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‘Wild Geese’

‘Wild Geese’ was the name given to catholic Irish professional soldiers who served in the armies of European sovereigns, especially after the conclusion of the Williamite war (1689–91) in Ireland. In fact connections of this kind long pre-dated 1691, but the treaty of Limerick of 1691 sent 12,000 Irish troops to join the French army, and thereafter the combination of discouragement at home and opportunity abroad kept the flow of men going. They served with distinction in the armies of France, Austria, and Spain. Their leaders inevitably began to be absorbed into the ruling class of the great catholic monarchies, especially after 1759, when the last hope of Stuart restoration vanished. The French Revolution abolished the Irish Brigade in 1791. It also destroyed their monarchical Counter-Reformation world.

Bruce Philip Lenman

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