On town making it clear who won the Battle

On this one, hot summer day in July, men gather to parade through town in Northern Ireland. The Catholics are especially dreading this date, knowing the men dressed in orange sashes and white gloves will come marching past their street. These men are celebrating a great victory for their Protestant religion, that would not have happened without good old William III, who won one battle that changed the course of Northern Ireland’s history. As the parades march down the street making a loud commotion, everyone knows that it is July 12th, or Orangemen’s Day. In present-day Northern Ireland, everyone knows the date of July 12th, whether it is a special day for them or one that brings back bad memories. At the peak of “marching season”, a time in the summer when parades are most common, Orangemen’s Day is celebrating the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. Men involved in the Orange Order dress up in suits and orange sashes. White-gloved hands carry banners depicting scenes from the battle high above the crowd’s heads topped with dark bowler hats. The groups of people and marching bands parade through town making it clear who won the Battle of the Boyne. “For many Catholics, these marches are triumphalist and sectarian – a means of very publicly ‘rubbing in’ a historical wrong – with some traditional Orange routes passing through or by staunchly Catholic and nationalist areas” (BBC 2). At night, large bonfires are ignited and can be seen from miles away. Typically Orangemen’s Day is celebrated in Northern Ireland, but some places in northeastern Canada will celebrate the holiday as well. Like most other holidays, this glorious celebration didn’t come without a grand backstory. Before the story of the Battle of the Boyne can be revealed, the story of England must first be told. The long and complicated relationship with Ireland and England all began in 1170 when King Henry II of England decided to set foot on the shores of Waterford. The wars that had been going on before his arrival ended and peace came to Ireland for 70 years. Soon, King Henry II was busy in France again, and Ireland was put on the back burner. Therefore, the English took the advantage and seized more land. The English then expanded until the year 1250 when more than three-fourths of Ireland was under English control. Ireland was peaceful under this rule until the 100 Years War came around, and all the English soldiers left to fight. Then, many other people also left because of the Black Plague. The Irish regained control and by 1450 England only controlled the small area around Dublin. Eventually, in 1537, Ireland was ruled by an English governor and had an English Army stationed in Dublin, which lasted for the next 400 years. Back in England, Henry VII now had the throne. After having no male heirs with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, he decided to divorce her for a younger wife to give him a male heir. There was one problem; he was the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and this was not allowed. So, to get his way, he split from the Roman Catholic Church and created his own – the Anglican Church. This generated chaos as now everyone under the rule of the king had to convert to Anglicanism, including the mostly Catholic population of Ireland. The Catholics in Ireland were not going to stand for converting to a new religion and stayed Catholic. Many of the Catholics living in Ireland dismissed the Anglican Church and ignored it, so the effort to impose the Anglican Church failed. Unfortunately, this led to them being heavily persecuted down the line, starting with Queen Mary I’s rule. Under her rule, the plantation program was put into play. Many Irish clans were kicked off their land and this land was then given to loyal English colonists. After Mary I’s rule, her sister, Elizabeth I took her place and stepped up the persecution. Elizabeth I was praised by the English, but notoriously hated by the Irish. She executed Irish Catholic priests and bishops and forbade religious services. She also made the plantation program more severe and seized 400,000 acres after a Catholic uprising. Occasionally she also carried out military campaigns to deal with the more stubborn Irish clans. Later, the harsh Penal Laws were introduced. Irish Catholics could not sit or vote in Parliament, buy or inherit land, could not attend universities, practice law, go into the military, or even own a horse worth more than five euros. These outrageous laws prohibited Irish Catholics from doing anything that would allow them to survive. Fortunately, after Elizabeth died, James I took over and the harsh laws that were present in Elizabeth’s rule were relaxed. But James was not a Tudor like the rest of the rulers before him. He was a Stuart, and this was a problem. The Tudors did not like parliament, but they knew how to work with them. The Stuarts, however, did not, thus starting a long war of king versus Parliament.Before the 17th century, the king and Parliament worked well together. This was because the Tudors were in charge. After their family line died out in 1603, things changed for the worse. James I and Charles I were of the Stuart family and the next two rulers in line. Both rulers attempted to gain absolutism and dissolved Parliament more than once. Finally, Parliament decided to deal with the problem and executed Charles I. Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan general and also dictator, took his place. Times were dark and dull during his rule, and everyone hated him. After Cromwell died, his son took over. The people decided they had had enough, so they kicked him out and replaced him with Charles II – the merry monarch. After Charles II, his brother James II ruled, and relationships with Parliament went downhill. This was because James II was a Catholic. “King James II attempted to reintroduce Catholicism into England in the late 17th century in spite of the fact that the vast majority of Britons professed either the official Anglican faith or some form of Puritanism. James’ ambitions on behalf of Catholicism prompted him to impose a more autocratic rule that eventually culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688” (James II 1). Parliament only let him become king because at the time he only had heirs to the throne that were Anglican. But as time wore on things got worse. James did three things that Parliament did not like: he acted like a real king, did not persecute Catholics, and finally, had a son who would be raised Catholic. This was the last straw for Parliament, so they decided to get rid of him. To handle James II, Parliament invited William III and Mary II to invade and take over the throne. “William III did not initiate the reform called the Glorious Revolution; rather, the impetus came from the British Parliament. But he did defeat James II, thus securing a change in government and beginning a new era in British politics” (Hamilton 1). William was a Protestant who was married to his cousin Mary II, who was also a Protestant. When Parliament called, William obliged and sailed for England November 1st, 1688. James then fled to France, and later in February, William and Mary became the monarchs of England. This bloodless taking of the throne was called the Glorious Revolution. William reinstated control back over Ireland and everything seemed fine – but that would not last. James was not going to give up that easily. In Ireland, James found support with all the persecuted Catholics, since he too was a Catholic. He was able to build an army of supporters called Jacobites. Two years later, James met William, Prince of Orange, for battle at the River Boyne in Northern Ireland. “The Battle of the Boyne ended serious resistance to William III’s ascent to the throne of England. The supporters of James II, known as Jacobites, were decisively defeated, and James was forced into exile in France” (Watts 1). Since William won, the Jacobites were not happy. They rebelled for many years, picking fights with William’s followers; the Orangemen. To forever end the war between William and James, their followers had to sign a treaty. William’s Orangemen and the James’s Jacobites signed the Treaty of Limerick, which said the Jacobites could either take an oath of loyalty, enlist in William’s forces, or go to France. Many of the Jacobites decided they would rather leave before following a Protestant, so they chose to go to France. The treaty also granted security of property and religious freedom to Catholics in Ireland. William intended to honor this treaty, but Parliament considered it too lenient and eventually confiscated the Jacobites’ land and property. In conclusion, the raucous parades that march down the streets are not for nothing.  Orangemen’s Day will live on for many decades to come as it celebrates the victory at the River Boyne on July 12th; the war that changed the course of history. It showed that William III was the true king and that Parliament and king would from that point on forever work hand-in-hand. The defeated James II displayed that royal absolutism would be no more. Now, every July 12th the people of Northern Ireland band together to honor their past and hope for a bright future with pride for their country.