British in Ireland, 1688-1691. Williamite Wars

Following James II being overthrown in the Glorious Revolution, he sought refuge in Ireland. In Ireland James II had more support. His Catholicism saw many sympathise with him. This led to conflict between the ruling English protestants and the Catholic majority in Ireland. The British in Ireland at the time saw James’ presence there as a threat. It was a base from which he could launch counter revolution. As the Irish support for James did not dwindle, William of Orange decided to crush opposition. This led to English and Irish forces engaging with Irish supporters of James in the Williamite Wars.

British Isles in 1688, prior to the British in Ireland launching the Williamite wars

Following the Glorious Revolution James II had fled to Ireland. Here he retained support from a majority. The Anglican Tory elite in England were wary of this. James had attempted to promote Catholics within the English Parliament, being in Ireland could only mean an intention to use force to try and reclaim the throne.

In Europe James II had a powerful ally in Louis IX of France. Louis was promoting schemes to undermine protestantism, to the extent that even the Pope was critical of how far he was going to protect Catholicism. Louis IX persuaded James to travel to Ireland to lead a rebellion against the Glorious Revolution. A parliament was called in Dublin upon his return. Here, the Catholic nobility attained Williamites and overturned the 1653 Settlement.

This was a major challenge from the Irish to William. It was met by a British response of force. His supporters in and around Dublin were relieved and then in 1690 William himself arrived in Ireland to lead the war against James’ supporters. The war in Ireland ended with the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. A wider war that began at the same time against the French was concluded in 1697.

William’s victory was largely secured through defeating the Jacobites at the Battle of the Boyne. This victory led to James fleeing to France. However the initial peace terms that were offered by William at Finglas were severe and the Jacobites chose to fight on. A Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie was followed by a success at the first siege of Limerick. Williamite forces then undertook a second siege of Limerick during which the Irish defenders overthrew their French commanders to open up peace talks. This resulted in the Treaty of Limerick which brought the Williamite Wars to a close.

William had secured Ireland for his crown. James II lived in exile in France. His presence there led to it becoming a centre for opposition to William and Mary’s rule but for the time being at least it resulted in no major uprisings, though the Jacobites did rebel again later.

In Ireland the victory of the Williamites resulted in the dominance of protestant politicians for the next hundred or so years. On the continent the war in Ireland had brought England into an alliance against France but at a great cost. Louis IX had intended to destablise Britain politically for his own ends.

The political consequences of the Williamite Wars were the increased significance of Ireland within the British context. It led to the introduction of anti-Catholic legislation across the three kingdoms (it also restricted Dissenters). These shaped an Anglican political outlook for the coming centuries.

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