The Five Dutch Admiralties

The Dutch Admiralties, 1488-1795

Ron van Maanen

In the 15th century the Habsburgs founded an admiralty in the Netherlands with, as it’s first admiral, Filips van Kleef (1485-1488). The admiralty was officially founded on 8 January 1488. Beginning in 1491 the Lords of Veere were appointed as admiral until 1558. Veere was a small seaport town in the province Zealand. In 1550 the Habsburgs founded an own navy with Veere as naval base including yard facilities including an arsenal. In 1558 the Lord of Veere,  Maximilian of Burgundy, died childless and his successor was not recognised in Holland. In 1559 the treaty with France was made and a year later the admiralty was moved to the town of Ghent (now in Belgium). The warships were sold in 1561.

In 1568 the revolt of the Netherlands against the Spanish started, beginning what is now known as the Eighty Years War. In the 90’s of the 16th century a naval organisation was founded including five admiralties, of which three were sited in the province of Holland. Each admiralty were quite independent in, for instance, their financial management and decisions (taxes were the main revenues), although the States-General made the final decisions concerning the employment of the navy.

Although all admiralties had their own yard facilities, some of the ships were, up to, and through, the 18th century, built at private yards.

The largest admiralty was the admiralty of Amsterdam, which had it’s own yard.

The second largest was the admiralty of Rotterdam, also called “of the Maas,” or “the Maze,” with yard facilities in Rotterdam. At Hellevoetsluis was a good berth with a sea lock-chamber, suitable to preserve ships in wintertime. In the 17th century the available facilities were continuously improved and were suitable for fitting out and repairing ships, although there was not a slipway available. In 1696 a nearly complete rebuilding of the fortifications including deepening and broadening of the wet dock, was begun. In the beginning of the 19th century the wet and drydock facilities were expanded.

The admiralty of the Noorderkwartier was sited in Hoorn since 1593 (with the exception of three months in Enkhuizen in 1597). There were yard facilities in Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Medemblik.


In the province of Zealand the admiralty was sited in Middelburg. The Dutch East India Company, in the 17th century, founded it’s own yard in Middleburg. Some warships were built in the 15th century and probably the first quarter of the 17th century in Flushing. Flushing contained the most important yard facilities, which later included wet and dry docks. Most of the warships built for this admiralty were built in Flushing. Nowadays there are still warships built in Flushing by a company, that is, in fact, a successor of the original naval yard. Veere and Zierikzee became less important in the 17th century although in both places warships were built and equipped or fitted out. The buildings of the arsenal dating from the mid 15th century were in the 17th century still known as the arsenal of the count. In the 18th century, in both places, the yard facilities still existed.

In the province of Friesland the admiralty was, since 1596, originally sited in Dokkum without a yard, but in 1645 was moved to Harlingen where there was also a naval yard. This was the smallest admiralty of the five admiralties and some times there were no ships built, for instance, in the period 1682-1693 and in 1702-1713, when no warships were built or fitted out.

All five admiralties were, on 27 February 1795, replaced by one committee dealing with all navy affairs.

This essay by Ron van Maanen, 14 July 2008

Revised 6 August 2014 ©