After Limerick

Eleanor Hull
After Limerick

The Articles of Capitulation at Limerick were fair and just; James considered them even generous. But the Irish and French generals had it in their power to make almost any terms they pleased. William’s army, though it had taken Thomond Bridge over the Shannon and the fort which guarded it, was as far as ever from entering the city.[1]

Besides the rumours of the near approach of the French fleet to relieve the town, William’s troops, which had met in Ireland with a resolute resistance such as they had not expected, were sorely needed in Flanders to check the rapid advance of the armies of Louis XIV.

Berwick says that the generals of the Prince of Orange would have agreed to almost anything to put an end to the war. By the Military Articles liberty was given to any officers and soldiers to pass overseas to France or any other place they wished, with their families and goods; ships and money being provided for their embarkation. Prisoners of war were to be set free and the sick allowed to embark at a later date.

In consideration of the surrender of the town the garrison was to march out with military honours, retaining their horses and a portion of their guns; the garrisons of the counties of Clare, Cork, and Kerry were to have the same terms as Limerick in every respect. But once embarked for foreign countries there was to be no return.

Ginkel made it clear that any man or officer who entered the armies of France, or any other forces of King William’s enemies, could never re-enter the country on pain of death; the choice to be made was final.

The men were called upon to choose whether they would go into permanent exile or enter the army of William. Both sides did their best to persuade the disbanding army to declare for their respective masters. Ginkel, who regretted the loss of hundreds of well-seasoned troops and their absorption into the ranks of the new King’s enemies, to be later used against him, did all that he could in the way of persuasion to induce them to stay at home.

The French officers, on the other hand, promised them good positions in France and high pay “equal to what they would receive in England,” if they would adhere to the French interest. They were desirous of transporting as many full companies as they could in order to secure for themselves a good reception in France. The clergy supported them, preaching that they would best serve their own cause and that of religion by entering the armies of Louis and following King James to France, “and then a good quantity of brandy to wash it down.”[2]

With these contrary admonitions ringing in their ears the men were drawn out in divisions, fourteen thousand men by poll, on the Clare side of the Shannon, and ordered to march forward; those inclining to go to France were to march straight on, while those who had decided to stay at home or enter the army of William were to file off at a given point.

To Ginkel’s disappointment the Royal Regiment, which contained fourteen hundred of the pick of the army, marched steadily forward under their officers, while of the remaining foot part went one way and part the other. But of the large body of men who, under the influence of their comrades’ examples, had volunteered for France dozens ran away before they reached the port of embarkation at Cork; of the fourteen hundred who had promised to go one week before not five hundred arrived at the port in time for the departure of the transports.

The ships sailed but half-full. The Ulster Irish, sooner than go abroad or remain in the south, moved home to the north in throngs, driving their cattle and blocking the roads with their goods, preferring, says Story, to make the long journey into Ulster, “rather than to settle in Kerry, Clare, and Limerick, where land was plenty and cheap, among the Irish of Munster.”[3]

According to James’s account thirty thousand men passed into France to join the Scottish Jacobite troops already assembled there after the defeat at Dunbar. In most cases the wives and children of the soldiers seem to have gone with them, and Sarsfield superintended their embarkation at Cork, he himself crossing over with the last boat.

A certain number of the troops were also carried from Kerry to Brest, and here an unfortunate accident occurred, which embittered the feelings of the departing soldiers. The men were embarked first according to list, the boats returning for the officers and the families of the men. Whether the boats or the ships were overfull, or from the haste of the French officers to get the men off, some women, fearing to be left behind, clung to the boats and were dragged out to sea. Many were drowned, and the fingers of those who held tight were barbarously chopped off, so that they fell into the water. O’Kelly states that the women and families were left behind, contrary to the Articles, but it is clear that many crossed over with their husbands and fathers.

