The Battle of the Boyne

The Battle of the Boyne

As England was enjoying its Glorious Revolution under William of Orange, Ireland was gloomy in its poverty and about to witness one of the most decisive battles of modern Irish history.

James II, who ascended to the throne in 1685, had managed to lose all popularity by 1688 because of his constant support of Catholic causes, naturally not a popular move in a country that had switched to Anglicanism over 100 years prior.

As a result, James wisely relocated to France to garner support from Catholic King Louis XIV.

Parliament declared James had "abdicated the government" and invited William III and Mary II to be joint rulers of the nation.

Just as they stepped into England in 1689, however, James arrived in Ireland to a sympathetic Irish populace.

Soon after, William led an army into Ulster to protect British interests.

About 30 miles from Dublin at the river Boyne, James decided to make a stand and on July 1, 1690, the armies clashed.

The poorly trained Irish were hardly an inconvenience for William's troops. James again retreated to France and William departed for England, but both left troops behind to continue fighting.

Serious battles continued until July 12, 1691, when the Irish-French army received its final blow at Aughrim Hill.

This date, July 12, continues annually to be a contentious one in Ireland. Because Protestants view it as their supreme victory over the Catholics, the day is celebrated with parades throughout Northern Ireland. The conflict arises when the number of parades increases each year, and each procession passes through more and more Catholic neighborhoods.

In general, Catholics are not permitted outside during the parades because of the natural potential for conflict. As such, each parade becomes a greater inconvenience than the last.

The Treaty of Limerick

After the drubbing at Aughrim Hill, the remaining Irish general, Patrick Sarsfield, negotiated the Treaty of Limerick in an attempt to gain some toleration for Catholics.

Signed on October 3, 1691, the treaty allowed some 11,000 soldiers to sail for France, some freedom for Catholics and the return of some confiscated land.

The soldiers returned to France, but Irish Protestant gentry prevented the religious freedom, and the English Parliament was not about to let the land go.

The Siege of Londonderry

While backing out on the treaty may seem unethical, a good portion of the remaining hostility can be attributed to James II's forces crowding 30,000 Protestants into the walled city of Londonderry for 105 days.

During the siege in 1690, thousands died of starvation before William's troops arrived on July 28.

Because of conflict like this, liberties that England gained from the Glorious Revolution, such as habeas corpus and an independent judiciary, would not be permitted in Ireland until 1782, and even then they were added only because of the influence of the American Revolution.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, even the lord chancellor of Ireland, John Bowes, wrote,"The law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic."