Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ye 1:1200 scale Anglo-Dutch Wars: De Zeven Provinciën

...Whereupon ye Protagonist continues with his project of ye XVII Century, conceiving to show ye Dutch Flagship De Zeven Provinciën.

Langton`s 1:1200 scale De Zeven Provinciën from the starboard quarter.
So here I am, back again. To the surprise of no one, it's been more than two months since my last post, this despite my promising a "veritable flurry of posts" back in October. Clearly I'm not to be trusted.

Nevertheless, more time between posts means more time to work through the leadpile; much has been accomplished on the hobby front, and I'm eager to show it all off. What this means is that this time around I'm going to promise not merely this one pathetic post, but at least seven more posts in the near future! It's unprecedented, I know. but barring catastrophe (and the aforementioned caveat about my trustworthiness), it's going to happen. The Pictures are taken; all that's required is for me to sit my lazy butt in front of a keyboard.
View showing the tightly-packed gundecks. The largest Dutch warships were two-and-a-half-deckers carrying 80 guns, like De Zeven Provinciën. By contrast, the English required more space for their heavier guns; their contemporary 80-gun ships were all three-deckers.
But I digress. We're here today to talk about the lovely ship in all the pretty pictures. This is Langton Miniatures' AD1, 7 Provincien aka De Zeven Provinciën, or, in English, The Seven Provinces. The original ship was built in Rotterdam during 1665, at the beginning of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, as a special overall flagship for the United Provinces' combined fleet.

Some additional explanation is perhaps warranted here: unlike England, France, Spain, or any of the other better-known maritime states during the Age of Sail, the Netherlands had no navy-- instead, they had no fewer than five navies, each with their own ships, docks, shipyards, stores, admirals, and everything else. They had one Admiralty for the province of Zeeland, and another for Friesland; the other three represented different parts of Holland, the largest Dutch province. These were the Admiralty of the Maas/Maze/Maeze, representing Rotterdam, the Admiralty of the Noorderkwartier, representing Westfriesland, and the Admiralty of Amsterdam. Each of these five navies was traditionally quite jealous of its prerogatives, and their flag officers were prone to bickering, even while they were ostensibly cooperating against the English. This organization (or lack thereof) had served them miserably in the first Anglo-Dutch war, contributing to a number of alarming defeats. Addressing the problem, the States General (i.e. the federal government of the Netherlands) opted to name a single commander-in-chief.

I`ve been putting lots of flags on these models; it really seems to make them stand out. For me, this gaudiness was one of the main draws of this period over the more popular Napoleonic age.

Another of the primary factors contributing to Dutch losses in the first war was the small size of their ships. Amsterdam especially suffered from shallow, silty harbours, and that city's economic and political predominance over the States General had allowed Amsterdam to impose severe size restrictions on the ships of all the Dutch admiralties. Only the disasterous test of war against the English--who possessed the largest and most heavily armed warships in the world--proved the folly of such limits. Consequently, between the wars all the Dutch admiralties embarked on flurried programs of construction, churning out a new generation of heavier warships, intended to wrest the control of the seas back from the English. There were still shortcomings in the new ships: the shallow Dutch harbours meant that there was still no chance of matching the largest English ships, either in size or in firepower; nevertheless, events proved that the new Dutch fleets were nothing to shrug off.

View from the waterline.
 De Zeven Provinciën was the pride of the new establishment, the largest and most heavily armed ship in the Dutch fleet. As built, she carried 80 guns: 12 36-pounders, 16 24-pounders, 14 18-pounders, 12 12-pounders, and 26 6-pounders. The mixture of different calibres was unavoidable; there were few large arms manufacturers in the Netherlands, leading to a chronic shortage of the largest guns. The ship was modified several times over her career, mostly in regards to armament, but was never seriously rebuilt; the light construction of Dutch ships (necessary because of the shallow harbours), and their employment in so many battles meant they never lasted quite as long as some of their foreign counterparts, and De Zeven Provinciën was finally broken up in 1694.

A portside view

Of course I shouldn't understate the importance of this ship to the Dutch. Its tempting to make comparisons to HMS Victory, but even that could be seen as an understatement; whereas the British have a long history of naval dominance and can consequently look back on a number of greatly renowned ships, De Zeven Provinciën stands alone as the best-remembered symbol of the single short age of Dutch naval preeminence. In a lifetime of only thirty years, she fought in no less than seven major fleet battles: the Four Days' Battle and the St. James Day Battle in the Second Anglo-Dutch War; the Battle of Solebay, the First and Second battles of Schooneveld, and the Battle of the Texel in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, and finally the twin battles of Barfleur and La Hougue during the War of the Grand Alliance. As the flagship of the almost-legendary Admiral Michiel Adrianszoon de Ruyter, she frequently fought broadside to broadside against much more powerful opponents; during the St. James Day Battle, for instance, she defeated the massive English first-rate flagship Royal Charles in a duel lasting four hours, before being beaten in turn by another first-rate, the Royal Sovereign (ex-Sovereign of the Seas, ex-Sovereign, the most powerful ship in the fleet).

Stern view. The red lions on the stern decoration are well cast, considering their size, although the seven coats of arms (representing the eponymous seven provinces of the Netherlands) have been reduced to a single shield.
Like the rest of Langton's Anglo-Dutch line, the model is exceptionally detailed for 1:1200 scale. On the other hand, 7 Provincien does suffer from being the first ship of this series to enter production; the detailing actually seems to have been too fine, particularly on the quarter-gallery trim, and thus isn't as crisply cast as some of the other vessels. The guns visible on the ship's deck are also comparatively larger and more crudely sculpted. None of this is particularly noticeable on the finished model however, and I hasten to add that this is still very much a top-rate offering.

From stem to stern, the ship clocks in at a little more than 5cm or 2 inches. Yeah, I paint these things with a magnifier.

Choosing a colour scheme for De Zeven Provinciën was relatively easy; ships as famous as this one are always popular subjects for modelers, so pictoral examples abound. The only real decision was whether to paint the upperworks blue or green. I chose green, obviously.

The key test: yes, you could fit it in your pocket. No, you wouldn`t want to. Not unless you wanted to buy me a new one (and pay for me for the time and effort it takes to build these things).
 Next time: more Langton Anglo-Dutch, specifically an English 4th rate.


  1. Beautifully painted and based! You have telescoping eyeballs and nerves of steel!