At Cork Sarsfield had room to spare, and both the English and French gazettes of the day speak of the arrival of the main body of troops in France with their wives and children.[4] James was said to be very pleased at their arrival, and he took an early opportunity of reviewing the newly landed troops; but among the French “the Irish did not find themselves so very welcome as they expected to have been.”[5]

In spite of the promises made, the rank of every officer was reduced to what it had been before the war, the temporary war rank not being taken into account, and with it the rate of pay. No proper quarters were provided for the men, who had to encamp in the open fields outside Brest, and they as well as the officers had to be content with the low pay of the country. James had good reason to feel touched that they acquiesced in an arrangement so disadvantageous to themselves “merely to please their own King and in hopes that the overplus of their just pay, amounting to 50,000 livres a month, retrenched from them, might abate the obligations of their Master to the French Court.”[6]

These men compare most favourably with the multitude of self-seeking gentry in England who, the moment they saw James in difficulties, hastened to make terms with the other side. A Williamite writer of the day speaks of them as “those unhappy gentlemen who by the loss of plentiful fortunes at home had nothing left but their swords.”[7] He comments on their “inflexible steadiness to the interest of an unfortunate and declining king, whom they looked upon as their lawful sovereign” and for whom they exposed themselves “to inexpressible hardships and perpetual dangers” rather than accept the terms offered to them by William, whom they regarded as a usurper.

They were formed into a bodyguard for James, and became part of the famous Irish Brigade, which made its valour felt on every battlefield of Europe during the next hundred years. The nucleus of this fine fighting force had been formed by the troops that had been exchanged by James for the French regiments sent over early in the war by Louis XIV, and who had gone abroad in 1689 under Viscount Mountcashel.

The commanders of the other regiments, as now reformed, were the Hon. Colonel Daniel O’Brien, soon to become Viscount Clare, the colonel of the famous “Clare’s Dragoons,” and young Arthur Dillon, son of Viscount Dillon, a dashing soldier without whose leadership the troops absolutely refused to leave Ireland.

The new contingent brought the Brigade up to 24,430 men. They wore the grey tunics and the hats turned up with the white cockade which gave rise to many a Jacobite song. There is a touch of humour in the displeasure they showed at the grey uniform; they wanted the scarlet coats of the British infantry! Nor would they be satisfied until on the review of the regiments by James at Brest he brought them the promise of the King of France that they should have red coats instead of the tunics in which they had fought at Limerick. It was only when, at Fontenoy, they were mistaken for British regiments by their own allies that they consented to a change.

Many of them were flung into the wars of Flanders and Savoy, and the watchfulness, resource, and steadfastness of the Irish Brigade at Cremona under Mahony placed it in the highest rank of valour. They had, as the French commander reported, “accomplished marvels” in the difficult campaign in Savoy and Piedmont.

Yet when Mahony was sent to Paris to report, he said nothing of the Irish troops. King Louis noticed the omission. “You have said nothing,” he observed, “of my brave Irish.” “Sire, we emulated the martial ardour of the other troops,” was their captain’s simple reply.[8]

Such were the men, brave, modest, loyal, who in an evil day for their country went as exiles out of Ireland. They were to be joined, during the succeeding years, by numbers of their fellow-countrymen who fled from the rigour of the penal laws in the reigns of William and Anne. They won abroad the fame and position that should have been theirs by right at home, but they left the country of their birth leaderless, bereft of the wisdom and moderation which might have guided popular causes in the future into sound channels of reform, instead of running into dangerous courses and underground methods.

It is hard to know whether England or Ireland suffered the greater loss through the defection of these Catholic gentlemen, the natural leaders of their people. “Cursed be the laws that deprived me of such soldiers!” exclaimed George II, when, in 1745, his regiments faced the charge of the Irish Brigade on the field of Fontenoy.

It was in Flanders, in the battle of Landen in 1693, that Sarsfield was fated to die. The village had been taken and retaken several times, and Sarsfield, Lord Lucan, had distinguished himself by his courage and intrepidity. He commanded the left wing of the French army, and just as they were pushing their way into the place their leader fell, pierced by a bullet in the breast. It was the fiercest stand-up fight, men said, until the battle of Malplaquet. “At Landen the Irish guards avenged the affront of the Boyne,” but the loss of Sarsfield made it a sad day for Ireland. To his countrymen he was, and has remained ever since, the idol and the darling of their dreams. On one side of Anglo-Norman descent, on the other the son of Anne O’More, daughter of “Rory of the Hills,” he seemed in some mysterious way to embody the hopes and sorrows of his people. His portrait shows him to have been a dreamer, a man of ideals. Whether he was a great general or whether, as James unkindly said, “he had no head,” to Irishmen he was a very perfect, gentle knight, and he died as became a gentleman.

