Secret Treaty of Dover

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Charles II.

The Treaty of Dover, also known as the Secret Treaty of Dover, was a treaty between England and France signed at Dover on 1 June[1] 1670. It required France to assist England in the king's aim that it would rejoin the Roman Catholic Church and England to assist France in its war of conquest against the Dutch Republic. The Third Anglo-Dutch War was a direct consequence of this treaty.

Negotiation and provisions

Henrietta, Charles II's youngest sister, assisted in the negotiations that led to the Secret Treaty of Dover (26 May 1670).[2]

Exactly who first proposed the alliance between the two kingdoms is unknown, as is the date when the possibility was first discussed. However, it is known that the two nations had discussed forming a closer relationship since 1663.[citation needed] The only participants in the talks to begin with were Louis XIV of France, Charles II of England, and Charles's sister Henrietta, duchesse d'Orléans.[citation needed] Louis was first cousin to Charles (through their grandfather Henry IV of France). Henrietta was also Louis's sister-in-law through her marriage to his only brother Phillippe, duc d'Orléans.

No real progress was made in the negotiations until 1669 after Charles allegedly held a meeting with some of his advisors.[citation needed] During this meeting Charles announced that he wished to officially convert to Catholicism and at the same time reunite his lands with the Roman Catholic Church.[citation needed] Whether this meeting actually took place is a source of intense speculation.[by whom?] Although much of the groundwork had been laid by Henrietta, the finer points and actual provisions of the treaty were hammered out by Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington and Sir Thomas Clifford.[citation needed]

Charles was to abandon England's Triple Alliance with Sweden and the Dutch Republic in favour of assisting Louis in conquering the Dutch Republic. Provided that the conquest was successfully completed, England was promised several very profitable ports along one of the major rivers that run through the Dutch Republic. In particular, the main components of the treaty were the following:

The King of England will make a public profession of the Catholic faith, and will receive the sum of two millions of crowns, to aid him in this project, from the Most Christian King, in the course of the next six months. The date of this declaration is left absolutely to his own pleasure. The King of France will faithfully observe the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, as regards Spain, and the King of England will maintain the Treaty of the Triple Alliance in a similar manner. If new rights to the Spanish monarchy revert to the King of France, the King of England will aid him in maintaining these rights. The two Kings will declare war against the United Provinces. The King of France will attack them by land, and will receive the help of 6000 men from England. The King of England will send 50 men-of-war to sea, and the King of France 30; the combined fleets will be under the Duke of York's command. His Britannic Majesty will be content to receive Walcheren, the mouth of the Scheldt, and the isle of Cadzand, as his share of the conquered provinces. Separate articles will provide for the interests of the Prince of Orange. The Treaty of Commerce, which has already begun, shall be concluded as promptly as possible.[3]

The secret treaty did not in fact become public until 1771 after the historian Sir John Dalrymple published its contents in his Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland.[4]

The "Cover" Treaty

The secret treaty, often known as The Treaty of Madame, because of the role Charles' sister played as intermediary in brokering it, was signed and sealed in June 1670. The Duke of Buckingham was then appointed to negotiate a treaty with the King of France. He was amazed by how smoothly it went. This treaty closely followed the secret treaty just concluded, but the clause by which King Charles was to declare himself a Roman Catholic as soon as the affairs of his kingdom permitted did not appear; neither, therefore, did the stipulation that the attack on the Netherlands would follow his declaration. This treaty was signed by all five members of the Cabal Ministry on 21 December 1670.[5]

Consequences of the Treaty of Dover

Military preparations took some time. Louis declared war on the Dutch on 6 April 1672, and Charles followed suit the next day, 27 March (Old Style). The Third Anglo-Dutch War failed to go off as originally planned. The costs of deploying the English fleet were much greater than expected, and the money sent by Louis to offset the costs did not come close to enough. Furthermore the Dutch, led by Captain-General William of Orange put up a much better fight than expected. Desperate for funds, Charles was forced to call Parliament into session for the first time in over two years. He had hoped to keep it prorogued in order to wage the war without its oversight. In 1674, largely because of pressure put upon Charles by Parliament, England signed the Treaty of Westminster ending their involvement in the third Anglo-Dutch War. The French would continue to fight for four more years before signing the Treaty of Nijmegen.

In 1672, Charles issued a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended the penal laws against nonconforming Protestants. This same declaration also relaxed (but did not suspend) the penal laws applying to Roman Catholics. When Parliament reconvened that year they denounced the Declaration and announced that the English monarch did not possess the power to issue proclamations that suspended penal laws passed by the Parliament. Furthermore they refused to fund the ongoing Third Anglo-Dutch War until the declaration was withdrawn. Charles was forced to comply with Parliament's demands, thereby ending the chance offered by the treaty of reconciling England with the Roman Catholic Church.

See also


  1. Madame, a Life of Henrietta, Daughter of Charles I and Duchess of Orleans by J. Cartwright, Seeley and Co. Ltd., London, 1894, p. 332 [1]
  2. Coote, Stephen (2000), Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II, ISBN 0-312-22687-X<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  3. Mignet, François (1894), "Madame, a Life of Henrietta, Daughter of Charles I and Duchess of Orleans", in Cartwright, J (ed.), London: Seeley & Co, pp. 332–33 Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  4. J. P. Kenyon, The History Men. The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance. Second Edition (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993), pp. 67-68.
  5. Fraser, Antonia, Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979, pp. 275–276


  • R Hutton. "'The Making of the Secret Treaty of Dover, 1668–1670," The Historical Journal (1986) 29#2 pp 297–318 DOI:
  • Maurice D. Lee Jr. "The Earl of Arlington and the Treaty of Dover," Journal of British Studies (1961) 1#1 pp. 58–70 in JSTOR
  • David Ogg. England in the Reign of Charles II (2nd ed. 2 vol 1956)