The Avondhu - By The Fireside


- Seán Ó Murchú

Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, a Protestant, had been married to Princess Henrietta Maria of France, who was a Catholic. Following Charles’ execution in 1649 the Commonweal­th of England was establishe­d and lasted until 1660.

This period was notorious for the Cromwellia­n War in Ireland. Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and two years later the monarchy was restored with Charles II - the eldest son of Charles I - taking the throne. Charles II, after his father’s execution, had retained the title King of Scotland. Charles II died unexpected­ly in 1685, having been received into the Catholic Church on his death-bed. As he had no legitimate children, he was succeeded by his brother James, a Catholic, who became King of England and Ireland as James II and of Scotland as James VII.

Mary, the sister of Charles and James, married William II Prince of Orange. Their only child was William III of Orange. Orange was a Dutch Principali­ty in the South East of France. To add further confusion, James’ daughter, another Mary and a Protestant, married William III.

When James succeeded to the throne England was very anti-Catholic. However James’ aim was to give Catholics the same rights as Protestant­s. He replaced most of the Protestant judges with Catholics and the army became predominat­ely Catholic.

James’ daughter, Mary and her younger sister, Anne, had been raised as Protestant­s at the wishes of their uncle, King Charles II. Charles lacked legitimate children, making Mary second in the line of succession. Following Charles’ death in 1685 when James took the throne, Mary became heir presumptiv­e. As heir presumptiv­e, she was entitled to inherit the throne, but she could be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent or of a new heir presumptiv­e with a better claim.

Mary, at 15 years of age, in 1677 married her Protestant first cousin, the twenty-seven year old William III of Orange. Many Protestant­s hailed William as a champion of their faith.

James’s reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in England, who feared a revival of Catholicis­m. To add insult to injury in June, Mary of Modena, James’ second wife gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stuart, who displaced William’s Protestant wife, Mary, to become first in the line of succession and raised the prospect of an ongoing Catholic monarchy.

In late 1687, in order to gain favour with the English Protestant­s, William wrote an open letter to the English people disapprovi­ng of James’s pro-Roman Catholic policy of religious toleration. Many English politician­s, seeing William as a friend, and having maintained secret contacts with him for years, urged him to invade England.

Eventually, in 1688 William III of Orange invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution. William’s reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him and his wife to take power. William and Mary reigned as joint sovereigns until Mary’s death in 1694. On William’s death in 1702, Mary’s sister, Anne, took the throne and reigned as Queen of England (which included Wales), Scotland and Ireland until the Act of Union of 1707 united England and Scotland. From then on Anne was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until she died in August 1714.

James, having first attempted to resist William, tried to negotiate with him, but secretly attempted to flee in mid-December. He was discovered and brought back to London but was allowed to leave for France in a second escape attempt on 23 December, because William didn’t want to make him a martyr for the Roman Catholic cause. It was in William’s interest for James to be perceived as having left the country of his own accord, rather than having been forced to fleeing.

In Ireland Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, who was in charge of the army, rallied support for James. In fact all of Ireland, except the north east, backed James. James’ supporters, called Jacobites (from Jacobus, the Latin form of James), were mainly interested in religious freedom and the restoratio­n of their lands. In 1689 they laid siege to Derry which was finally relieved after 105 days. This is commemorat­ed in Derry on the second Saturday of August by the Apprentice Boys Parade.

With the assistance of French troops, James landed in Ireland in March 1689 and summoned a Parliament, declared that James remained King and passed various acts that granted religious freedom to all Catholics and Protestant­s in Ireland; it repealed the Act of Settlement which had stated, among other things, that Catholics or those married to Catholics could not succeed to the throne. It also declared that the English Parliament could not legislate for Ireland.

On 14 June, 1690 William landed in Carrickfer­gus with an army mainly made up of French Huguenots, Germans, Danes and Dutch, and marched to Dublin.

James left Dublin on 16th June and joined his army which had set up camp on the southern bank of the Boyne while William was establishe­d on the opposite bank. It is estimated that James’ army had around 25,000 badly trained and badly armed troops and William had roughly 34,000 experience­d soldiers provided with excellent weapons. On 11 July both armies faced each other and engaged in battle. The conflict, which is now known as the Battle of the Boyne, resulted in around 2,000 casualties, lasted only a few hours and resulted in the defeat of the Irish. James, the last Catholic monarch of Britain and Ireland, having deserted his Irish supporters, fled to France never to return to any of his former kingdoms.

The Jacobites re-organised and went west to hold the line of the Shannon. By August some 23,500 were assembled at Limerick. Perhaps, the most famous among the leaders was Patrick Sarsfield. William reached Limerick on 18th August and laid siege to the city. However, because of heavy resistance by the Irish, he abandoned the siege on September 9th.

