Fighters In The Longest War Actually Forgot They Were Fighting

“Time ripens all things. No man is born wise.” —Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

In A Nutshell

The 335-Year War is the longest war in history. It was fought—technically—between the Netherlands and England’s Isles of Scilly, although the conflict went on for so long that it was largely forgotten that the two nations were actually at war. It started when the Dutch decided to get involved in the English Civil War and declared war on the losing side. The conflict was never settled—until 1986, when the end of the war was officially declared.

The Whole Bushel

Ever spend so much time mad at someone that you forget what the original fight was about, who started it and why it got as bad as it did? That’s kind of what happened around the events that led to the longest war in history.

It was, for lack of a better word, fought between the Dutch and a group of islands that sit about 45 kilometers (28 mi) off the southwest tip of England called the Isles of Scilly. And it started in 1651.

To make better sense of the whole thing, a quick history lesson for the non-British. When Elizabeth I died, the crown passed to her cousin, James Stuart (the son of Mary, Queen of Scots). For the first time, England, Ireland, and Scotland were united under one monarch. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t sit well with, well, anyone. Matters got worse when he was succeeded by his son, Charles I, whose popularity decreased even further when he first wholeheartedly fought in then withdrew from the Thirty Years’ War—a largely continental conflict.

Charles continued to make bad decision after bad decision, including an attempt to rewrite prayer texts and trying—unsuccessfully—to step on Scottish rebellion. Eventually, outright armed rebellion by the Irish against both English and Scottish settlers led to the division of power in England. The Royalists supported the king and his right to rule, while the Parliamentarians wanted Charles ousted.

Enter the Dutch.

The Dutch decided to give their support to the Parliamentarians, who were on the opposite side of a crown they had, up until then, been allied with. The Royalists retaliated, by raiding any and all Dutch ships that came into the English Channel. It was a losing battle for the Royalists, though, and bit by bit they were forced to retreat until their last remaining stronghold was the Isles of Scilly.

The Dutch decided to take that opportunity to get their piece of the Royalists, sending 12 warships to the tiny group of islands to demand repayment for the ships and supplies they had lost to Royalist raids. The Royalists refused, and the head of the Dutch contingent declared war on the Royalists and the islands. The blockade lasted for three months before the Royalists surrendered to Cromwell. Now that the islands were under Parliamentarian control, there was no one to demand reparations from, and the Dutch went home.

Only, they forgot to un-declare war.

The war went completely forgotten by both sides, until 1986 when a Scilly historian dug up evidence of the role the islands played in the Civil War, the surrender, and as the object of much Dutch stamping-of-feet and demanding-of-reparations. When he inquired at London’s Dutch embassy, they found the documents that supported the idea that they had actually been at war for more than three centuries at that point.

(We like to think that at least one person said, “Oops!”)

An official peace treaty was signed on April 17, 1986, bringing an end to the longest war in history—without a single casualty.

Show Me The Proof

BBC History: Overview: Civil War and Revolution, 1603–1714
Historic UK: The 335 Year War
Featured image: Charles Landseer (painting of English Civil War)

  • Lisa 39

    The longest war in history without a single casualty, that’s frickin awesome! I like this article 🙂

    • Mike

      “I like this article about a war without a single casualty” Did you only read the last line?
      Ofcourse people died during the battles mentioned in the article. What the writer ment was that there were no casualty that led to the signing of the treaty..

      • TheMadHatter
        Oops, someone didn’t do their homework, Mike.

        • Mike

          3 months of offical “war” and not one casuality?
          What a naive idiot you are.

      • Lisa 39

        Hi mike, i read it at 3:30am and yes i read the whole thing, i just reread it and i don’t see any numbers of how many people died, that and 3:30 may have contributed to my error.

        • TheMadHatter

          Lisa, not your fault, Mike is just a troll :P. You were right anyway.

          • Lisa 39

            Hi mad, i replied and then saw what he said to nathaniel, yup, a troll, thanks darlin 😉

          • Mike

            The dutch decleared war on 30th march 1651. The royalist was FORCED to surrenden on June 1651
            How you think they were forced to surrender? Rap battle?

            The “war” lasted for 3months. Before they decleared the war ther were vast number of casualties.
            You people think, that during that 3 month period they just laid back?

            Are you people living in a mental institution?

          • Lisa 39

            If you want me to listen to you or have a conversation then get off of your man rag and stop being an ass.

          • Mike

            So the troll is now an ass? If this is how you deal with being wrong I kinda feel bad for your husband/boyfriend/pet rock.

          • Mike

            madhatter, she’s not gona give you head for laughing at her jokes…

          • Lisa 39

            The only thing wrong around here is your attitude

          • Mike

            You are so adorable

          • Mike

            And now she’s asking for mod to delete my comments :DD

            Lisa Lisa lisa lisa…. grow up xD

          • oouchan

            There wasn’t a mod…until now. I deleted comments from the both of you. Play nice now.

          • TheMadHatter

            Thanks for that 😀 I only wish kn could be different and have such a community that we never needed a mod. Although there were probably other places that a mod could have been useful on kn, like the Indian sex temples article- that got nasty too, worse than this one.

          • 1DireWolf

            What is kn?

          • Lisa 39


          • oouchan

            Yikes! I’ll try to keep an eye on this. Enjoy!

