At the main ford at ‘Oldbridge’, William’s infantry – led by the elite Dutch Blue Guards – forced their way across the river, using their superior firepower to slowly drive back the Irish infantry, but were then pinned down when the Irish cavalry counter-attacked.
Having secured the village of Oldbridge, some of the ‘Williamite’ infantry held off successive Irish cavalry attacks with disciplined volley fire, while other ‘Williamites’ were driven into the river. William’s second-in-command, the Duke of Schomberg, was killed during this phase of the battle.
The ‘Williamites’ were not able to resume their advance until their own horsemen managed to cross the river and, after being badly mauled, finally were able to just hold off the Irish cavalry. The Irish cavalry then retired and regrouped at Donore, where they once again put up stiff resistance before eventually retiring again.
The’ Jacobites’ withdrew in good order. William had a chance to trap them as they retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek, but his troops were held up by a successful Irish rear-guard action.
The casualty figures of the battle were quite low for a battle of such a scale — of the 50,000 or so participants, about 2,000 died, three-quarters of whom were Irish ‘Jacobites’. The reason for the low death toll was that in contemporary warfare, most of the casualties tended to be inflicted in the pursuit of an already-beaten enemy. This did not happen at ‘the Boyne’, as the counter-attacks of the Irish cavalry screened the retreat of the rest of their army. Nonetheless, the ‘Jacobites’ were badly demoralised by their defeat.
The battle was not militarily decisive. However, it proved enough to collapse King James’ confidence of victory in Ireland.
King James II had fled ahead of his army to Duncannon, and from there returned to exile in France.
Because he deserted his Irish supporters, King James II became known in Ireland as Séamus an Chaca or James the Shit.
The ‘Jacobite’ army then retreated to Dublin, little damaged, but demoralised. The next day they abandoned the east coast capital city and marched across country to Limerick, on the south-west coast of Ireland.
The ‘Williamites’ marched into Ireland’s capital on the same day as the ‘Jacobites’ pulled-out, and occupied Dublin without a fight.
News of the defeat at ‘the Boyne’ contributed to the Scottish ‘Jacobites’ abandoning their struggle in Scotland.
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 Dublin, excluding the ‘Jacobite’ officers and the Irish Catholic landed-gentry 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 that their lives, property, and civil and religious rights would be respected in a peace settlement.
And so the war in Ireland continued without King James II …
In August 1690, the Irish ‘Jacobites’ had reformed at the city of Limerick where they repulsed a major ‘Williamite’ assault … inflicting very heavy casualties on their attackers. William left Ireland in late 1690 ‘sick at heart’, entrusting command of his forces to the Dutch General Godert de Ginkell.
The ‘Williamites’ then retreated from the west of Ireland, but proceeded to consolidate their hold on the south of the country during late 1690. During this period, ‘Williamite’ forces, under English soldier and statesman, John Churchill Earl of Marlborough, successfully captured the southern Irish ports of Cork and Kinsale.
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Men of Harlech
a song and military match, important in Welsh national culture
‘Men of Harlech’ or ‘The March of the Men of Harlech (in Welsh Gaelic: Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech) is traditionally said to describe events during the seven year long siege of Harlech Castle, between 1461 and 1468 … and the garrison held out in what is now the longest known siege in the history of the British Isles.
Harlech Castle stands on a lofty rock at the sea-shore of Merionethshire. The original fortress, called ‘Twr Bronwen’, believed to have originally been built by Prince Gwynedd in A.D. 530, was rebuilt by England’s King Edward I in 1282. Later it received the name of ‘Caer Colwyn’, and eventually its more descriptive name ‘Harlech’, or above the boulders. By order of King Edward IV, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, led a powerful army to Harlech, and demanded the surrender of the place; but Sir Richard Herbert, the Earl’s brother, replied: “I held a tower in France till all the old women in Wales heard of it, and now all the old women in France shall hear how I defend this castle.” In the end, hunger forced the Constable of Harlech Castle, that intrepid Welshman Dafydd ap Jevan, to an honourable surrender.
The music was first published, without words in 1794 as Gorhoffedd Gwŷr Harlech—March of the Men of Harlech in the second edition of The Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards … but it is said to be a much earlier folk air. The lyrics for ‘Men of Harlech’ first appeared in Gems of Welsh Melody, which was edited by the Welsh poet, Owan Alaw (in English: John Owen), and published in 1860. Since then, many different versions of the English lyrics have appeared. ‘Men of Harlech’ is also the regimental march of several regiments historically associated with Wales; including the Royal Regiment of Wales, and it’s affiliated regiments throughout the British Commonwealth (such as the Royal Canadian Hussars, the Canadian Governor General’s Horse Guards, as well as Australia’s Royal Victoria Regiment and the Sydney University Regiment).
‘Men of Harlech’ featured in the 1964 film Zulu; although the version of lyrics sung in this film were written specially for the film (which featured a young Michael Caine, amongst others).
