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


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Death of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles

Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, drowns on December 15, 1619, off the coast of The Skerries, Isle of Anglesey. He is the son and heir apparent of Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond (1559–1633), whom he predeceases. He resides at Thurles Castle, Thurles, County Tipperary. He is the father of the Irish statesman and Royalist commander James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond.

Butler is born the eldest son of Walter Butler and his wife Helen Butler. His father is the 11th Earl of Ormond. His mother is the eldest daughter of Edmund Butler, 2nd Viscount Mountgarret and his wife Grizel FitzPatrick. His father and mother are cousins. Their common great-grandfather is Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond. Their family, the Butler dynasty, is Old English and descends from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II of England in 1177.

Some time before 1610, Butler marries Elizabeth Poyntz against his father’s wishes. She is the daughter of Sir John Pointz (died 1633) of Iron Acton in Gloucestershire and his wife Elizabeth Sydenham. He and Elizabeth had seven children, three sons and four daughters:

In 1619 after the beginning of his father’s long imprisonment in the Fleet Prison, Butler is summoned to England to answer charges of treason, specifically, of having garrisoned Kilkenny. However, on December 15 the ship conveying him is wrecked off the coast of The Skerries, Isle of Anglesey and he drowns. Like his father, he is a prominent Catholic and it seems likely that his refusal to conform to the established Anglican religion had angered King James I, and may have been the true motive for his summons.

Butler predeceases his father who dies in 1634. His eldest son James, the future 1st Duke of Ormond, succeeds him as heir apparent and bearer of the courtesy title Viscount Thurles until he succeeds his grandfather as the 12th Earl of Ormond.


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Birth of Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory

Vice Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC (Ire), Irish soldier and politician, is born on July 8, 1634 at Kilkenny Castle. He is the eldest son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, and Elizabeth Preston. He predeceases his father and therefore never becomes duke.

When Butler is born, his father is then the 12th Earl of Ormond but is raised to marquess and duke. His family, the Butler dynasty, is Old English and descends from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177. His mother is a second cousin once removed of his father as she is a granddaughter of Black Tom, 10th Earl of Ormond. Her father, however, is Scottish, Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond, a favourite of James I. Both parents are Protestants. They married on Christmas Day 1629.

Butler is one of ten siblings, eight brothers and two sisters, but five of the sons die in childhood. As the eldest living son, he is the heir apparent and is styled with the corresponding courtesy title, which at first is Viscount Thurles but changed to Earl of Ossory when his father becomes marquess in 1642. His early years are spent in Ireland until 1647 when he accompanies his father to England. In 1648 his father renews his support for the royalist cause and he and his son have to flee to France, arriving in Caen in February 1648. Lady Ormond also moves to Caen, where she arrives on June 23, 1648 with his siblings.

Butler is an accomplished athlete and a good scholar. Having come to London in 1652 he is rightly suspected of sympathising with the exiled royalists, and in 1655 is jailed by Oliver Cromwell. After his release about a year later he goes into exile to the Netherlands where Charles II has his exile court at the time.

On November 17, 1659, while in exile, Butler marries Emilia van Nassau, the second daughter of Louis of Nassau, Lord of De Lek and Beverweerd. They have eleven children, including two sons: James (1665–1745), who becomes the 2nd Duke of Ormonde in 1688; Charles (1671–1758), who becomes the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde following his elder brother’s attainder in 1715; Elizabeth (died 1717), who marries William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby in 1673; Amelia (died 1760), who inherits the estates of her brother Charles and never marries; and Henrietta (died 1724), who marries Henry de Nassau d’Auverquerque, 1st Earl of Grantham.

Butler accompanies Charles II back to England in 1660. In 1661 he becomes a member of both the English and the Irish houses of commons, representing in the former Bristol and Dublin University in the latter.

In 1662 Butler is called to the Irish House of Lords under a writ of acceleration as the Earl of Ossory. His father holds the title “5th Earl of Ossory” as one of his subsidiary titles. The acceleration makes Thomas Butler the 6th Earl of Ossory. This is the only substantive title he ever holds, as he predeceases his father and therefore never succeeds to his father’s titles. His eldest son, however, would later become the 2nd Duke of Ormond and the 7th Earl of Ossory.

