Frederick Armand, Duke of Schomberg

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Schomberg, Armand Frederick, Duke of Schomberg, Marshal, styled in his time "the first captain in Europe," was born in Schonburg Castle on the Rhine, between Coblentz and Bingen, in 1618. He commenced his military career in the Swedish army, during the Thirty Years' War, for his part in which his property was confiscated by the Emperor. He next entered the Dutch army, and afterwards served France with distinction from 1650 to 1685, and was created a Marshal. In 1686, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and his consequent expulsion from France as a Protestant, he entered the Portuguese service, then that of the Elector of Brandenburg, and lastly he joined William, Prince of Orange, when about to make his expedition to England in 1688.

In April 1689 he was created a duke by William III., and in August came to Ireland with a force of from 10,000 to 20,000 men, chiefly German, French, Danish, and Dutch mercenaries. Sailing from Highlake on the 12th August 1689, the fleet reached Belfast Lough on the 13th; the disembarkation of the troops was immediately proceeded with, and before many days Belfast and the surrounding country were safe from any possible attack of the Jacobites. Carrickfergus held out for more than a week, the garrison surrendering on terms to be permitted to march out and join a division of James's army at Newry. The siege train was shipped and sent round to Carlingford, and on the 2nd September Schomberg marched his army south, the enemy burning Carlingford, Newry, and other towns on his approach. On the 7th September he encamped a mile north of Dundalk, where before many days his troops began to sicken and die in great numbers. James and Marshal Rosen marched against him with superior forces, and employed every stratagem to induce him to leave his entrenchments and risk a battle. On the 20th October Schomberg had to evacuate his camp, and retreat northwards, the dead and dying strewing the roads. He disposed the remains of his army in such of the Ulster towns as acknowledged the authority of William.

Story, a contemporary writer in William's interest, gives a deplorable picture of the straits to which Schomberg's forces were reduced. There were several engagements of minor importance during the winter. In March 1690 a reinforcement of Danish troops, under the Duke of Wittemberg, arrived at Belfast — "lusty fellows, well clothed and armed" — and in May Charlemont fort was invested. When the fort was summoned to surrender, the governor desired the messenger to "tell Schomberg from Teague O'Regan, that he's an old knave, and by St. Patrick he shall not have the town at all." Colonel MacMahon with 400 men attempted to throw a supply of provisions and ammunition into the place, but O'Regan would not let them in, saying he had enough already. MacMahon was unable to fight his way back, and had to take up a miserably exposed position on the counterscarp, until the place surrendered on the 12th May, when the Irish marched out with all the honours of war, and proceeded to Dundalk.

When William III. landed at Carrickfergus in June, Schomberg met him, and surrendered the supreme command. At the council of war, held the night of 30th June, before the battle of the Boyne, Schomberg opposed the plan of crossing the river. It was at his suggestion that a detachment was sent round by the bridge of Slane. He commanded the horse, on the right wing, on the morning of the battle, and was one of the first to fall. Story says: "The Irish troopers as they rid by, struck at him with their swords; and some say that our own men firing too hastily, when the Duke was before them, shot him themselves; however it was, his mortal wound was through his neck, and he had one or two cuts in the head besides. He fell down, and did not speak one word... We never knew the value of him till we really lost him, which often falls out in such cases; and since it was in our quarrel that he lost his life, we cannot too much honour his memory, which will make a considerable figure in history whilst the world lasts. He was certainly a man of the best education in the world, and knew men and things beyond most of his time, being courteous and civil to everybody, and yet had something always that looked so great in him, that he commanded respect from men of all qualities and stations. Nor did we know any fault that he had, except we might be jealous he sometimes was too obliging to the French. As to his person, he was of a middle stature, well proportioned, fair complexioned, a very sound hardy man of his age, and sate an horse the best of any man; he loved constantly to be neat in his clothes, and in his conversation he was always pleasant."

His body was brought to Dublin, and interred in St. Patrick's Cathedral, where a monument to his memory was subsequently raised by Dean Swift.

Sources

175. Ireland, History of: Samuel Smiles, M.D. (the Invasion to 1829). London, 1844.

223. Macaulay, Lord: History of England, from the Accession of James II. [to 1702]. 5 vols. London, 1849-'61.

318. Story, George, Wars of Ireland, 1689-'92. 2 parts. London, 1693.

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