- The culture, history and people of Ireland and the Irish

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From the accession of King James till his final flight from Ireland, in July, 1690, there elapsed an interval of five years and five months; a period fraught with consequences of the highest interest to this history. The new King was, on his accession, in his fifty-second year; he had served, as Duke of York, with credit both by land and sea, was an avowed Catholic, and married to a Catholic princess, the beautiful and unfortunate Mary of Modena.

Within a month from the proclamation of the King, Ormond quitted the government for the last time, leaving Primate Boyle, and Lord Granard, as Justices. In January, 1686, Lord Clarendon, son of the historian, assumed the government, in which he continued, till the 16th of March, 1687. The day following the national anniversary, Colonel Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, a Catholic, and the former agent for the Catholics, was installed as Lord Deputy. Other events, connecting these with each other, had filled with astonishment and apprehension the ascendancy party.

James proceeded openly with what he hoped to make a counter-reformation of England, and to accomplish which he relied on France on the one hand, and Ireland on the other. In both cases he alarmed the fears and wounded the pride of England; but when he proceeded from one illegality to another, when he began to exercise a dispensing power above the laws--to instruct the judges, to menace the parliament, and imprison the bishops--the nobility, the commons, and the army gradually combined against him, and at last invited over the Prince of Orange, as the most capable vindicator of their outraged constitution.

The headlong King had a representative equally rash, in Tyrconnell. He was a man old enough to remember well the uprising of 1641, had lived in intimacy with James as Duke of York, was personally brave, well skilled in intrigue, but vain, loud-spoken, confident, and incapable of a high command in military affairs. The colonelcy of an Irish regiment, the earldom of Tyrconnell, and a seat in the secret council or cabinet of the King, were honours conferred on him during the year of James's accession. When Clarendon was named Lord-Lieutenant at the beginning of 1686, Tyrconnell was sent over with him as Lieutenant-General of the army. At his instigation, a proclamation was issued, that "all classes" of his Majesty's subjects might be allowed to serve in the army; and another, that all arms hitherto given out should be deposited, for greater security, at one of the King's stores provided for the purpose in each town or county. Thus that exclusively Protestant militia, which for twenty years had executed the Act of Settlement and the Act of Uniformity in every quarter of the kingdom, found themselves suddenly disarmed, and a new Catholic army rising on their ruins. The numbers disbanded are nowhere stated; they probably amounted to 10,000 or 15,000 men and very naturally they became warm partisans of the Williamite revolution. The recriminations which arose between the new and the old militia were not confined to the nicknames, Whig and Tory, or to the bandying of sarcasms on each others' origin; swords were not unfrequently drawn, and muskets discharged, even in the streets of Dublin, under the very walls of the Castle.

Through Tyrconnell's influence, a similar revolution had been wrought in the exclusive character of the courts of justice, and the corporations of towns, to that which remodelled the militia. Rice, Daly, and Nugent, were elevated to the bench during Lord Clarendon's time; the Corporation of Dublin having refused to surrender their exclusive charter, were summarily rejected by a quo warranto, issued in the exchequer; other towns were similarly treated, or induced to make surrender, and a new series of charters at once granted by James, entitling Catholics to the freedom of the boroughs, and the highest municipal offices. And now, for the first time in that generation, Catholic mayors and sheriffs, escorted by Catholic troops as guards of honour, were seen marching in open day to their own places of worship, to the dismay and astonishment of the ascendancy party. Not that all Protestants were excluded either from town councils, the militia, or the bench, but those only were elected or appointed who concurred in the new arrangements, and were, therefore, pretty certain to forfeit the confidence of their co-religionists in proportion as they deserved that of the Deputy. Topham and Coghill, Masters in Chancery, were deprived of their offices, and the Protestant Chancellor was arbitrarily removed to make way for Baron Rice, a Catholic. The exclusive character of Trinity College was next assailed, and though James did not venture to revoke the charter of Elizabeth, establishing communion with the Church of England as the test of fellowship, the internal administration was in several particulars interfered with, its plate was seized in the King's name under plea of being public property, and the annual parliamentary grant of 388 pounds was discontinued. These arbitrary acts filled the more judicious Catholics with apprehension, but gained the loud applause of the unreasoning multitude. Dr. Macguire, the successor of the martyred Plunkett, who felt in Ulster the rising tide of resistance, was among the signers of a memorial to the King, dutifully remonstrating against the violent proceedings of his Deputy. From Rome also, disapprobation was more than once expressed, but all without avail; neither James nor Talbot could be brought to reason. The Protestants of the eastern and southern towns and counties who could contrive to quit their homes, did so; hundreds fled to Holland to return in the ranks of the Prince of Orange; thousands fled to England, bringing with them their tale of oppression, embellished with all the bitter exaggeration of exiles; ten thousand removed from Leinster into Ulster, soon to recross the Boyne, under very different auspices. Very soon a close correspondence was established between the fugitives in Holland, England, and Ulster, and a powerful lever was thus placed in the hands of the Prince of Orange, to work the downfall of his uncle and father-in-law. But the best allies of William were, after all, the folly and fatuity of James. The importation of Irish troops, by entire battalions, gave the last and sorest wound to the national pride of England, and still further exasperated the hatred and contempt which his majesty's English regiments had begun to feel for their royal master.

