fire-
ships, and so Sir W. Batten and I to the office, where Bruncker come to us, who is just now going to Chatham upon a desire of Commissioner Pett's,
who is in a very fearful stink for fear of the Dutch, and desires help for God and the King and kingdom's sake. So Bruncker goes down, and Sir J.
Minnes also, from Gravesend. This morning Pett writes us word that Sheernesse is lost last night, after two or three hours' dispute. The enemy hath
possessed himself of that place; which is very sad, and puts us into great fears of Chatham." In the morning of the 12th he is reassured by the
measures taken by Monck: "(...)met Sir W. Coventry's boy; and there in his letter find that the Dutch had made no motion since their taking
Sheernesse; and the Duke of Albemarle writes that all is safe as to the great ships against any assault, the boom and chaine being so fortified; which
put my heart into great joy." Soon, however, this confidence is shattered: "(...)his clerk, Powell, do tell me that ill newes is come to Court of
the Dutch breaking the Chaine at Chatham; which struck me to the heart. And to White Hall to hear the truth of it; and there, going up the
back-stairs, I did hear some lacquies speaking of sad newes come to Court, saying, that hardly anybody in the Court but do look as if he
Pepys immediately draws the conclusion that this will mean the end of Charles's regime and a revolution is inevitable: "all our hearts do now ake;
for the newes is true, that the Dutch have broke the chaine and burned our ships, and particularly "The Royal Charles", other particulars I know
not, but most sad to be sure. And, the truth is, I do fear so much that the whole kingdom is undone, that I do this night resolve to study with my
father and wife what to do with the little that I have in money by me(...).
On the 13th, the countermeasures proposed only increase his fears and make him decide to bring his family and capital in safety: "No sooner up but
hear the sad newes confirmed of the Royall Charles being taken by them, and now in fitting by them -- which Pett should have carried up higher by our
several orders, and deserves, therefore, to be hanged for not doing it -- and turning several others; and that another fleete is come up into the
Hope. Upon which newes the King and Duke of York have been below [London Bridge] since four o'clock in the morning, to command the sinking of ships
at Barking- Creeke, and other places, to stop their coming up higher: which put me into such a fear, that I presently resolved of my father's and
wife's going into the country; and, at two hours' warning, they did go by the coach this day, with about L1300 in gold in their night-bag." The
entire city is in a state of panic: "(...)never were people so dejected as they are in the City all over at this day; and do talk most loudly, even
treason; as, that we are bought and sold—that we are betrayed by the Papists, and others, about the King; cry out that the office of the Ordnance
hath been so backward as no powder to have been at Chatham nor Upnor Castle till such a time, and the carriages all broken; that Legg is a Papist;
that Upnor, the old good castle built by Queen Elizabeth, should be lately slighted; that the ships at Chatham should not be carried up higher. They
look upon us as lost, and remove their families and rich goods in the City; and do think verily that the French, being come down with his army to
Dunkirke, it is to invade us, and that we shall be invaded." Then even worse news is brought: "Late at night comes Mr. Hudson, the cooper, my
neighbour, and tells me that he come from Chatham this evening at five o'clock, and saw this afternoon "The Royal James," "Oake," and "London,"
burnt by the enemy with their fire-ships: that two or three men-of-war come up with them, and made no more of Upnor Castle's shooting, than of a
On the 14th more details become known of the events the previous day, showing the morale of the sailors: "[he] did hear many Englishmen aboard the
Dutch ships speaking to one another in English, and that they did cry and say: We did heretofore fight for tickets; now we fight for dollars! and did
ask how such and such a one did, and would commend themselves to them: which is a sad consideration", and the mood of the people towards Charles
"they did in open streets yesterday at Westminster, cry, 'A Parliament! a Parliament!'; and I do believe it will cost blood to answer for these
 The Dutch withdraw
As he feared a stiffening English resistance, Cornelis de Witt on 14 June decided to forgo a further penetration and withdraw, towing the Royal
Charles along as a war trophy; the Unity also was removed with a prize crew. This decision saved the sunk off the capital ships HMS Royal Katherine,
HMS Unicorn, HMS Victory and HMS St George. However Dutch demolition teams that day rowed on boats to any ship they could reach to burn it down as
