Royal Regiment of Ireland

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> Royal Regiment of Ireland

Origin and History

The regiment existed many years, as independent companies of pikemen and musketeers on the establishment of Ireland, previous to the formation of the regiment in 1684; several of these companies having been in the service of the Commonwealth in the time of Oliver Cromwell. At the formation of the regiment, on 1 April 1684, its colonelcy was conferred on Arthur Earl of Granard.

In June 1685, James Duke of Monmouth erected the standard of rebellion in the west of England, and asserted his pretensions to the throne. The regiment was immediately ordered to proceed to England. A few days after its arrival, the rebel army was overthrown at Sedgemoor, and the Duke of Monmouth was subsequently captured and beheaded. The regiment then returned to Ireland.

In 1686 and, the greater part of the Protestant officers and soldiers were dismissed and replaced by Catholics.

In the summer of 1688, the regiment was again encamped on the Curragh of Kildare. It was ordered to proceed to England to defend it against threat posed by Prince William of Orange (the future William III). It landed at Chester, marched to London and was redirected to Salisbury, where it joined King James's army a few days after the Prince had landed at Torbay. When a large part of the army defected to the Prince of Orange, the regiment withdrew towards London. When King James attempted to escape to France, the Prince of Orange directed the colonel of the regiment to disband the Roman Catholic officers and soldiers, and to keep the Protestants. More than 500 men were dismissed, leaving a force of only 200 Protestants. Soon afterwards the regiment marched to Hertfordshire. The Prince of Orange conferred the colonelcy of the regiment on Major Sir John Edgeworth.

At the beginning of April, 1689, the regiment marched to Chester. On 1 May, the colonelcy was conferred on Edward Earl of Meath. Early in May the regiment marched into Wales. During the summer, at the outbreak of the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-91), it embarked for Ireland, landing near Belfast on 22 August. It then took part in the siege and capture of Carrickfergus. In 1690, it took part in the decisive Battle of the Boyne, in the capture of Castle-Connell, in the unsuccessful siege and capture of Limerick and in the relief of Birr. In 1691, the regiment took part in the siege and capture of Ballymore, in the siege and storming of Athlone, in the Battle of Aghrim, in the capture of Galway and in the siege of Limerick. The regiment was the only one of the eleven Irish corps embodied by King Charles II which remained in the service of the English crown.

In 1692, during the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiments embarked for England which was threatened by a French invasion. Meanwhile the British and Dutch fleets had nearly annihilated the French Navy in a decisive action off La Hogue. The regiment then took part in the fruitless expedition against the coasts of France and was finally redirected towards Ostend in Flanders and captured the towns of Furnes and Dixmude. The regiment then returned to England. Frederick Hamilton was appointed colonel of the regiment. In 1693, the regiment served as marines on board the fleet before being sent to Flanders. In 1694, it formed part of the covering army during the siege of Huy. In 1695, the regiment formed part of the covering army during the siege of Namur. After the surrender of the city, it took part in storming the Citadel of Namur, suffering heavy losses. For its conduct during the assault, the regiment was renamed "The Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland". The title was afterwards changed to "Royal Irish Regiment." In 1696, it was charged with the protection of Ghent, Bruges and the maritime towns of Flanders. At the end of 1697, after the Treaty of Ryswick, the regiment was sent to Ireland.

From 1698 to 1700, the regiment was stationed in Ireland. In 1698, it counted one battalion of ten companies for a total of 34 officers and 411 men.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive colonel-commanders of the regiment were:

  • from 1692: Frederick Hamilton
  • from 1 April 1705: Richard Ingoldsby
  • from February 1712 to 1717: Richard Stearne

Service during the War

In 1701, the regiment was placed upon a war establishment, and embarked for the Dutch Republic, where it arrived, with several other corps, in July. It was then placed in garrison at Huesden. On 21 September, it was reviewed on Breda-heath by King William III.

In March 1702, the regiment set of from Huesden and proceeded to Rosendaal, where the British infantry was assembled under Brigadier-General Ingoldsby. There the troops received information of the death of King William III (8 March) and of the accession of Queen Anne. The regiment then marched across the Duchy of Kleve and encamped at Kranenburg to cover the siege of Kaiserswerth. On 10 June, it followed the Allied army in its retreat to Nijmegen. Later, the regiment took part in the siege of Venlo. On 18 September, it was engaged in storming the counterscarp of Fort St. Michael in front of Venlo. At the end of September, the regiment took part in the siege of Roermond which surrendered in mid-October. In October, it participated in the capture of the Citadel of Liège which was stormed on 23 October. On 3 November it marched back towards the Dutch Republic. It took up its winter-quarters at Huesden.

At the end of April 1703, the regiment marched to Maastricht. It then took part in the operations leading to the siege and capture of Huy. From 10 to 28 September, it covered the siege of Limbourg. The regiment then returned to Breda. During the severe frosts of winter, it proceeded to Bergen-op-Zoom, to reinforce the garrison of that fortress, and afterwards returned to Breda, from whence it detached 300 men to Maastricht, to join the garrison of that city, while the Dutch soldiers were working at the entrenchments on the heights of Petersberg.