          • Mike

            So you post a link and tell me to do my homework, acording to the link the “war” lasted for 3 months. You two were saying that there were no casualities during that 3 month period…

            I’m sorry, who’s having trouble with their homework?

            Then a mod comes in a deletes anything that makes you two look stupid? 😀

            What is this? Kindergarden?

          • TheMadHatter

            There has been a state of war between The Islands of Scilly and The Netherlands for 335 years. This war has been extended for so long by the lack of a peace treaty. Without a single shot being fired, it makes it one of the world’s longest wars and a bloodless wars. – See more at:
            This is what I was referring to, the three months was how long they actually were at war, the article is referring to the fact that they never signed the peace treaty in 335 years.

          • Mike

            …For the love of god, I know! I told you that in the Comments that were deleted, which you stated you red! Did you forgot already?
            This all “nasty argument” was about you and lisa thinking that there were no casualty at any point of the damn war.

            Man, having a mod delete comments also makes you forget how dumb you were? That’s just weird.

          • Mike

            Hey mod, great job deleting only the post that made them look stupid. I’m a big fan of your work. You will have a great future in politics, or kindergarden one day. Keep up the good job!

          • oouchan

            Nice off, troll. I deleted all comments that were nasty. So tough, if you don’t like it. Play nice.

          • Mike

            How am I a troll? I point out the stupidity of some comments, they counter, I show proof of their stupidity via a link provided by one of them. They ask for a mod to delete the comment that made them look bad.
            If anyone is a troll here it’s you.

            How the hell you managed to become a mod?

          • oouchan

            Oh jeez! Still ranting?
            Listen, I said I deleted both…that wasn’t good enough for you. You keep coming back and moaning about this like you weren’t at fault. You attacked and got attacked back and now can’t stand the heat you caused? Typical troll behavior.
            Now…be nice and play well with others. It’s ok to point out what people did as wrong, but don’t attack people. That gets comments deleted.
            Now stop pestering people and have a nice day.

          • TheMadHatter

            I’m gone for a bit and when I return a whole conversation has happened and been removed lol…

          • Lisa 39

            Yup, kn didn’t have a mod but it does now.

          • TheMadHatter

            I thought mods were across all disqus’ until now- LV, KN, MF, and any others I’m unaware of.

          • Lisa 39

            There wasn’t, read oouchans comment

          • TheMadHatter

            Yeah, that’s why I said I “thought” “until now”, but after reading his comment I see. (Said the blind man)

          • Lisa 39

            Yup, shit got ugly. Its whatever

          • lbatfish

            And an upvote for: “(Said the blind man)”! 🙂

          • Lisa 39

            I agree!

          • What is MF?

          • lbatfish

            In my neighborhood, it usually means “M*****F*****”.

          • hahahaha!

    • Lisa 39

      So i just looked this war up on wikipedia, no casualties, no losses, both sides, frickin awesome like i said!

  • Hillyard

    Hopefully after the treaty was signed, they all went out for a beer and a good laugh.

    • Marozia

      Sounds like a good way to end a war.

  • The best wars are the wars you forget.

  • Nathaniel A.

    Was it the English Civil War that never officially ended, or was it the war the Dutch declared on the Royalists?

    • Mike

      Did you even read the damn article?

    • Antony Todd-Bennett

      Dutch declared war on the Royalists which controlled the Scilly Isles. After the Parliament defeated the Royalists. The Royalists had no land to control, so the Dutch went back home.

  • The next time I encounter English tourists in The Netherlands, I will try not to mention the Scilly Islands.

  • rincewind

    I live on an island in the Thames estuary leading to London. In 1667, during the second Anglo-Dutch War, my home town was successfully captured by the Dutch navy. The fort at the time was incomplete and the garrison underfed and unpaid, so resistance to the heavily armed Dutch Navy was hardly enthusiastic. However, after only a few days, the Dutch hastily abandoned their conquest and never returned. History regards their departure as something of a mystery, but common sense suggests they simply couldn’t stand being in this dump another moment longer.

    Anyway, it wasn’t until 1967 (300 years later), that the Dutch officially returned my town to England. Of course I consider myself British but maybe I’m Dutch? Ja?

    • Andy West

      What was the war like, did you have to fight, must have been a bummer when the navy moved in?

      • rincewind

        A bit before my time, although I must admit that on some days, I feel like I was there…. 😉

        • Dumas911

          I’m really hoping he was being sarcastic!

          • Mikey Godsey

            Perhaps he’s got dysgraphia?

    • Hillyard

      Actually that raises an interesting question. Since while you were born/raised/live upon an island that is essentially British, but captured and not repatriated until 1967 you might be able to claim dual citizenship. Give it a try, that court in Strasbourg has made dumber decisions.

  • UN

    this article was poorly written , too much information and too little space led to a bit of confusion

  • Chaos

    This here is a testament to bureaucracy in all its inefficiency

  • Keeblertex

    Very interesting. Weren’t the Royalists part of the whole Jacobite Risings?

    • Jimmy

      No although the Jacobites supported the family that were the Royalists, the Stuarts. Charles I was King at time of the Civil War and it was his grandkid James II, great grandkid James III (who was only crowned by some of the Scots) and great great grandkid Bonny Prince Charlie who the Jacobites supported

  • new

    Humans are weird

  • William Gott

    that woman in the lower left of the picture looks like she’s saying “Are you F____ng kidding me??”