This was followed by the loss to the Williamite­s of Cork and Kinsale in late 1690. In June 1691, the Jacobites were defeated in the Siege of Athlone and in July, they lost the battle of Aughrim.

Only Limerick and Galway remained in possession of the Jacobites. Galway surrendere­d to General Ginkell. Tyrconnel, one of the Irish leaders, died in Limerick in August. So, it seemed that misfortune after misfortune was following the Jacobites. The Wiliamites under General Ginkell laid siege to Limerick on September 4th which ended with talks for settlement on October 3rd. After some to-ing and froing, the Treaty of Limerick was signed on 13th October, 1691.

The Articles of the Treaty were of two kinds: Military and Civil. The Military ones gave members of the Jacobite army the choice to disband, join the Williamite army or join a continenta­l army, taking with them family and personal property. The thirteen Civil articles gave Catholics the same religious freedom they enjoyed under Charles II. They had the right to enjoy their estates, property and privileges and exercise their callings and profession­s provided they took the Oath of Allegiance; they had ‘liberty to ride with a sword and a case of pistols, if they think fit, and keep a gun in their houses, for the defence of the same or for fowling.’

The war in Ireland between the armies of James and William are known as the Jacobite Wars or the Williamite Wars. In Irish, they are known as Cogadh an Dá Rí.

With the signing of the Treaty of Limerick everything looked fine, but dark days were ahead. Irish people now faced a century of religious persecutio­n. In spite of the conditions of the Treaty, the Penal Days were about to begin.

When the Irish Parliament assembled in Dublin in 1692 many Catholics attended to take their seats. However, the oath presented to them denied spiritual jurisdicti­on of any foreign ruler, which would include the Pope, so it couldn’t be taken by any Catholic. This was in blatant contradict­ion of one of the terms of the Limerick Treaty. According to the oath prescribed in the Treaty, the person taking it promised to be loyal only to King William and Queen Mary. An article which guaranteed the return of the estates and property of Catholics was ignored. Eventually, around half of the terms of the Treaty were broken, thus earning it the title of ‘the broken Treaty of Limerick’.

The following are examples of some of the restrictio­ns:

Catholics were excluded from most public offices;

Catholics and Protestant­s couldn’t intermarry;

Catholics were barred from owning firearms or serving in the armed forces;

Catholics couldn’t be members of either the Parliament of Ireland or of the Parliament of England;

Catholics were excluded from voting and from the legal profession­s, the civil service and the judiciary;

Catholic children couldn’t be sent abroad for education;

Catholics couldn’t enter Trinity College Dublin;

The Laws of Inheritanc­e were altered, so that a son or daughter who adopted the Protestant religion would become the sole heir/heiress to the property;

A person converting from Protestant­ism to Roman Catholicis­m would forfeit all property to the monarch and could be imprisoned;

Catholics were banned from buying land or leasing land for more than 31 years;

Catholics could not own a horse valued at over £5. (The famous example of this is the story of Art Ó Laoghaire as recounted by his wife Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill in her famous lament Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. Art was killed in 1773 because he refused to sell his horse for £5.0.0. to Abraham Morris, the High Sheriff);

Catholic bishops were banished completely from the country, while parish priests had to be ‘registered’;

Catholics were forbidden to have schools of their own or to have their children educated by Catholic teachers;

And, there was a bounty for informing on a priest.



The first of these Penal Laws had been introduced by the Irish Parliament in 1695 and the final one in 1759.

Opinion is divided as to whether the well-known song/poem ‘An raibh tú ag an gCarraig?’ refers to a Mass rock or whether it is a love song. Some claim that the phrase ‘Nó a bhfaca tú mo Vailintín nó an bhfuil sí á cloí mar atáim’ is code for the Church and that An Carraig refers to a Mass site. Others say it is a reference to a valentine/lover and that An Carraig is a place name.

Historians disagree on how rigorously these shameful, Penal restrictio­ns were enforced. The consensus view is that enforcemen­t depended on the attitudes of local magistrate­s, some of whom were rigorous, others more liberal.

While the Penal Laws reduced most Catholics to dire poverty, their adherence to their faith was firm and unwavering. A small number of bishops managed to survive in disguise. Very few priests conformed to the Anglican Church. Priest hunters could earn a reward of £10 - £20 for a priest’s head, but were pariahs in their communitie­s.

 ?? ?? Snap shot taken of ‘Carraig an Aifrinn’ on the occasion of a school excursion, June 29th 1937.
Snap shot taken of ‘Carraig an Aifrinn’ on the occasion of a school excursion, June 29th 1937.

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