Sunday, July 17, 2011

Billy Goats

In Northern Ireland the "marching season" is in full swing and the BBC reports of the accompanying violence.

King James and King Billy
According to Orange fiction, James was the agent of Rome and popery. Nothing could be further from the truth. In seeking the help and support of Louis XIV, King James was allying himself with the pope's bitterest enemy. Louis, bent on European domination, had made Lorraine a subject state, had attacked Genoa and attempted to sack Rome. The pope of the period, Innocent XI, was outraged and humiliated. In 1686 some of the European Powers, alarmed at the strength and ferocity of the French, entered into the Treaty of Augsberg. This Treaty, established specifically to resist the marauding armies of Louis XIV, was subscribed to by the King of Spain, the Emperor of Germany and by William, Prince of Orange. The nominal head of the Treaty powers was Pope Innocent XI. So, rather than being an enemy of the pope, as Orange mythology asserts, “King Billy" was the pope’s ally and had the official backing of the Roman Catholic church. Indeed, when news of King William's victory over King James at the Boyne percolated through to Rome, the pope ordered the singing of a special Te Deum in St. Peter's and similar celebrations and rejoicings were held in Catholic churches in Madrid, Brussels and Vienna.

Religious liberty?
It was James, who signed the Acts of the Dublin Parliament giving freedom of religion to all citizens. King Billy, too, when he agreed the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691, accepted that the various religious denominations should continue to enjoy the freedom of religious worship. However, he later established the Episcopalian Church and effectively outlawed not only Catholicism but Presbyterianism - the religion of the great majority of Protestants in Ireland. A Presbyterian clergyman in 1691 was liable on conviction of delivering a sermon or celebrating the Lord's Supper to a term of imprisonment and a fine of £100 and they were similarly punished for performing marriage rites. There are many recorded convictions for these "offences", especially in the counties of Antrim and Down . In 1694 the Williamite government passed a Test Act which effectively precluded Presbyterians from offices under the Crown and a further Act of 1713 set a punishment of imprisonment for Presbyterians convicted of school teaching and banned the marriage of Presbyterians and members of the Established church.

Richard Montague

No comments: