Williamite War in Ireland

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Williamite–Jacobite War in Ireland
Part of the War of the Grand Alliance
The Battle of the Boyne depicted by Jan Wyck.
Date 12 March 1689 – 3 October 1691
(2 years, 6 months and 3 weeks)
Location Ireland
Result Williamite victory, leading to the Treaty of Limerick
 Dutch Republic
 Protestant colonists
and mercenaries from various countries
 Irish and Scottish English Catholics Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of England Kingdom of Scotland Dutch Republic William III/II
Kingdom of England Frederick Schomberg
Dutch Republic Godert de Ginkell
 King James II
 Richard Talbot
 Patrick Sarsfield
Kingdom of France Duc de Lauzun
~44,000[1] ~39,000[1]

The Williamite War in Ireland (1688–1691)—Irish: Cogadh an Dá Rí, meaning "war of the two kings"—was a conflict between Jacobites (supporters of the English Catholic King James II) and Williamites (supporters of the Dutch Protestant Prince William of Orange) over who would be King of England, Scotland and Ireland. It is also called the Jacobite War in Ireland or the Williamite–Jacobite War in Ireland.

The cause of the war was the deposition of James II as King of the Three Kingdoms in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. James was supported by the mostly Catholic "Jacobites" in Ireland and hoped to use the country as a base to regain his Three Kingdoms. He was given military support by France to this end. For this reason, the war became part of a wider European conflict known as the Nine Years' War (or War of the Grand Alliance). Some Protestants of the established Church in Ireland also fought on the side of King James.[2][3]

James was opposed in Ireland by the mostly Protestant "Williamites", who were concentrated in the north of the country. William landed a multi-national force in Ireland, composed of English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish and other troops, to put down Jacobite resistance. James left Ireland after a reverse at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and the Irish Jacobites were finally defeated after the Battle of Aughrim in 1691.

William defeated Jacobitism in Ireland and subsequent Jacobite risings were confined to Scotland and England. However, the War was to have a lasting effect on Ireland, confirming British and Protestant rule over the country for over two centuries. The iconic Williamite victories of the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne are still celebrated by (mostly Ulster Protestant) unionists in Ireland today.

Glorious Revolution

The war in Ireland began as a direct consequence of the Glorious Revolution in England. James, who was a Roman Catholic, attempted to introduce freedom of religion for Catholics and bypass the English Parliament to introduce unpopular laws. For many in England, this was an unpleasant reminder of the rule of Charles I, whose conflict with the Parliament ended with the outbreak of the English Civil War. The breaking point in James' relationship with the English political class came in June 1688 when his second wife gave birth to a son, which opened the prospect of an enduring Catholic Stuart dynasty. This fear led some political figures to conspire to invite William III of Orange, stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic, to invade England.[4] William had indicated that such an invitation would be a condition for a military intervention, which he desired primarily for military and strategic reasons.

James II and VII
King of England, Scotland, and Ireland

The Dutch Republic was at the brink of war with the France of Louis XIV, then the greatest military power in Europe. English Stuart Kings Charles II and James II had fostered a close alliance with France since the English Restoration, and William wanted to detach England's resources of men, money, and arms from France and put them at the disposal of his League of Augsburg.[4]

William invaded England in November 1688. William's invasion fleet was aided by favourable weather (the "Protestant wind") that gave him weather gage over the British fleet, allowing him to outmaneuver them and land unopposed. William landed at Brixham on 5 November 1688 with 18,000 troops.[4] James fled to France after putting up only a token resistance. In 1689, Prince William and his wife Princess Mary Stuart became co-regents as King William III and Queen Mary II of England.

William III ("William of Orange")
King of England, Scotland and Ireland, Stadtholder of the Netherlands. Assumed James' thrones in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1689, with the support of the mainly Protestant "Williamites", but had to fight to subdue the Jacobite stronghold of Ireland in 1689–91.

However, while James II was unpopular in England, he had widespread popular support in Ireland. The Irish were almost all Roman Catholics and had fought en masse for the Stuart dynasty in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 1640s, in the hope of securing religious toleration and political self-government. They had been defeated by 1652 and were punished by the English Commonwealth regime with land confiscations and penal legislation. They were largely disappointed with the failure of King Charles II to completely reverse this situation in the Act of Settlement 1662.

