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Flight of the Wild Geese

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"I cannot but highly esteem those gentlemen of Ireland who, with all the disadvantages of being exiles and strangers, have been able to distinguish themselves by their valour and conduct in so many parts of Europe, I think, above all other nations." - Jonathan Swift, 1732



(Pictured: Patrick Sarsfield, leader of the Flight of the Wild Geese, 1691)


Under this project, we will try and pull together the broader picture of Irish exiles who left to serve in foreign armies since 1607. From a genealogical perspective, we'll look into their descendants and connect those to their Irish origins


Defining moments in the Irish military exodus


1594-1603 : Nine Years' War (Tyrone's Rebellion)

  • Conflict between Gaelic Irish chieftains and English rulers
  • After the defeat of the Irish in the Battle of Kinsdale (1602), the rebellion was "ended with the the Treaty of Mellifont" (1603)

1607 : Flight of the Earls

  • Marks the end of the 'old Gaelic order', as the ancient Gaelic aristocracy of Ulster went into permanent exile
  • About 90 military leave by ship (14 september 1607) from Rathmullan to Quillebeuf-sur-Seine (Normandy)
  • A small diaspora took place, with some reaching Leuven (Flanders) but the main group travelling to Rome
  • Protagonists...

- Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (Tír Eóghain)

- Rory O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell (Tír Chonaill)

- Donal O'Sullivan, Lord of Beare and Bantry

-Tadhg Ó Cianáin writer(kept a detailed diary of the flight)

- ...

1684-1922 : Royal Irish Regiment

1688-1691 : Jacobite War (Williamite War)

  • Conflicht between catholic king James II and protestant king William of Orange of the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland
  • This conflict became 'accessory' to a broader European "Nine Years' War", fought 1688-1697 between French king Louis XIV and a grand alliance between the English, Dutch, Spanish and Italians.
  • The catholic Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, and the war was "ended with the Treaty of Limerick" (1691)
  • Many Irish Jacocbites went into permanent exile. As the French had given their support to the Irish catholics, the Irish Jacobites initially headed for France. Subsequently, Irish officers ended up in miliary service across the continent - mainly in France, Austria and Spain
  • Up until 1745, the Irish authorities allowed Irish military to take service in foreign armies (to facilitate exile). Since 1745, it was outlawed - and many military never returned.

1690 : the Irish Brigade

  • Formed in May 1690, comprising 5 regiments with 5,000 men
  • Compensation for French support in the Jacobite War
  • The Irish Brigade remained part of the French army until 1792
  • Whilst many other nationalities joined after 1745, the officers remained Irish
  • Protagonists...

- Robert Reid

- Daniel O'Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare

-Theobald Dillon, 7th Viscount Dillon

- Justin McCarthy Viscount Mountcashel

- ...

1691 : Flight of the Wild Geese

  • After the Treaty of Limerick (1691), many Irish Jacobites opted for exile
  • Some 14,000 soldiers left Ireland, as well as 10,000 women and children
  • Led by Patrick Sarsfield, they became King James' army in exile, in Paris
  • Protagonists...

- Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan

- James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick

- Arthur Dillon, Count of Dillon, Earl of Dillon

-Gerald O'Mullally (Gerard Lally), Brigadier General

-Francis Bulkeley, Count Bulkeley

- Edward Charles Rothe, Count Rothe

- Oliver O'Gara

- ...

Notable Irish military in foreign service (not all exiled)