Butler holds several military appointments: lieutenant-general of the army in Ireland (appointed in 1665); created an English peer as Lord Butler (in 1666); Lord of the Bedchamber to Charles II (appointed in 1660), a post he holds until his death.

In 1665 a fortunate accident allows Butler to take part in the Battle of Lowestoft against the Dutch, and in May 1672, being now in command of a ship, he fights against the same enemies in the Battle of Solebay, serving with great distinction on both occasions. He is partly responsible for this latter struggle, as on March 12, 1672, before war is declared, he attacks the Dutch Smyrna fleet, an action which he greatly regrets later in life. While visiting France in 1672 he rejects the liberal offers made by Louis XIV to induce him to enter the service of France, and returning to England he adds to his high reputation by his conduct during the Battle of Texel in August 1673. From 1677 until 1679, he serves alongside his father as a Lord of the Admiralty.

Butler is intimate with William, Prince of Orange, and in 1677 he joins the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British contingent and winning great fame at the siege of Mons in 1678. He acts as deputy for his father, who is Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in parliament he defends Ormond’s Irish administration with great vigour. In 1680 he is appointed governor of English Tangier, but his death prevents him from taking up his new duties.

Butler dies on July 30, 1680 at Arlington House in London. He is buried provisionally in Westminster Abbey on July 31, 1680. The ceremony of burial is performed belatedly on November 13, 1680. Some say Butler’s body is later taken to Ireland and reburied in the family vault in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. James, his eldest son, succeeds him as the 7th Earl of Ossory and in 1688 becomes the 2nd Duke of Ormond.

One of Butler’s most intimate friends is John Evelyn, who eulogises him in his Diary.

(Pictured: “Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory” by Peter Lely, painting, circa 1678, National Portrait Gallery)


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Birth of James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster

Lieutenant-General James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, PC (Ire), Irish nobleman, soldier and politician, is born on May 29, 1722. He is styled Lord Offaly until 1744 and known as The Earl of Kildare between 1744 and 1761 and as The Marquess of Kildare between 1761 and 1766.

FitzGerald is the son of Robert FitzGerald, 19th Earl of Kildare, and Lady Mary, daughter of William O’Brien, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin.

FitzGerald is a member of the Irish House of Commons for Athy from 1741 before succeeding his father as 20th Earl of Kildare in 1744. He is sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1746 and in 1747, on the occasion of his marriage, he is created Viscount Leinster, of Taplow in the County of Buckingham, in the Peerage of Great Britain, and takes his seat in the British House of Lords that same year. From 1749 to 1755 he is one of the leaders of the Popular Party in Ireland, and serves as the country’s Master-General of the Ordnance between 1758 and 1766, becoming Colonel of the Royal Irish Artillery in 1760. He is promoted to Major-General in 1761 and to Lieutenant-General in 1770.

In 1761 FitzGerald is created Earl of Offaly and Marquess of Kildare in the Peerage of Ireland and in 1766 he is further honoured when he is made Duke of Leinster, becoming by this time the Premier Duke, Marquess and Earl in the Peerage of Ireland.

FitzGerald marries the 15-year-old Lady Emily Lennox, daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and one of the famous Lennox sisters, in London on February 7, 1747. She descends from King Charles II and is therefore a distant fifth cousin of King George III (both of them are descended from King James VI and I). The couple has nineteen children.

FitzGerald dies at the age of 51 at Leinster House, Dublin, on November 19, 1773, and is buried in the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. He is succeeded by his second (but eldest surviving) son, William, Marquess of Kildare. The Duchess of Leinster causes a minor sensation by marrying her lover William Ogilvie in 1774, but continues to be known as The Dowager Duchess of Leinster. She has a further three children by him. She dies in London at the age of 82 in March 1814.

In 1999, Irish Screen, BBC America and WGBH produce Aristocrats, a six-part limited television series based on the lives of Emily Lennox and her sisters. FitzGerald is portrayed by Ben Daniels.

(Pictured: James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, by Joshua Reynolds, 1753)