The majority of Irish people were "Jacobites" and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.[5][6]

James had given them some concrete concessions in the 1680s by appointing an Irish Catholic, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell as Lord Deputy of Ireland, and by re-admitting Catholics as Army officers and into other public offices. When James fled England in 1688 he looked to Ireland to muster support for a re-conquest of his Three Kingdoms. In 1689 he held what became known as the "Patriot Parliament" in Dublin which reversed the confiscations of the 1650s and confirmed his support from most of the Irish landed gentry.

Ironically, while Irish Catholics supported King James en masse, the Papal States had joined the League of Augsburg. Pope Innocent XI had lent William of Orange 150,000 Scudi for war purposes through his family's bank before his death in 1689.[7]

Campaign in Ulster

After William's landing in England, James' Lord Deputy in Ireland, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell took action to ensure that all strong points in Ireland were held by garrisons of the newly recruited Irish Catholic army, loyal to James. The northern province of Ulster, which had the heaviest concentration of English and Scottish settlers, was the only part of Ireland where Talbot encountered significant resistance. An attempted rising by the Protestant inhabitants of Bandon in County Cork was quickly defeated by Jacobite forces.

By November 1688, only the walled city of Derry had a Protestant garrison. An army of around 1,200 men, mostly "Redshanks" (slang for kilt-wearing Highlanders), under Alexander MacDonnell, 3rd Earl of Antrim, was slowly organised (they set out on the week William of Orange landed in England). When they arrived on 7 December 1688 the gates were closed against them and the Siege of Derry began. While the Jacobites appeared to have great advantages in terms of numbers in Ireland, in fact, the troops raised by Tyrconnell were mainly hastily conscripted peasant bands, most of them poorly armed and trained. Nevertheless, a Jacobite force under Richard Hamilton routed a Protestant Williamite militia in an encounter at Dromore, County Down (known as the Break of Dromore) on 14 March 1689 and occupied eastern Ulster.

When James was deposed and fled to France, King Louis XIV of France (already at war with William of Orange) supported him with troops and money to help him regain his crown, though he stipulated that the French troops he sent to Ireland would have to be made good by the sending of the same number of Irish recruits to France.

On 12 March 1689 James landed in Kinsale, Ireland, with 6,000 French soldiers. He first marched on Dublin, where he was well received and, with a Jacobite army of Catholics, Protestant Royalists and French, then marched north, joining the Siege of Derry on 18 April. James found himself leading a predominantly Irish Catholic movement, and on 7 May he presided over an Irish Parliament composed almost entirely of Catholic gentry. He reluctantly agreed to the Parliament's demand for an Act declaring that the Parliament of England had no right to pass laws for Ireland. He also agreed, again reluctantly, to restore to Irish Catholics the lands confiscated from their families after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, by confiscating the lands of those (predominantly Protestants) who opposed him and supported William. This parliament was later named the Patriot Parliament by Irish nationalists.

File:Map of Ireland - Williamite War.GIF
Map of Ireland showing the major battles of the war

British Williamite warships arrived off Derry to relieve the besieged city on 11 June, but refused to risk shore guns until, ordered by Marshal Frederic Schomberg, they broke through and ended the siege on 28 July 1689.

In nearby Enniskillen, just south of Derry, armed Williamite civilians drawn from the local Protestant population organised a formidable irregular military force. Operating with Enniskillen as a base, they carried out raids against the Jacobite forces in Connacht and Ulster. A poorly trained Jacobite army led by Justin MacCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel assembled at Dublin and marched against them. On 28 July 1689, MacCarthy's force was defeated at the Battle of Newtownbutler. Many of the Jacobites' troops fled as the first shots were fired, and up to 1500 of them were hacked down or drowned when pursued by the Williamite cavalry. Partly as a result of this defeat and partly because of a major Williamite landing in the east of the province, most Jacobite troops were withdrawn from Ulster and encamped near Dundalk.

