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Title: Some aspects of Roman Catholic service in the land forces of the British Crown : c.1750 to c.1820.
Author: Fontana, Velmo J. L.
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis is a contribution to filling the significant lacuna in military history regarding the service of Roman Catholics of the British Isles in the Land Forces of the British Crown between about 1750 and about 1820. Initially Irish and British Roman Catholics were completely banned by law and regulations from serving in the army and militia, yet by 1780 they formed at least a quarter of the rank and file. Because about 95% of the Roman Catholics of the British Isles were Irish the vast majority of these Catholic troops came from Ireland. This study examines how, after nearly 100 years exclusion from the army, Roman Catholics were from the mid-eighteenth century again accepted as loyal and trusted troops. The evolution of how the particular religious needs of these Catholic troops were initially suppressed, then ignored, and then fully catered for has been examined. Military statistics in the Public Record Office have been studied in order to establish when the authorities started to allow the recruitment of Catholics into the army and what proportion of the army they eventually formed. For convenience this study has been restricted to the Cavalry, Infantry and Militia units of the British army. From 1780 Irish formed about a third of the rank and file and, of these, about three quarters were Roman Catholics. This level was maintained for the whole of the period 1780 to 1820. Between these dates Irishmen joined in proportion to the Irish contribution to the population of the whole British Isles. It was not until after 1820 that the proportion of Irishmen in the army exceeded the Irish contribution to the British Isles' population. Between these dates the poor socio-economic conditions of Roman Catholics in Ireland does not appear to have been a major factor encouraging an excessive number to join the colours. After 1820, as a major famine and excessive population growth took hold, the proportion of Irishmen in the army rose significantly. Catholics were recruited into the British army between 1750 and 1828 despite none of the laws or regulation preventing their recruitment being rescinded until 1793 in Ireland and 1828 in the rest of the British Isles. These laws and regulations were just allowed to go into abeyance. The anomalies that the differences between Irish and British law caused have been studied. The delay in regularising the legal position of Catholics in the army was principally caused by the government's fear of public outcry and George HI's resistance in conscience. The principal causes of the change in attitude of the authorities to recruiting Catholics and the factors that assured them of Catholic loyalty have been examined. Because the position of Catholic soldiers was strictly illegal for most of this period their religious needs were at first officially ignored. When, how and why this changed has been studied and has established that it was the passing of the Irish/British Militias Interchange Act in 1811 that triggered the definitive order that all Roman Catholic soldiers were to be allowed freedom to choose how they worshipped. Therefore it was in 1811 that religious pluralism was introduced into the British army for the first time since the seventeenth century. Because the Interchange of the Irish and British Militias during the last five years of the Napoleonic War has been little studied a major part of this thesis deals with this topic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available