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Marie-Monique Léoutre, Serving France, Ireland and England: Ruvigny, Earl of Galway, 1648-1720

Sylvie Kleinman
p. 138-140
Référence(s) :

Marie-Monique Léoutre, Serving France, Ireland and England: Ruvigny, Earl of Galway, 1648-1720, London, Routledge, 2018, 238 p.

Texte intégral

1Anyone even vaguely familiar with the history of French Protestant exiles to Ireland in the 1600s will identify their settlement at Portarlington, straddling the borders of counties Laois and Offaly, as the second most important outside Dublin. There, French was used in church services until the 1820s, and the area is proud of this Huguenot heritage. But outside scholarly circles, few if any would recognise the name of Henri de Massue, second marquis de Ruvigny (1648-1720), who had established Portarlington but also rose to become the only Lord Justice of Ireland not born a subject of the English monarch. For a time, he was even the acting head of the Irish colonial administration, if not in title, inter alia enacting the anti-Catholic legislation known as the Penal Laws, but because he is mostly referred to as Viscount Galway, his French origins have been somewhat obscured. This is the first full biographical treatment of his career, but also sheds light on inter-state conflict in late 17th and early 18th century Western Europe.

2The numbers of French Protestants leaving France swelled dramatically after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, but within the context of the age’s complex intertwining of religion, politics and economic imperialism, confessional identities were further reinforced and realigned on an international scale. Protestants united behind the messianic figure of William III, the “new David in armour” opposing Louis XIV, and Ruvigny became a leading figure in the Protestant International. His father, who had served both Louis XIII and XIV militarily and diplomatically, had been député général of his co-religionists and thus their representative at court. After several missions he had firmly established himself in the highest spheres of English politics, and by 1685 even been naturalised. Thus prepared for exile, the elder Ruvigny settled permanently in England in 1686, was granted permission to reside at the royal palace in Greenwich, and there established a form of “Huguenot head-quarters”. The family became increasingly prominent as natural leaders of the French refugee community, ensuring their spiritual needs were met but also assisting with employment and “networking”. Ruvigny père had obtained the use of the church at Greenwich for his co-religionists, who worshipped after the regular Anglican service, but using the English liturgy translated into French, an indication they had conformed. When William III took over the English throne in 1688, the ageing Marquis helped raise Huguenot regiments to serve him, demonstrating his Protestantism “more aggressively” as Léoutre puts it, but also providing employment for refugees. After the death of his father (1689) Henri the younger’s life changed dramatically. Now the 2nd Marquis de Ruvigny, he finally accepted a commission and was made major general of the armies, despite the fact this would lead to the confiscation of estates in France the family had managed to hold on to, and which Louis XIV finally seized in January 1691. Prior military experience before exile had seen him serving in the French army under no less than Schomberg and Turenne. Ruvigny was appointed to serve in Ireland and help end the campaign there against the Franco-Irish Jacobite forces, which was diverting William from his main aim, defeating Louis on the continent. He distinguished himself at some of the most decisive encounters which would complete the Williamite pacification of Ireland, and after the battle of Aughrim (Co. Galway) on 12 July 1691, he was publicly embraced by Ginkel, the Dutch commander of the forces in Ireland. In November, back in London, he took the requisite oaths to be naturalised and in reward for his military services was enrolled in the Irish peerage, receiving the titles of Viscount Galway and later Baron Portarlington, and eventually granted land in 1693. From 1693-1696, Galway played a distinguished role as both a military commander and diplomat in Savoy-Piedmont, a lesser-known front of the war of the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV, which consolidated his position within the Williamite regime. During this time he also championed the cause of the persecuted Vaudois Protestants, despite doctrinal differences. At this point it is apt to stress the originality of Léoutre’s work, that is not only based on the fact that her archival research was ground-breaking and thorough, as evidenced by the staggering abundance of notes gathered in several countries. Galway, somewhat oddly, steadfastly stuck to his mother tongue throughout his career, and the exhaustive study she has produced discusses many facets of it based on “previously untapped” or “hitherto underutilised” sources, because they were – evidently – in French. While it may seem self-evident that translational skills are required for those involved in transnational histories, many of us deplore the increasingly monolingual focus of Irish historical studies, belying the importance of Irish-European interactions. However the book, building on a doctoral thesis completed in an Irish university, may be the product of a fluently bilingual scholar, but clearly conforms to the increasing trend of targetting an anglophone audience: there are virtually no quotations in French.

3Having demonstrated his total commitment to the Alliance and the English king, Galway was entrusted with the governorship of Ireland, and the main original contribution of the book is its evaluation of his role as an administrator in Dublin Castle, shaping the Irish colonial Government during two phases, from 1697 to 1701 and then 1715 to 1717. As the only non-British or Irish person to serve as a Lord Justice of Ireland, Galway’s point of view as somewhat of an outsider allowed him to adopt a more neutral position towards the complex constitutional relationship and parliamentary politics of Ireland and England in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution; substantial sections of the book may have less interest for scholars of French history. The book’s clear and fluid narrative style, and its precise user-friendly chapter summaries will make it an immensely useful resource for undergraduate students. Its focus is firmly on the political, though the author underlines that very little personal correspondence has survived allowing us to gain greater insights into the mindset of this pragmatist who served France, England and Ireland.

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Référence papier

Sylvie Kleinman, « Marie-Monique Léoutre, Serving France, Ireland and England: Ruvigny, Earl of Galway, 1648-1720 », Études irlandaises, 44-1 | 2019, 138-140.

Référence électronique

Sylvie Kleinman, « Marie-Monique Léoutre, Serving France, Ireland and England: Ruvigny, Earl of Galway, 1648-1720 », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 44-1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 14 novembre 2019, consulté le 14 décembre 2019. URL :

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