much as they could, thus ensuring their reward money. One boat even reentered the docks to make sure nothing was left of the Oak, James and London;
another, by accident or malicious intent, burnt the Slot van Honingen, though it had been intended to salvage this precious merchantman. Now the
English villages were plundered - by their own troops. The Dutch fleet, after celebrating by collectively thanking God for "a great victory in a just
war in self-defence" tried to repeat its success by attacking several other ports on the English east coast but was repelled each time. On 27 June an
attempt to enter the Thames beyond Gravesend was called off when it became known that the river was blocked by blockships and five fireships awaited
the Dutch attack. On 2 July a Dutch marine force landed at Woodbridge near Harwich and successfully prevented Landguard Fort from being reinforced but
a direct assault on the fort by 1500 marines was beaten off by the garrison. On 3 July an attack on Osleybay failed. On 21 July Julian calendar peace
But still, Samuel Pepys notes in his diary on 17 July 1667: "The Dutch fleete are in great squadrons everywhere still about Harwich, and were lately
at Portsmouth; and the last letters say at Plymouth, and now gone to Dartmouth to destroy our Streights' fleete lately got in thither; but God knows
whether they can do it any hurt, or no, but it was pretty news come the other day so fast, of the Dutch fleets being in so many places, that Sir W.
Batten at table cried, By God, says he, I think the Devil #s Dutchmen."
And on 29 July 1667: "Thus in all things, in wisdom, courage, force, knowledge of our own streams, and success, the Dutch have the best of us, and do
end the war with victory on their side".
Wharf official John Norman estimated the damage caused by the raid at about ₤20,000, apart from the replacement costs of the four lost capital
ships; the total loss of the Royal Navy must have been close to ₤200,000. Pett was made a scapegoat, bailed at £5,000 and deprived of his office
whilst those who had ignored his earlier warnings quietly escaped any blame. The Royal James, Oak and Loyal London were in the end salvaged and
rebuilt, but with great cost; when London refused to share in it, Charles had the name of the latter ship changed into a simple London. For a few
years the Dutch fleet was the strongest in the world, but around 1670 a new building programme had restored the English Navy to its former power.
The Raid on the Medway was a serious blow to the reputation of the English crown. Charles felt personally offended by the fact the Dutch had attacked
while he had laid up his fleet and peace negotiations were ongoing, conveniently forgetting he had not negotiated in good faith. His resentment was
one of the causes of the Third Anglo-Dutch War as it made him enter into the secret Treaty of Dover with Louis XIV of France. In the 19th century,
nationalistic British writers expanded on this theme by suggesting it were the Dutch who had sued for peace after their defeats in 1666 — although
in fact these had made them if anything more belligerent — and that only by treacherously attacking the British nevertheless they had been able to
gain a victory; a typical example is When London burned written by the novellist G. A. Henty in 1895.
A copy of the Sea Triumph depicting Cornelis de WittTotal losses for the Dutch were eight spent fireships and about fifty casualties. In the Republic
the populace was jubilant after the victory; many festivities were held, repeated when the fleet returned in October, the various admirals being
hailed as heroes. They were rewarded by a flood of eulogies and given honorary golden chains and pensions by the States-General and the lesser States
of the Provinces; De Ruyter, Cornelis de Witt and Van Ghent were honoured by precious enamelled golden chalices, depicting the events. Cornelis de
Witt had a large "Sea Triumph" painted, with himself as the main subject, which was displayed in the townhall of Dort. This triumphalism by De
Witt's States faction caused resentment with the rivalling Orangist faction; when the States regime lost its power during the rampjaar 1672,
Cornelis's head would be ceremoniously carved out from the painting, after Charles had for some years insisted the picture would be removed.
Royal Charles, its draught too deep to be of use in the shallow Dutch waters, was permanently drydocked near Hellevoetsluis as a tourist attraction,
with day trips being organised for large parties, often of foreign state guests; after vehement protests by Charles that this insulted his honour, the
official visits were ended and Royal Charles was eventually scrapped in 1672; but in the cellar of the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam part of her transom,
bearing the coat of arms with the Lion and Unicorn and the inscription Dieu et mon droit is still on display.