Patrick Sarsfield (?1655-93)


Life
[Earl of Lucan], b. to an Anglo-Irish family, the son of Patrick Lucan [namesake] and Anne, dg. of Rory O’More of 1641 Rebellion fame, O’More having sheltered on the Sarsfield's Lucan estate; reputedly involved in youth in the abduction of marriageable women; left Ireland c.1672-75, and ed. at a French military academy, under General Luxembourg; joined Dongan's Regiment of Foot, 6 Feb. 1678; served with English crown forces attached to Charles II in France, and hence served with Monmouth, poss. at Masstricht, 1673;
 
held commission in England, 1678; reputedly challenged Lord Grey to a duel when the latter disparaged the Irish capacity for truth, Sept. 1681; suffered rapier-wound when acting as second in a duel, Dec. 1681; but was discharged on suspicion of membership of Popish Plot; briefly retired to Ireland; appt. lieut.-col. in charge of his Irish soldiers for James II and saw action against Monmouth at Sedgemoor, 6 July 1685; engaged Scottish troops serving William III at Wincanton [Hampshire], 1688;
 
inherited family estate on the death of his elder brother [married to sis. of Duke of Monmouth?]; travelled to France with James II; reached Ireland with James and Richard Talbot [Earl of Tyrconnell], March 1689; m. Lady Honora Burke, sis. of Lord Clanrickard; privy councillor and MP for Dublin; appt. brigadier by Tyronnell and Comte d’Avaux; campaigned against Enniskillen troops; expelled Williamites from Connacht, 1689, holding it as Governor;
 
took Sligo after the relief of Derry; retreated to Dublin; present at the Boyne; held Limerick at first siege, Aug. 1690; spiked train of guns at Ballyneety, nr. Pallasgreen, guided by the raparee “Galloping Hogan”; disagreed with St. Ruth’s plan for military victory at Aughrim, and covered retreat, retiring with his force on Limerick, 1690; created earl of Lucan by James, 1691; treated with Ginkel, and surrendered under terms, 24 Sept., 1691;
 
sailed from Ireland out of Cork, 22 Dec. [so-called “Flight of the Wild Geese”, involving 12,000 Irish troops]; served as lieutenant-gen. [maréchal-de-camp] in army of Louis XIV and fought at Steenkirk [Flanders]; received mortal wounds at battle of Landen [var. Neerwinden] in the Netherlands, 19 August; d. 21 Aug.; bur. at St Martin's Churchyard; on seeing his blood flow from a mortal wound, he reputedly said, ‘Ah! If this were for Ireland’ [var. ‘Would it were for Ireland!’];
 
a son James Sarsfield, became Earl of Lucan and died childless in 1718; Sarsfield's widow Honora afterwards married to Duke of Berwick; there is a portrait by John Riley (1646-1691 - also portraitist to William and Mary) in the National Portrait Collection. RR ODNB DIB OCIL

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Criticism
Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.503; John Todhunter, The Life of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan (London 1895); Piers Wauchope, Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War (Dublin: IAP 1992), 358pp.; Kevin Haddick Flynn, Sarsfield and the Jacobites (Cork: Mercier Press 2003), 240pp.

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Commentary
Alice Curtayne, The Story of Ireland: A Survey of Irish History and Culture (Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962): ‘The man who emerged from this [Williamite] war as spokesman of the Irish and their leader was Patrick Sarsfield. He alone provided the heroic episodes and human incidents which, told and retold, were to fortify his people for generations. He is an example of how the Norman-Irish had become, in the course of time, more Irish than the Irish themselves. His mother was Anne, daughter of Rory O'More, a leader of the 1641 insurrection. The Sarsfields had sheltered O'More when he was in need of a safe hiding-place. They had an estate at Lucan in County Dublin and were Catholics and Gaelic speaking. Patrick was born in the middle of the seventeenth century during the height of the Cromwellian campaign, the period of "frightfulness" when the act “To dispose of the Irish” was being carried out. [...] Patrick [...] was sent to France for his education and, being the second son, chose the profession of arms. For this purpose he was enrolled at a French military academy where he acquired a third language, French, in addition to his English and Irish. By the time he was ready for a commission in a regiment, his older brother had married a sister of the Duke of Monmouth, then commanding a regiment in France. It was obvious that this was the regiment for Patrick and he joined it as ensign.’ [Cont.]

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Alice Curtayne (The Story of Ireland, 1962) - cont.: ‘Here he had the best military training obtainable in Europe, under Luxembourg, the hunchback general then conceded to be the greatest living master of military science. It is probable that Patrick took part in the French campaign in Holland in 1672 on the famous occasion when the Dutch opened their dykes and allowed the sea to flood their country in order to save it. Sarsfield brought one great military principle out of this experience: that the natural features of a country, its climate and geography, are the best ally of a beleaguered people. When he reached the rank of captain, he got a commission in the bodyguard of King Charles II [i.e., the Life Guards, commanded by Monmouth]. On the accession of James II, Sarsfield was put in command of the Life Guards, a regiment of horse. When the army in Ireland was opened to Catholics, he returned home and transferred to the Irish army. He was then forty, at the prime of his strength. When James II landed in Ireland, Colonel Sarsfield was put in charge of a division of Irish dragoons. One had to be six feet in height for admission into this body and the colonel towered over his men. According to the portraits extant he had a handsome, oval face, finely chiselled features, large expressive eyes and a gently ironic expression. Soon he became the idol of soldiers and populace.’ [100; cont.]