Schomberg's campaign

On 13 August 1689 William's army under Marshal Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg landed at Ballyholme Bay in County Down and, after capturing Carrickfergus, marched unopposed to Dundalk. James's viceroy Tyrconnell, commanding the main Jacobite army, blocked Schomberg's passage southwards but did not give battle. The two armies remained encamped opposite each other in cold, wet weather for several weeks before they withdrew to winter quarters. The Williamites lost several thousand men from disease in this campaign, even though they did not fight a single major engagement with the Jacobites. Moreover, they found themselves harassed throughout the winter of 1689 and in the following two years by Irish Catholic guerrillas known as rapparees. Schomberg's troops continued to die from disease in their winter quarters because of the harsh weather and poor food supplies. The lack of food was partly from bad management, but also because the Jacobites devastated the countryside as they retreated. The local civilian population also suffered terribly from this tactic.

Battle of the Boyne

Impatient with Schomberg's slow progress, William decided to take charge. He arrived with a fleet of 300 ships at Belfast Lough on 14 June 1690. He landed at Carrickfergus, having mustered an army of 36,000 soldiers (including English, German, Dutch, Danish, and French Huguenot troops), which then marched south towards Dublin. After some resistance near Newry the Jacobites withdrew to the south bank of the River Boyne, where they took up a defensive position at the village of Oldbridge, near Drogheda. On 1 July, William attacked their position, fording the Boyne at several places, forcing the Jacobites to retreat to avoid being surrounded. (As a consequence of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1753, the battle is now commemorated on 12 July).

The Battle of the Boyne was not militarily decisive and casualties on both sides were not high—around 1500 Jacobites and 500 Williamites were killed. However, it proved enough to collapse James's confidence in victory in Ireland. He rode ahead of his army to Duncannon, and from there returned to exile in France. Because he deserted his Irish supporters, James became known in Ireland as Séamus an Chaca or James the Shit.[8] The battle was lost but not the war. James's illegitimate son James Fitzjames, 1st Duke of Berwick wrote in his memoirs that he fled to muster fresh French support .[9] The Jacobite army retreated to Dublin, little damaged, but demoralised and badly hit by desertion. The next day, they abandoned the city and marched to Limerick. The Williamites marched into Ireland's capital on the same day, and occupied the city without a fight. On 27July, Jacobites in Scotland secured a victory by routing a Williamite army at the Battle of Killiecrankie

William's victory at the Boyne, taken together with James' flight, might have been the end of the war in Ireland. However, William published very harsh peace terms in the Declaration of Finglas, excluding the Jacobite officers and the Irish Catholic landed class from the pardon he offered to Jacobite foot-soldiers. As a result, Irish Jacobite leaders felt they had no choice but to fight until they received guarantees their lives, property, and civil and religious rights would be respected in a peace settlement.

First Siege of Limerick

King John's Castle and Thomond Bridge at Limerick City. Limerick was besieged by the Williamites in 1690 and 1691.

As a result of Williamite intransigence, the war continued. The Irish Jacobites retreated to Limerick, where they repulsed a Williamite assault, inflicting heavy casualties, in August 1690. The Williamites retreated from the west of Ireland but consolidated their hold on the south of the country in late 1690. Their forces, under the Earl of Marlborough, took the southern ports of Cork and Kinsale

The Irish Jacobites' position was now defensive, holding a large enclave in western Ireland, including all of the province of Connacht, bounded by the River Shannon. The Jacobites' successful defence of Limerick encouraged them to believe they could win the war with help from France (though many of the French troops sent with James were withdrawn after his flight). William left Ireland in late 1690, entrusting command of the Williamite forces to the Dutch general Godert de Ginkell.

Athlone, Aughrim and the Second Siege of Limerick

Ginkell broke into Connacht via the town of Athlone, after a bloody siege there. He then advanced on the key Jacobite strongholds of Galway and Limerick. The Marquis de St Ruth, the Jacobite's French commander, attempted to block Ginkell's advance at Aughrim, County Galway, but Ginkell's army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Irish at the Battle of Aughrim, where the Jacobites lost up to 8000 men—about half their army—killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

Memorial cross on the site of the Battle of Aughrim. 7000 men died here on 12 July 1691 and the Jacobite cause in Ireland was defeated

St Ruth himself, the Jacobite General, was among the dead. Ginkell took Galway, which surrendered on favourable terms. He went on to besiege Limerick. The Siege of Limerick ended with Irish surrender on 23 September 1691, when Patrick Sarsfield, despairing of any hope of victory, overthrew the French officers in command of the city and opened negotiations with Ginkell.