The 1964 film Zulu immortalised the very gallant defence of Rorke’s Drift – a British army outpost in South Africa – against impossible odds. The men who fought this ferocious 1879 battle, against hordes of Zulu warriors, were soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot, the 2nd Warwickshire … named for an English county ... but, at that time, this regiment was composed of mostly Irishmen and Welshmen. In 1881 the regiment was re-named as the South Wales Borderers … and, in 1969, it was amalgamated with the Welch Regiment (the 41st Regiment of Foot) to form the Royal Regiment of Wales (24th/ 41st Foot).
In the countries of the New World, ‘Men of Harlech’ is used as the ‘alma mater’ song of Georgetown University (a prestigious Catholic University in the USA): and is also the official music for the Cumberland School in Australia; the Punahou School in Hawaii; King’s College in Hong Kong; and the Mackay School in Chile.
The Defence of Rorkes Drift, 22 – 23 January 1879
Healy Hall, Georgetown University
There are numerous versions of ‘Men of Harlech’, and there is no single ‘accepted’ English version. The version below was published in 1873.
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom's cause is strongest,
Freedom's courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap'd with dying!
Over might hath triumph'd right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
"Cambria ne'er can yield!"
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov'ring o'er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry's deaf'ning thunder
Every foe appall.
Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
'Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon's courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
'Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne'er can yield!
In the 1963 movie Zulu, the troops sing yet another version of this song, just before the final charge of the Zulu warriors.
Men of Harlech stop your dreaming
Can't you see their spear points gleaming
See their warrior pennants streaming
To this battle field
Men of Harlech stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield
From the hills rebounding
Let this war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambria's call
The mighty force surrounding
Men of Harlech onto glory
This shall ever be your story
Keep these burning words before ye
Welshmen will not yield
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Colonel Henry Luttrell – Jacobite Traitor
a deserving recipient of rough ‘Irish justice’ – and better late than never!
Luttrellstown Castle, County Dublin
From the beginning of the 1200s to the end of the 1700s, the Luttrell family have had a considerable impact upon the government and history of Ireland. And, the Irish people have also had impact upon the Luttrells … especially at the end.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell … the ‘original’ Sir Geoffrey – and great-great-grandfather of the other famous Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, the patron of ‘The Luttrell Psalter’ and ancestor of the Luttrells of Dunster Castle in Somersetshire, England … who served as the Anglo-Norman King John’s Minister of State on many missions to Ireland from 1204 to 1216.
Other Luttrells of note have included Robert Luttrell, Treasurer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ‘Chancellor of Ireland’, 1235 – 1246; Sir Thomas Luttrell, ‘Chief Justice of the Common Pleas’ in Ireland, 1534 – 1554; Colonel Simon Luttrell (‘Lord Lieutenant’ of the County Dublin); his nephew Simon Luttrell (Baron Irnham and Lord of Carhampton, d. 1787); and Henry Luttrell (second Lord of Carhampton), the last Luttrell to occupy Luttrellstown Castle, near Dublin.
Colonel Simon Luttrell a Catholic, was a man of handsome stature at the time he entered into possession of his ancestral estates. . . he found a wife in Catherine, daughter of Sir Thomas Newcomen of Sutton. Miss Newomen had been brought up as a Protestant, and the marriage was celebrated first by a clergyman of the ‘Established Church’ (the Protestant Church of England), although subsequently by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.
Colonel Simon Luttrell appears for many years to have suffered from ill health. In a letter written by him in London on Christmas Eve, 1688, to the young Duke of Ormonde (head of the famous Butler family in Ireland), Colonel Simon states that he had been sick for ten years, and had symptoms of paralysis. He had not been in Ireland for eighteen months, and on the strength of the friendship shown his father by the Duke’s father and grandfather, he begged the Duke to obtain license for him to go abroad, where he said he desired to be ‘out of the way’ until things (i.e the ‘problems’ associated with Catholic James II ascending to the throne of England) should come to a ‘settlement’, and where, if his health permitted, he would seek military employment.
Not many months later Colonel Simon threw in his lot with the Catholic King James II. In September 1689, he could be found in Dublin, of which he had been appointed Governor, and was busily preparing the city against the danger of invasion from England … and was “chaining up the streets and making breastworks in order to secure that naked place". Colonel Simon was an advocate of toleration at a time when it seemed a sign of weakness to be tolerant, and – in spite of the Earl of Tyrconnell’s ‘violent measures’ – he allowed the Fellows of Trinity College Dublin (all of whom were Protestants) to depart with their personal chattels, in safety.
However, on the ‘flip side’ we find the following condemnation in Protestant records of that time:
“The brutish and barbarous behaviour of Sir Thomas Hacket, lord mayor of Dublin, to the protestants, laid many under the necessity of getting out of his power by leaving behind them their estates and concerns, and transporting themselves and what effects they could carry with them into England. Colonel Luttrell, governor of Dublin, did not fall short of his lordship in barbarity.... February following the Protestants of Dublin were obliged by military force to deliver up their arms and horses; and the same practice was soon after carried through the greater part of the kingdom. The Earl of Tyrconnel filled the churches with soldiers, and made them store houses for the arms of Protestants. They were again seized in September, the monuments and graves opened, and dead bodies tumbled out of their coffins, under pretence of searching for arms.”
