RLMH News: A Victorian Analysis of the Siege of Cork through Annotated Maps

The RUSI Archive is home to a number of unusual annotated maps. One example presented here brings together the histories and careers of two military greats, despite the intervening century between their lives; the Duke of Marlborough and First Viscount Wolseley.

 Siege of Cork Map 1 ©RUSI

There are four annotated maps in the RUSI Archive collection detailing the Siege of Cork (1690), the surrounding areas and the town itself.  The example pictured has been intricately labeled showing each individual action during the Siege. Inscribed on each of the maps is the following 'Siege of Cork 1690. For General Viscount Wolseley. Cork. Oct. 14.th 1890 [illegible initials].' Although the annotator is unknown and the initials are illegible, it is clear that the work was done for Wolseley himself.

Siege of Cork Map 2 - inscription ©RUSIThe Siege of Cork was part of the Williamite (or Jocobite, or William-Jacobite) War in Ireland between the Catholic King James II and the Protestant, William of Orange. It took place shortly after the Battle of the Boyne when James II had attempted to retake the throne from William III. After the Battle of the Boyne, William held Dublin and the Catholic Jacobites had retreated to the West. To secure Cork and Limerick William sent a force under Marlborough. During the Siege Marlborough took not only the city of Cork, but he also captured 5,000 prisoners.

The Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) was commissioned as an Ensign in the Guards in 1667. By 1690 and the Siege of Cork he had been granted independent command and led the expeditions to both Cork and Kinsale. This prompted William to say of him: 'No officer living who has seen so little service as my Lord Marlborough, is so fit for great commands'.

Wolseley, who was born over a hundred years after Marlborough's death, had inherited from his mother who had strong Protestant beliefs, a deep and profound belief in the will of God. Like many other Anglo-Irish Protestants he also had a fierce pride in his country, England. In September 1882 he wrote: 'To see England great is my highest aspiration...'. Wolseley had a distinguished military career resulting in his elevation to Commander in Chief in November 1895.

Wolseley's political and religious beliefs had clearly inspired his interest in both the Siege of Cork and the Duke of Marlborough himself. These fascinating annotated maps, made for Wolseley clearly link these two famous men and we are lucky enough to have them in the RUSI Archive collection.


Ian F. W. Beckett, 'Wolseley, Garnet Joseph, first Viscount Wolseley (1833-1913)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

John B. Hattendorf, 'Churchill, John, first duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010

Siege of Cork Map 3 - annotation ©RUSI

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