The Treaty of Limerick, often referred to as the “Broken Treaty,” is a significant event in Irish history. It was signed in 1691 after the Williamite War in Ireland, which pitted the deposed Catholic King James II of England and Ireland against the Protestant King William III, who had taken the throne in the Glorious Revolution. The treaty was negotiated between the Irish Jacobites, led by the brave soldier Patrick Sarsfield, and the English forces commanded by General Ginkel.
Under the terms of the treaty, the Irish Catholics were promised certain rights and protections, recognizing their freedom to practice their Catholic faith and granting them land rights. In addition, it allowed Irish soldiers who chose to do so to join the French army and serve the exiled Stuart monarchy. However, by making this choice, they would effectively exile themselves from Ireland forever.
The Treaty of Limerick was seen as a ray of hope for the Irish Catholics, as it granted them rights and protections they had not enjoyed since the reign of Charles II. However, despite being signed by the English generals, the treaty was never ratified by the English Parliament. This lack of ratification meant that the promises made to the Irish Catholics were not legally binding.
As a result, many of the best and bravest Irish soldiers, including Patrick Sarsfield, chose to leave their homeland and join the French army. This departure left a deep sense of sorrow and loss among those who remained in Ireland. The Irish people, especially the Catholics, felt betrayed by the broken promises of the treaty, and the hopes they had placed in its provisions were shattered.
The reference to the “Red Rose of the West” is likely an allusion to Ireland, symbolizing its beauty and significance. The phrase “land of dolorous legend and plaintive song” evokes the image of Ireland as a place rich in sorrowful tales and melancholic music, reflecting the hardships and struggles endured by its people throughout history.
The Treaty of Limerick represents a poignant chapter in Irish history, where the hopes and aspirations of the Irish Catholics were dashed as their rights were not upheld. The broken promises of the treaty and the subsequent exile of many Irish soldiers caused profound sadness and despair among the Irish people.
Gentlewoman – Saturday 18 July 1903