On 5 May 1704, the regiment marched from Breda and proceeded towards the Rhine being joined at Bedburg by the detachment from Maastricht. It then took part in Marlborough's march to the Danube, passing the Moselle and the Rhine at Koblenz and traversing minor German states and effecting a junction with an Imperial army. On 2 July, the regiment took part in the Battle of the Schellenberg where it had 1 sergeant and 11 rank and file killed; Captain Lea, Ensigns Gilman, Walsh, and Pensant, 3 sergeants and 32 rank and file wounded. The Allied army then entered in Bavaria. The regiment formed part of the covering army during the siege of Ingoldstadt. On 13 August, it took part in the victorious Battle of Blenheim where it lost Captains Brown, Rolleston, and Vaughan, Ensign Moyle, 5 sergeants, and 52 rank and file killed; Major Kane, Captains Lepenitor and Hussey, Lieutenants Smith, Roberts, Blakeney, and Harvey, Ensign Trips, 9 sergeants and 87 and file wounded. In September, the regiment formed part of the army covering the siege of Landau. When the siege drew towards a close, the regiment marched to Germersheim, where it embarked in boats on the Rhine, and in twelve days arrived at Nijmegen, where it landed, and, marching Roermond, passed the winter at that place.

In 1705, the regiment marched from Roermond to the vicinity of Maastricht, where it joined the army. It then proceeded by Juliers to the valley of the Moselle, where it encamped near Trier. However, disappointed by the lack of cooperation of Imperial forces, the Duke of Marlborough brought his army back to the Netherlands. In July, it took part in the passage of the lines near Helixem and Neer-Hespen but was not directly involved in action. The regiment returned to the Dutch Republic for winter-quarters and was stationed at Workum.

In May 1706, the regiment joined the army assembling at Tongres. On 23 May, it fought in the Battle of Ramillies where it was deployed on the right wing. Towards the end of July, the regiment was detached from the main army to take part in the siege of the fortress of Menin. After the capture of this place, it participated in the siege of Ath. The regiment passed the winter at Ghent.

In May, 1707, the regiment again took the field. During this campaign, the French army avoided a general engagement, and the summer was passed by the opposing armies in manoeuvring and watching each other's movements. In the autumn, the regiment marched to the Castle of Ghent, of which its commanding officer, Colonel Stearne, was appointed governor.

In mid-March 1708, the regiment was one of the corps ordered home to repel a planned invasion. However, but the British Navy fleet chased the French squadron and the regiment returned to Flanders. On 11 July, it took part in the Battle of Oudenarde where it formed part of the leading brigade of the van of the army, under Major-General Cadogan. In this battle, it lost 1 lieutenant and 8 men killed; and 12 men wounded. The regiment then took part in the siege of the important fortress of Lille where it distinguished itself on several occasions. During the siege, the regiment lost 2 captains and 3 subalterns killed; its major and several other officers wounded; and 200 NCOs and soldiers killed or wounded.

In 1709, during the siege of Tournai, a strong detachment of recruits replaced the losses of the regiment which was detached, under the Prince of Orange, to drive the French detachment from Mortagne and Saint-Amand. Having accomplished this service, it joined the besieging army, and carried on its approaches at the seven fountains. The regiment was engaged in storming the breaches in the Ravelin and Half-Moon. On 29 July, Tournai surrendered and the garrison retired into the citadel. The regiment then took part in the siege of the citadel. Captain Parker, of the regiment, states in his journal:

“Our approaches against this citadel were carried on mostly underground, by sinking pits several fathom deep, and working from thence until we came to their casemates and mines. These extended a great way from the body of the citadel, and in them our men and the enemy frequently met, and fought with sword and pistol. We could not prevent them springing several mines which blew up some of our batteries, guns and all, and a great many men, in particular a captain, lieutenant, and forty (the London Gazette says thirty) men of our regiment.”

In the early part of September 1709, the Citadel of Tournai finally surrendered. On 11 September, the regiment took part in the sanguinary Battle of Malplaquet. Captain Parker states:

“The part which our regiment acted in this battle was something remarkable. We happened to be the last of the regiments which had been left at Tournay to level the approaches, and did not come up till the lines were formed. We were ordered to draw up on the right of the army, opposite a skirt of the wood of Sart, and, when the army advanced to attack the enemy, we entered the wood in our front. We continued marching till we came to a small plain, on the opposite side of which we perceived a battalion of the enemy drawn up, a skirt of the wood being in its rear. Colonel Kane, who was then at the head of the regiment, having drawn us up, and formed our platoons, advanced towards the enemy, with the six platoons of our first fire made ready. When we arrived within a hundred paces of them, they gave us a fire of one of their ranks ; whereupon we halted, and returned them the fire of our six platoons at once, and immediately made ready the six platoons of our second fire, and advanced upon them again. They then gave us the fire of another rank; and we returned them a second fire, which made them shrink ; however they gave us the fire of a third rank, after a scattering manner, and then retired into the wood in great disorder ; on which we sent our third fire after them and saw them no more. We advanced up to the ground which they had quitted, and found several of them killed and wounded; and among the latter was one Lieutenant O'Sulivan, who told us the battalion we had engaged was the ' Royal Regiment of Ireland.' Here, therefore, was a fair trial between the two Royal Regiments of Ireland, one in the British and the other in the French service; for we met each other upon equal terms, and there was none else to interpose. We had but four men killed and six wounded; and found near forty of them on the spot killed and wounded. The advantage on our side will be easily accounted for, first from the weight of our ball; for the French arms carry bullets of 24 to the pound, whereas our British firelocks carry ball of 16 only to the pound, which will make a considerable difference in the execution; again, the manner of our firing was different from theirs; the French, at that time, fired all by ranks, which can never do equal execution with our platoon firing.”

The regiment was afterwards employed in covering the siege of Mons, and passed the winter in quarters at Ghent.

On 14 April 1710, the regiment advanced from Ghent and took part in the operations by which the French lines were passed at Pont-à-Vendin. It also formed part of the covering army during the sieges of Douai and Béthune. It later participated in the siege of Aire where it lost 3 officers killed and 5 wounded; also about 80 soldiers killed or wounded. On 9 November, the garrison surrendered and the regiment afterwards returned to Ghent.

In April 1711, the regiment again took the field and was employed in the operations by which the boasted impregnable French lines were passed at Arleux. It then took part in the siege of Bouchain where it formed part of a detachment of twenty battalions, commanded by Lieutenant-General the Earl of Orkney, which took post on the north and north-west side of the town and river, and advanced to drive the French from the heights of Wavrechin. In this siege, the regiment lost 4 officers wounded and about 40 men killed or wounded. After the capture of the place, it returned to Tournai. In October the regiment marched to Lille, where it passed the winter.

In April 1712, the regiment advanced from Lille and joined other units near Bouchain. A suspension of hostilities took place soon afterwards, and the army withdrew to Ghent, where the regiment passed the winter.

During the winter of 1712-13, a very serious mutiny occurred among the troops stationed at Ghent, to which the soldiers were incited by a man of the regiment. This dangerous combination was suppressed, and ten of the ringleaders were executed.

After the conclusion of the Treaty of Utrecht, the regiment was appointed to garrison the Citadel of Ghent until the barrier treaty was signed.

Uniform

There were still no regulation concerning uniforms and colonels were responsible for the clothing of their soldiers. Therefore, there were wide variations from one regiment to another.

Hairs were worn long in a “long bob”. They were sometimes tied at the back of the neck. The hair bag was also already in use.

Men as well as officers were clean-shaven. Officers sometimes wore small moustaches.

Musketeers were armed with a musket without sling, a bayonet and a sword. Grenadiers were armed with a firelock with a sling, a hatchet, a bayonet and grenades.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms almost identical to those of privates with the following differences:

  • tricorne laced silver
  • silver braids on the seams of the coat

Sergeants initially carried a halberd and corporals a musket. Gradually, all NCOs were equipped with musket.

Officers

Officers wore beaver tricornes laced gold (probably reserved to superior officers) or silver (probably reserved to subaltern officers). They also wore the fashionable full flowing curled wigs. On service they usually plaited their wig.

A large gorget was worn around the neck tied with ribbons. The gorget was gilt for captains, black studded with gold for lieutenants and silver for ensigns.

Officers usually wore uniforms somewhat similar to those of privates (even though there were not yet any regulation compelling them to do so), made of finer material. Their coats were decorated with gold or silver braids down the seams and on the sleeves; and with gold or silver embroidered buttonholes. Cuffs were usually of the same colour as the coat instead of the distinctive colour of the regiment.

The waistcoats of officers were often decorated with gold or silver fringes.

A crimson sash (often interwoven with gold or silver and fringed similarly) was worn around the waist.

Breeches were tied with rosettes below the knee.

Officers wore gloves, often decorated with gold or silver fringes.

Officers carried a sword and a half pike or a spontoon.

The cartouche box of officers were often covered in velvet and decorated with gold or silver embroideries.

Musicians

Drummers and hautboys usually wore coat of the facing colour of the regiment, decorated with lace on the seams of sleeves and back and on the buttonholes. Their coat was decorated with the crowned King's cypher or the Colonel's crest embroidered on the breast and back. Sometimes their coat had hanging sleeves.

Colours

no information found

References

This article is essentially an abridged and adapted version of the following book which is in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Eighteenth or The Royal Irish Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker, 1848

Other sources

Farmer, John S.: The Regimental Records of the British Army, London: Grant Richards, 1901

Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol. 1 From the beginning to 1760, London: Kaye & Ward, pp. 12-54

Walton, Clifford: History of the British Standing Army A.D. 1660 to 1700, London, 1894, pp. 52-78, 854