Colonel Simon Luttrell also raised a regiment of dragoons for King James II, and was then appointed by James as Lord Lieutenant of the County Dublin, which he represented in King James’ Irish Parliament, as well as being one of James’ Privy Councillors.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted, being assisted by his wife and daughter-in-law
Folio 202 verso of the Luttrell Psalater
William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne 1690
Simon Luttrell continued to act as Governor of Dublin until the announcement of the outcome of the Battle of Boyne … when King James II, with characteristic ingratitude, having fled for his life to the temporary safety of Dublin, then called together his chief advisors and declared that he owed his defeat to the ‘cowardice’ of the Irish soldiers.
On the 12th day of July 1690, the ‘Jacobites’ evacuated Dublin and marched toward Limerick. Simon Luttrell was the last to leave his post.
Colonel Simon Luttrell left Ireland for France before the ‘Treaty of Limerick’ was signed; and, in the fourth of the articles, his name mentioned as "one of the officers belonging to the regiments of the Irish army beyond the seas,” who were offered pardon and the restoration of their estates on condition of taking the oath of allegiance and returning to Ireland "within the space of eight months."
Colonel Simon did not think fit to avail himself of this stipulation in the treaty, rightly suspecting, no doubt, that it would not be honourably adhered to; and his brother Henry easily induced Dutch General Godert de Ginkell, the ‘Williamite’ commander, to put him in possession of the mansion and demesne of Luttrellstown at the expiration of the period affixed in the articles for the exile’s return.
Colonel Simon Luttrell died abroad in 1698.
Now to the infamous subject of this narrative … Colonel Henry Luttrell, who was born at Dublin in 1655, and was the second son of Thomas Luttrell of Luttrellstown.
Henry Luttrel spent his early life in Europe, on the Continent, where he killed the so-called 3rd Viscount Purbeck * in a duel at Liège.
* ‘Viscount Purbeck’ was a title in the Peerage of England that was created on the 19th of July 1619, along with the title Baron Stoke, for John Villiers, the brother of the 1st Duke of Buckingham and 1st Earl of Anglesey. It became extinct upon his death on the 18th of February 1657; subsequent use was as a self-styled title.)
Henry Luttrell was commissioned a Captain in the Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment of Foot in 1685.
In 1686, Henry was given command of the ‘gentlemen volunteers’ of the 4th Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards in London. Henry supposedly served the Catholic King James II during the ‘Williamite War in Ireland’ in 1689 and 1690, which is also known as the ‘Jacobite War in Ireland’ … and, in Ireland it was known as Cogadh an Dá Rí or ‘The War of the Two Kings’.
This was the opening conflict, following the deposition of King James II in 1688, when James attempted to regain the throne of his ‘Three Kingdoms’ (England, Ireland, and Scotland) from his daughter Mary II – who, on the invitation of the Protestant Parliament in London, replaced her father James with his son-in-law … Mary’s Dutch husband William of Orange … who was also grandson of the executed King Charles I, and nephew of King James II.
James II William of Orange
The ‘Jacobite’ war in Ireland also influenced the ‘Jacobite’ Rising in Scotland led by Viscount ‘Bonnie’ Dundee, which started at about the same time. While William of Orange successfully defeated ‘Jacobitism’ in Ireland and the subsequent ‘Jacobite Risings’ were confined to Scotland and England, this war was to have a lasting effect on Ireland – confirming British and Protestant rule over Ireland for more than a century.
The iconic ‘Williamite’ victories of the Seige of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne are still celebrated by the Protestant community in Northern Ireland today.
The ‘Seige of Derry’ resulted when Richard Talbot 1st Earl of Tyrconnel, who was acting as King James’ Viceroy in Ireland, took action to ensure that all strong-points in the country were held by garrisons completely loyal to King James II.
By November 1688, the walled city of Derry was one of two garrisons in Ulster which were not completely loyal to James II, the other being Enniskillen.
The Earl of Antrim was ordered to replace the Derry garrison with a more reliable force. Alexander MacDonnell 3rd Earl of Antrim, despite his age of 76, responded to this command, but wasted valuable time (several weeks) searching for men who were six feet tall or more. His regiment, of around 1,200 ‘giants’, known as ‘the Redshanks’ set out for the city several weeks later.
On the 7th of December 1688, thirteen Protestant apprentice boys seized the Derry city keys, and locked the main gates of the city walls while Antrim’s approaching Irish ‘Jacobite’ army was within shouting distance … Antrim’s regiment arrived to find they had been locked out.
The Governor of Derry, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy, favoured a concession to King James II, writing on the 15th of April that: “without an immediate supply of money and provisions this place must fall very soon into the enemy's hands.”
Colonel Lundy called a meeting with several of his most loyal supporters to discuss a surrender. News of the meeting spread, enraging the Protestant citizens of Derry.
