William III. of Orange

William III. (of Orange), King of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and Stadtholder of Holland, was born at the Hague, 4th November 1650. He was the posthumous son of William II., Stadtholder of Holland; his mother, Mary, was daughter of Charles I. of England.

Excluded from the succession during his youth, partly through the influence of Cromwell, he was chosen Stadtholder in 1672.

On 4th November 1677, he married Mary, daughter of the Duke of York, afterwards James II.

On 30th June 1688 he received an invitation from English politicians, to intervene for the restoration of national rights and liberties, and on the 5th of November landed at Torbay with an English and Dutch force. He was received with enthusiasm, and James, after entering into negotiations with him, fled to France in December.

A convention was immediately summoned, and, on the 13th of February 1688–’9, William and Mary were proclaimed joint sovereigns of England. They were crowned on the 11th April, and on the same day were proclaimed King and Queen by the estates of Scotland.

While the revolution in Great Britain was thus accomplished almost without bloodshed, the greater part of Ireland remained loyal to James. The Catholic Irish were in the ascendant everywhere except at Londonderry, Enniskillen, and a few unimportant places, chiefly in Ulster.

James landed at Kinsale in the month of March 1688–’9, and held a Parliament in Dublin in May.

Where the Protestants resisted at all, they were everywhere on the defensive.

Londonderry, one of the few remaining strongholds in English hands, was besieged from 18th April to 30th July, when the place was relieved by a naval force from England.

About two weeks later Duke Schomberg, with some 16,000 men, chiefly foreign mercenaries, arrived in Belfast Lough; but, though he gained some successes, he was quite unable to cope with James’s army, and was obliged to entrench himself near Dundalk.

Reinforcements were sent in March 1690, and, on the 11th June, William himself sailed from Highlake, near Chester, with more troops, and landed at Carrickfergus on the 14th, where he was met by Schomberg, who resigned the chief command into his hands.

The King’s united forces numbered about 36,000 men—English, Irish, French, Dutch, and Brandenburgers. He had a military chest of £200,000, and was amply provided with artillery and munitions of war.

His principal generals were: Duke Schomberg, Count de Zolmes, Count Schomberg, the Earl of Oxford, General de Ginkell, Lieutenant-General Douglass, Sgravenmoer, Lanier, Kirk, La Forest, Tettau, Sidney, and Nassau.

On the 19th June, at Belfast, then a small town of some three hundred houses, he issued a proclamation forbidding plunder or violence by those under his command, and declaring the chief intention and design of his expedition to be “to reduce our kingdom of Ireland to such a state that all who behave themselves as becomes dutiful and loyal subjects may enjoy their liberties and possessions under a just and equal government.”

At Hillsborough, on 19th June, he issued a warrant granting a pension of £1,200 a year to the Presbyterian ministers of the north of Ireland, “wherein,” said Harris, “he takes notice of their loyalty and good affections, the losses they had sustained, and their constant labour to unite the hearts of others to zeal and loyalty toward him.” (This was the nucleus of the Regium Donum, gradually increased to £40,000 per annum, and extinguished in our time by the payment of a capital sum under the Church Act.)

The Enniskillen and Londonderry regiments were received into the regular army, upon the same footing as the other troops.

It was known that James had marched north at the head of a large force, and the country south of Dundalk was believed to be friendly to him.

Some of William’s generals recommended great caution in the advance; but, declaring that the country was worth fighting for, and that he had not come to let the grass grow under his feet, but was determined to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour, he reviewed his army at Loughbrickland, marched to Dundalk, and hearing that the enemy had abandoned Ardee, pushed on thither.

There was considerable difference of opinion in James’s cabinet as to the proper policy to be pursued in the emergency.

His council on the whole advised that he should strengthen Dublin, Drogheda, and the Leinster garrisons, hold the line of the Shannon, and wait the chance of reinforcements from France, of William’s retreat being cut off by a French squadron, or of a diversion in James’s favour in England.

