Remains of Irish hero Patrick Sarsfield located after more than 300 years

Sarsfield best known for his defence of Limerick in 1690 after the Battle of the Boyne

The remains of Patrick Sarsfield, the Earl of Lucan, have been located and it is hoped to repatriate his remains back to Ireland, researchers have claimed.

Sarsfield was one of the Wild Geese who fled Ireland after the defeat of King James II in the Williamite Wars by King William III.

He is best known for his rousing defence of Limerick in 1690 after the Battle of the Boyne. He was finally defeated in 1691, but negotiated a treaty to keep the remnants of the Jacobite army together.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, Sarsfield and 15,000 Jacobite soldiers and their families left for France never to return.


Sarsfield was killed in the service of the French king Louis XIV at the Battle of Landen, which took place on July 29th, 1693 during the Nine Years War. He died some days later of his wounds.

According to contemporary reports, he was buried “a few days later” on the grounds of St Martin’s Church in the nearby town of Huy in modern-day Belgium. The town is about 30km southwest of Liege.

The exact location of the burial ground has now been established following the intervention of Dr Loïc Guyon, the honorary consul of France in Limerick.

He wrote to the Mayor of Huy to request his assistance in trying to locate the ancient burial grounds of St Martin’s Church.

The church records state that 24 bodies were buried in the grounds of the church from 1689 to 1795. Ten French officers are buried there. Eight are named and two are anonymous. The burial of the two anonymous French officers corresponds directly with the death of Sarsfield so one of the two must be him.

Definitive proof will be established once the skeletons are found. Sarsfield was an exceptionally tall man, especially by the standards of the age, being well over six foot, according to many contemporary reports.

The other factor is that Dr Guyon has traced the family line back to a living descendant who carries the same Y chromosome as Sarsfield’s father, the common ancestor.

“If we have a match with Sarsfield’s Y chromosome, it will prove it beyond doubt it is him. Boys inherit the Y chromosome from their father and so on through the generations,” he said.

“We traced it all the way back through the common ancestor in the branch of the family to which Patrick Sarsfield belongs.”

The Sarsfields are also part of a rare haplogroup which is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patriline or the matriline.

Dr Guyon will be working with Limerick-based company Aegis Archaeology Limited to conduct an archaeological excavation of the site, possibly as early as this summer or by the summer of 2024 depending on how quickly the administrative authorisation to carry out the excavation can be obtained from the Minister for Heritage of the Walloon government.

Dr Guyon also announced that a fundraising campaign involving a mix of crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship will be launched in the coming months with the objective of raising the estimated €90,000 needed to conduct the excavation.

He envisages that once his remains are found, they will be brought back to Ireland for reburial. It may be in Limerick or Lucan where Sarsfield is originally from.

“The first aim of the Sarsfield Homecoming Project is to find and repatriate the remains of Patrick Sarsfield,” he said.

“A secondary aim has always been to bring Sarsfield and the whole historical episode of the Flight of the Wild Geese back into the spotlight and educate in particular the younger generations about that important part of Limerick’s history, Ireland’s history, and the history of the ties between France and Ireland.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times