Ireland and 'King Billy': Usage and Abusage

Rex Cathcart examines how William's brief intervention in Ireland has provided a rallying-point in ideology and iconography for Protestants to the present day.

In Northern Ireland the memory of William III lives on and is kept alive by militant Protestants for whom the Prince of Orange epitomises successful resistance to Catholic domination. The anniversary of his victory in July 1690, over the Irish and French forces of Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne, has for long been celebrated annually with a fervour that owes much to the perception that the threat of Catholic domination is constantly being renewed.

In July, Protestant ghettoes and housing estates are dressed all over with bunting and the pavements painted. The image of William III features prominently, and when the marching begins and the bands play he is to be seen on most banners, on drums and among the insignia worn by Orangemen. William III is universally depicted as a heroic figure on a white charger with sword upraised about to lead an attack.

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