Anti-Catholicism and Orange Loyalism in nineteenth-century Britain

Donald MacRaild, Kyle Hughes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Violent anti-Catholicism in Britain reached its apogee with the Gordon Riots. While nineteenth-century Protestant militancy yielded nothing to match the bitter ‘no-popery’ antagonism that saw ‘King Mob’ paralyse London for several weeks that summer in 1780, underlying revulsion at Catholicism did not remotely disappear. The revolutionary and Napoleonic periods saw several overlapping expressions of popular, militant anti-Catholicism. Feverish crowds meting out savage violence in expressions of identity that combined anti-radical politics, popular religion and xenophobia were not uncommon, though precise fault-lines were not always clear. Ireland looms large in discussions of nineteenth-century anti-Catholic loyalism since, in this period, the Irish people, their symbols and religion, largely replaced the French as the antithesis of British Protestant notions of loyalty, while the emergence of the Orange Order as Protestant bulwark against rising Catholic assertiveness was a particular Ulster gift to militant Protestantism in Britain and far beyond. We suggest here, however, that loyalty was not a monolithic cultural identity. There were competing notions of what it meant to be loyal. From liberal conceptions which could embrace Catholics, and contractarian commitments which could be withheld from governments and leaders By focusing on the Orange Order and concomitant aspects of violent anti-Catholicism shaped by these two Irish hostile populations, as well as by Britons, this chapter is essentially tracing the main patterns of a noisy, durable but marginal, militant, and anti-Catholic form of loyalty in nineteenth-century Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLoyalism and the Formation of the British World 1775-1914
Place of PublicationWoodbridge, Suffolk
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Publishers
Number of pages299
ISBN (Print)9781843839125
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Apr 2014


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