After several weeks of guarding himself day and night for fear of his safety, Colonel Lundy finally slipped out of Derry disguised as an ordinary soldier, and made his way to Culmore … from where he took ship to Scotland.
Derry’s defence was then directed by Major Henry Baker and Colonel Adam Murray, along with the Reverend George Walker (who also held the local rank of major) … under the slogan ‘No Surrender’.
Cannon on the city walls of Derry - The ‘Bogside’ on the left
Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city's nickname, The Maiden City.
Williamite ‘Royal Navy’ warships from England, under Admiral Rooke, arrived off Derry on the 11th of June 1689, but refused to risk forcing the boom that Irish ‘Jacobites’ had placed across the river.
Another 47 days later, under the orders of Major General Percy Kirke, three armed merchant ships called Mountjoy, Phoenix and Jerusalem sailed up the River Foyle, protected by the frigate HMS Dartmouth under Captain (and future Admiral) John Leake.
The Mountjoy rammed but did not break the barricading boom at Culmore Fort, which the besieging Irish ‘Jacobites’ had stretched across the river to prevent the possibility of seaborne relief of Derry. The boom was broken with axes by English sailors in a longboat from HMS Swallow.
The English fleet was then able to sail upriver, and relieved Derry on the 28th of July 1689. The city had endured 105 days of siege, during which time about 8,000 people (about half the population) were said to have died.
The ‘Battle of the Boyne’ took place on the 1st of July 1690 (in the old style ‘Julian calendar’), just outside the town of Drogheda on Ireland’s east coast. The armies stood on opposing sides of the River Boyne.
William’s forces easily defeated those of King James II who led an army of mostly raw recruits.
The symbolic importance of this battle has made it one of the best-known battles in British and Irish history. It is especially remembered as a crucial moment in the struggle between Irish Protestant and Catholic interests. It is a key part in Ulster Protestant ‘folklore’ and is still commemorated today, principally by the Orange Lodge (an extremist anti-Catholic organisation). As a result of the adoption of the ‘Gregorian calendar’ (or ‘new style dating’), the battle is now commemorated on the 12th of July each year.
Recent analyses have played down the religious aspect of the ‘Jacobite’ war in Ireland. In fact, both armies were religiously mixed; William of Orange’s own elite force — the Dutch Blue Guards — had a papal banner (!) with them at the Battle of the Boyne, as many of them were Dutch Catholics. While most ‘Jacobites’ in Ireland were indeed Catholics, who were hoping to reclaim lands that had been seized by English Protestants, some of the English and Scottish Jacobites were actually Protestants. These English and Scottish Protestants were motivated by loyalty to the principle of ‘monarchy’ (feeling King James II had been illegally deposed in a coup), or they were personally loyal to the Stuart dynasty. While there were only a handful of English and Scottish ‘Jacobites’ who fought with King James II at ‘the Boyne’, some of the French regiments fighting alongside the Irish ‘Jacobites’ were composed of significant numbers of German Protestants.
In a ‘European context’, therefore, the battle was not a religiously motivated one, but part of a complicated political, dynastic and strategic conflict. However, in an ‘Irish context’ the war was a sectarian and ethnic conflict … in many ways it was a re-run of the Irish Confederate Wars * of 50 years earlier.
* The wars of the ‘Irish Confederates’ was also called the ‘Eleven Years War’ (derived from the Irish language name ‘Cogadh na haon deag mbliana’), and were fought in Ireland between 1641 and 1653. The Wars were the Irish theatre of operations during the ‘Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ - a series of civil wars in Kingdoms of Ireland, England and Scotland (all ruled by King Charles I) … that also included the English Civil War, and a civil war in Scotland.
The conflict in Ireland essentially pitted the native Irish Roman Catholics and the ‘old English’ Roman Catholics against the ‘new English’ Protestant settlers and their supporters in England, plus the Lowlands of Scotland. It was both a religious and ethnic conflict – fought over who would govern Ireland, whether or not it would be governed from England, and about which ethnic and religious group would own the land … and which religion would predominate in Ireland.
England’s Parliamentary Army gained a major foothold in Ireland for the first time in 1644, when the Cork-based and Protestant-led force of ‘The O’Brien’ (Baron Inchiquin) fell out with the Irish Royalists over a ceasefire with the Irish Confederates. The Protestant settler forces in the north west of Ireland, known as the Lagan Army, also came over to the English Parliamentarians after 1644 … Cromwell deeming them to be the most reliably anti-catholic of the ‘English’ forces in Ireland.
Dublin also fell into the English Parliament’s hands in 1646, when the Royalists surrendered it to an English Parliamentary expeditionary force after the city was threatened by Irish Confederate armies.
In 1648 the English Parliamentarians briefly gave support to Owen Roe O’Neill’s Gaelic-Catholic Ulstermen, after his fall out with the Irish Confederates: thus the extreme Catholic and Puritan forces were allied for mutual expediency. The Ulster Gaelic-Catholic army however joined the Confederate-Royalist alliance after the shock of Cromwell’s invasion in August 1649.
