An historic bayonet exemplifying the complexities of the Williamite War in Ireland has gone on public display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.
The late 17th Century blade is thought to have been originally owned by a Jacobite soldier, who subsequently switched forces before the Battle of the Boyne to fight under the command of King William.
The weapon is the latest addition to the Orange Order museum’s impressive collection dating to the Glorious Revolution.
Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said the item was a “fine example” of a typical British Army plug bayonet from the period.
Explaining the uniqueness of the artefact, he said: “The markings on the hilt and guard make reference to ‘Albany’, which in all likelihood means that this item belonged to a soldier serving with the regiment that was raised by James II prior to his becoming King in 1685.
“The markings on the lower section of the blade indicate that some, if not all, of the regiment switched sides at the beginning of the Glorious Revolution and the Williamite and Jacobite War in Ireland. This change of allegiance makes the piece quite interesting as it reflects the fact that many soldiers and regiments, who had been serving together prior to 1688, ended up fighting on rival sides during the war in Ireland.
“The soldier who used this weapon may have been conscious that the regiment had originally been loyal to James Stuart so etched WR and 1689 on the blade to show his support for the Glorious Revolution and the Constitutional change that had just taken place.”
Mr Mattison said the blade was an “interesting and valuable” piece, and confirmed it was now appropriately on display with a Dragoon carbine that saw action in the war with the Jacobite Forces.
He added: “It allows us to highlight not only the practical side of late 17th Century warfare, but also the complexities of the armies fighting on either side. In 1685 this soldier had been loyal to King James II. By 1689 he was very publicly showing his loyalty for the new constitutional settlement and the enthronement of King William III and Queen Mary II.”
The bayonet unveiling comes ahead of Boyne Day which returns to the Belfast museum next month.
The family event, on Saturday August 18, will incorporate living history displays, children’s arts and crafts, and other activities highlighting the Battle of the Boyne and its legacy.
Running from 10.30am to 3pm, admission for adults to the museum is at the reduced rate of £3. Entry is free to children under 16.