James himself was, however, determined to defend the Boyne at Oldbridge. He had all the advantages he could desire; the river was tolerably deep, there was a morass to be passed, and behind it rising ground.

On 30th June (o.s.), William, being informed that James had repassed the Boyne, moved his whole army, in three columns, at break of day, to the river, and sent a detachment towards Drogheda. From a hill he had a view of a portion of the Irish army encamped in two lines on the south bank.

William was somewhat disconcerted by the apparently honest report of a deserter, who placed the numbers of the enemy at a much higher figure than he had anticipated; but Richard Cox, the King’s under-secretary, set his mind at rest, by leading the deserter through their own camp, and showing how grossly he exaggerated their own forces.

King William rested on a knoll within musket-shot of the ford, as his troops marched into their positions. There he narrowly escaped death—the enemy brought a small fieldpiece secretly into position; the first ball killed a man and two horses beside the King, and the second, grazing the bank, slanted on to the King’s right shoulder, carried away a piece of his coat, and ruffled the skin.

After this slight wound was dressed, the King remounted and rode through the lines, to dissipate the apprehensions of his troops. He continued on horseback until four o’clock in the afternoon, when he dined on the field, and in the evening mounted again, though he had been up since one o’clock in the morning.

At nine he called a council of war, and declared his resolution to force the passage of the river next morning.

Duke Schomberg at first opposed the proposition; and then advised that at least a large force should be sent that night towards Slane bridge to flank the enemy. His opinion not being regarded, he “retired to his tent, and not long after received the order of battle with discontent and indifference.”

As the night closed, the cannon ceased on both sides. Orders were given that the troops should be ready to march at break of day, with green sprigs in their hats, to distinguish them from James’s men, who it was understood would wear pieces of white paper.

William “rode about twelve at night with torches quite through the camp, and then retired to his tent, impatient for the approaching day.”

The 1st July rose bright and clear. As well as can be ascertained, William had 36,000 troops to oppose James’s 30,000. William’s were superior in discipline, materiel, and artillery; but James occupied a strong position.

The following succinct account of the battle is given by George Story, one of William’s chaplains, who was present.

“Tuesday, the first of July, early in the morning, his Majesty sent Lieutenant-General Douglass, my Lord Portland, my Lord Overkirk, and Count Schonbergh, with above ten thousand horse and foot, up the river to pass towards the bridge of Slane; which the enemy perceiving, they drew out several bodies of horse and foot towards their left, in order to oppose us; our men, however, marched over without any difficulty, being only charged by Sir Neal O’Neal’s regiment of dragoons, who were partly broke, and himself killed.

As soon as Lieutenant-General Douglass and his party were got over, he sent an express to his Majesty to give him account of it; who then ordered the Dutch Guards, two French regiments, two Inniskilling regiments, Sir John Hanmer’s, and several others that lay most convenient for that ground, to pass the river and attack the Irish on the other side, which they did with a great deal of bravery and resolution, first beating the Irish from their hedges and breast-works at Old-Bridge, and then routing the Duke of Berwick’s troop of Guards, my Lord Tyrconnell’s and Collonel Parker’s Horse, who all behaved themselves like men of English extraction, as indeed most of them were.

During which time his Majesty passed the river below with the left wing of his horse, and charged the enemy several times at the head of his own troops, nigh a little village called Dunore, where they rallied again, and gave us two or three brisk attacks; but in less than half-an-hour were broke, and forced to make the best of their way towards Duleek, where there was a considerable pass, and whither the other part of the Irish army, that faced Lieutenant-General Douglas, had made what haste they could, when they heard how it had gone with their friends at Old-Bridge.

Our army then pressed hard upon them, but meeting with a great many difficulties in the ground, and being obliged to pursue in order, our horse had only the opportunity of cutting down some of their foot, and most of the rest got over the pass at Duleek; then night coming on, prevented us from making so entire a victory of it as could have been wished for.

