King William III at the Battle of the Boyne, 1 July 1690

Why Is Battle Of The Boyne In My Calendar?

Have you seen 'Battle of the Boyne' pop up on your Google or phone calendar?

King William III at the Battle of the Boyne, 1 July 1690

The Battle of the Boyne might be popping up as a date in the calendar on people's smartphones and in Google but while many will understand its significance, many others might wonder why this battle in particular is being highlighted.

Why Is Battle Of The Boyne In My Calendar?

Anyone with a UK smartphone, depending on the settings, might well find ten national holidays autofilled in their calendar.

However, not all of them apply to the whole of the UK. There are eight bank holidays in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland.

The citizens of Northern Ireland get two extra days off work on St Patrick’s Day, to honour the island’s patron saint, and on July 12th, to commemorate the victory of William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne.

Marking a significant turning point in Northern Irish history, the Battle of the Boyne is the only historical battle to be celebrated as a bank holiday - hence its presence as a calendar date in the UK.

Battle of the Boyne, 12 July 1690 between Kings James II and William III
Battle of the Boyne, 12 July 1690 between Kings James II and William III

What Is Battle Of The Boyne?

The Twelfth, also known as Orangemen’s Day, marks the defeat of Catholic King James by his Protestant son-in-law King ‘Billy’ at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690.

The victory assured a Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. However, the battle was not neccessarily about Ireland, nor neccessarily about religion. Despite being Protestant, King William III had the support of Pope Innocent XI.

Ireland became a battleground almost by accident in what might  have today been known as a proxy war over the crown of England, Scotland and Ireland.  

To understand what led an aging exiled English King to battle his Dutch son-in-law on the banks of the river Boyne in Ireland, one must understand the root cause, which lies in the Glorious Revolution.

King William and James

The Glorious Revolution

The Battle of the Boyne was an attempt by King James II to win back his throne after he had been forced to abdicate in 1688 in what was known as the Glorious Revolution.

King James II was the last of the Stuart kings to seek absolute rule. King Charles I had been beheaded 39 years earlier for similar aspirations.

Moreover, he was a Catholic in a country where Catholicism was rapidly going out of fashion.

His religion could have been tolerated because he was 51, without a male heir and not expected to create a Catholic dynasty.

However, on June 10th 1688 in the form of Prince of Wales, James produced a male heir, ensuring Catholic succession.

This prompted Protestant nobles to support William of Orange to overthrow his own uncle and father-in-law.

William had a strong claim to the English throne – he was married to Mary, the King’s Anglican daughter and he was the grandson of King Charles I.

In November 1688, with the support of political figures called the 'Immortal Seven,' King William of Orange was the last person to successfully invade England by force.

The Dutch-born King was crowned King William III of England, Ireland and Scotland, alongside his wife on April 11, 1689.

King James was allowed to flee to France in disgrace from where he was able to plot his revenge which ended in a failed attempt to take back the crown at the Battle of the Boyne.

A monument to William of Orange in Dublin, erected in 1701 and removed in 1929

Who Won Battle Of The Boyne?

In 1689, with the military support of Catholic King Louis XIV of France, James II sailed to Ireland to fight for his crown back.

The Protestant King had to cross the river Boyne in order to get to Dublin which involved going into Jacobite occupied territories. The Battle unfolded on July 1st 1690 - commemorated on the 12th due to the change from Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

The two armies consisting of Danish, French, Dutch, Huguenot, German, English and even Irish troops met on the banks of the River Boyne near Drogheda.

The Battle gained notoriety because it was the only time both kings were on the battlefield at the same time, facing each other. 

The Battle was over after four hours, with James II fleeing yet again back to France.

Orangemen lead the main parade in Belfast in 2016 CREDIT: PAUL FAITH
Orangemen lead the main parade in Belfast in 2016 CREDIT: PAUL FAITH

How Is The Battle Of The Boyne Commemorated?

Orange Walks are held by Protestant-affiliated organisations, in the run-up to the anniversary of the battle.

The annual celebration starts with bonfires and fireworks the night before.

On July 12th, the Orange Order carry banners and flags accompanied by marching bands.

The bank holiday sees as many as 200,000 people line the streets to watch the parades, made up of more than 1,400 bands and 'Orange' marchers.

During the times of the Troubles, the commemorative events were often a point of contention. In recent years, most marches have passed peacefully and even spread across the world as far as the US, Canada and Australia.