Lieutenant-General Sir Percy Kirke (The Elder), painting by an unknown Artist, c. 1680.

artefact

The Elder

Kirke was involved in many of the most significant events of the late 17th Century. He served his military apprenticeship in the Army of Louis XIV during the 1670s. From 1681 - 1683 he was the penultimate governor of Tangier, where he undertook a diplomatic mission to the Dey of Algiers, with whom he became a great favourite. He fought at Sedgemoor in 1685 and conducted part of the punitive action against the rebels which followed.

Kirke was a leading figure in the conspiracy in the Army that brought William III to the throne. However, Kirke could never thereafter commit himself whole-heartedly to the new Protestant regime. After much prevarication he raised the siege of Derry and served in Ireland afterwards. He was present at the Battle of the Boyne and the first siege of Limerick. However, persistent refusal to obey orders during the winter of 1690 - 91 led to his transfer to the Confederate Army in Flanders, where he contracted typhus and died at about 44 years of age. See his recent biography by John Childs, Percy Kirke and the Later Stuart Army (London, 2014).

The picture was bought by the officers of 1st Battalion The Queen's Regiment in 1982 which complemented the picture of Percy Kirke the Younger. Viewers of the paintings are occasionally confused as Percy Kirke the Younger looks considerably older than the Elder! The painting shows Kirke dressed in a three-quarter suit of armour known as 'harquebusier'. It had largely fallen out of use by the late 1680s as battelfield protection, but senior officers were still routinely painted wearing it - and continued to be so into the 1730s - in order to make a point about their knightly qualities. In the background can be seen Peterborough Tower at Tangier, a fortification at the west end of the Upper Castle, which was built during the 1660s to strengthen the landward approaches to Tangier. The artist is unknown but it is probably from the studios of either Peter Lely or John Ryley, the two principal portrait painters of the day.

This picture hangs in the Officers' Mess, 2nd Battalion, which is not accessible to the general public