The Royal Irish Regiment

Robert Parker

Parker was an unusual man for his time because he rose from the rank of private to be a Captain of the Grenadier Company. He was born near Kilkenny around 1665, the son of a Protestant farmer. He was keen to be a soldier from an early age as he belonged to a band of cadets who drilled with wooden guns and paraded around the neighbourhood. He ran away from home to join an Independent Company commanded by Frederick Hamilton who was later to command the Royal Irish. As a Protestant he, along with Hamilton, was dismissed from the army in the purges of James II. But when William III became king he joined the Royal Irish Regiment as a private. He was very ambitious and as he later wrote: "I applied myself diligently to the use of arms and soon became an expert at it." He was soon promoted to be a non-commissioned officer and took part in several battles. At the siege of Athlone he was hit on the head by a bullet but was able to carry on. At the end of the siege a defender dropped a stone on him and he was more badly injured.

He was in the thick of the fight at Namur and was so badly wounded that he was bed-ridden for 7 months. When he returned for duty he found that he was offered a commission. He was to be more senior than 7 ensigns. Eleven months later he was promoted to Captain-Lieutenant and made adjutant, responsible for discipline and drill in Ireland. In 1706 he returned to the War in Flanders where he was captain of the Grenadier Company. In the siege of Menin he was wounded once more. In 1708 he retired from the army and was given 200 pounds. The portrait was painted after his retirement.

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by Stephen Luscombe