Tyrconnell, during the eventful summer months when the revolution was ripening both in Holland and England, had taken, unknown even to James, a step of the gravest importance. To him the first intelligence of the preparations of William were carried by a ship from Amsterdam, and by him they were communicated to the infatuated King, who had laughed at them as too absurd for serious consideration. But the Irish ruler, fully believing his informants, and never deficient in audacity, had at once entered into a secret treaty with Louis XIV. to put Ireland under the protection of France, in the event of the Prince of Orange succeeding to the British throne. No proposition could more entirely suit the exigencies of Louis, of whom William was by far the ablest and most relentless enemy. The correspondence which has come to light in recent times, shows the importance which he attached to Tyrconnell's proposition--an importance still further enhanced by the direct but unsuccessful overture made to the earl by William himself, on landing in England, and before embarking in the actual invasion of Ireland.

William Henry, Prince of Orange, now about to enter on the scene, was in 1688 in the thirty-seventh year of his age. Fearless of danger, patient, silent, impervious to his enemies, rather a soldier than a statesman, indifferent in religion, and personally adverse to persecution for conscience' sake, his great and almost his only public passion was the humiliation of France through the instrumentality of a European coalition. As an anti-Gallican, as the representative of the most illustrious Protestant family in Europe, as allied by blood and marriage to their kings, he was a very fit and proper chief for the English revolutionists; but for the two former of these reasons he was just as naturally antipathetic to the Catholic and Celtic majority of the Irish. His designs had been long gradually maturing, when James's incredible imprudence hastened his movements. Twenty-four ships of war were assembled at Helvoetsluys; 7,000 sailors were put on board; all the veterans of the Netherlands were encamped at Nimeguen, where 6,000 recruits were added to their numbers. On the 5th of November, the anniversary of the gunpowder plot, "the Deliverer," as he was fondly called in England, landed at Torbay; on the 25th of December, James, deserted by his nobles, his army, and even his own unnatural children, arrived, a fugitive and a suppliant, at the court of France.

A few Irish incidents of this critical moment deserve mention. The mania against everything Irish took in England forms the most ludicrous and absurd. Wharton's doggerel refrain of Lillibullero, was heard in every circle outside the court; all London, lighted with torches, and marshalled under arms, awaited during the memorable "Irish night" the advent of the terrible and detested regiments brought over by Tyrconnell; some companies of these troops quartered in the country were fallen upon by ten times their numbers, and cut to pieces. Others, fighting and inquiring their way, forced a passage to Chester or Bristol, and obtained a passage home. They passed at sea, or encountered on the landing-places, multitudes of the Protestant Irish, men, women and children, flying in exactly the opposite direction. Tyrconnell was known to meditate the repeal of the Act of Settlement; the general rumour of a Protestant massacre fixed for the 9th of December, originated no one knew how, was spread about no one knew by whom. In vain the Lord Deputy tried to stay the panic--his assurance of protection, and the still better evidence of their own experience, which proved the Irish Catholics incapable of such a project, could not allay their terrors. They rushed into England by every port, and inflamed still more the hostility which already prevailed against King James.

In Ulster, David Cairnes of Knockmany, the Rev. John Kelso of Enniskillen, a Presbyterian, and Rev. George Walker of Donaghmore, an Anglican minister, were active instruments of the Prince of Orange. On the 7th of December the gates of Derry were shut by "the youthhood" against the Earl of Antrim and his Highlanders. Enniskillen was seized by a similar impulse of the popular will, and an association was quickly formed throughout Ulster in imitation of the English association which had invited over William, under the auspices of Lord Blaney, Sir Arthur Rawdon, Sir Clotworthy Skeffington, and others, "for the maintenance of the Protestant religion and the dependency of Ireland upon England." By these associates, Sligo, Coleraine, and the fort of Culmore, at the mouth of the Foyle, were seized for King William; while the Town Council of Derry, in order to gain time, despatched one ambassador with one set of instructions to Tyrconnell, and another, with a very different set, to "the Committee for Irish Affairs," which sat at Whitehall, under the presidency of the Earl of Shrewsbury.

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