Beyond sympathy for the Stuarts

Ian McKeane reviews Ireland and the Jacobite Cause 1685-1766: a fatal attachment by Éamonn O Ciardha, Four Courts Press, £32.50 hbk

IN EVERY sense, this is a weighty tome comprising as it does 378 pages of carefully researched text with numerous footnotes and a further 90 pages of bibliography, chronology and index.

The careful footnotes betray the academic genesis of the work but it is far from dry and dusty because of that. It is engagingly written and at times is a real page turner. The author has examined the relationship between Ireland and the Jacobite ideal over the eighty years that followed the accession of James II.

He looks at Jacobitism as more than just a loose collective of Stuart sympathisers but rather as a valid set of political ideas which permeated the political atmosphere of the first two thirds of the eighteenth century.

He tracks these ideas as they are to be found in Irish poetry and prose literature working closely from the Irish texts. He also examines the relationship between Jacobitism and French policy and the Irish connections with the risings of 1715 and 1745.

He takes the view that the ‘Wild Geese’ and their continental-born descendants were an integral part of the Irish ‘nation’.

The story ends in 1766 with the death of James III (aka the Old Pretender) and O Ciardha concludes that Jacobitism in Ireland provided a foundation for Defenderism, Jacobinism and eventually for republicanism as the century closed.

It is a persuasive view but readers must decide for themselves.

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