Treaty of Limerick

The peace Treaty of Limerick signed on 3 October 1691 offered favourable terms to Jacobites willing to stay in Ireland and give an oath of loyalty to William III. Peace was concluded on these terms between Sarsfield and Ginkell, giving toleration to Catholicism and full legal rights to Catholics that swore an oath of loyalty to William and Mary.

The Protestant-dominated Irish Parliament refused to ratify the articles of the Treaty in 1697, and from 1695 on, updated the penal laws, which discriminated harshly against Catholics. Catholics saw this as a severe breach of faith. A popular contemporary Irish saying was, cuimhnigí Luimneach agus feall na Sassanaigh ("remember Limerick and Saxon treachery"). The Papacy was an enemy of Louis of France and therefore did not support James in 1691, but the new Pope Pope Innocent XII changed its policy to support for France, and therefore James, from 1693. This factor hardened Protestant attitudes towards Catholics and Jacobitism in Ireland.

Part of the treaty agreed to Sarsfield demand that the Jacobite army could leave Ireland as a body and go to France. Ships were even provided for this purpose.[10] This event was popularly known in Ireland as the "Flight of the Wild Geese". Around 14,000 men with around 10,000 women and children left Ireland with Patrick Sarsfield in 1691. Initially, they formed the army in exile of James II, though operating as part of the French army. After James' death, the remnants of this force merged into the French Irish Brigade, which had been set up in 1689 from 6000 Irish recruits sent by the Irish Jacobites in return for French military aid.

Long-term effects

The Williamite victory in the war in Ireland had two main long-term results. The first was that it ensured James II would not regain his thrones in England, Ireland, and Scotland by military means. The second was that it ensured closer British and Protestant dominance over Ireland. Until the 19th century, Ireland would be ruled by what became known as the "Protestant Ascendancy", the mostly Protestant ruling class. The majority Irish Catholic community and the Ulster-Scots Presbyterian community were systematically excluded from power, which was based on land ownership.

For over a century after the war, Irish Catholics maintained a sentimental attachment to the Jacobite cause, portraying James and the Stuarts as the rightful monarchs who would have given a just settlement to Ireland, including self-government, restoration of confiscated lands and tolerance for Catholicism. Thousands of Irish soldiers left the country to serve the Stuart monarchs in the Irish Brigade (Spanish) and Irish Brigade of the French Army. Until 1766 France and the Papacy remained committed to restoring the Stuarts to their British Kingdoms, at least one composite Irish battalion (500-men) drawn from Irish soldiers in the French service fought on the Jacobite side in the Scottish Jacobite uprisings up to the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Protestants, on the other hand, portrayed the Williamite victory as a triumph for religious and civil liberty where triumphant murals of King William still controversially adorn the gable walls in Ulster. The defeat of the Catholics in the Williamite war are still commemorated by Protestant Unionists in Ulster, by the Orange Order on the Twelfth of July

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chandler, Marlborough as Military Commander, p.35
  2. Harris, Tim. Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685–1720. Allen Lane (2006). pp. 435–436.
  3. Hayton, David. Ruling Ireland, 1685–1742: Politics, Politicians and Parties. Boydell Press (2004). p. 22.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Murtagh, Harman. "The Williamite War 1689-91", History Ireland
  5. Harris, Tim (2006). Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720. London: Allen Lane. p. 440. ISBN 978-0-7139-9759-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Magennis, Eoin (1998). "A 'Beleaguered Protestant'?: Walter Harris and the Writing of Fiction Unmasked in Mid-18th-Century Ireland". Eighteenth-Century Ireland. 13: 6–111. Retrieved 16 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. This aspect was then hidden from Irish Catholics and Protestants for over three centuries; see: Telegraph article, March 2008< and Independent article, May 2008
  8. Eamonn O Ciardha, Ireland and the Jacobite Cause – A fatal attachment, p. 83
  9. Stephen McGarry, Irish Brigades Abroad, p.53
  10. Padraig Lenihan, Consolidating Conquest, Ireland 1603–1727