I have greatly enjoyed reading “Kingdom Overthrown” by Gerard Fitzgibbon, published by New Island in 2015. Gerard Fitzgibbon, a history graduate, worked as a reporter with the Limerick Leader. He writes history in a lively way, with colourful portraits of the main characters, and of the places in which they fought and died.
The war in Ireland between Jacobites and Williamites was just a small part of a wider European war between the allies of King Louis XIV of France, who included the Irish Jabobites, and a large multi denominational coalition of European powers who wanted to curb French power.
France wanted to expand its territory along the Rhine so as to make its territory more defensible. Louis XIV launched the war by crossing the Rhine to besiege Philippsburg to this end in September 1688.
This upset the Holy Roman Emperor and led to the formation of anti French alliance (the League of Augsburg) which included the Emperor himself as well William of Orange but also the Pope, and the Kings of Spain, Sweden and Savoy.
In addition to Ireland, the war was waged at sea, in modern day Belgium, in the Rhineland, Catalonia, and there were engagements between the French and the English as far away as New York, New England and the Caribbean. As well as the Irish campaign on behalf of King James, there was a Jacobite rising in Scotland, aided by some troops from Ireland.
As long as the Catholic King, James II was on the throne in England, the British Isles might have remained neutral in the conflict between Louis XIV and his enemies. But when James was deposed by William of Orange, Louis regarded this as an act of war against himself.
Without the financial and military support of France, James II, and his viceroy in Ireland the Duke of Tyrconnell, would not have been able to sustain their campaign in Ireland from 1688 to 1691.
Religious affiliation was a determining factor in the war in Ireland, with relatively few Protestants supporting James, and even fewer Catholics supporting William. But across Europe, many of the powers who opposed France were Catholic.
This suggests that territorial ambition was an even stronger force that religious affiliation.
In Ireland too, the war was about who would own the land….the families who had had it in the past, and remained loyal to the old Dynasty, or the newly arrived settlers, who had arrived with the Ulster Plantation and the Cromwellian confiscations, and put their money on the usurper, William of Orange.
The events of 1688-1691 have shaped the way Ireland is today.
The fault lines on 1690 are there still in Ireland, and will be accentuated by Brexit.
In contrast, the fault line between France and its eastern neighbours, which so preoccupied Louis XIV, has been dissolved in the European Union.