The most potent English Parliamentary force was the ‘New Model Army’, which proceeded to conquer Ireland over the next four years and to enforce an ‘Adventurers Act’ of Parliament, by conquering and selling Irish land to pay off its financial backers.
The Irish death toll of the conflict was huge. William Petty, a Cromwellian who conducted the first scientific land and demographic survey of Ireland in the 1650s (the ‘Down Survey’), concluded that at least 400,000 people and maybe as many as 620,000 had died in Ireland between 1641 and 1653 … and, this was in a country of only around 1.5 million inhabitants. It is estimated that about two thirds of the deaths were civilian.
The Irish defeat led to the mass confiscation of Catholic owned land and the English Protestant domination of Ireland for over two centuries. The wars, especially the Cromwellian conquest, were long remembered in Irish culture.
Gaelic Poetry of the post-war era laments lack of unity among Irish Catholics in the Confederation and their constant infighting, which was blamed for their failure to resist Cromwell. Other common themes include the mourning of the old Irish Catholic landed classes, which were destroyed in the wars, and the extreme cruelty of the English Parliamentarian forces.
After the Cromwellian conquest, large numbers of Irish soldiers travelled to the mainland of Europe and became ‘Wild Geese’ in the Irish regiments of Spain – in the hope of one day being able to return with the Spanish army and defeat the English in Ireland.
For the ‘Jacobites’ during the 1689 – 1691 period, the war was fought for Irish sovereignty, religious toleration for Catholicism, and land ownership. The Catholic upper classes had lost almost all their lands after Cromwell’s conquest, as well as the right to hold public office, practice their religion, and sit in the Irish Parliament. They saw Catholic King James II as a means of redressing these grievances and securing the autonomy of Ireland from England.
To these ends, under Richard Talbot 1st Earl of Tyrconnel, the ‘Jacobites’ had raised an army in Ireland to restore King James II after the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’.
By 1690, the ‘Jacobites’ controlled all of Ireland except for the province of Ulster. Most of King James II’s troops were Irish Catholics.
Conversely, for the ‘Williamites’, the war was about maintaining Protestant and English rule in Ireland. They feared for their lives and their property if King James II and his Catholic supporters were to rule in Ireland. In particular, the ‘Williamites’ dreaded a repeat of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which had been marked by widespread killings (pay-back no doubt for the ethnic-cleansing during the ‘Plantations’ of Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I). For these reasons, Irish Protestants fought en masse for William of Orange. Many ‘Williamite’ troops at ‘the Boyne’ – including their very effective ‘irregular’ cavalry – were Protestants from Ulster, who called themselves ‘Inniskillingers’ … and were referred to by contemporaries as ‘Scots-Irish’ (lowland Presbyterian settlers).
The ‘Williamite’ army at ‘the Boyne’ was about 36,000 strong, composed of troops from many European countries. Around 20,000 troops had been in Ireland since 1689, commanded by the Prussian General Friedrich Hermann 1st Duke of Schomberg. William himself arrived in Ireland with another 16,000 troops in June 1690.
William’s troops were generally far better trained and equipped than those of King James II. The best ‘Williamite’ infantry were from Denmark and the Netherlands; being professional soldiers equipped with the latest flintlock muskets. There was also a large contingent of Huguenot troops (French Protestants) fighting as part of the ‘Williamite’ army.
William did not have a high opinion of his British troops … with the exception of the Ulster Protestant ‘irregulars’, who had held Ulster for the ‘Williamites’ during the previous year. The English and Scottish troops were felt to be politically unreliable, since King James II had been their legitimate monarch up to a year before. Moreover, they had only been raised recently … and they had seen very little battle action.
The ‘Jacobites’ were 23,500 strong. King James II had several regiments of French troops, but most of his manpower was provided by Irish Catholics.
The’ Jacobites’ cavalry, who were recruited from among the dispossessed Irish gentry, proved themselves to be high calibre troops during the course of the battle. However, the Irish infantry, predominantly tenant farmers, were not trained soldiers. They had been hastily trained, poorly equipped, and only a minority of them had functional muskets. In fact, some of them carried only farm implements such as scythes at ‘the Boyne’. In addition to that, the ‘Jacobite’ infantry who actually had firearms were all equipped with the obsolete matchlock musket.
William landed at Carrickfergus on the north coast of Ulster on the 14th of June 1690 and marched south to capture Dublin.
Carrickfergus Castle – from the seaward side
Carrickfergus Castle – from the landward side
It has been argued the ‘Jacobites’ should have tried to block this advance in rugged country around Newry, in the vicinity of the present day border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. However, King James II only fought a delaying action at Newry and chose instead to place his line of defence on the River Boyne – around 30 miles north of Dublin.
The ‘Williamites’ reached the Boyne River on the 29th of June. On the day before the battle, William had a narrow escape when he was wounded by ‘Jacobite’ artillery while surveying the fords over which his troops would cross ‘the Boyne’.
The battle itself was fought on the 1st of July, for control of a ford over the river at ‘Oldbridge’, near Drogheda.
