1703-05-22 – Engagement of Cap de la Roque

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1703-05-22 – Engagement of Cap de la Roque

French victory

Prelude to the Engagement

The maritime strategy of France and Spain, emphasizing privateering over open battles, forced the British and Dutch to better protect their merchant fleet.

On 21 May 1703, 110 British and Dutch merchant ships sailed from Lisbon for England, transporting salt, wine and sugar. This fleet was escorted by five Dutch warships under the command of Captain Roemer Vlacq.


Contextual map - Copyright: Kronoskaf

Description of Events

On 22 May 1703 at 5:00 a.m., a French squadron of 5 large warships under the Lieutenant-General de Coëtlogon, on its way from Toulon to Brest, was cruising at 24 km to the south-west of the Cabo da Roca on the southern coast of Portugal.

Around 7:00 a.m., Coëtlogon's squadron spotted several ships. Coëtlogon advanced with the Monarque (90) to reconnoitre these ships. Coëtlogon soon signalled to the rest of his squadron that there were five Dutch warships escorting 110 merchantmen.

As the French squadron approached, Vlack signalled the merchantmen to sail away while he deployed his 5 warships in line of battle.

By 11:30 a.m., Coëtlogon's squadron was within cannon range of the Dutch warships, which had accepted combat to protect the convoy and to allow it to escape.

The Monarque (90) engaged the Muiderberg (52); the Couronne (80), the Schermer (44); the Éole (62), the Rozendaal (36); and the Orgueilleux (90), the Rotterdam (34). The captain of the Vainqueur (86) initially directed his attack against the Gaesterland (46), forcing her to surrender.

Vlacq was mortally wounded by one of the first broadside of the Monarque (90), losing an arm and part of a shoulder. Nevertheless, he continued to fight to allow the merchantmen to escape.

Now free, the Vainqueur (86) came to the assistance of the Monarque (90) against the Muiderberg (52).

The Dutch ships had to surrender one after the other.

Vlack aboard the Muiderberg (52) resisted for two hours against overwhelming forces and surrendered only when half his crew was out of combat, his ship had lost her main mast and was on the verge of sinking.

Aboard the Muiderberg (52), the French captured the Count von Waldstein, ambassador of the Emperor in Portugal, and an envoy of the Elector of Mainz. The Muiderberg (52) was in such a bad condition that her surviving crew was evacuated and the ship burnt.

It took the French ships four additional hours to pick up survivors of the doomed ship.

Meanwhile, the merchant fleet had taken advantage of the combat to escape and it reached its destination intact.

The French brought back the 4 captured Dutch ships and their prisoners to Toulon.


The engagement was a tactical defeat for the Dutch but they managed to protect the fleet under their escort.

On 17 July 1703, Captain Roemer Vlacq died of his wounds in prison in Toulon.

Order of Battle

Dutch Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Captain Roemer Vlacq

  • Ships of the line
    • Muiderberg (52), Captain Roemer Vlacq
    • Gaesterland (46), Captain Thys de Wit
    • Schermer (44), Captain Jacob Teengs
  • Frigate
    • Rotterdam (34), Captain Samuel Forman
    • Rozendaal (36), Captain Johan Boreel

French Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General Alain Emmanuel, Marquis de Coëtlogon

Ships of the line

  • Vainqueur (86), Captain d'Ally
  • Monarque (90), Captain Cassard, carrying Coëtlogon's flag
  • Éole (62), Captain de Mons
  • Orgueilleux (90), Captain Dupalais
  • Couronne (80), Captain de Châteaurenault


Koninklijke Marine: Heldendaden der Nederlanders ter zee

Ravaisson, F.: Archives de la Bastille – Règne de Louis XIV (1702 à 1710), Paris, 1880, pp. 94-95

Troude, O.: Batailles navales de la France, Tome I, pp. 246-247