The Irish military tradition

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Irishmen soldiered abroad in the armies of continental Europe from at least 1587, when Irish regiments were formed in Spain, and this tradition continued well into the early nineteenth century. Many were forced to seek fame and fortune abroad after failed rebellions and religious discrimination at home. Following defeat in the Williamite War (1689–91), the 14,000-strong Irish Jacobite army withdrew to France and spearheaded migration to the Continent. The Irish were organised into ‘Irish brigades’ in France and Spain and there were Irish units in the Austrian army, along with a long tradition of Irish service in Bavaria and in Catherine the Great’s imperial Russia. In 1792, in the wake of the revolution, the Irish Brigade of France was disbanded after over a century of service.

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