Historical Happenings for July 2020

BATTLE OF THE BOYNE

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

CAN ANYBODY TELL ME WHY, ORANGEMEN MARCH ON THE TWELFTH OF JULY?

       Battle of the Boyne, July 1, 1690

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a religious and political upheaval known as the Protestant Reformation splintered Catholic Europe. Reformers like Luther, Calvin and her father, Henry VIII, had challenged the Papacy for religious and political redistribution of wealth and power. Elizabeth died in 1603 without an heir and the House of Stuart replaced the House of Tudor when the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, took the throne as James I. Born Catholic, he was brought up Presbyterian and as King he was the head of the Anglican Church. When he died in 1625, his son Charles I took the throne and offended his Anglican, Puritan and Presbyterian subjects by marrying Henrietta Maria, a Catholic French princess. He also failed to help Protestants enough in their Thirty Years’ War against Catholics. His marriage and religious policies made him mistrusted by those who thought his views were too Catholic. As a result, by late 1648, Oliver Cromwell’s Model Army took control of England and Charles was tried, convicted, and executed in January 1649.

The monarchy was abolished and a Commonwealth established. After Cromwell’s died in 1658, his son Richard proved to be a poor leader and the public resented the strict Puritanism of his administration. In 1660, the monarchy was restored as the son of Charles I was invited to the throne as Charles II. As head of the Anglican Church, he accepted the Test Act that no one could be elected to a position of power unless they belonged to that Church. He had Cromwell posthumously convicted of treason and his body disinterred and hanged from a gallows at Tyburn. In 1670, Charles signed a treaty with French King Louis XIV to support France’s war against the Dutch. His younger brother, James, was made Duke of York and engineered the seizure of New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664 and renamed it New York in his honor. Charles’s wife, Queen Catherine, failed to produce a male heir, and by 1677 many Protestants feared his Catholic brother, James, would soon assume the throne. To appease the public, in 1677 Charles arranged for James’ daughter, Mary, to wed the Dutch Protestant William of Orange. However, Charles got the last word and angered his subjects when he converted and became a Catholic on his deathbed. His brother then became James II of England and his Catholicism was grudgingly accepted since he was 52 years old, had no sons and as King he was head of the Anglican Church. Further, his daughters, Mary and Anne, were Protestant and Mary was heir apparent so all was well. Then James’ wife gave birth to a son!

James Francis Edward Stuart was born on 10 June 1688 and everything changed; a male heir insured a Stuart succession and a Catholic dynasty. Further, James suspended the Scottish and English Parliaments when they refused to repeal the anti-Catholic Test Act. His Anglican supporters remained loyal until he prosecuted seven Anglican bishops who opposed him publicly in June 1688. They took that as an assault on their church and it led to widespread anti-Catholic riots throughout England and Scotland destroying his political authority. Several prominent English Protestants, fearful of James’ promotion of Catholic power and a Catholic succession, invited William of Orange to lead an army to England and call a new Parliament to discuss James’ legitimacy. James was sure his forces could repel such an invasion, but when his Protestant officers deserted to the enemy, James fled to France! On 12 February 1689, Parliament declared James had abdicated and offered the crown to William and Mary Stuart and William III became the first Orange king by deposing his Father-in-Law in a bloodless coup. William and Mary became co-regents of England, Scotland and Ireland.

James saw Ireland as a way to reclaim his crown. Unlike England, Ireland was predominantly Catholic and in March 1689, James landed in Ireland with a force supplied by King Louis XIV of France. William decided to assert his power and arrived in Ireland in June 1690. Amazingly, William was supported by Pope Alexander VIII because the Papacy was part of a “Grand Alliance” opposing Louis XIV’s war in Europe and since Louis supported James, the Pope supported William!! Arriving in Ireland, William intended to march south to take Dublin, but James had established a defensive line at the river Boyne 30 miles north of Dublin. William had to cross the river which was a problem, however, he had an advantage over James: his 36,000 men outnumbered James’ 23,500. The battle took place on 1 July 1690 and William defeated the Irish who retreated south. Meanwhile, James deserted his army in the field and fled to France (by now he knew the way well). He lived out his days in exile as the last Catholic King of England. He also earned a title bestowed by the army he deserted ─ Seamus a Caca!  No year in Irish history is better known than 1690. English historians refer to the Bloodless Revolution, but there was a great deal of bloodshed in Ireland until the Treaty of Limerick ended the conflict in October 1691. The treaty offered generous terms to Catholics if those who opposed William would leave Ireland forever. When the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’ saw the cream of Irish forces leave to be absorbed into the Irish Brigades of foreign armies, the Treaty was broken and Penal Laws invoked to reinforce Protestant domination throughout Irish life. And it all started with the Battle of the Boyne which the Orangemen celebrate to this day. However, there’s more to the story!

A papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 had dropped 10 days from the Julian calendar creating the Gregorian calendar followed today. Though the Orange Order has been commemorating the battle on 12 July for nearly 300 years, it actually took place on 1 July 1690 according to the calendar changed 108 years earlier. Either way, that’s not the only thing they are wrong about, is it?

SO NOW YOU SEE WHY THEY CELEBRATE, THE PROBLEM IS IT’S ON THE WRONG DATE!