copy after Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh: Portrait of Witte Cornelisz de With, Vice-Admiral of Holland and West-Friesland (1657)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands)

As a sea-faring nation, The Netherlands has its share of famous naval commanders. Witte Cornelisz de With (1599-1658) was a Dutch officer in the 17th century when our naval powers was at its greatest. De With stared his career on land but failed at every job. Instead he tried his luck on the sea. His first job was that of a cabin boy on one of the merchant ships of the V.O.C. (the Dutch East India Company) when he was 16. After several years he took service with the Dutch Admiralty of the Maze and he soon was given a command. From 1622 to 1658 he took part in almost every Dutch naval action - from capturing the Spanish silverfleet at Cuba (together with Admiral Piet Heyn), the spectacular raid against the Spanish possessions on the west coast of America, the decisive defeat of the Spanish navy at the battle of the Downs (21 October 1639), The First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654) to the Second Northern War (1658-1660). He was killed in action at the battle of the Sound (29 October 1658) when he commanded the vanguard of the Dutch fleet. His ship the Brederode was grounded and boarded by Swedish troops. Although he was fatally hit by a musket ball , he refused to surrender and managed to bring down several Swedish soldiers. He insisted to walk by himself to the Swedish ship and collapsed and died because of his wounds. This portrait is from 1657.