Twelfth of July parades have taken place in 18 locations across Northern Ireland.
Tens of thousands attended, marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
King William III – the Dutch-born Protestant better known as William of Orange or King Billy – defeated the Catholic King James II in County Meath in July 1690.
On 12 July, marching bands from Orange lodges all over Northern Ireland parade through villages, towns and cities.
They then listen to speeches and prayers by senior Orangemen.
The day’s longest parade, in Belfast, stretches to six miles (9.5km) – nine districts took part, accompanied by about 60 bands.
As part of it, a wreath-laying ceremony took place at the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall.
The County Antrim village of Ahoghill hosted one of the largest groups of Lambeg drummers on parade, with the village resounding to the drums’ distinctive rattle.
The County Armagh parade was the day’s largest gathering of Orangemen, with about 5,000 on parade in Tandragee.
The internationally-renowned mezzo-soprano Emma Brown performed at the religious service.
The parade in the south Tyrone village of Augher had Orangemen getting in the mood for the forthcoming Open golf championship being played at Portrush on the north coast.
The “Orange Golf Open” saw members competing in a “nearest the pin” competition.
The weather in Northern Ireland on Friday was dry but at times cloudy, with a few showers mainly in the north.
Brighter spells developed towards the southeast and parts of the east coast.
Temperatures ranged from 15C or 16C on the north coast to 18C or 19C in more sheltered parts of the south.
The Orange Order was formed near Loughgall in County Armagh in 1795, when its founding members pledged their loyalty to the royal family and swore to defend the Protestant faith.
Senior Orangeman Edward Stevenson said the parades were a custom that had been handed down for over 200 years.
“Surely there is no other event on these islands that can bring such vast numbers of people onto the streets to enjoy our processions, either by taking part or simply to watch them go by,” the grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said.
While the Twelfth is the traditional pinnacle of the marching season, thousands of people have already enjoyed one of the annual pre-Twelfth highlights.
The sun shone brightly at the parade at the seaside village of Rossnowlagh in County Donegal on Saturday.
Orange Order members from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland took part in the march, which is traditionally held a few days before the main Twelfth of July events.
About 50 lodges from counties Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan, as well as the host county of Donegal were on parade.
The full list of this year’s parades is as follows:
It is the annual Ulster Protestant celebration – held every year on July 12th – in religiously divided Northern Ireland that commemorates a 329-year-old military victory when the last British Catholic monarch King James II was defeated by Protestant King William, formerly Prince of Orange in Holland, at the Battle of the Boyne.
How is it celebrated?
Each year, members of the Orange Order – named after the victorious king and founded in 1795 – carry banners and flags in parades across Northern Ireland accompanied by marching bands carrying musical instruments that include pipes and drums. Orangemen wear distinctive bowler hats, white gloves and orange collarettes. The order, a “fraternal” organisation, has 35,000 to 40,000 members, including an estimated 2,000 in the Republic. The annual commemoration starts with bonfires and fireworks on the night of the Eleventh.
What are they celebrating?
They are commemorating the Glorious Revolution, or Revolution of 1688, that granted Protestant groups freedom of worship when King William and Queen Mary, James II’s daughter, seized the British throne of the Catholic king. The new king established a parliamentary democracy, representing a shift from an absolute monarchy to parliamentary monarchy. A Bill of Rights passed by the 1689 parliament declared that no future monarch could be a Catholic or be married to a Catholic. On the Twelfth, Ulster Protestants are celebrating “King Billy” as the champion of the Protestant faith who secured the subsequent Protestant ascendancy – the political, economic and social domination by the minority Protestant population for three centuries – in Ireland. The defeated King James’s claims to the throne ended with the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.