On July 1st 1690, King William III fought at the Battle of the Boyne where he defeated the forces of King James II to secure the Glorious Revolution and the civil and religious liberties of this country. It was a key moment in the history of our country and one that needs to be remembered.
Although the Battle of the Boyne took place on July 1st, due to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar the battle now falls on July 11th. As the Battle of Aughrim fell on the July 12th it was viewed as a fitting date for the Boyne celebrations.
King William landed at Carrickfergus on June 14th from there he travelled to Belfast to rendezvous with his army. Once his army was amassed William decided to march south with the intention of taking Dublin. Meanwhile James moved his army north from Dublin to Dundalk. James soon withdrew from this position in the face of William’s army, stopping their withdrawal on the June 30th after crossing the River Boyne.
James’ army had the defensive advantage of the river which William’s soldiers would have to cross under fire if they wished to attack their foes. In the day that followed both armies exchanged artillery fire across the river. Having decided to attack William decided to review the crossing points himself. Having viewed the river, William then sat down to eat breakfast on the river bank. It was at this point that Irish sentries spotted him and fired two canons at him, one of which famously grazed his shoulder.
That evening William called a Council of War and made plain his desire for an attack the following morning. On the morning of July 1st the English army advanced in three sections. The first division advanced on Slane Bridge, a few miles upriver from where the armies were encamped. Here William’s troops met light resistance and quickly established a bridgehead on the southern bank of the river.
In the centre of the William’s forces were his Dutch Guards, French Huguenots, and Ulstermen. The Dutch Guards were the first troops to cross the river and met fierce resistance and Jacobite cavalry; the French and Irish forces crossed shortly after and stiffened the resistance. William led the left flank with a division made up of cavalry units.
William struggled to make the river crossing due to the strength of the tide on the river but was soon leading his Dutch and Protestant Irish troops against James’ unbroken lines. James ordered a retreat and his forces converged on the hill of Donore where they put up a last stand before fleeing south, their leader James was already miles ahead of them.
William took Dublin two days later and although fighting went on in Ireland for another year, James had already fled to France as an exile. William went on to legislate civil and religious rights into law in the Bill of Rights and guaranteed that the monarchy would continue to be Protestant with the Act of Succession.