Battle of the Boyne explained: What was Battle of the Boyne, why is it important?


Each year, the Battle of the Boyne is commemorated by unionist and protestant communities in Northern Ireland. The day is a bank holiday, and sees Orangemen walking the streets for the traditional parade. Read on for everything you need to know about this historic date.

What was the Battle of the Boyne?

The Battle of the Boyne began on July 1, 1690 across the River Boyne close to the town of Drogheda in the Kingdom of Ireland, which is the modern-day Republic of Ireland.

The battle took place between William of Orange and his uncle, James II.

William of Orange was a Dutch protestant who had recently been jointly crowned monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland during the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

His uncle, James II, was a catholic who has lost his throne to his nephew the previous year after Protestant nobles encouraged William to seize it amid gets James sought to form a catholic royal dynasty.

After William was crowned, James – what was also William’s father-in-law – escaped to exile in France.

In France, at that time the greatest military power in Europe, catholic King Louis XIV supplied James with troops to head back to battle the protestant rule.

In 1689, James landed back in Ireland in the hope of regaining the English crown.

A predominantly catholic Ireland was happy to back him, but some prominent Catholics were not.

The Pope favoured William, despite being a protestant, as he was against Louis’s warmongering in Europe.

On June 14, William marched his forces – the largest Ireland had seen at that time, with more than 1,000 horses – south to James’s stronghold near Dublin.

The ensuing battle at the River Boyne has come to be remembered as the final time two crowned kings of England, Scotland and Ireland met in battle.

William grazed his shoulder by a bullet early on, but as a veteran military leader, he had the strength of experience on his side.

By contrast, James was approaching sixty with his best years behind him, and after around four hours he gave the order to retreat.

William marched to Dublin in victory, and James returned to exile in France.

Why is it so important?

The battle marked a major turning point in protestant history.

It put an end to catholic hopes of recovering property that had been confiscated from Irish landowners over the years since Oliver Cromwell’s involvement in Ireland.

For protestants in Ulster, the victory ensured the survival of the protestant, English-speaking areas.

The victory is still celebrated every July 12 in Northern Ireland by the Orange Order, named after William of Orange.


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