seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Poisoning of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond

James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, is poisoned in London on October 28, 1546. He is the son of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, and Margaret Fitzgerald, Countess of Ormond. In 1535 he is created Viscount Thurles, and is confirmed by Act of Parliament on November 6, 1541, in the Earldom of Ormond, as 9th Earl with the pre-eminence of the original earls.

About 1520 Butler joins the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who praises him as a young gentleman “both wise and discreet.” In early 1522, it is proposed by King Henry VIII that he marry his cousin Anne Boleyn, who is the great-granddaughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. This is to resolve a dispute her father Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire has with James’ father over the Ormond inheritance and title. Wolsey himself supports the proposal. The marriage negotiation, comes to a halt for unknown reasons. Butler subsequently marries Lady Joan Fitzgerald in December 1532. Lady Joan is the daughter and heiress of the other great Munster landholder, the James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond and his wife Amy O’Brien. Their marriage produces seven sons.

During the early 1540s Butler gradually restores the Butler dynasty to their former position of influence, leading to antagonism from the quarrelsome Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Anthony St. Leger. St. Leger gives Butler command of the Irish forces in the Anglo-Scottish War of 1544. On the face of it this is an honour, but allies of Butler accuse St. Leger of deliberately sending him into danger. Butler himself demands an inquiry into claims that St. Leger had planned his murder, and the matter is thought to merit a Privy Council investigation. The Council finds in favour of St. Leger and he and Butler are ordered to work together amicably. Key Government allies of Butler like John Alan and Walter Cowley are removed from office, and Butler is struggling to maintain his standing when he is poisoned.

On October 17, 1546, James goes to London with many of his household. They are invited to dine at Ely Place in Holborn. He is poisoned along with his steward, James Whyte, and sixteen of his household. He dies nine days later, on October 28, leaving Joan a widow in her thirties.

It is surprising, in view of Butler’s high social standing, that no proper investigation into his death is carried out. Who is behind the poisoning remains a mystery. His host at the dinner, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, though he could be notably ruthless, seems to have no motive for the crime, as he is not known to have had any quarrel with Butler. A recent historian remarks that it would be an extraordinary coincidence if St. Leger had no part in the sudden and convenient removal of his main Irish opponent.

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King Henry VIII Marries Anne Bolen

henry-viii-anne-bolenEngland’s King Henry VIII, Lord of Ireland and self declared King of Ireland, marries Anne Boleyn on January 25, 1533 after a secret marriage November 14, 1532. On May 23, 1533, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declares Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be null and void. Five days later, he declares Henry and Anne’s marriage to be valid.

Soon thereafter, Pope Clement VII, who had refused to annul the marriage of Henry and Anne, decrees sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome takes place and the Church of England is brought under the King’s control.

Anne is crowned Queen of England on June 1, 1533, and on September 7, she gives birth to a daughter who is christened Elizabeth, in honour of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and who becomes the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry is disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hopes a son will follow and professes to love Elizabeth.

The king and queen are not pleased with married life. The royal couple enjoys periods of calm and affection but Anne refuses to play the submissive role expected of her. Henry dislikes Anne’s constant irritability and violent temper. After a miscarriage in 1534, Henry sees her failure to give him a son as a betrayal. As early as Christmas 1534, Henry is discussing with Archbishop Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, the chances of leaving Anne without having to return to Catherine.

In January 1536, the Henry is thrown from his horse in a tournament and is badly injured. It seems for a time that the king’s life was in danger. When news of this accident reaches the queen, who is again pregnant and aware of the consequences if she fails to give birth to a son, she is sent into shock and miscarries a male child that is about 15 weeks old. This is seen by most historians as the beginning of the end of the royal marriage.

Anne’s downfall comes shortly after she has recovered from her miscarriage. Henry has Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On May 2, she is arrested and sent to the Tower of London where she is tried before a jury of peers, which includes Henry Percy, her first husband, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard. Anne is found guilty on May 15 and is beheaded on Tower Green at 8:00 AM on May 19, 1536, at the age of 36.