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Alice Curtayne (The Story of Ireland, 1962) - cont.: ‘When the Jacobite campaign opened in Ireland, the only places of importance held by the Protestants, or Williamites as perhaps they should now be called, were Derry and Enniskillen. Tyrconnell's major mistake was not to capture these towns when he had the opportunity because they were to become the strongholds of anti-Jacobite resistance. Shortly after his arrival, King James went hastily to Derry, convinced that it would surrender at his demand. But by the time he reached it, the city was packed with refugees and the corporate spirit of these incited the townspeople to resist. When James found that there was to be a prolonged siege, he lost patience, left the army to cope with it and returned to Dublin. The siege of Derry failed after io5 days of heroic defence. The siege was a military bungle which could only result in failure and loss. In the subsequent battle of Newtown Butler, the Jacobites were again defeated, this time with enormous losses. Meanwhile Sarsfield held the command in Sligo, where he raised an army of 2,000 and cleared the whole province of Connacht. After the double defeat in the north, he evacuated the western province in order to hold the central key position of Athlone. [...]’ (100-01.) Further, [Battle of the Boyne:] ‘When James left, he ordered Sarsfield to follow him. Soon the rout began. The Williamites pursued the flying Jacobite forces as far as Duleek, where Sarsfield, by marshalling and covering to some extent the untrained levies, saved thousands of lives in the retreat.’ (p.101; with further details of the siege of Limerick, the Flight of the Wild Geese, and the death of Sarsfield ‘near the village of Neerwinden, by a little stream called Landen’; ballads about Sarsfield. (p.103-04.)

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Brian Fallon, review of Piers Wauchope, Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War (IAP [1991]), in The Irish Times (25 July 1992), writes: Sarfield was dead at 37. A follower of James II, he so disliked his Viceroy Tyrconnell that he once ordered him to leave his camp or have his tent felled around him. Sarsfield started as a not very distinguished military blade in France and London, where he was bested in several duels, and was involved in an unsavoury abduction. He was wounded early in the Battle of Sedgemoor, during Monmouth’s rebellion. His famous gun-spiking exploit at Ballyneety in the Williamite War (though he failed to destroy many of the guns he captured) saved Limerick. According to an English officer, after the Battle of Aughrim he covered the retreat with great courage, ‘perform[ing] miracles, and if he was not killed or taken it was not from any fault of his.’ The commanding general at that action, Saint Ruth (properly Saint Ruhe) was unpopular in France for his role in the dragonnades of the Chevennes, and notorious among the Irish officers for his brutality and tactlessness, if respected professionally. In France, Sarsfield led the Irish Brigade in the service of King Louis. James II hopes of restoration were frustrated at the naval defeat of La Hogue; Sarsfield had the satisfaction of fighting at Steenkirk where William was narrowly beaten. Shortly afterwards he received his fatal wound at Neerwinden, a battle notorious for fearful casualties on both sides, and died two days after. The Duke of Berwick, James II’s illegitimate son, married his widow, Countess Honoria of Lucan, who was only 19. She died at 24. Berwick adopted Sarsfield’s son James, who died in his twenties. The Lucan estate passed through the marriage of his niece Charlotte into the Bingham family. The author of of this book is a lineal descendent of a comrade-in-arms of Sarsfield’s. (See IAP listing, infra.)

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References
Piers Wauchope, Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War (IAP [1992]), Contents as listed in Irish Assoc. Press (IAP), ‘New Titles’ (1991): A Misspent Youth; Monmouth’s Rebellion; James II & the English Revolution; Return to Ireland; Sligo; The Attack on Sligo; Inactivity; The Boyne; The Retreat to Limerick; Sarsfield’s Ride; the Siege of Limerick; Birr Castle; Berwick’s Government; Lanesborough Bridge; Tyrconnell and Saint Ruth; The Bridge of Athlone; Aughrim; To Galway and Limerick; Clifford’s Bridge and Thomond Bridge; The Treaty of Limerick; The flight of the Wild Geese; The Last Campaign; Bibliography, index. 320pp., ills. (Oct 1991).

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Notes
Portrait, Sarsfield by unknown hand; see Irish Portraits Exhibition, introduced by Anne Crookshank (Ulster Mus. 1965) [catalogue]

Lucky Lucan”: The Lucan title was afterwards held by Bingham Smith and his successors incl. the last Lord Lucan, the 7th Earl, who disappeared after purportedly murdering Sandra Rivett, the childrens’ nanny, in his London household on 7 Nov. 1974. There is a Lord Lucan website.

William Sarsfield of Cork conferred lands on William Penn in a letter of 1617, held in the Jackie Clarke Library, Ballina, Co. Mayo (see History Ireland, May 2006, p.7).

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