The situation in Ireland was now causing grave concern to both William and Parliament. With James in Ireland, backed by Louis XIV's troops and gaining an ever increasing number of Jacobite followers, the situation needed to be dealt with swiftly. James' intentions were clear; to control Ireland, cross to Scotland to his followers there and invade England in an attempt to gain the throne once again, for himself and force the Roman Catholic religion on the people. The plight of Ireland's Protestants was also desperate, with persecution and attack a daily occurrence, many having to flee their homes in fear of their lives.

The English saw Louis' involvement as unwarranted interference in British affairs and Parliament granted William a purse of £2,000,000 for a campaign in Ireland against James.
The date of William's departure for Ireland was delayed several times as an Act of Parliament was required which transferred powers to Mary whilst William was gone - the real power being entrusted to a Council of nine Lords who would decide on issues of Parliament and State, in the King's absence. The whole issue was hard for Mary and it meant her husband and father would be in direct opposition.

                              
                                          The statue of King William outside Carrickfergus Castle

On the 4th June William left London and by nightfall he had reached Northampton. On the 8th, he attended divine service at Chester Cathedral, after which he inspected the ships at Hoylake on the Wirral Peninsula. On the 11th June, he embarked for Ireland aboard the yacht Mary,with a fleet of about 300 ships. On the 14th June, the hills of Ireland came into sight and that afternoon the fleet cast anchor in Carrickfergus Lough. William was rowed ashore in the Rear Admiral's barge and at about 3:30pm, he landed at the Old Quay, under the shadow of the great Norman Castle.

The garrison of the castle had drawn up a Guard of Honour and the towsnpeople added their applause. They chose a Quaker as their spokesman and he stepped forward saying " William, thou art welcome in thy Kingdom" - the King replied, "you are the best bred gentleman I have met since I left England."

                              
                        The plaque marking the spot where the King landed on the Old Quay

William set off on horseback for Belfast and in the village of Whitehouse he met with his military leaders. Amongst those present were his Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Schomberg, his son, Mienhard Count Schomberg, the Duke of Wurtemberg; the Commanders of the Danish and Dutch forces; Major General Kirk, the English Commander and Gustavus Hamilton, the Governor of Enniskillen. At this point, William joined Schomberg in his coach and continued the journey to Belfast.


                            


The King entered Belfast at the North Gate (where today North Street crosses Royal Avenue) and was welcomed by the magistrates, burgesses and the Reverend George Walker, now Bishop-elect of Derry. Here William made a speech and finished by commanding a fast to be kept throughout the Kindgom of Ireland for imploring the blessing of Almighty God on his person and army during the present war. A Royal Salute was fired from the castle and was echoed by guns which Schomberg had placed at wide intervals for the purpose of conveying signals from post to post. Wherever it was heard, it was known that William had come and before nightfall all the heights of Antrim and Down were ablaze with bonfires.

That night, William lodged at the castle and wrote a cheerful letter to Mary, saying he found the Irish air to his liking - the next day he attended Sunday Morning Service at the Corporation Church (now St. George's) and heard the chaplain Rev. G. Royce, preach from the text: "Who through faith subdued kingdoms" - Hebrews 11:33. 


                              
                                           The exact chair in which the King sat, for the service
                                                                 in the Corporation Church


The next day, Monday June 16th, addresses of loyalty were presented on behalf of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, the civic authorities of the city of Londonderry, the town of Belfast and by the Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace and gentlemen of the counties of Down and Antrim.

On Thursday June 19th, after two days of meticulous preparations, William's army left Belfast and headed south. Their route took them via the Dublin Road and whilst on the Malone Road, heavy showers forced the King to take shelter under trees at the house of John Eccles - this house was known as "The Rookery" or "Cranmore" - John Eccles subsequently changed the house name to "Orange Grove", but it later reverted to Cranmore.

The march continued along Upper Malone, the Old Coach Road and past the ruins of both Drumbeg and Lambeg Parish Churches which had been burnt down in 1641, when thousands of Protestants were massacred. A further delay was caused by damage to the King's carriage when crossing the river at a ford near Lambeg. The local blacksmith, Rene Bulmer was called and he held a conversation with the King in French! To William's delight Rene told him that he was an exiled Huguenot and that his only reward for repairing the King's carriage would be for William to embrace him as French Generals would do when conferring an honour. Whereupon William said " Mais oui mon vieux, je te salueras voluntiers et ta femme aussi", (yes my old man, I will gladly greet you and your wife too) and William embraced both the blacksmith and his wife!

In spite of these delays, William reached Schomberg's headquarters in Lisburn Castle for lunch on the same day as he had left Belfast Castle. After inspecting troops on Blaris Moor, near Long Kesh during the afternoon, the King moved on to Hillsborough Castle for the night. The next day, the army moved on through County Down, past the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Dromore, crossed the Upper Bann and via Banbridge, finally arrived at the rendezvous on the north west side of Loughbrickland. The camp extended in two lines from Loughbrickland to Scarvagh pass and Pointz pass. An ancient Oak tree in Scarvagh Demesne is still shown as that under which the Royal tent was pitched.

                           
                                                         King William's tree in Scarvagh Demesne

The army which crossed the Irish sea with him included 2,000 battle experienced Huguenots, 7,000 Dutch and Brandenburgers, 10,000 Danes and Finns, 11,000 English and Scots and 6,000 Ulstermen. There were four Regiments of Enniskillen men - Wynns, Tiffins, Lloyds and Cunninghams and one Regiment of Derry men, the St. John's, commanded by Colonel Mitchelburne, with Rev. George Walker as Chaplain. Two companies from Bandon in Cork completed the army. In total William's army would number 36,000 men - a large army for the full scale military campaign to quickly crush the forces of James.

On 22nd June, William inspected his troops, riding through the Regiments to be better able to observe them and satisfy himself of their efficiency.

On 24th June, an advance party reached beyond Newry to the edge of Dundalk, where they observed that James had fallen back to Ardee. The next day the main army advanced to Newry and camped on the side of a hill there. The next day, with the King at their head, wearing an Orange coloured sash, the army went through the Moyry Gap and passed out of Ulster. As he went, he found it easy to admire the beauty of Ireland and made the comment that "this country is worth fighting for."

                      
           


As William's army advanced, the 30,000 strong Jacobite force retreated before him, so that by June 30th his army had reached the top of a hill near the southern boundary of County Louth. In the valley beyond was the River Boyne, marking the boundary of Louth and Meath. Down the Boyne at Oldbridge, the river could be crossed. William viewed the terrain and thought it suitable for a battle which should be short and conclusive.

The next day, Mary's worst fears would be realised as her husband and her father would join battle. The clash would have far-reaching consequences for Ireland and much, much further afield. 


             
                                                                         The Boyne Valley