In every part of the world, in every major conflict, the Irish have demonstrated their loyalty to their adopted homeland. The successes continued in their descendants, who went on to achieve so much, especially in France where The Wild Geese first landed in 1691.
In France they often attained the highest ranks, integrating fully into French society. Today their names are emblazoned on the monuments and boulevards of Paris.
One of these Parisian boulevards is Place de Fontenoy, named after the famous battle, in which Wild Geese played a significant role.
The Battle of Fontenoy
In 1745 France was engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession. On an battlefield near Tournai, French troops were struggling to hold their defensive lines against Britain’s Duke of Cumberland.
That was until their reserve troops arrived. Amongst them was the Irish Brigade. The infantry regiments of Dillion, Berwick, Burkeley, Clare, Lally, and Roth charged into battle shouting ‘Cuimhaigidh are Luimnech!’ – ‘Remember Limerick!’.
Limerick was where Patrick Sarsfield and his followers left Ireland in 1691. Its shores were most likely fresh in the memories of these Wild Geese as they stormed the battlefield. For many, the shores of Limerick were a link to home, the last time they had seen their beloved Ireland. Each battle they believed would bring them a step closer to home.
The arrival of the Irish Brigade was a game changer. The Duke of Cumberland could no longer push past the French defences. The Irish regiments captured fifteen cannons and the Berkley regiment courageously captured the flag of the retreating British Guards.
The victory at Fontenoy is won of the most revered in French history. Napoleon would later declare that this victory prolonged the Ancien Regime monarchy by 30 years.
To commemorate the contribution of the brave soldiers of the Irish Brigade, the Celtic Cross was erected on the battlefield in 1907. The cross remembers those who fought at the Battle of Fontenoy and the Treaty of Limerick, signed in that fateful year 1691.
The world remembers the actions of The Wild Geese.