The White Elephant – Witte Olifant

The Dutch Fleet under Sail’ is believed to be a depiction of the Dutch battle fleet prepared to set sail for the Medway and Sheerness in 1667. This expedition commanded by Admiral De Ruyter resulted in a stunning success. Much of the English navy was destroyed or captured. The Dutch ships that took part in that attack are represented on this painting. At the right is the Witte Olifant (built 1666) easily recognizable by a white elephant on her stern. Further right is the Vrijheid (the Freedom, built 1651, blown up in action 1676). To the left of the Witte Olifant is the Zeelandia with the coat of arms of Zeelandia on her stern. The center of the painting is occupied by the Gouden Leeuw (built 1666), with the image of a rampant golden lion on her tafferel. In the left foreground is the Huis Tijdverdrijf. In the left background the Zeven Provincien is seen. Her stern is decorated with the coat of arms of the seven Provinces of the Republic.

The English whom the Dutch were at war with quite frequently during this time gave their first rates and flagships grand names like Royal Charles or Sovereign of the Sea.

The White Elephant was built in 1667 in anticipation of a new war with the English. With 82 cannons it was heaviest class of ship in use and became one of the flagships of the Dutch navy. Personally, I think it’s hilarious the Admiralty of Amsterdam decided to call their newest and most fearsome ship the white elephant.


Length of Gundeck 134′ 0″Amsterdam Feet 37.9354 (124′ 5″ Imperial)

Breadth 29′ 0″Amsterdam Feet8.2099 (26′ 11″ Imperial)

Armament 1652Broadside Weight = 113 Dutch pound (123.057 lbs 55.8333 kg)

Gun Deck 7 Dutch 12-Pounder

Gun Deck 7 Dutch 8-Pounder

Gun Deck 12 Dutch 6-Pounder

Gun Deck 2 Dutch 4-Pounder

Gun Deck 2 Dutch 3-Pounder

Commanding Officers

11.1652 – 1653Kapitein Sijbrant Janszoon

1654 – 2.1654KapiteinHeyn Claeszoon Catt

Service History

4.3.1652/53 Battle of Leghorn

26.3.1654 Took the Merchant Ship Saint George in the Mediterranean Sea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *