An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702

By Roger B. Manning | Go to book overview

15
The Williamite conquest of
Scotland and Ireland

Scotland is an inexhaustible treasure of men, as may be demonstrated by
the vast numbers they have in our armies and navy, and in the armies of the
Swede, the Pole, the Muscovite, the Emperor, Holland and France. What
might not England do, had she in her pay all the Scots actually in the service
of these princes, where they are daily cutting one another’s throats, and, at the
expense of their country’s impoverishment, gain the empty reputation of
being the best soldiers in the world? This is a treasure beyond the Indies….

[Daniel Defoe], An Essay at Removing National Prejudices against a Union
with Scotland
, Part I (1706), 28, quoted in S. H. F. Johnston, ‘The Scots
Army in the Reign of Queen Anne’, TRHS 5th ser. 3 (1953), 1–2.

It has been observed by many that that part of the growth of an oak which
faces north is more hardy and tougher to the axe than other parts. Indeed,
where it is necessary to undergo fatigue it is impossible for those who live
delicately and luxuriously to vie with those limbs that are inured to hunting
in rough and mountainous country; for hunting trains body and character
and checks effeminacy.

Sir Thomas Craig, De Unione Regnorum Britanniae Tractatus,
ed. C. S. Terry, SHS 60 (1909), 456–7.

Because of widespread disaffection among officers of the English army and navy and the political elite, the Williamite invasion of England was relatively bloodless. The political allegiances of James VII and IIs Scottish and Irish kingdoms were more divided, and those realms had to be conquered by military force. The conquest of Ireland was especially protracted and bloody. Scotland was conquered more easily, and eventually provided a seemingly endless supply of manpower for the Dutch and British armies during the following century. The Irish Jacobite army, because it comprised mostly Catholics, passed into French service with very few exceptions. The relatively quick collapse of James’s regime in Scotland, despite initial military successes, was facilitated by the failure of the Stuarts to cultivate and reward allegiance among Highlanders, as well as the Scottish tradition of having members of a house on both sides of a civil war to ensure survival. James

-371-

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