seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Charles II Proclaimed King of Ireland

charles-iiKing Charles II is proclaimed king in Dublin on May 14, 1660, six days after London, thus ending Oliver Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector and beginning a brief and limited Catholic Restoration.

The Restoration of the monarchy begins in 1660. The Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1649–60) result from the Wars of the Three Kingdoms but collapse in 1659. Politicians such as General George Monck try to ensure a peaceful transition of government from the “Commonwealth” republic back to monarchy. From May 1, 1660 the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies are all restored under King Charles II. The term Restoration may apply both to the actual event by which the monarchy was restored, and to the period immediately before and after the event.

With the collapse of The Protectorate in England during May 1659 the republic which had been forced upon Ireland by Oliver Cromwell quickly begins to unravel.

Royalists plan an uprising in Ireland and seek to turn Henry Cromwell and Lord Broghill, who is in contact with the King’s court in the summer of 1659, towards the cause but the plan comes to aught. Henry Cromwell leaves Ireland in June 1659. Broghill shows reluctance to declare for the King, but nevertheless republicans are suspicious of him following George Booth‘s revolt in England in 1659.

Sir Theophilus Jones, a former soldier under Charles I of Ireland and governor of Dublin during the republic, seizes Dublin Castle with a group of officers and declares for Parliament. Acting in Charles II’s interest, Sir Charles Coote seizes Galway while Lord Broghill holds firm in Munster. On January 9, 1660 a council of officers declare Edmund Ludlow a traitor and he flees to England. The regicide Hardress Waller re-takes Dublin Castle in February 1660 but with little support he surrenders to Sir Charles Coote. Waller along with fellow regicide John Cook is arrested and sent to England. The officers in Dublin support General Monck.

The army is purged of radicals and a Convention Parliament is called. Coote seeks to move the Convention Parliament towards restoration, but his rival Broghill does not openly declare for the King until May 1660.

In February 1660 Coote sends a representative to King Charles II in the Netherlands and invites him to make an attempt on Ireland, but the King regards it as inexpedient to try to reclaim Ireland before England. At the same time Broghill sends his brother to invite the King to land at Cork. In March 1660 a document is published asking for the King’s return, “begged for his forgiveness, but stipulated for a general indemnity and the payment of army arrears.”

Following events in England, Charles is proclaimed King of Ireland in Dublin on May 14 without any dissent. The Irish Royal Army is reestablished.

After 1660, the commonwealth parliamentary union is treated as null and void. As in England the republic is deemed constitutionally never to have occurred. The Convention Parliament is dissolved by Charles II in January 1661, and he summons his first parliament in Ireland in May 1661.

(Pictured: Charles II in Garter robes by John Michael Wright or studio, c. 1660–1665)

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The Siege of Limerick

Henry Ireton, Oliver Cromwell’s son-in-law, lays siege to Limerick city on June 4, 1651. During the Irish Confederate Wars, Limerick is one of the last fortified cities held by an alliance of Irish Confederate Catholics and English Royalists against the forces of the Parliament of England.

By 1650, the Irish Confederates and their English Royalist allies have been driven out of eastern Ireland by the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. They occupy a defensive position behind the River Shannon, of which Limerick is the southern stronghold. Oliver Cromwell himself leaves Ireland in May 1650, delegating his command of the English Parliamentarian forces to Henry Ireton. Ireton moves his forces north from Munster to besiege Limerick in October of that year. However, the weather is increasingly wet and cold and Ireton is forced to abandon the siege before the onset of winter.

Ireton returns on June 4, 1651 with 8,000 men, 28 siege artillery pieces and 4 mortars. He summons Hugh Dubh O’Neill, the Irish commander of Limerick to surrender, but is refused. The siege is on.

Limerick in 1651 is split into two sections, English town and Irish town, which are separated by the Abbey River. English town, which contains the citadel of King John’s Castle, is encircled by water, the Abbey River on three sides and the River Shannon on the other, in what is known as King’s Island. Thomond bridge is only one bridge onto the island and is fortified with bastioned earthworks. Irish town is more vulnerable, but is also more heavily fortified. Its medieval walls have been buttressed by 20 feet of earth, making it difficult to knock a breach in them. In addition, Irish town has a series of bastions along its walls, mounted with cannon which cover its approaches. The biggest of these bastions are at St. John’s Gate and Mungret gate. The garrison of the city is 2,000 strong and composed mainly of veterans from the Confederate’s Ulster army, commanded by Hugh Dubh O’Neill, who had distinguished themselves at the siege of Clonmel the previous year.

Because Limerick is very well fortified, Ireton does not risk an assault on its walls. Instead he secures the approaches to the city, cuts off its supplies and builds artillery earthworks to bombard the defenders. His troops take the fort at Thomond bridge, but the Irish destroy the bridge itself, denying the Parliamentarians land access to English town. Ireton then tries an amphibious attack on the city, a storming party attacking the city in small boats. They are initially successful, but O’Neill’s men counterattack and beat them off.

After this attack fails, Ireton resolves to starve the city into submission and builds two forts known as Ireton’s fort and Cromwell’s fort on nearby Singland Hill. An Irish attempt to relieve the city from the south is routed at the battle of Knocknaclashy. O’Neill’s only hope is now to hold out until bad weather and hunger force Ireton to raise the siege. To this end, O’Neill tries to send the town’s old men, women and children out of the city so that his supplies will last a little longer. However, Ireton’s men kill forty of these civilians and send the rest back into Limerick.

O’Neill comes under pressure from the town’s mayor and civilian population to surrender. The town’s garrison and civilians suffer terribly from hunger and disease, especially an outbreak of plague. In addition, Ireton finds a weak point in the defences of Irish town, and knocks a breach in them, opening the prospect of an all out assault.

Eventually in October 1651, six months after the siege started, part of Limerick’s garrison mutinies and turns some cannon inwards, threatening to fire on O’Neill’s men unless they surrender. Hugh Dubh O’Neill surrenders Limerick on October 27. The inhabitants lives and property are respected, but they are warned that they could be evicted in the future. The garrison is allowed to march to Galway, which is still holding out, but has to leave their weapons behind.

The lives of the civilian and military leaders of Limerick are excepted from the terms of surrender. A Catholic Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien, an Alderman and the English Royalist officer Colonel Fennell are hanged. O’Neill is also sentenced to death, but is reprieved by the Parliamentarian commander Edmund Ludlow and imprisoned instead in London. Former mayor Dominic Fanning is drawn, quartered, and decapitated, with his head mounted over St. John’s Gate.

Over 2,000 English Parliamentary soldiers die at Limerick, mostly from disease. Among them is Henry Ireton, who dies a month after the fall of the city. About 700 of the Irish garrison and an estimated 5,000 citizens die.

(Pictured: The Treaty Stone on which the treaty of Limerick may have been signed in 1691)