King William crossed ‘the Boyne’ at Drybridge with approximately 3,500 mounted troops … Dutch, English, Danish and Enniskilleners, "most of them being forced to swim".
William, his arm painful from the flesh wound he had suffered the previous day, got into difficulty when his horse got bogged down in the mud near the south bank, forcing him to dismount to have it dragged clear. He was asthmatic and noticeably out of breath after his incident.
At the head of the mounted troops, which included the ‘Enniskilleners’ cavalry and dragoons, William advanced towards the Donore Church. Following the decisive action at Oldbridge and, after a sharp clash at Donore, they withdrew towards Duleek.
In response to the dawn movement upstream of 10,000 ‘Williamites’, King James sent 17,000 men to strengthen his left wing. This left only 6,000 ‘Jacobites’ to defend the Oldbridge crossing against the 26,000 ‘Williamites’.
James’s men fought bravely: seven infantry battalions engaged the Williamites hand-to-hand: “...there was nothing to be seen but smoke and dust, not anything to be heard but one continued fire for nigh half-an-hour”.
The four remaining ‘Jacobite’ cavalry regiments then took up the attack, repeatedly charging the ‘Williamite’ infantry on the slopes behind ‘Oldbridge’. The Dutch Guards fixed bayonets and resisted ‘Jacobite’ squadrons, but the Huguenots took heavy casualties. Marshal Schomberg (Meinhard Schomberg's father), the senior ‘Williamite’ general, was killed in the melee, as were George Walker, the defender of Derry and La Caillemotte, and one of the Huguenot colonels.
About noon, William, with 3,500 mounted troops, crossed the river downstream at ‘Drybridge’. His advance forced the ‘Jacobites’ to break off the action at ‘Oldbridge’ and withdraw to oppose him at Donore.
At the time of the battle there was no bridge across ‘the Boyne’ at Oldbridge, but there was a small village at
approximately this point.
Two ‘Jacobite’ infantry regiments lined up behind the houses and surrounding ditches, but their musket fire failed to halt the advance of King William's infantry across the river.
When William’s Dutch Guards gained the south bank, they rushed to the attack, firing musket volleys and driving the ‘Jacobites’ back.
"The action was so hot till past eleven that many old soldiers said they never saw brisker work".
Futher downstream, several more regiments of William’s infantry crossed the river and managed to establish themselves on the south bank, where they drew up in battle formation to meet James's counterattack.
The right wing of King William's army, under Meinhard Schomberg, was prevented from engaging the left wing of King James's army by a deep ravine at Roughgrange.
The obstacle, which "the Devil himself could have never got through", prevented any engagement between the 10,000 ‘Williamites’ who had crossed ‘the Boyne’ upstream from Rossnaree, and the 17,000 soldiers of King James's army who had marched from Oldbridge to protect their left wing.
The stand-off lasted until early afternoon when King James left the field after learning of the collapse of his under-strength right wing at ‘Oldbridge’ and Donore. Still relatively untroubled by Meinhard Schomberg's force, the ‘Jacobites’ left wing then withdrew towards Duleek.
River Boyne in the Autumn (‘Fall’)
William sent about a quarter of his men to cross at a place called Roughgrange, near Slane, about 6 miles from ‘Oldbridge’. The Duke of Schomberg’s son, Meinhardt, led this crossing … which Irish dragoons, in a forward lookout position under command of Neil O’Neil, unsuccessfully opposed.
King James II panicked when he saw that he might be outflanked by the ‘Williamites’ – and sent half his troops, along with most of his cannon, to counter this move.
What neither side had realised was that there was a deep ravine at Roughgrange, so that the forces there could not engage each other, but literally sat out the battle. The ‘Williamites’ there went on a long detour march which, late in the day, almost saw them cut off the ‘Jacobite’ retreat at the village of Naul.
In the centre, the ‘Williamite’ infantry under the command of Scottish General Hugh Mackay tried a frontal assault on the ‘Jacobite’ infantry on Kilcommadan Hill.
Irish Post Office Stamps Commemorating the Siege of Athlone, as well as Dutch General Godert de Ginkel and Irish General Patrick Sarsfield
Dutch General Godert de Ginkell, 1st Earl of Athlone
Williamite General Hugh Mackay
This left de Ginkel with only one option, to try to force a way through
the causeway on the ‘Jacobite’ left. This should have been an
impregnable position, with the ‘Williamite’ attackers concentrated into
a narrow lane and covered by the Irish defenders in the castle there.
However, the ‘Jacobite’ troops there were short on ammunition.
General Hugh Mackay directed this fourth assault, consisting mainly
of ‘Williamite’ cavalry, in two groups - one along the causeway, and
one parallel to the south.
The Irish ‘Jacobites’ stalled this attack with heavy fire from the
castle, but then found that their reserve ammunition, which was
British made, would not fit into the muzzles of their French supplied
muskets! Some of the Irish even resorted to using their uniform
buttons in place of musket balls !!!
