The present composition is an autograph version of a picture in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The original forms part of a series produced to commemorate the marriage of Frederick, Elector Palatine, to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, in 1613. The pictures were painted nine years later in 1622. The newly weds boarded the Prince Royal at Margate and set sail for the continent on 25 April 1613. A second picture from the same series is The Arrival of the Elector Palatine at Flushing, 29 April 1613, also in Greenwich.
The Prince Royal was at the time the pride of the fleet. It was built in 1610 under the auspices of Henry, Prince of Wales, by Phineas Pett. In this composition she is firing a salute and is crowded with people and crew, carefully observed by the artist. The white cliffs were probably included so prominently to stress that this is an English departure scene. The Elector Palatine was later to become King of Bohemia but lost this possition and the Palatine at the start of the 'Thirty Years War' in 1618. Frederick and Elizabeth went into exile as the ill-fated 'Winter King and Queen'.
Adam Willaerts was born in Flanders but immigrated to the northern Netherlands to become one of the leading marine painters of his time. Most of his compositions are beach scenes with numerous figures in the foreground, as can be seen in the present picture. And they are generally more colourful than the compositions by marine painters from the same generation, like Vroom and Van Wieringen.