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Treaty Of Limerick And "The Forgotten Legacy of James II.: From Toleration to Betrayal, the Tale of Ireland's Struggle for Independence" |

Treaty Of Limerick And “The Forgotten Legacy of James II.: From Toleration to Betrayal, the Tale of Ireland’s Struggle for Independence”

“1689-1691: James II.’s Attempt to Uphold Catholic Toleration in Ireland Unravels in the Face of William of Orange’s Invasion”

In the annals of Irish history, the tumultuous period between 1689 and 1691 stands as a testament to the struggles for religious freedom and political sovereignty. The spotlight falls on James II., the Catholic monarch whose brief reign unfolded against the backdrop of a nation grappling with the legacy of Cromwellian oppression and Protestant ascendancy. From his accession to the throne in 1685 to the fateful Treaty of Limerick in 1691, James II.’s efforts to extend religious toleration and reclaim Irish independence met with betrayal, treachery, and a tragic unravelling of promises made.

The stage was set in 1660 when Charles I of England met his demise at the hands of Cromwell, leaving a fractured kingdom and three surviving heirs. James II., the younger brother of Charles II., ascended to the English throne in 1685. In his early days as king, James II. implemented policies that marked a departure from the oppressive measures of his predecessors. Notably, he released Quakers and Catholics from prison, signalling a commitment to religious freedom and conscience. The move was lauded across the nation, earning him praise for his liberality.

James II.’s reputation as a champion of Catholic tolerance reached its zenith when, in the face of religious persecution in France, he welcomed Huguenots to England and Ireland, even raising subscriptions for their support. However, this brief period of relative harmony would soon give way to a storm of political and religious upheaval.

As the Protestant ascendancy grew increasingly uneasy with James II.’s policies, they sought an alternative sovereign. In a shocking turn of events, they turned to William of Orange, the husband of James II.’s daughter, and invited him to seize the throne. In 1688, the Glorious Revolution unfolded, with William’s forces entering London amid the desecration of Catholic churches and altars.

James II., now a dethroned monarch, sought refuge in Ireland, where he hoped to maintain an independent dominion with the assistance of the formidable Louis XIV of France. The Irish people, embracing James as a defender of Catholicism, welcomed him warmly. His entry into Dublin at the head of forty thousand soldiers marked a pivotal moment in Irish history.

However, the unity among the Irish people began to fray, with only three small towns in the north—Derry, Coleraine, and Culmore—refusing to acknowledge James II.’s authority, declaring for William of Orange. These towns, populated by Cromwellian settlers who feared losing their newfound possessions under James’s policies, beseeched William for aid.

The subsequent conflict, immortalized in the annals of Irish history, unfolded around the city of Derry. Despite the extraordinary bravery of the Irish forces and a series of remarkable victories, the winter of 1689 proved to be a challenging period. The Orange forces held their ground, and the Irish, despite their valiant efforts, found themselves facing the relentless onslaught.

The climax of this turbulent chapter was the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. A solemn agreement entered into by both parties, it was a testament to James II.’s attempt to find common ground with William. However, the ink on the treaty had barely dried before it was broken, exemplifying the capricious nature of English treatment towards Ireland. The Irish, known for their bravery, were no match for the treachery that defined the core of English policy in both war and trade.

The Treaty of Limerick, while one of the most well-known episodes in Irish history, became symbolic of broken promises and the erosion of Irish independence. The legacy of James II. remains a complex one, encompassing moments of religious tolerance and the tragic betrayal that led to the subjugation of Ireland. As history unfolded, the Irish people’s bravery was pitted against treachery, a theme that sadly reverberated through the centuries in their struggle for autonomy and freedom.

Weekly Freeman’s Journal – Saturday 02 May 1914

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