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"France invading England via Ireland" Topic

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Korvessa Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2021 8:10 p.m. PST

I have read a few times that one of the reasons England wanted to control Ireland is out of fear of France using it as a springboard to invade the home islands.

Why would that be a problem? It seems like that would just be twice as difficult as invading across he channel;
doubling the amount of time the invasion fleet would be vulnerable to the Royal Navy, etc.

Was it really a concern?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2021 1:47 a.m. PST

Well, we are talking about half a millennium of history here. But if I were working on invading Britain, I'd say two potential invasion points from two different secure bases might disperse the defense, and switching all the manpower and other resources of Ireland from the British side to mine is bound to be helpful.

Since the Spanish, the French and the Germans each in turn tried to use Ireland as part of an attack on Britain, I'd say a number of people agreed with me.

KeepYourPowderDry30 Jun 2021 9:16 p.m. PST

Ireland and Scotland were both seen as invasion points, particularly from Tudor times (Scotland much more so than Ireland). Remember they are separate countries until Act of Union . Certainly mid1500s both countries still had relatively large Catholic populations. Scots/Irish Catholics would be expected to welcome and support a liberating French (Catholic) army.

Throw into the mix dynastic complications, with the Scots often on the look out for supporters willing to back a claimant to the English throne.

Ireland was less of a springboard, more of a diversion. Cause trouble in Ireland, attack English settlers, and the English Church will insist the crown does something to protect the settlers and churches. Crown diverts troops to Ireland. One only has to think of how Charles I got bogged down in fighting in Ireland prior to outbreak of the First Civil War. Hugely expensive in both terms of men and money.

clibinarium01 Jul 2021 4:47 a.m. PST

I've always wondered about this myself. I think it makes sense more in terms of diverting English resources in an already English-dominated Ireland.

To threaten invasion of England, France is already as close as can be to striking at the heart of English power in the South across the Channel. Germany has to cross the North Sea, and using Ireland as a stepping stone makes very little sense; its on the far side of where you'd want to get to. For Spain it makes the most geographical sense, as a waystation for invasion, but the time they made the big effort they went straight up the English Channel anyway. Even James II with an Irish corps in 1692 intended to invade England directly, not go back and fight in Ireland again.

If you want to disperse English forces then causing war in Ireland is a good idea. There is a hostile native majority who will often wish to throw off the English yoke. Send a realitively small force of professionals to act as a core and soon you will have a serious rebellion on the go, that might take considerable effort to quell. I can't really think of any of these expeditions that were seriously intended to threaten English itself, though had any shown more signs of success perhaps they would have been eventually reinforced for that purpose.

It's an interesting thought experiment to wonder how things would have played out if Ireland had been left free by England. Possibly it would have helped England's enemies during the Wars of Religion, possibly it would have been as hostile to any other would-be interference as that of England.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine01 Jul 2021 9:42 a.m. PST

Off the top of my head there have been a number of times Ireland was used as a threat to the powers that be on the mainland UK.

The rebel forces at the battle of Stoke 1487 came from Burgundy via Ireland. While in Ireland they crowned a new king, in Dublin, and recruited Irish soldiers.

Montrose was supplied with Irish soldiers, who formed the core of his army, during the ECW.

In fact the threat of Catholic Irish armies supporting the king gave the Parliamentarian faction nightmares throughout the ECW.

After the Glorious revolution Ireland was again a problem with supporters of James II form a sizeable army.

The French tried three time (IIRC) in the 1790s to land troops and form a rebellion against the British.

Even in WW2 the Germans drew up Case Green a plan for a potential invasion of the Irish free state.

I think whatever the true effectiveness of these Irish rebellions/incidents they had a major effect on the psyche of those in charge on the England/great Britain. The thought of a rebellion, followed by Invasion, by hordes of catholic Irish supported be some foreign enemy was always a worry even if it was unlikely in reality.

SPQRatae13 Jul 2021 2:13 a.m. PST

I thought the fear was that France would invade through Scotland (not least due to the two countries' very close links). The English feared Spanish invasion from Ireland.

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