On the Irish side were killed my Lord Dungan, my Lord Carlingford, Sir Neal O’Neal, with a great number of other officers, and about thirteen or fourteen hundred soldiers; and we lost on our side nigh four hundred.”

The baggage and stores of the defeated army fell to the victors, besides £10,000 of a military chest, much plate and valuables, and all the camp equipage of Tirconnell and Lauzun. Harris says:

“King William received no hurt in the action, though he was in the height of it, and that a cannon ball took away a piece of his boot. His Majesty acted the part of the greatest general; he chose the field, disposed the attack, drew up the army, charged the enemy several times, supported his forces when they began to shrink, and behaved throughout with.. conduct, courage, resolution, and presence of mind.”

The Irish army retreated in confusion to Dublin, and soon afterwards retired upon Athlone and Limerick, while James himself fled south, and took shipping for France.

Captain FitzGerald, son of the Earl of Kildare, headed the Protestants of Dublin in seizing the keys of the Castle and the city, and sending messengers to King William, beseeching his speedy occupation of the capital.

On the 4th William encamped at Finglas; and on the 6th made his triumphal entry into Dublin, and heard service at St. Patrick’s, where a sermon was preached by Dr. King, afterwards Archbishop of Dublin, “On the power and wisdom of the providence of God in protecting his people, and defeating their enemies.”

The afternoon of the same day the King returned to the camp, and published a declaration, promising pardon and protection to all common soldiers, countrymen, tradesmen, and citizens who before the 1st of August should return to their homes and deliver up their arms; directing rents to be paid to Protestant landlords; whilst such as held under persons concerned in the war on James’s side were to hold them in hand until they had notice from the Commissioners of Revenue.

Harris says that he desired to make his grace more comprehensive, “but this was opposed by the English in Ireland, who thought the opportunity was not to be lost of breaking the great Irish families, and destroying the dependence of the inferior sort upon them.”

On the 7th and 8th, King William reviewed his army, and found it to consist of 22,579 foot, 7,75l horse and dragoons, besides “483 reformed officers, and all the standing officers and sergeants, and also four regiments in garrison.”

He divided his forces into two corps—one of which he directed towards Athlone, while he proceeded at the head of the other to Limerick.

Encamping at Crumlin on the 8th, he advanced on the 9th to Inchiquire, in the County of Kildare. We are told that on the way he “espied a soldier robbing a poor woman, which so enraged him that he first corrected him with his cane, and then commanded that he, with some others guilty of the like crimes, should be hanged. … The severity was seasonable, and struck such a terror into the soldiers as preserved the country from all violence during the whole march.”

The conclusion of King William’s Irish campaign is thus related by Story:

“His Majesty then marched forwards, and, from a place called Castledermot, sent Brigadier Eppinger, with a party of one thousand horse and dragoons, to Wexford, which before his arrival was deserted by the Irish garrison. The King all along upon his march was acquainted with the disorders and confusion of the Irish army, and of their speedy marches to Limerick and other strongholds.

The 19th his Majesty dined at Kilkenny, a walled town, wherein stands a castle belonging to the Duke of Ormond, which had been preserved by Count Lauzun, with all the goods and furniture, and next day his Majesty understood that the enemy had quitted Clonmell, whither Count Schonberg marched with a body of horse. … Monday the 21st, the army marched to Carrick, where the King received an account of the state of Waterford, and whither Major-General Kirk went next morning with a party to summon the town, wherein were two regiments of the Irish, who submitted upon condition to march out with their arms; as did also the strong fort of Duncannon in a day or two after, which gave his Majesty sufficient shelter for all his shipping.

