With the eighteenth century drawing to a close, Anglo-French hostilities were rapidly escalating in Europe. Besides competing for power on the continent, both the British and the French were concerned with expanding their influence in the East, where the once mighty trading empire of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had been in steady decline for some decades. By the end of 1794, conflicts on the continent were turning firmly in France's favour and in January 1795 French troops invaded the Netherlands, forcing the ruling Prince of Orange to seek refuge in England. Members of the Dutch Patriot movement—the democratically-minded opponents of the Dutch monarchy and the old order in general—were sympathetic towards French revolutionary ideals and welcomed the French presence in their country. Meanwhile, the occupation of the Netherlands was of great concern to the British government, who suspected that the French would waste no time in also taking control of strategically-located Dutch colonies.