The Battle of Bantry Bay was a naval engagement fought on 11 May 1689 during the Nine Years’ War. The English fleet was commanded by Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Torrington; the French fleet by François Louis de Rousselet, Marquis de Châteaurenault. Apart from the inshore operations at La Rochelle in 1627–28, the Battle of Bantry Bay was the first time English and French navies had met in fleet action since 1545.
The battle near the southern Irish coast was somewhat inconclusive but the French, endeavouring to supply King James II in his attempt to re-establish his throne, had managed to unload their supplies for James’s Irish campaign. But although the French failed to follow up their tactical success with strategic gain, Château-Renault had
inflicted considerable damage on the English fleet.
325 years ago, on 9th May 1689 King Willam III of England declared war on France. This was the start of what is known as the Nine Years War (1688–97) – often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg. This major war of the late 17th century was fought between King Louis XIV of France, the domionant power, and a European-wide coalition, the Grand Alliance, led by the Anglo-Dutch Stadtholder-King William III, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, King Charles II of Spain, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, and the major and minor princes of the Holy Roman Empire.
Although the Nine Years’ War was fought primarily on mainland Europe and its surrounding waters, it also took place in the British Isles. The struggle between the Williamites and Jacobites in Ireland and in Scotland, are part of this struggle, with King Louis funding nthe Jaobites. There was also a campaign between French and English settlers and their respective Indian allies in colonial North America.
Louis XIV had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe; yet the ‘Sun King’ remained unsatisfied. Using a combination of aggression, annexation, and quasi-legal means, Louis XIV immediately set about extending his gains to stabilise and strengthen France’s frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions (1683–84). The resulting Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France’s new borders for twenty years, but Louis XIV’s subsequent actions – notably his revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 – led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance.
Louis XIV’s decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 was designed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims. But when Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, and when the States-General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French King at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions.
The main fighting took place around France’s borders: in the Spanish Netherlands; the Rhineland; Duchy of Savoy; and Catalonia. The fighting generally favoured Louis XIV’s armies, but by 1696 his country was in the grip of an economic crisis. The Maritime Powers (England and the Dutch Republic) were also financially exhausted, and when Savoy defected from the Alliance all parties were keen for a negotiated settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace, but he was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV also accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired their Barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their own borders. However, with the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire would soon embroil Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in a final war – the War of the Spanish Succession.
This was the start of what would be a second long century of conflict between Britain and France that would only end in 1815.
Here is a thought. The most important battle to take place on St Georges Day in the British Isles is a great part of irish history, and own which might have shaped the fate of England too..
Today, 23 April 2014 is the millennium of the battle of Clontarf a key battle that shaped Irish history, and may have had implications for the British Isles.
23 April 2014 is the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf north of Dublin between the Irish forces forces of Brian Boru, high king of Ireland, and a Viking-Irish alliance comprising the forces of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, king of Dublin, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, king of Leinster, and a Viking contingent led by Sigurd of Orkney, and Brodir of Mann. It lasted from sunrise to sunset, and ended in a rout of the Viking and Leinster forces. Brian was killed in the course of the battle, as were his son Murchad, and his grandson Toirdelbach. After the battle, the Vikings of Dublin were reduced to a secondary power. Brian’s family was temporarily eclipsed, and there was no undisputed high king of Ireland until the late 12th century. There is a lot more on the battle of Clontarf on wikipedia and the official Clontarf web site.
There is the same media focus on “new claims” about the battle that exists in England over Hastings. In the case of this report in the Irish Independent this case it is whether the accounts a of the battle were taken from the Iliad.
Would a Viking victory in 1014 have made a difference to the future political shape of the British Isles. Might a powerful Dublin have been an actor in the struggle for England in 1066? Could the most important event to affect English history to take place on St George’s Day have taken place in Dublin?