Wednesday, February 15, 2006


For the Williamite Wars in Ireland, see this brilliant BBC website. Follow the links at the bottom of the page.

Ireland presented a much graver threat. In the wake of James’s flight, Tyrconnell mobilized Irish Catholics and by March 1689 controlled most of Ireland except Ulster. By April only Derry and Enniskillen stood out against the Jacobites. With the encouragement and financial support of Louis XIV, James landed at Kinsale on 12 March with about 3,000 French reinforcements to assist Tyrconnell. But this proved more difficult than he had anticipated and in April he was forced to besiege Londonderry after being denied entry to the city when thirteen apprentice boys shut the gates in his face. The city was finally relieved (after 105 days) on 31 July 1690 when William’s ships broke through to relieve the city. The siege had more symbolic than military importance. At Enniskillen the Protestants were able to go on the offensive and on the day the siege of Derry was lifted the Williamites defeated the Jacobites at Enniskillen and Newtownbutler.

On 13 August 1689 the 70 year old veteran Marshall Schomberg landed unopposed near Bangor at the head of 10,000 troops which included Huguenots and Dutch infantry. He quickly took Carrickfergus and reached Newry in September. But Tyrconnell raised a new Jacobite army and reached Dundalk before the over-cautious Schomberg. Bogged down there, nearly 2000 Williamites died of fever. Both sides then took to their winter quarters. But James had lost the initiative – he showed poor powers of leadership(surprise, surprise!) and his army was disorganized.

At the end of 1689 William decided that he needed to intervene personally. But he was held back by difficulties with Parliament over funding and a Regency Bill to put the administration in Mary’s hands during his absence, and was not able to sail until June 1690. On 14 June 1690 he arrived at Carrickfergus with 15,000 troops, nearly half of them hired from Denmark. By the end of the month he had assembled a combined Protestant army of 36,000 (James’s army comprised 25,000 and was similarly international, and comprised French and Irish) , 40 pieces of artillery and 1,000 horses. On 1 July (12 July NS) William met James at the Battle of the Boyne. Though Schomberg was killed, the Jacobites were forced to retreat westwards. Casualties were slight by the standards of contemporary warfare and the Jacobites retreated in good order.

What made the defeat so decisive was James’s reaction. He deserted the army, made rapidly for Dublin and left for France from Kinsale on 4 July. But Jacobite resistance continued for a year, under Patrick Sarsfield, who held out at Limerick. William left Ireland in early September, but Marlborough (now an earl) arrived with 5,000 troops and soon captured Cork and Kinsale, the main ports used by France to supply the Jaobites. On 3 October the Treaty of Limerick was signed. By its terms not only the French but some 12,000-15,000 Irish soldiers left for France, the ‘Wild Geese’.

The Penal Laws
In spite of the relatively generous provisions of the treaty, the long-term outcome of the Williamite war of 1689-91was to strengthen the Protestant ascendancy through a series of penal laws. Catholics were oppressed by a series of penal laws designed to bar them from the professions and deprive them of land.
1. A statute of 1697 criminalized any attempt to perform a marriage between a Protestant woman with an estate of £500 or more and any man who had not obtained legal certification that he was a Protestant.
2. By an Act of 1704 Roman Catholic landowners who possessed fee simples at common law had these fee simples turned into estates which could not descend according to the laws of primogeniture; instead at the death of such an owner his estate was to descend according to the rules of gavelkind. But should the eldest son conform to the Church of Ireland, then he could take the entire estate by primogeniture. Moreover Roman Catholics could not acquire land from Protestant by purchase or marriage. Nor could a Catholic purchase any interest in land greater than a term of 31 years. The land confiscation articles were rigorously applied, reducing Catholic owned land to 14% of the whole by 1714.

Presbyterians were also disadvantaged, though to a lesser degree.