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William of Orange

Updated: May 1

William III, Prince of Orange, was born in November 1650, just eight days after his father, William II, passed away. Despite being the son of royalty, William faced political hurdles from the start due to the Act of Seclusion in 1654, which barred him and his descendants from holding office in the Netherlands. In 1672, amidst the threat of invasion by France and England, he was appointed as captain general, tasked with defending the Netherlands during a tumultuous time. Despite initial setbacks, William’s leadership during the crisis earned him popular support, leading to his appointment as stadholder and captain general.

His reign was marked by military campaigns against France, where he orchestrated alliances with unlikely allies such as Pope Innocent XI to counter Louis XIV’s expansionist ambitions. In 1677, William married his cousin Mary, which strengthened his position in England. Eventually, he intervened in English affairs when James II’s rule provoked public outcry amongst Protestants, leading to the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. William and Mary took the English throne, solidifying Protestant governance.

William’s reign saw domestic and foreign challenges, including conflicts in Scotland and Ireland. He faced criticism for his handling of the Glen Coe massacre in Scotland and the Irish war, but his campaign here secured Ireland for the Protestant settlers. The Battle of the Boyne, fought on July 1, 1690, pitted King William III against the exiled King James II in Ireland. James sought to reclaim his throne through an alliance with Ireland and France, but William’s victory reassured his allies of his commitment to counter French-aligned forces. The battle, although not decisive, marked a turning point in the conflict.

The Williamite victory in Ireland had lasting effects. It ensured James II wouldn’t regain his thrones by force and solidified British Protestant dominance over Ireland, leading to the “Protestant Ascendancy” rule. Irish Catholics maintained loyalty to the Jacobite cause, viewing James as their rightful monarch promising self-government and Catholic tolerance. Many Irish soldiers fought for the Stuarts abroad. The war saw Irish Protestants rise in the British army’s officer ranks. Protestants celebrated the Williamite victory as a win for liberty, depicted in murals in Ulster and commemorated by Protestant Unionists on the Twelfth of July through events like those held by the Orange Order.

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  • more of a ‘force for good’

  • Less of a ‘force for good’


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