French or Irish, had a white badge in his hat. That colour had been chosen in compliment to the House of Bourbon. "I am glad to see you, gentlemen," said the King, as his keen eye surveyed the Irish lines. "If you escape me now, the fault will be mine."
Each of the contending princes had some advantages over his rival. James, standing on the defensive, behind entrenchments, with a river before him, had the stronger position; but his troops were inferior both in number and in quality to those which were opposed to him. He probably had thirty thousand men. About a third part of this force consisted of excellent French infantry and excellent Irish cavalry. But the rest of his army was the scoff of all Europe. The Irish dragoons were bad; the Irish infantry worse. It was said that their ordinary way of fighting was to discharge their pieces once, and then to run away bawling "Quarter" and "Murder." Their inefficiency was, in that age, commonly imputed, both by their enemies and by their allies, to natural poltroonery. How little ground there was for such an imputation has since been signally proved by many heroic achievements in every part of the globe. It ought, indeed, even in the seventeenth century, to have occurred to reasonable men, that a race which furnished some of the best horse soldiers in the world would certainly, with judicious training, furnish good foot soldiers. But the Irish foot soldiers had not merely not been well trained; they had been elaborately ill trained. The greatest of our generals repeatedly and emphatically declared that even the admirable army which fought its way, under his command, from Torres Vedras to Toulouse, would, if he had suffered it to contract habits of pillage, have
- Memorandum in the handwriting of Alexander, Earl of Marchmont. He derived his information from Lord Selkirk, who was in William's army.
- James says (Life, ii. 393, Orig. Mem.) that the country afforded no better position. King, in a thanksgiving sermon which he preached at Dublin after the close of the campaign, told his hearers that "the advantage of the post of the Irish was, by all intelligent men, reckoned above three to one." See King's Thanksgiving Sermon, preached on Nov. 16, 1690, before Lords Justices. This is, no doubt, an absurd exaggeration. But M. de la Hoguette, one of the principal French officers who was present at the battle of the Boyne, informed Louvois that the Irish army occupied a good defensive position, Letter of La Hoguette from Limerick, July 31/Aug. 10, 1690.