Michael Adriaenszoon De Ruyter, a Dutch admiral, born in Flushing, Zealand, in 1607, died in Syracuse, Sicily, April 29, 1676. He was apprenticed by his parents to a shoemaker at the age of 11 years, but ran away and engaged as cabin boy, and gradually rose to the highest rank. When in 1641 Holland undertook to assist Portugal against Spain, De Ruyter, then rear admiral, commanded the Dutch fleet. In 1647 he attacked, and sunk an Algerine squadron of four times his own number of vessels off the port of Sale. In 1652, England and Holland being at war, while convoying a fleet of merchantmen, he met the English fleet off Plymouth, and repulsed it, saving his entire convoy. During the next two years he commanded a division of the Dutch fleet under Admiral Van Tromp, and fought two naval battles, one of which was successful. In 1655 he was again sent against the Algerine pirates, whom he chastised terribly, hanging at the yardarm the famous renegade, Armand de Diaz. In 1659 he was sent to the assistance of Denmark against Sweden, and for his services the Danish king ennobled him and his whole family. In 1665, war having again broken out between England and Holland, he was put in command of the fleet, but Prince Rupert confined him to the Dutch coast.
In June, 1666, he gallantly fought the English for three days in the Irish sea, but eventually withdrew. In 1667 he renewed the attack, ascended the Thames as far as the Medway, burned the shipping at Sheerness, and compelled England to sign a treaty of peace at Breda. In 1671 De Ruyter was put in command of the fleet in the war against France and England, and in 1672 fought the combined fleet long and obstinately, but without decisive results. In 1675 he was sent to the Mediterranean to aid the Spaniards against the French, and in 1676 fought a desperate battle against a greatly superior French force under Admiral Duquesne off the E. coast of Sicily, and was finally worsted, and retreated with his fleet into the harbor of Syracuse. He lost both legs in the fight, and died of his wounds.