When Waterford was surrendered, his Majesty in person went to view it. … His Majesty, at his return to the camp, declared his resolution to go for England, and leaving Count Solmes Commander-in-chief. He went as far as Chapel-Izard, nigh Dublin, with that intention; ordering one troop of guards, Count Schonberg’s horse (formerly my Lord Devonshire’s), Collonel Matthew’s dragoons, Brigadier Trelawny’s, and Collonel Hasting’s foot, to be shipt off for that kingdom.

And on the first of August his Majesty published a second declaration, not only confirming and strengthening the former; but also adding, that if any foreigners then in arms against him in that kingdom would submit, they should have passes to go into their own countries, or whither else they pleased. … A proclamation was also published for all the Irish in the countrey to deliver up their arms; and those who refused, or neglected, to be abandoned to the discretion of the soldiers. … But the King received a further account from England, that the loss at sea was not so considerable as it was at first given out; and that there was no danger of any more French forces landing in that kingdom; they having already burnt only a small village, and so were gone off without doing any further damage. The danger of that being therefore over, his Majesty returned to the army, which he found encamped at Golden Bridge, nigh Cashell, and about seventeen miles from Limerick, where his Majesty had intelligence of the posture of the enemy in and about the city. … August the 8th, Lieutenant-General Douglas and his party from Athlone joined the King’s army at Cariganlis; and on the 9th the whole army approached that stronghold of Limerick without any considerable loss, the greatest part of their army being encampt beyond the river, in the County of Clare.

His Majesty, as soon as his army was posted, sent a summons to the town, which was refused to be obeyed by Monsieur Boiseleau, the Duke of Berwick, Sarsfield, and some more, though a great part of their army were even then willing to capitulate.

Next morning early the King sent a party of horse and foot, under Major-General Ginckell and Major-General Kirk, to pass the river, which they did near Sir Samuel Foxon’s house, about two miles above the town.

The same day some deserters from the enemy gave his Majesty an account of their circumstances; and one of our own gunners did as much for us, who informed the enemy of our posture in the camp, as also of eight pieces of cannon, with ammunition, provisions, and tin-boats, and several other necessaries then upon the road, which Sarsfield with a party of horse and dragoons had the luck to surprise two days after at a little old castle called Ballyneedy, within seven miles of our camp, killing about sixty of the soldiers and waggoners, and then marched off with little or no opposition, tho’ his Majesty had given orders for a party of horse to go from the camp and meet the guns the night before. … Sunday, 17th, at night, we opened our trenches, which were mounted by seven battalions under the Duke of Wirtenberg, Major-General Kirk, Major-General Tetteau, and Sir Henry Ballasis, beating the Irish out of a fort nigh two old chimneys, where about twenty were killed; and next night our works were relieved by Lieutenant-General Douglas, my Lord Sidney, Count Nassau, and Brigadier Stuart, with the like number; and the day following, we planted some new batteries; which his Majesty going to view, as he was riding towards Ireton’s fort, he stopt his horse on a sudden to speak to an officer, a four and twenty pound ball, the very moment grazing on the side of the gap where his Majesty was going to enter, which certainly must have dash’d him to pieces, had not the commanding God of Heaven prevented it, who still reserves him for greater matters.

This I saw, being then upon the fort, as I did that other accident at the Boyne before. … Wednesday the 20th we attacked a fort of the enemies, nigh the south-east corner of the wall, which we soon took, and killed fifty, taking a captain and twelve men prisoners; and about an hour after, the enemy sallyed with great bravery, thinking to regain the fort, but were beat in with loss, and being killed in the fort and the sally about three hundred, though we lost Captain Needham, Captain Lacy, and about eighty private men.

We continued battering the town, throwing in bombs and carcasses till Wednesday the 27th, when, a considerable breach being made, five hundred granadiers, supported by seven regiments of foot, and all our works double manned, were ordered to attack the counterscarp, and lodge themselves as conveniently as they could thereabouts. Between three and four in the afternoon, the signal being given, our men attack’d the enemy very briskly, beating them from their works, and soon over the breach into the town; but several of them pursuing too far, and the rest not seconding them, as having no orders to go any further, the Irish also seeing themselves pursued by so small a number, they were persuaded to face about, and out-numbering our poor men they killed a great many of them.

