Irish Brigade (French)

Irish Brigade (French)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Irish Brigade

caption=The flag of Dillon's Regiment, Irish Brigade of France.
dates= May 1690 - 1791
allegiance= France/King James II
branch=French army
size= Three regiments
motto=Semper et ubique Fidelis (Always and Everywhere Faithful)
battles= Nine Years War *Battle of Steenkerque War of the Spanish Succession *Battle of Malplaquet
War of Austrian Succession *Battle of Fontenoy
Jacobite Rising *Battle of Falkirk
notable_commanders=Patrick Sarsfield, Justin MacCarthy

:"For other uses, see Irish Brigade."

The Irish Brigade was a brigade in the French army composed of Irish exiles. It was formed in May 1690 when five Jacobite regiments were sent from Ireland to France in return for a larger force of French infantry who were sent to fight in the Williamite war in Ireland, and served until 1792.


These five Jacobite regiments, named after their colonels: Lord Mountcashel, Butler, Feilding, O'Brien and Dillon, were largely inexperienced and the French immediately disbanded Butler's and Feilding's, either incorporating their men into the remaining three regiments or sending them back to Ireland. The remaining three regiments, Mountcashel's, O'Brien's and Dillon's, formed the Irish Brigade which served the French during the remainder of the Nine Years War (1689-97).

Following the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 which ended the war between King James II and VII and King William III in Ireland, a separate force of circa 12,000 Jacobites had arrived in France in an event known as Flight of the Wild Geese. These were kept separate from the Irish Brigade and were formed into King James's own army in exile, albeit in the pay of France.

With the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 King James's army in exile was disbanded, though many of its officers and men were reformed into new regiments, and having been merged into the original Irish Brigade these units served the French well until the French Revolution. Others - such as Peter Lacy - proceeded to enter the Austrian service.

Irish regiments served at virtually every major land battle fought by the French between 1690 and 1789, particularly Steenkirk (1692), Neerwinden (1693), Marsaglia (1693), Blenheim (1704), Malplaquet (1709), Fontenoy (1745), Battle of Lauffeld (1747); and Rossbach (1757).

They also remained strongly attached to the Jacobite cause, taking part in the rising of 1715 and the rising of 1745, with a composite battalion of infantry and one squadron of cavalry seeing action, particularly at the second Battle of Falkirk (where they cemented the victory by driving off the Hanoverians causing the clans to waver) and Culloden, alongside the regiment of Royal Scots (Royal Ecossais) which had been raised the year before in French service. Many other exiled Jacobites in the French army were captured en route to Scotland in late 1745 and early 1746, most particularly Charles Radcliffe, 5th Earl of Derwentwater, a captain in Dillon's regiment who was executed in London in 1746.

Irish regiments served in the War of the Austrian Succession, Seven Years' War, both in Europe and India, and during the American War of Independence, though by the 1740s the number of Irishmen serving in the regiments had begun to markedly decline. During the Seven Years War the Irish Regiments in French service were: Bulkeley, Clare, Dillon, Rooth, Berwich and Lally. Additionally, there was a regiment of cavalry, Fitz James. Also from January 1766 the Papacy recognised the Hanoverian dynasty as the lawful rulers of Britain and Ireland, and ended its support for the Jacobites. Orders were always given in English so many Irish-speaking Irishmen probably learnt their first English while serving in the French army. There were always a significant number of English and Scots serving in the Brigade, though their numbers fluctuated markedly over the years. A database being compiled by the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies at Trinity College suggests that for every ten Irishmen there were on average two Englishmen and one Scot.

Uniforms and Flags

The Irish Brigade wore red coats throughout the eighteenth century with different coloured facings to distinguish each regiment. In 1757 Bulkeley's Regiment had green facings, Clare's yellow, Dillon's black and Roth's dark blue with white braiding. The 1791 provisional regulations (on the eve of the disestablishment of the Irish Brigade) gave black facings to all four regiments with only minor distinctions to distinguish each unit.

Most of their flags were representative of their British Jacobite origins, with every regimental colour carrying the cross of St George and the four crowns of England, Ireland, Scotland and France (Fitzjames's cavalry regiment was an exception in that it had a French design). Nearly all the regiments' flags carried an Irish harp in the centre, one exception being the regiment of former Foot Guards (whose official title in the 1690s was the King of England's Foot Guards) whose flag was just a cross of St George with a crown in the centre surmounted by a lion. Another was the Earl of Clancarty's, whose flag became that of the Duke of Berwick's regiment when the latter was founded in 1698 following the abolition and merger of Clancarty's and several other regiments to form Berwick's. A correct representation of the flag carried by Berwick's regiment can be seen by following the link below to the Flags of the French army.

Some officers of the Irish Brigade are believed to have cried out "Remember Limerick and Saxon Faith" or "Remember Limerick and Saxon perfidy" at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745, though modern research by Eoghan Ó hAnnracháin has shown that it is very doubtful if the regiments would also have been chanting in Irish, a language unknown to probably a majority of the brigade at the time. For further details see his article "Casualties in the Ranks of the Clare Regiment at Fontenoy" in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Number 99, 1994.

End of the Irish Brigade

The Brigade ceased to exist as a separate and distinct entity on 21 July 1791. Along with the other non-Swiss foreign units, the Irish regiments were transferred into the regular French Army as line infantry, losing their traditional titles and uniforms.

The members of the Irish Brigade had historically sworn loyalty to the King of France, not to the French people and their new republic of 1792. In 1792 elements of the Brigade who had rallied to the emigre Royalist forces were presented with a "farewell banner," bearing the device of an Irish Harp embroidered with shamrocks and fleurs-de-lis. The gift was accompanied by the following address:

Quotation1|"Gentlemen, we acknowledge the inappreciable services that France has received from the Irish Brigade, in the course of the last 100 years; services that we shall never forget, though under an impossibility on requiting them. Receive this Standard as a pledge of our remembrance, a monument of our admiration, and our respect, and in future, generous Irishmen, this shall be the motto of your spotless flag:

Semper et ubique Fidelis"
|Count de Provence (afterwards Louis XVIII)|


The most detailed book yet published is John O'Callaghan's 19th century work "History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France". A (sometimes inaccurate) modern summary is contained in Mark McLaughlin's "The Wild Geese", published by Osprey in 1980 as part of their Men at Arms series.

ee also

*Flight of the Wild Geese
*Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan
*Battle of Fontenoy
*Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta
*Hennessy , Congac firm founded by Captain Richard Hennessy
*Garde Écossaise

External links

* [ Soldiers of the Irish Regiments in French Service, 1691-1791]
* [ Irish Brigades at]
* [ Military History Society of Ireland]
* [ Flags of the French Army]
* [ Wild Geese Heritage Museum and Library]
* [ Uniforms and Regimental Regalia: The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration] Sections on the French army from 1740-1789 show color plates of Irish regiments in French service.

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