Battle of the Boyne - Pope and King Billy on same side

The meeting yesterday between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and First Minister Ian Paisley at the site of the Battle of the Boyne was of deep historical and symbolic significance.

The events of 1690 have long lost any import as a living concern in this part of the island, but it has been a live issue in the North ever since. The most important ramifications will therefore be felt north of the Border.

Although the Battle of the Boyne is frequently viewed as a defining battle in Irish history, it has taken on a localised sectarian context.

There appears to be little understanding that the battle also had a much broader significance in British and even European history.

Yesterday’s ceremony could provide a real boost for the restoration of the historical site, and thereby contribute to a better understanding of the broader ramifications of our past.

In the context of the struggle for European hegemony, for example, the Battle of the Boyne was considered a defining event in ending, for more than a century, what was seen as the real danger of a French conquest of Europe.

Ironically, Pope Alexander VIII actually sided with King William of Orange against the Catholic King James II, who was backed by the French. People on all sides might benefit if they knew a little more about the battle’s actual significance.

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