Photo Credit: Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, directs royalist troops at the Battle of the Dunes.
By Roy Morris Jr. The cold North Sea surf washed over the boots of the advancing English infantry of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army as they tromped through the drifting sand dunes across the beach at Dunkirk on the morning of June 14, 1658. Ahead of them lay the main Spanish position, a 150-foot-high hillock commanding the enemy’s right flank. It was about 10 am, and the tide was going out. No order had been given for the English to advance, but the rumored presence of Royalist troops under James Stuart, brother of pretender to the throne Charles II, spurred on the veterans of England’s recently concluded civil war. The merest glint of a nobleman’s jewels was reason enough for the proud Protestant commoners to attack. They had crossed the sea to the Spanish Netherlands a few weeks earlier to continue fighting Catholic monarchs, in this case Spanish King Philip IV, who had entered into an unholy alliance with Charles II to restore the English royal to the very throne that Cromwell and his Roundheads had emptied of Charles’s father, Charles I, a decade earlier. It did not matter to them that they were serving a second, at least nominally Catholic monarch, French King Louis XIV. Their quarrel was with the Stuarts—and the Stuarts’ was with them. The rebel camp at Dunkirk, as depicted by Sauveur Le Conte. Louis II de Bourbon, the Prince of Condé, commanded the French and Spanish forces.[/caption