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In general, a loyalist is someone who maintains loyalty to an established government, political party, or sovereign, especially during war or revolutionary change such as the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In modern English usage, the most common application is to loyalty to the British Crown, which is the focus of this article.


Historical loyalism


North America

In North America, the term 'Loyalist' describes American colonists who rejected the American Revolution. They were typically Royal officials, Anglican clergymen, wealthy merchants with ties to London, de-mobilized Royal soldiers, or recent arrivals (especially from Scotland), together with many ordinary people. Though estimates vary, colonists with Loyalist sympathies likely accounted for as much as 30% of the colonial population of the day, compared to about 40% who were 'Patriot'. This high level of political polarization causes some historians to argue that The American Revolution was as much a civil war, as a war of independence.[1]

Loyalists formed some 40 militia regiments during The Revolution, to oppose the declarations of The Continental Congress. In the South after 1779, especially in South Carolina, Loyalist militias tended to use the same guerrilla tactics as their Patriot counterparts. Battles between Loyalist and Patriot militias, were often brutal, and atrocities occurred, as in the experience of young Andrew Jackson.

Repression of leading Loyalists during Revolution included property confiscation and driving people out of town. After the war 80% of the Loyalists stayed in the U.S. However perhaps 70,000 Loyalists sought refuge outside America. Most re-settled in two of Britain's three remaining continental 'American colonies': Quebec and Nova Scotia. Thus, the Loyalists, to whom The British gave free land and the nominal hereditary title 'UEL' (United Empire Loyalist) which their descendants may choose to bear even today, are generally regarded to be the founders of modern English-speaking Canada.[citation needed] Native Loyalists like Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, the Black Loyalists, and Anabaptist Loyalists (Mennonites) were part of the migration northwards out of America, and that each of these groups made significant contributions to the Canadian mosaic.

18th century Ireland

The term loyalist was first used in Irish politics in the 1790s, to refer to Protestants who opposed Catholic Emancipation, the extension of the franchise of the Irish Parliament and greater independence for Ireland from Britain. Liberal Protestants who supported those reforms were known as patriots. The terms may have derived from the American Revolution. Prominent loyalists included John Foster, John Fitzgibbon and John Beresford. In the subsequent Irish Rebellion of 1798, ultra loyalists were those most opposed to the United Irishmen, who wanted an independent Irish Republic. Loyalists founded the Green Institution|Orange Order in 1795 and served in the Yeomanry militia, which helped put down the rebellion. Some loyalists, such as Richard Musgrave, considered the rebellion a Catholic plot to drive Protestants out of Ireland.

England and Wales

Nearly every English and Welsh county formed a Loyalist Association, with the first being formed in Westminster on 20 November 1792. Loyalist associations were created in order to counter a perceived threat from radical societies.[2]


Sydney and Parramatta Loyalist Associations, with approximately 50 members each, were formed in 1804 for similar reasons as the English ones and helped put down the Castle Hill convict rebellion in the same year.[3]

Modern loyalists in Great Britain and Ireland

Northern Ireland

A loyalist in Northern Ireland is a particular type of unionist who feels strongly in favour of the political union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In recent times, the term has often been used to refer to militant unionists. Most frequently, they are of Protestant background (at least nominally). There are several loyalist paramilitary groups, such as the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Although loyalists claim to speak on behalf of their communities and the unionist community in general, electoral results tend to suggest that their support is minimal and exclusively based in the urban working class. One pro-Belfast Agreement loyalist party (Progressive Unionist Party) won seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1999. Ideologically, loyalism is typified by a militant opposition to Irish Republicanism, and often also to Roman Catholicism. It stresses Protestant identity and community with its own folk heroes and events, such as the misfortunes and bravery of the 36th (Ulster) Division during World War I and the activities of the Orange Institution.

Republic of Ireland

Loyalists in the Republic of Ireland have been few and far between since independence. Many of the southern Irish loyalists (along with many non-Loyalists, who hoped this might lead to the introduction of Home Rule) volunteered for service in the British Armed Forces in World War I and World War II; many of them losing their lives or settling in the United Kingdom after the wars. Partition saw mass movements of southern Loyalists to Northern Ireland or to Great Britain, furthering the decline of loyalism in southern Ireland. The republican nature of post-partition Ireland meant loyalism in the Republic of Ireland transformed itself in order to survive. Groups such as The Reform Movement, The Border Minority Group and the Loyal Irish Union have gained some publicity in recent times, but enjoy little support from the population as a whole.[citation needed] The Orange Institution in the Republic of Ireland holds an annual pre-Twelfth parade in Rossnowlagh in County Donegal. Loyalism in southern Ireland has no known links with northern paramilitary groups, although investigations into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings are still ongoing.[citation needed]


A loyalist in Scotland is someone on the fringes of Scottish unionism who is often stridently supportive of loyalism and unionism, although mainly concentrating on the Irish union issue, rather than Scottish politics. Scottish loyalism is typified by a strident, and at times militant, opposition to Irish Republicanism, Scottish independence and the Roman Catholic Church - particularly the existence of Roman Catholic denominational schools.

Though only consisting of a small fraction of the Scottish population, and less so in comparison to their Northern Irish counterparts, their profile has become more prominent with strident demonstrations of their beliefs since the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. Scottish loyalism is visible through participation at Orange parades with supporters from Glasgow Rangers, Hearts Fc and Airdrie United Football Club. Although far less active and organised in Scotland than their Northern Ireland counterparts, loyalists have been involved in a small number of activities related to The Troubles in Northern Ireland.[citation needed] Some loyalists in Scotland support paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) and Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

Loyalists in Scotland mostly live in small working class enclaves in the major urban centres or industrial villages, notably Glasgow, Lanarkshire (especially Larkhall), Renfrewshire, West Lothian and Ayrshire. There are relatively few loyalists in areas such as the Highlands, Borders and the northeast (including Aberdeen). Although loyalists claim to speak on behalf of Protestants and unionists, they do not have widespread political support. Many of the political representatives in their areas are from the Labour Party and to a lesser extent, the Scottish National Party. Neither party supports their programme.

England and Wales

Loyalists can be found in many parts of England, especially Liverpool, Manchester, Corby and nearby Kettering and Wellingborough and also in the English where there are substantial Irish (northern and southern) and Scottish immigrant populations. Loyalism also exists in Wales, but to a far lesser extent than in the rest of the United Kingdom.


  1. ^ Wallace Brown, The King's Friends: The Composition and Motives of the American Loyalist Claimants (1966); Robert M. Calhoon, The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1766-1781 (1973)
  2. ^ pp. 17-18 Gee, Austin The British Volunteer Movement 1794-1814 2003 Oxford University Press
  3. ^ The Military at Parramatta

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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