Fresh regiments also coming from beyond the river, and all together adventuring upon the walls; our men below having likewise no cover, after a dispute of three hours and an half (in which time there was nothing but one continued fire of great and small shot), our men were obliged to return back to their own trenches again, having lost fifteen officers (besides the foreigners, and those of the granadiers), about fifty wounded, five hundred men killed, and near one thousand wounded, whereof greatest part recovered; tho’ I’m apt to think the Irish did not lose so many, since it’s a more easier thing to defend walls, than by plain strength to force people from them.

Next day the soldiers were in hopes that his Majesty would give orders for a second attack, and seemed resolved to have the town, or lose all their lives; but this was too great a risque to run at one place, and they did not know how our ammunition was sunk, especially by the former day’s work. We continued, however, our batteries; and then a storm of rain and other bad weather begun to threaten us, which fell out on Friday the 29th in good earnest; upon which his Majesty calling a council of war, it was concluded the safest way was to quit the siege, without which we could not have secured our heavy cannon, which we drew off from the batteries by degrees, and found much difficulty in marching them five miles next day.

Sunday, the last of August, all our army drew off; most of the Protestants that lived in that part of the countrey taking that opportunity of removing further into the countrey with the army; and would rather leave their estates and all their substance in the enemies’ hands, than trust their persons any more in their power.

His Majesty seeing the campain nigh an end, went towards Waterford, where he appointed Henry Lord Viscount Sidney, Sir Charles Porter, and Tho. Conningsby, Esq., Lords-Justices of Ireland; and then setting sail with a fair wind for England, his Majesty was welcomed thither with all the joy and satisfaction imaginable.”

King William sailed from Duncannon on 5th September, and landed at Bristol next day. The campaigns in Ireland were concluded by his generals the following year, at the capitulation of Limerick.

It was not willingly that William assented to the infraction of that treaty, to the degradation of the whole Catholic population of Ireland, to the penal laws, and to the destruction of Irish manufactures and commerce for the supposed interest of England.

Under King James’s Irish Act of Attainder the property of 2,500 of his enemies had been confiscated. The forfeitures made by the English Parliament in Ireland at the conclusion of the war numbered some 3,921, comprising 1,060,792 acres, the value of which at that time was £3,319,943.

Lord Clare, in his celebrated speech on the Union, said this was the third extensive seizure of Irish estates within the century—2,836,837 acres under James I.’s Ulster Plantation; 7,800,000 set out by the Court of Claims after the Restoration; 1,060,792 after the treaty of Limerick.

William died at Kensington, 8th March 1702, aged 51. The equestrian statue standing in College-green, Dublin, was completed the year before his death.

The gratitude of Irish Protestants “does not stop here,” says Harris, writing in 1745, “for every year they observe four festival days to his memory with great solemnity and undissembled joy; one on the 4th of November (his Majesty’s birth-day); the second the day following, being that of his landing to the rescue of the religion and liberty of these nations; the other two on the 1st and 12th of July, being the anniversaries of his victories at the Boyne and Aghrim. Nor were these memorials and solemnities thought enough. For further to perpetuate the memory of the great deliverance wrought by his Majesty, to the hazard of his life, at the battle of the Boyne, they erected a monumental pillar, anno 1736, near the place where he made his passage over that river.”

Walter Harris’s History of the Life and Reign of William Henry, Prince of Nassau and Orange (Dublin, 1749) contains copies of original documents and much information relating to the War of 1689–’91.


166. Huguenots in England and Ireland: Samuel Smiles. London, 1867.

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.

347a. William Henry, Prince of Orange, Life and Reign: Walter Harris. Dublin, 1749.

Wills, Rev. James, D.D., see No. 196.