Those who might think that student pranks are of recent origin should consider the following tale of events in the eighteenth century that followed the erection of an equestrian statue to commemorate the famous William, Prince of Orange.
The victory of the Protestant King William of Orange (King 'Billy') over the Jacobite army of the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690 (old calendar: 12 July in the modern calendar), a battle that ensured the victory of a Protestant succession of the British monarchy, led to that event being commemorated annually by the Orangemen of Ireland.
Initially, the Lord Justices of Ireland had authorised a major public celebration on 4 November 1690, King Williams's fortieth birthday. This took place in College Green in Dublin and consisted of a two-hour long firework display. During the fireworks, a hogshead of claret, given by the Lords Justices to the spectators, was set out in the street so that they could drink to his Majesty's health. The day ended with the ringing of bells, bonfires in all parts of the city and other demonstrations of 'public joy and satisfaction'. Most of the nobility and gentry and ladies of quality in and about the city were invited by the Lord Justices to supper, where they had a splendid entertainment and banquet and afterwards ended the night with dancing.
However, the bulk of King William's supporters were not satisfied with such celebrations and wished instead to commemorate William's military victory over King James at the Boyne on 12 July. This marked a cult of William of Orange, as the Protestant-controlled municipal authorities availed themselves of every opportunity to highlight King William and his achievements. In October 1696 Dublin Corporation had a monument erected at Thosel 'in praise and honour' of the King. The following year new mayoral chain for the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the centrepiece of which featured William III, was introduced, while in 1699-1700, Grinling Gibbons was commissioned to cast a statue of the King for a site on the Old Cornmarket. However, the more central location of College Green, across the road from Trinity College, found favour and the statue was unveiled amidst great pomp and ceremony on the eleventh anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne (1 July 1701). It was to serve as a shrine throughout the eighteenth century to the cult of King William.
The pattern established was that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would lead a parade of nobility and military from Dublin Castle to College Green to salute the statue of William III. On this day the Boyne Society (the Orange Order was not introduced until 1797) marched through the streets of Dublin, sporting colours, banners and arms; and in the evenings there were bonfires, illuminations and ever more elaborate fireworks. The Mayor and Sheriffs of the City of Dublin participated in these celebrations.
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