We have hitherto considered only the Military Articles of the Capitulation of Limerick; it is necessary also to speak of the Civil Articles, of which the King remarks with justice in his Life, “Had the English kept them as religiously as such engagements ought to be observed, the world had not seen so many crying examples of ancient and noble families reduced to the last degree of indigence, only for adhering to their Prince in just defence of his right.”[9]

The inhabitants of Limerick had at first proposed their own terms of surrender. They had sent Sarsfield and Wauchop to Ginkel with seven articles, which included free liberty of worship to Catholics and one priest to each parish; civil rights as citizens, with the power to enter all employments civil and military; and the restoration of such estates as had been held by Catholics before the Revolution. They also prayed for an Act of Indemnity for all past offences. These proposals Ginkel peremptorily refused, saying that though he was a stranger to the laws of England yet he understood that what they insisted on was so far contradictory to them and dishonourable to himself that he would not grant any such terms.

As finally agreed, the Civil Articles restored “to the Roman Catholics such privileges in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy them in the reign of Charles II”; with the promise that “as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a Parliament in this kingdom, their Majesties will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such further security in that particular as may preserve them from any disturbance upon the account of their said religion.”

Full liberty to enjoy their estates, rights, titles, and privileges was granted to all the inhabitants of Limerick or any other garrison town in possession of the Irish, and to all officers and soldiers of King James now in arms in his service over all the southern counties, and all such as are under their protection in the said counties,” on taking the oath of allegiance to William and Mary. This included the inhabitants of Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Sligo, and Mayo, which are specified by name. Moreover, the right to exercise their callings, trades, and professions, whatsoever they might be, was to be recovered and held “as freely as they did use, exercise, and enjoy the same in the reign of King James II,” on taking the oath of allegiance to their present Majesties.

A special mention is made of merchants and traders beyond seas who were also to be received and restored if they returned home and submitted within eight months. All persons included in the above wide classes were to receive a general pardon on submission.

The oath demanded was a simple declaration of allegiance to the new King and Queen, unaccompanied by those Oaths of Supremacy and Abjuration, which every Catholic held to be incompatible with his religion. This important concession was made more definite by a special clause in the treaty, which said:

“The oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as submit to their Majesties’ Government shall be the oath above-said, and no other.”

In reading the Articles it is difficult to see how they could have been made wider or more liberal in the era in which they were penned. They were, indeed, to use O’Bruadair’s word, “lifegiving” to the persons they concerned.

The men who signed the Articles had a right to expect from them liberty in the quiet exercise of their religion, with the peaceable pursuit of their callings and professions and the possession of their properties; those common human rights to preserve which for their subjects Governments exist. It gave them somewhat more enlarged terms than those which had been given to Galway on its capitulation a short time before.

These included only the “private exercise of their religion to the Roman Catholic clergy, without prosecution by the penal laws, with protection of their persons and goods,” and the right to lawyers to practise their profession in peace. Though the Lords Justices who signed the Articles of Limerick were not officially authorized to agree to these precise terms, they had been directed by William III to offer “any reasonable terms.”

Moreover, they undertook “that their Majesties will ratify these Articles within the space of eight months, or sooner, and will use their utmost endeavours that the same shall be ratified and confirmed in Parliament.” With these modifications the Articles were agreed to by the still unconquered city.[10]

O’Kelly says that “the Articles of Capitulation were not so warily drawn but room was left for captious exceptions,” and in fact the clause printed on p. 172 in italics, which gave equal privileges to all protected persons in the counties as to the garrison towns, was, either through inadvertence or purposety, left out in the engrossed copy, thus excluding from the treaty all the civil inhabitants originally included in the terms, and limiting the pardon to the garrisons under arms. But it was reinserted at the demand of the signatories, who now had the additional weight of the French fleet behind them, and it was solemnly assented to in the copy signed by the King and Queen, who ratified the treaty in London three months later.