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F is for Flight of the Wild Geese

Some of you may look at the title for this Family History Through the Alphabet challenge post and wonder if you’re on the right blog. After all, what does an Irish Jacobite army have to do with Latvia?

As it turns out, quite a bit. I won’t go into all of the specifics of the Flight of the Wild Geese, you can read about it on Wikipedia here, but the short version is that after the end of the Williamite war in Ireland and the Treaty of Limerick, the “Wild Geese” were Jacobite soldiers (and their families) who were permitted to leave Ireland to go to France and serve in the French army. France was the country where their deposed Catholic king James II was living. While they started out as Irish units in the French army, many soldiers departed for places across Europe to serve in other continental armies.

The “Wild Goose” of particular note to Latvia is Peter de Lacy, originally from Killeedy, County Limerick. His continental service began with the French, and then he joined the Austrians after the death of several relatives in the French service. After two years in the Austrian service, he moved to the Russian service.

He fought in the Great Northern War, and was supposedly the first Russian officer to enter Rīga after its conquest. He rose through the ranks of the Russian army, and in 1729 was named the Governor of Rīga. After several military campaigns in the Russo-Turkish War, where he was elevated to Field Marshal, he returned to the Baltics, where he was governor of Livland until his death in 1751.

Peter de Lacy was succeeded as governor of Livland by another Wild Goose, George Browne of Camas, County Limerick. Browne had served with Lacy in the Russian military.

Do you have any stories of Irish “Wild Geese” in any continental service? Any that made it to the Russian Empire? Share your family stories here!

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