Thursday, 31 December 2020

WILLIAM III at Hillsborough

WILLIAM III, By Manner of Willem Wissing ~ Rijksmuseum



In the evening of the 19th June, 1690, King William III arrived at Hillsborough, County Down, nothing remarkable having occurred during the march from Lisburn.

The town, which was then the property of the Hill family [Marquesses of Downshire], whose name it bears, was incorporated by charter of CHARLES II, and the Corporation was styled "The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Free Commons of the Borough and Town of Hillsborough."

There, also, had been Schomberg and his army, on Tuesday, the 3rd September, 1689, on their way to Loughbrickland.

And a weary way it was; for what the Protestants spared in the flight from their homes; the Jacobites destroyed, so that in the district not a sheep nor a cow was to be seen; the track of Schomberg and his men was through ruin.

Now the King himself and his forces had arrived.

The fort had been prepared to receive and accommodate His Majesty.

It was a magnificent structure, built by Sir Arthur Hill, in 1650, and consisted of four bastions.

Bonnivert describes it as "a great house belonging to the King, standing on a hill on the left hand of the road;" and in a certain sense the Frenchman was right.

The site was chosen so that the fort might command the Pass of Kilwarlin, the chief road between Belfast and Dublin.

Accordingly, it was strongly fortified within, and had the additional strength afforded by a trench.

At the close of the year 1660, it was made a Royal garrison, and placed in command of a Constable, who received 3s 4d a day, having under him twenty-four warders whose pay was each 6d a day.

The constable-ship was vested in the Hill family for ever.

As might be expected, the old Castle in the demesne is much venerated by loyal men.

There His Majesty remained two days, and strangers are still shown relics of the Royal visit.

They have pointed out to them the apartments he occupied; the chair on which he sat; the table on which he wrote his Orders; the window opposite which chair and table stood; the bedstead on which he slept; the stable in which his horse was put up; the situation of the gardens, and the direction in which he walked - in fact, everything is to be seen but the King himself.

More interesting than the silent witnesses is the testimony borne by the successors of the original warders.

They are regularly on duty at the new Castle of Hillsborough, wearing the uniform, somewhat modernised, of the Dutch Guards - blue coat with red lapels; cocked hat trimmed with white lace, and for plume a red feather; white breeches and gaiters.

Hillsborough Old Guard during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations at
Hillsborough Castle, Lisburn (Image: Kelvin Boyes/Presseye/PA Wire)

From the Court at Hillsborough, His Majesty issued two important documents: One was a Royal Warrant, addressed to Christopher Carleton, collector of customs at Belfast, authorising the payment of £1,200 yearly to the Presbyterian ministers of Ulster.

This is understood to be the origin, of the grant called "Regium Donum."

The pension was inserted in the Civil List, and made payable out of the Exchequer.

Here is a copy of the Warrant:--
     "Whereas, upon our arrival in this kingdom at Belfast, we received a loyal and dutiful address from our trusty and well-beloved subjects, Patrick Adair, etc., in the name of themselves and the rest of the Presbyterian ministers of their persuasion in these northern parts of our kingdom: and calling to mind how early they also were in their address unto us upon our arrival in England, and the promises we then made them of a pension of eight hundred pounds per annum, for their subsistence, which, by reason of several impediments, hath not as yet been made effectual unto them: 
     And being assured of the peaceable and dutiful temper of our said subjects, and sensible of the losses they have sustained and their constant labour to unite the hearts of others in zeal and loyalty towards us: We do hereby, out of our Royal Bounty give and grant unto them the sum of twelve hundred pounds per annum, to be paid by quarterly instalments, the first payment of three hundred pounds sterling, to begin upon the 24th day of this instant June, and so forward: 
     And our will and pleasure is, that you, or the collector of our customs at Belfast for the time being, do make the payments of the said pension into the hands of Mr. Patrick Adair, Alexander Hutchinson, Archibald Hamilton, Robert Craghead, Hugh Wilson, Robert Henry, and William Adair, or to the person which they, or any five of them shall appoint, to be by them distributed among the rest. And for so doing this shall be your warrant.

"Given at our Court at Hillsborough the 19th day of June, 1690, in the second year of our reign."

First published in July, 2012.

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