The Flight of the Wild Geese refers to the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term ‘Wild Geese’ is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, or even, poetically, Irish soldiers in British armies as late as the First World War.
On 3 October 1691, after a lengthy siege, Patrick Sarsfield (1630-1693) of the Jacobite army and Godert de Ginkel of the Williamite army signed the Treaty of Limerick, bringing an end to the Jacobite campaign in Ireland. The Treaty guranteed the safety of the Irish people as well as religious freedom for Catholics. However, in exchange for these terms, Sarsfield and his men were ordered to leave Ireland for France, which was the stronghold of Jacobite support. Sarsfield left along with 10,000 men of the Jacobite troops and some 4,000 women and children who sought refuge in France.