The ‘Williamites’ then charged again, using a reasonably fresh
regiment of Dutch cavalry under command of Henri de Massue
– a French Huguenot who was a career soldier.
Faced with only weak musket fire from the Irish ‘Jacobites’, the Dutch cavalry charged across the causeway and reached Aughrim village with very few casualties.
A force of Irish ‘Jacobite’ cavalry under Colonel Henry Luttrell was held in reserve to cover this flank. But rather than counterattacking at this point, Henry ordered them to withdraw, following a route now known locally as ‘Luttrell’s pass’.
The French General Marquis de St. Ruth, after the third ‘Jacobite’ infantry attack on the ‘Williamite’ position – which reached right up to their cannons – appeared to believe that the battle could be won and he was heard to shout, “they are running, we will chase them back to the gates of Dublin".
However, as St. Ruth tried to rally his Irish ‘Jacobite’ cavalry on the left (Henry Luttrell’s regiment), to counter-attack and drive the ‘Williamite’ horse back, the French General was decapitated by a cannon ball.
After St. Ruth’s death, the ‘Jacobite’ position collapsed very quickly. The Irish ‘Jacobite’ cavalry horsemen were led from the battlefield by Henry Luttrell. Henry Luttrell’s retreat resulted in leaving the ‘Jacobite’ left flank open for the ‘Williamites’ to funnel in more troops and to then envelope the whole of the ‘Jacobite’ line.
The ‘Jacobites’ on the right, seeing the situation was hopeless, also began to melt away, although Patrick Sarsfield did try to organise a rearguard action. ‘This left the ‘Jacobite’ infantry on Killcommadan Hill completely exposed and surrounded. They were slaughtered by the ‘Williamite’ cavalry as they tried to get away. One eyewitness, George Storey, said that bodies covered the Hill, and looked from a distance like a flock of sheep.
The Battle of Aughrim was the bloodiest ever fought on Irish soil. It meant the effective end of the ‘Jacobites’ in Ireland, although the city of Limerick held out until the autumn of 1691.
Colonel Henry Luttrel’s precipitate retreat with the ‘Jacobite’ cavalry of the left flank at the decisive Battle of Aughrim gave rise to suspicions of disloyalty …
After the disaster at Aughrim, the City of Galway surrendered to the ‘Williamites’.
The ‘Jacobite’ survivors retreated from Galway and Aughrim to Limerick, but in contrast to the previous year, their morale was very low and they were ready to surrender. On the other hand, the defences of Limerick had been considerably strengthened since 1690.
Irish Cavalry Action 1691
King John’s Castle, Limerick
Irish Jacobites were forced to retreat to King John's Castle, where they were bombarded by the Williamite artillery from August to October of 1691
After this callous disregard for the lives of the Irish defenders, Patrick Sarsfield, commander of the Irish cavalry, and despairing of any hope of victory, overthrew the French officers in command of the city and opened negotiations with the Dutch General de Ginkell.
Sarsfield and de Ginkel agreed on what has become known as the ‘Treaty of Limerick’, which was signed on the 3rd of October 1691, and it offered generous terms to those ‘Jacobites’ willing to stay in Ireland and give an oath of loyalty to William. This peace treaty promised to: (i) respect the civilian population of Limerick; (ii) tolerate the Catholic religion in Ireland; (iii) guarantee against the confiscation of Catholic-owned land; and (iv) to allow Sarsfield and the Irish ‘Jacobite’ army to be transported to France … an event which has become popularly known in Ireland, and around the world, as the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’.
However, the Protestant-dominated Irish Parliament refused to ratify the articles of the Treaty. And, from 1695 onwards, the Irish Parliament progressively updated and expanded the penal laws, which discriminated harshly against Catholics.
Irish ‘Jacobites’ saw all these anti-Catholic laws as a severe breach of faith.
A popular contemporary Irish saying was, cuimhnigí Luimneach agus feall na Sassanaigh (“remember Limerick and English treachery”) … which was to become the battle-cry of the elite regiments of the Irish Brigade of France for the next 100 plus years.
Around 14,000 Irish ‘Jacobite’ fighting men, together with about 10,000 women and children, left Ireland for France with Patrick Sarsfield in 1691. Initially, they formed the Irish army in exile of King James II and, although they were not part of the French army, they were actually paid and equipped by the King of France – and they fought, and they died in large numbers, on many European battlefields for the French, during the so-called Nine Years War which ended in 1697. This war was fought in Ireland, North America, and Europe – between the Kingdom of France under King Louis XIV, and his allies the Irish ‘Jacobites’, against a ‘Grand Alliance’ led principally by the Anglo-Dutch Stadtholder-King William III, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, King Charles II of Spain, and Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy. (This war was also known as the ‘War of the Grand Alliance’, the ‘War of the League of Augsburg’, formerly the ‘War of the Palatine Succession’, or the ‘War of the English Succession’.)
