There was not, however, a similar constitutional crisis in Ireland where Tyrconnell still held the country firmly for King James. Even in Ulster the Presbyterians “did not at once appear against the king’s government”. According to J.M. Barkley, “What settled the issue was Tyrconnell’s ‘sparing neither age nor sex, putting all to the sword without mercy’ (to use the words of a survivor) following the Break of Dromore.”
Meanwhile the regiment of Lord Mountjoy, which was one of the few essentially Protestant ones left, was ordered to leave Londonderry, which was to be garrisoned by the Catholic MacDonnells under Lord Antrim. The citizens, fearing a repetition of the events of 1641, wanted to refuse the troops entry. However, as Robert Kee points out: “Other voices, shocked, declared that it would be unthinkable to try and keep royal troops out of a royal garrison. The Protestant Bishop of Londonderry and other Protestant establishment figures were among the latter, although the Presbyterians with their naturally independent attitude to authority were less troubled by such scruples. The official decision, however, had been taken to admit the troops in the normal way, when suddenly thirteen apprentice boys of the city took matters into their own hands, seized the keys of the gates of Londonderry and on 7th December 1688 slammed them firmly in the face of lord Antrim’s Redshanks — King James’s troops.”
Enniskillen followed suit, and throughout Ulster, defence associations were set up and councils of war elected. On 13 February 1689 William and Mary (James II’s Protestant daughter) were proclaimed King and Queen of England. On 12 March James II landed at Kinsale from France and marched north to destroy the latest affront to his authority. On 18 April he commenced the Siege of Londonderry, which lasted a total of 105 days, the longest in British history. During that time one third of the city’s 30,000 inhabitants died of injuries, famine and disease. At last, on 28 July, Derry was relieved by the British ship Mountjoy and two other vessels. Two aspects of the siege were to lodge deep within the Protestant subconscious: firstly, a ‘No Surrender!’ determination to stand firm against any perceived threats to their heritage; secondly, “an awareness that however much the northern Protestant may need British help he is also on his own” , a feeling no doubt given weight by the fact that the British ships which finally lifted the siege had been nearby right from the beginning, but hadn’t been able to summon up the courage to act.
Finally, on 14 June, 1690, King William himself landed at Carrickfergus and bonfires were lit on all the hills of Antrim and Down. Our own Prince William has now been created Baron Carrickfergus, a Norman town named after Fergus of Dalriada. At Loughbrickland in County Down William reviewed an army composed of Protestants from all over Europe — Dutch, Danes, French, Germans, English, Scots, Irish, Swiss, Italians, Norwegians and Poles. His army also included an elite unit, the Dutch Blue Guards, who were mainly Roman Catholics from Brabant, fiercely loyal to William.The European dimension was to be completed by James’s Jacobite force of Irish, French, English, Germans and Dutch. On 1 July (commemorated on 12 July but actually 11 July in modern calendars and celebrated as such on Bonfire night) the two armies met at the River Boyne, where William defeated James’s troops. When news reached Pope Alexander VIII, who was as delighted as his predecessor at what was in effect a French defeat, he ordered torchlight processions in Rome in celebration, and Te Deums were sung in the Catholic cathedrals of Austria and Spain.
To be continued