Amsterdam? English Civil War? Surely a questionable/tenuous link... or an excuse for a 'jolly'.

Amsterdam, party capital of the low countries, is not too synonymous with the Civil Wars, standing in the shadows of Breda and The Hague.

Detail from 'Militia Company...Bicker'

Breda's claim is strong, where many adventuring young gentlemen learned soldiering before the outbreak of the Wars; The Hague, where so many Royalists exiled themselves during the Interregnum/Protectorate. 

Amsterdam wasn't too popular with exiled Royalists; however, it did become home for many exiled republicans once the Restoration had returned the monarch to the throne. These exiled republicans would help build Amsterdam's wealth.

What Amsterdam does have is a city landscape that very much entered its golden age during the mid seventeenth century. Amongst the pungent aroma of cafes, stroopwafels, extortionate chocolate shops, frites and ladies whose virtue can be easily bought, are a whole plethora of seventeenth century churches, bell towers and an unrivalled collection of artefacts at the Rijksmuseum.

Plaque commemorating The Pilgrim Fathers, English Reformed Church Amsterdam

We'll start off with the English Reformed Church Amsterdam, located in a quiet backwater in the middle of the city, the English Reformed Church is actually part of the Church of Scotland. 

the English Reformed Church 

During the Reformation the church was closed when the city fathers disallowed all but Reformed worship. 

The church lay unused for 20 years until it was given to the English-speaking worshippers in Amsterdam in 1607. Please note that the Begijnhof is a private residential square, the bouncers at the entrance will remind you that you have to be quiet.

Amsterdam's oldest wooden house, in the Begijnhof

The Rijksmuseum is clearly the big ticket item for the seventeenth century aficionado. Please note that you can not purchase tickets at the museum, they can only be bought online.

ECWtravelogue top tip: arrive early and head to the second floor and the Gallery of Honour to avoid the crowds.

The Gallery of Honour is currently home to the recently cleaned, and restored 'Night Watch' by Rembrandt (it will soon be moving to its own gallery at the end of the Gallery of Honour). Or to give the painting its correct title, 'Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq'. Supposedly called 'The Night Watch' due to the accumulated dirt that obscured much of the detail and dulled the colours.

It was fashionable for officers in Amsterdam's Militia to have rather grand portraits of themselves surrounded by a number of their soldiers and fellow officers (as you'll see as you scroll down through this post).

'The Night Watch'

In the next bay along is Rembrandt's 'The Standard Bearer', dated 1636.

'The Standard Bearer'

However, despite the obvious appeal of 'The Night Watch', the other side of the gallery is chockful of  Vermeers (be still my beating heart). So forgive me whilst I indulge myself and post 'The Little Street'. The Vermeers are incredibly useful for selecting colours for your civilians.

'The Little Street'

ECWtravelogue top tip: once you have visited the Grand Gallery I suggest you return to the basement and start the museum route in the 1100-1600 Gallery. This allows you to access all parts of the museum without having to continually go up and downstairs and revisit galleries that you have already viewed.

When you have made your way back up to the second floor, there are some interesting coins and medals in a side gallery overlooking the museum's rather spectacular looking library.

Medal commemorating the Anglo-Dutch Fishery Treaty, 1636

The route will take you to some more militia portraits. The Militia were effectively Amsterdam's Trained Bands, such a shame that the fashion of grand portraits didn't exist in England (it would have made life so much easier).

'Militia Company of District VIII in Amsterdam under the Command of Captain Roelof Bicker'
by van der Helst, 1643

'Banquet at the Crossbowmen’s Guild in Celebration of the Treaty of Münster'
by van der Helst, 1648

Amongst the portraits of Amsterdam's military great and good, are some military artefacts. Including a buff coat and hat worn by Ernst Casimir van Nassau-Dietz at the Siege of Roermund. The hat having a hole created by a Spanish musket ball, which killed Ernst.

'Frederik Henry, Prince of Orange' by van Mierevely, 1632

Bandolier, with powder chargers 1640s

Musket and rest

Admiral Jacob van Heemskerck's armour and sword. Missing the left cuisse as it was shattered by a Spanish cannonball which ended the Admiral's life

A rather splendid rat catcher statuette, which surely was the inspiration for Matchlock Miniature's rat catcher figure.

It is inevitable that the Dutch navy is well represented in the museum, including the Royal Coat of Arms that was removed from HMS Royal Charles at the Battle of The Medway. Don't forget that prior to being Charles II's flagship, the ship was the pride of the Commonwealth's Navy, originally called Naseby.

Leaving aside the rather spectacular paintings, there is a collection of seventeenth century whaler's hats which came to light as they literally fell out of a receding glacier at Spitsbergen.


There's more seventeenth century clothing in the other side of the museum's basement in the 'special collections' galleries.

Linen shirt 1640-49, believed to have belonged to Willem Frederik

Not to mention a small, but beautifully formed arms and armour gallery.

Greenwich made cuirassier armour

An 'interesting' powder flask

Did I mention Delftware? It's everywhere.

Military camp 1660

Many Amsterdam guidebooks, and Google maps show a free gallery of the Amsterdam Museum, which is solely dedicated to Amsterdam's City watch. Depending upon your source it is either located close to the Begijnhof, or next to the H'ART Museum. Save your shoe leather. It is in neither location. Nor is it located inside the H'ART Museum. (The H'ART Museum is part of Moscow's Hermitage Museum).

Postcodes for SatNavs
English Reformed Church, Begijnhof 48
Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1

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