Talks Begin on Repatriating Remains of Patrick Sarsfield, Irish War Hero
Just last year, the Irish Mirror reported that excavations to find the skeletal remains of 17th century deceased Earl and revolutionary Irish war hero, Patrick Sarsfield, had begun in Belgium. They have now been located and talks are underway to have them repatriated back to Ireland as part of the Sarsfield Homecoming Project, now in its 3rd year.
Spearheaded by Dr. Loïc Guyon, the French Honorary Consul in Limerick, and the Head of the Department of French studies at Mary Immaculate College, this project is being carried out in collaboration with Alliance Française de Limerick. Most importantly, the project has been able to successfully establish the exact location of Sarsfield's burial ground.
The Treaty Stone in Limerick is reputedly the location of the signing of the Treaty of Limerick of which the Irish war hero Patrick Sarsfield was a signatory. (Charles / Adobe Stock)
Sarsfield Homecoming Project: Locating the Remains of Irish War Heroes
The aim of the Sarsfield Homecoming Project is not just to locate and repatriate Sarsfield's remains. The program also plans to bring attention to the historical episode of the Flight of the Wild Geese, educating younger generations about this important part of Limerick's history, Ireland's history, and the historic ties between France and Ireland.
By highlighting this chapter of the past, the project aims to preserve the legacy of Irish war hero Patrick Sarsfield and the other so-called Wild Geese for future generations. Plans to repatriate his remains will further aid with this objective by bringing the remains of the Irish war hero home.
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Since its initiation in 2020, the Sarsfield Homecoming Project has been dedicated to discovering, confirming and bringing Sarsfield's remains back to Ireland. Dr. Guyon and the team have been working tirelessly to make this objective a reality and pay homage to this important figure in Irish history, reports national Irish broadcaster RTE.
The 1690 Battle of the Boyne between James II and William III, by Jan van Huchtenburg. The Irish war hero, Patrick Sarsfield was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Limerick which took place after the Battle of Boyne. (Public domain)
How Did the Remains of an Irish War Hero End Up in Belgium?
Sarsfield was a prominent figure in Irish history as one of the Wild Geese who fled Ireland after the defeat of King James II in the Williamite Wars by King William III, Prince of Orange. He is most well-known for his spirited defense of Limerick in 1690 after the Battle of the Boyne, amongst others. Despite finally being defeated in 1691, he negotiated the Treaty of Limerick, which allowed the remnants of the Jacobite army to remain together and travel to France with Patrick Sarsfield and 15,000 other Irish war heroes.
The Irish war hero was injured while serving the French king Louis XIV at the Battle of Landen in 1693 during the Nine Years War. He passed away a few days later from his wounds. Contemporary reports suggest that he was buried a few days later in the grounds of St. Martin's Church in the town of Huy, located in modern-day Belgium, reports The Irish Times.
View of the city of Huy in Belgium where researchers believe they have identified the remains of the Irish war hero Patrick Sarsfield. (bbsferrari / Adobe Stock)
Finding Definitive Proof: The Hunt for Patrick Sarsfield
Dr. Guyon wrote to the Mayor of Huy to request his assistance in locating the ancient burial grounds of St. Martin's Church. According to the church records, 24 bodies were buried in the church grounds from 1689 to 1795, with ten of them being French officers. Out of these ten, eight are named and two are anonymous, with the anonymous burials corresponding directly with the death of Patrick Sarsfield.
Definitive proof that the remains belong to Patrick Sarsfield himself can only be established once the skeletons themselves are found. Sarsfield was an exceptionally tall man, being well over six feet tall (6’6 to be precise, or 1.83 m), and Dr. Guyon has traced his family line back to a living descendant who carries the same Y chromosome as Sarsfield's father, providing further evidence.
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Dr. Guyon will be collaborating with Limerick-based company Aegis Archaeology Limited to conduct an archaeological excavation of the site, which could take place as soon as this summer or by summer 2024, depending on the speed of obtaining administrative authorization from the Minister for Heritage of the Walloon government.
To finance the excavation, a fundraising campaign involving a mix of crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship will be launched in the near future with the goal of raising the estimated €90,000 ($96,400) required. Once Sarsfield's remains are found, they will be brought back to Ireland for reburial, which could occur in Limerick or Lucan, where the Irish war hero originally hailed from.Top of Form
Top image: Portrait of the Irish war hero Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan. Source: Public domain
By Sahir Pandey
Halloran, C. 12 February 2023. “Efforts to repatriate Sarsfield remains 'encouraging'” in RTÉ. Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2023/0210/1355845-sarsfield-limerick/
Murphy, S. 4 August 2022. “Excavations to find remains of Irish earl Patrick Sarsfield could start soon” in Irish Mirror. Available at: https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/excavations-find-remains-irish-earl-27660108
McGreevy, N. 11 February 2023. “Remains of Irish hero Patrick Sarsfield located after more than 300 years” in The Irish Times. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/history/2023/02/11/remains-of-irish-hero-patrick-sarsfield-located-after-more-than-300-years/