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Irish Army (Kingdom of Ireland)

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Title: Irish Army (Kingdom of Ireland)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, Charles Carney (Jacobite), 1801 disestablishments, George Ramsay (Jacobite), 1541 establishments
Collection: 1541 Establishments, 1801 Disestablishments, Disbanded Armies
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Irish Army (Kingdom of Ireland)

The Irish Army was the standing army of the Kingdom of Ireland which existed between 1541 and 1801. It was amalgamated into the British Army following the Act of Union, although some roles continued to exist separately.


  • Origins 1
  • War of the Three Kingdoms 2
  • Williamite War 3
  • Amalgamation 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


The origins of the Irish Army were in the traditional royal garrisons of the old Lordship of Ireland. Numbers were low during peacetime, and during the sixteenth century the force would be supplemented by assembling militia in the The Pale and the raising of troops by loyal Gaelic chieftains during emergencies. It was financed by votes in the Irish Parliament, although this was sometimes supplemented by subsidies sent over from London. The principal task of the Army was to defend Ireland from internal disorder and invasion by foreign powers.

The Irish security situation had come under strain during the rebellion of Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare in the 1530s.[1] The Fitzgerald family had traditionally been the leading Anglo-Irish lords in the country, serving as Lord Lieutenants. Their rebellion exposed the weakness of Henry VIII's forces in the Lordship of Ireland, with the rebels securing large gains and launching a Siege of Dublin.

War of the Three Kingdoms

During the Scottish Crisis of the early 1640s, a separate force known as the New Irish Army was formed which dwarfed the "old" Irish Army in size. Mainly drawn from the Catholic Gaelic inhabitants of Ulster, it was rumoured that Charles I planned to lead the New Irish Army against his enemies in the English Parliament in the months before the outbreak of the English Civil War. When the Irish Rebellion of 1641 broke out, the Irish Army was too small in size to cope. Many soldiers of the New Irish Army had joined the rebels, who were able to seize large swathes of Ireland. Large numbers of reinforcements were shipped over from England, while Scotland despatched a separate force to Ulster. Irish Protestants in counties Londonderry and Donegal raised their own force known as the Lagan Army, which was nominally under the command of the Crown, but largely acted independently. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the Irish Confederacy continued to insist upon their loyalty to the Crown, and hinted that Charles had endorsed the rebellion.

Williamite War

Following the accession of James II in the 1680s, the Viceroy Tyrconnell conducted a purge of Protestant officers of the Army, replacing them with Catholics who had previously been generally excluded because of the Penal Laws.[2] Elements of the Irish Army fought on both sides during the Williamite War that followed. Irish Protestants unhappy with the rule of King James launched a rebellion, forming the Army of the North and declaring William III to be King. The Catholic regiments went into exile following their defeat and served in Continental European Armies as "Wild Geese”. They continued to wear the red coat of the Irish Army.

William reformed the Irish Army, using it as a source of recruits for his international coalition during the Nine Years War, and deploying it across Ireland as a garrison to prevent any potential Jacobite rising. Following the Treaty of Ryswick, William planned to maintain a much larger standing army in Ireland but he was forced by Parliamentary pressure to reduce this to 12,000.[3]


The Irish Army was amalgamated into the British Army following the Acts of Union 1800, although some roles continued to exist separately.


  1. ^ A Military History of Ireland p.116-135
  2. ^ Childs 1980, pp. 56-79
  3. ^ Childs 1987, p.194-202


  • Childs, John (1980). The Army, James II and the Glorious Revolution. Manchester University Press.
  • Childs, John (1987). The British Army of William III, 1688-1702. Manchester University Press.

Further reading

  • Bartlett, Thomas & Jeffrey, Keith (1996). A Military History of Ireland. Cambridge University Press.
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