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William's Commanders: Godard van Reede, Lord of Ginkel - 1st Earl of Athlone

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Rank: General. Nationality: Dutch.

Born in June 1644, the eldest son of Godard Adriaan van Reede, Godard would enter the Dutch cavalry, receiving his first commission at the age of 12. By the time of the Glorious Revolution he had already distinguished himself on the battlefield and he accompanied William, Prince of Orange, and his wife Mary to England in 1688.

Godard van Reede. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In June 1690 he travelled with the newly crowned King William III to Ireland. Their aim was to deliver a quick knockout blow to the Jacobite forces there. At the Battle of the Boyne Ginkel was appointed as commander of the Dutch cavalry. The battle was a significant, but not complete, victory for the Williamite forces. Soon afterward James II took flight for France, never to return, as William and his forces pressed their advantage taking Dublin and forcing the Jacobite army west of the Shannon river.

The failure to take Limerick in late summer 1690 resulted in a withdrawal of Williamite forces to winter quarters. King William returned to England and left Ginkel in charge of the Williamite forces in Ireland, with orders to conclude the war. From Spring 1691 Ginkel began the build up of men, supplies and artillery, that would help destroy the remaining Jacobite garrisons.

In June 1691 Ginkel again began his pursuit of the Jacobite army taking Ballymore and, after a ten-day siege and bombardment, captured Athlone on 30 June. After pausing to replenish his stores, Ginkel again moved towards Limerick. On 12 July he encountered a large Jacobite force drawn up in defensive positions at Aughrim. Ginkel was initially alarmed at the size and disposition of the Jacobite army (almost 25,000 men) but decided to engage. He was guided through the terrain by a local Huguenot family. The Trench family guided the Williamite army towards Aughrim and between 3pm and 5pm small skirmishes give way to full scale fighting. As night fell, the Jacobite commander, St. Ruth, was decapitated by a cannon ball and the Jacobite defence began to break up. The fighting was intense and bloody, with over 6,000 men being killed.

Over the next few months Ginkel drew the war to a close with the capture of Galway, Cork and Kinsale and finally the surrender of Limerick under conditions contained in the Treaty of Limerick.

Like William, Ginkel had been prepared to offer the remaining Jacobites more lenient terms than many Protestant Politicians in Ireland. He was conscious that every week spent in Ireland undermined the position of the Grand Alliance in Europe.

Ginkel was rewarded by being created 1st Earl of Athlone. He would go on to serve William on the continent until his death in 1703. Ginkel’s descendant, the Right Honourable, The Earl of Athlone, was initially offered the post of Grand Master of the newly created Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in 1798 but declined due to his age.


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