Maarten Tromp

Painting of Tromp by Jan Lievens. Original in the collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.

Born: 1598
Years of Service

Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp was born to the captain of a Dutch frigate 23 April, 1598, and went to sea with his father at age nine. He first saw combat during the Battle of Gibraltar in 1607, but was captured by English pirates three years later while his family was en route to Guinea. He was sold as a slave, but repatriated two years later. After work in a shipyard, he again went to sea, but was captured by Barbary corsairs in 1621. He was released by the Bey of Tunis who was impressed with the Dutchman's force of character. Tromp joined the Dutch Navy in 1622, and married Dignom Cornelisdochter de Haes two years later. His first command was the aviso St. Antonius, and he was the flag captain of Admiral Piet Hein in 1629. Tromp was promoted to squadron commander, and displayed considerable skill fighting Spanish privateers. After the death of his wife in 1634, and in the face of a stagnating career, Tromp left the navy, and became a deacon. He remarried later that year, and was recalled to naval service in 1637, as a Lieutenant-Admiral. With the mass removal of the other Dutch admirals due to incompetence, Tromp became the effective commander in chief of the navy of the Dutch Republic. Tromp pioneered the use of the line of battle, which would become the dominant tactic during the age of sail. On 21 October, 1639, he decisively defeated the Spanish at the Battle of the Downs, effectively putting an end to Spanish naval power. Tromp remained in command of the Dutch navy into the First Anglo-Dutch War, inflicting several major defeats on the English, until he was killed by a sharpshooter during the battle of Scheveningen. He is buried in Delft.