Here are 25 facts you might not be aware of:
1 The Order was founded in 1795 by Daniel Winter, James Sloan and James Wilson after a stand-off in Co Armagh between Protestant Peep o’ Day Boys and Catholic Defenders ended with the Battle of the Diamond and the deaths of 30 Catholics. Dan Winter’s House near Loughgall, where the meeting to form the Orange Order was held after the battle as Protestants sought to protect their properties, has been restored and can be visited.
2 The order’s name comes from Protestant King William of Orange who defeated Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. Orange refers to the region of Southeast France that was among William’s family holdings.
3 The Orange Order’s first marches took place on 12 July 1796 at Gosford, outside Markethill, Co Armagh.
4 William of Orange was asthmatic and though not a hunchback, walked with the appearance of one.
5 On February 20, 1702 William was riding Sorrel, a new horse, in the park of Hampton Court. As the horse began to gallop it stumbled on a molehill and fell, throwing William who broke his collarbone, with ultimately fatal consequences. A jolt while in a carriage a few days later caused the bone to break again. Fever set in and he died on March 8.
6 King Billy’s horse at the Battle of the Boyne wasn’t white as famously portrayed, it was brown. A white horse would have made him an easy target.
7 William was one of the first to utilise mass media. He arrived in England in 1688, at the invitation of British politicians seeking to rid the nation of Catholic King James II, armed with a printing press, producing 60,000 copies of his declaration which criticised the king and tried to convince the English he was a friend rather than an invader.
8 The name Lambeg Drum literally means ‘Little Church Drum’, quite inappropriate for one of the largest and loudest instruments in the world.
9 William’s father (William II, Prince of Orange) died two weeks before he was born and his mother (Mary, eldest daughter of King Charles I of England) when he was 10 years old.
10 Malahide Castle, near Dublin, is the ancestral home of the Talbot family. You can still visit the Great Hall where 14 members of the Talbot family sat down to breakfast on the morning of July 12, 1690. All were dead by that evening.
11 An estimated 50,000 took part in the Battle of the Boyne, Surprisingly, most survived, the casualty list estimated at around 2,000 killed. The fighting lasted about four hours.
12 William of Orange was both the son-in-law and nephew of King James II who he defeated at the battle of the Boyne. The battle was to prevent James handing over power in Ireland to Catholics. Most of William’s army were militia of Dutch and Danish nationality, and they had landed at Carrickfergus before moving south. Aligned to France, James II was warned by King Louis XIV not to face William’s army and instead burn Dublin and retreat west of the River Shannon and hold his ground there to regroup. He refused. He lost.
13 William of Orange had a narrow escape at the Boyne. He was almost killed when struck by a ricocheted piece of cannon fire on the foot and shoulder as he (according to legend) enjoyed a picnic and was surveying the battle field on July 11. He was also almost struck by musket fire during the battle by one of his own soldiers during the confusion of battle.
14 While the Battle of the Boyne was won by William of Orange, it didn’t win the war. That only came to a decisive conclusion exactly one year later at Aughrim on 12 July 1691.
15 The original Twelfth of July commemorations were to honour the Battle of Aughrim, not the Battle of the Boyne.
16 The Battle of the Boyne, going by the old Julian calendar which was used in Ireland at the time, actually took place on July 1. It wasn’t until 1752 that the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Ireland when the July 12 date became relevant. However, even after this date “The Twelfth” continued to be commemorated at Aughrim. In fact, 1690 and the Boyne only became significant in the late 18th century when the two battles were combined in a single commemoration.
17 In the 1960s the Orange Order boasted almost 100,000 members. There are less than 30,000 today.
18 The first Grand Lodge of Ireland meeting was held in Dublin. Dublin, as the administrative capital of the Island, was the natural headquarters for the Orange Institution and remained such until the Headquarters Buildings, the Fowler Memorial Hall in Rutland Square, was severely damaged in the Irish Civil War.
19 William’s wife Queen Mary had been devoted to him, and he to her. After the shock of her unexpected death in 1694, William became very withdrawn. Following her death he always carried with him a gold ring and a lock of Mary’s hair. William was buried in Westminster Abbey beside Mary on Sunday, April 12.
20 New Zealand’s first Orange lodge was founded in Auckland in 1842, only two years after the country became part of the British Empire, by James Carlton Hill of Co Wicklow.
21 Ghana, Nigeria and Togo are among the African countries to have embraced Organism. All have their own Orange lodges.
22 Stall in the ‘field’ sell all sorts of usual merchandise like Toy drums, CDs of band music, mugs and printed t-shirts. Only more recently have some entrepreneurs been more inventive. These days you can course Lego Orangemen and Terry’s Chocolate Orangemen.
23 The Orange Order’s headquarters in Northern Ireland are based in Schomberg House - taking its name from Frederick Schomberg (originally Friedrich Hermann von Schönberg) appointed William of Orange’s commander-in-chief in Ireland in 1689, now Duke of Schomberg, he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland. Hit by musket fire, he died in the Battle of the Boyne and is buried in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
24 The River Boyne only just scrapes into the top ten of the longest rivers in Ireland. It is tenth on the list at 112km. Longest is the Shannon (360km). The Foyle, the Bann and the Erne are all longer.
25 Famous Orangemen have included Dr Thomas Barnardo, who joined the Order in Dublin, William Massey, who was Prime Minister of New Zealand and Earl Alexander, the Second World War general.