King James II’s ‘Wild Geese’ Irish Army in Exile
In closing this tragic narrative of the ‘Williamite War’ in Ireland, let us return to the subject of Colonel Henry Luttrell … During the Second Siege of Limerick, Colonel Henry Luttrell was found to be in correspondence with the ‘Williamite’ besiegers, and he scarcely escaped hanging by the Irish defenders of Limerick … then, after the surrender of that city, he changed sides and took his cavalry regiment over to the ‘Williamite’ lines.
As a reward for his treachery to the ‘Jacobite’ cause, the ‘Williamites’ gave Colonel Henry Luttrell the forfeited estates of his elder brother, Colonel Simon Luttrell … including Luttrellstown Castle and its estates, and he was also made a Major General in the Dutch army.
Henry then attempted to deprive his brother’s widow, Catherine, of her jointure by discreditable means, but was ultimately obliged to yield it to her.
On the 13th of October 1704, Colonel Henry Luttrell married Elizabeth Jones and had two sons: Robert Luttrell (died 1727), and Simon Luttrell, 1st Earl of Carhampton (1713–1787).
The notorious and rakish behaviour of Henry’s son, earned Simon the nickname ‘King of Hell’ … and he is reputed to have started the famous English cortesan Mary Nesbitt in her notable career of sex, after seducing her at a young age.
Colonel Henry Luttrell was shot, and mortally wounded, in his ‘sedan chair’ on the night of the 22nd of October 1717, in Dublin. He died in agony within hours.
Despite large rewards, his ‘murderers’ were never apprehended.
Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan
Sedan Chair of the period
Colonel Henry Luttrell’s grandson Henry Luttrell 2nd Earl of Carhampton sold Luttrellstown Castle in 1800 … which the family had owned for almost 600 years.
After Luttrellstown Castle was sold, the grave of the detested ‘Jacobite’ traitor – Colonel Henry Luttrell, senior – was opened and his skull smashed.
Erin Go Bragh !
John Churchill, Earl (later Duke) of Marlborough
The ‘Williamite’ troops, mainly English and lowland Scots, had to take each line of trenches, only to find the Irish had fallen back and were firing at them from the next line.
The ‘Williamite’ infantry attempted three assaults, only the first wave managed to reach anywhere close to the ‘Jacobite’ line.
Eventually, the final ‘Williamite’ assault was driven back with heavy losses by Irish cavalry and pursued into the bog … where many more of ‘Williamites’ were killed or drowned.
In the rout of the ‘Williamite’ infantry, the pursuing Irish manage to spike a battery of ‘Williamite’ artillery.
The ‘Williamite’ General Godert de Ginkell surrounded Limerick and bombarded it, tearing a breach in the walls of that part of Limerick known as ‘English town’.
A surprise ‘Williamite’ attack drove the Irish ‘Jacobites’ from the earthworks defending Thomond Bridge … sending these Irish infantry reeling back towards Limerick. The French defenders of the main gate of the city refused to open it for the retreating Irish, and about 800 of them were cut down by the ‘Williamite’ attackers, or were drowned in the River Shannon.
The Irish ‘Jacobites’ were now on the defensive, holding a large enclave in western Ireland … including all of the Province of Connacht, bounded by the River Shannon.
The Irish ‘Jacobites’ successful defence during the first siege of Limerick encouraged them to believe they could win the war with help from the King of France (though many of the French troops sent to Ireland with King James II were then withdrawn by the French King following James’ flight from Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne).
De Ginkell broke into the Province of Connacht, via the town of Athlone, after a bloody siege there. He then advanced on the key Jacobite strongholds of Galway and Limerick.
The critical battle at Aughrim started on the 12th of July 1691 with de Ginkel trying to assault the open flank of the ‘Jacobite’ position, using ‘Williamite’ cavalry and infantry. This attack ground to a halt after determined ‘Jacobite’ counter-attacks. The ‘Williamites’ then withdrew and dug in behind stakes driven into the ground to protect them against the Irish cavalry.
The Huguenot (Protestant French) forces committed at Aughrim found themselves in low ground exposed to ‘Jacobite’ fire, and took a great number of casualties. Contemporaneous accounts speak of the grass being slippery with blood. To this day, this area on the south flank of the battle is known locally as the ‘Bloody Hollow’.
In French exile, Patrick Sarsfield received a commission as lieutenant-general (maréchal-de-camp) from King Louis XIV. He fought with distinction in Flanders (modern Belgium), until being mortally wounded on the 19th of August 1693 while leading Irish troops at the Battle of Landen (also known as the Battle of Neerwinden).
Sarsfield’s Irish cavalry charged the ‘Williamite’ positions three times before finally routing the army of William of Orange. He was quoted at Landen, while dying of his wounds, as saying “Would that this was for Ireland.”
Following King James’ death, the battered remnants of his Irish army in exile were merged into the regiments of the elite Irish Brigade of France, which was not an ‘Irish’ unit as such, but a foreign (Irish) unit within the French army. (The famous Irish Brigade of France had been first established in France in 1689, and was made up of the first 6,000 Irish recruits that had been sent to France by the Irish ‘Jacobites’ – which they had done in return for France’s military aid during the 1689 – 1691 war in Ireland.)