Butler dynasty

This article is about the Irish noble family. For other uses, see Butler family (disambiguation).
House Butler
Noble House
Country Normandy Duchy of Normandy
Lordship of Ireland Lordship of Ireland
Estates Earldom of Ormonde, Earldom of Ossary, Various Manorial Lordships
Titles Various
Style(s) Earls, Barons, and Knights
Founder Theobald Walter, 1st Baron Butler
Ethnicity Norman

The House Butler refers to the several branches of the Butler family (Irish: de Buitléir) that has its origins in the Hiberno-Norman or Cambro-Norman family that participated in the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. Variant spellings include le Boteler and le Botiller. The surname has its origins in the hereditary office of Butler of Ireland. The family originates with Theobald Walter, 1st Baron Butler. Many of the branches eventually begin to extend out to various countries in Europe and North America as many descendants immigrated out of Ireland and England in later years.


Originally the family surname was Walter and thus, House Butler originated from Theobald Walter (sometimes Theobald FitzWalter, Theobald Butler, or Theobald Walter le Boteler) was the first Chief Butler of Ireland. He also held the office of Chief Butler of England and was the High Sheriff of Lancashire for 1194. He was involved in the Irish campaigns of King Henry II of England and John of England. His eldest brother Hubert Walter became the Archbishop of Canterbury and Justiciar and Lord Chancellor of England. During the reign of Henry II of England, Theobald Walter (d.1205) held the position of pincerna (Latin) or "boteillier" (Norman French) 'butler', ceremonial cup-bearer to Prince John, Lord of Ireland.[1]

Butlers of Ormond

Arms of Walter: Or, a chief indented azure. These arms are borne in the first quarter of the arms of the Marquess of Ormonde (the arms of Butler are born in the 2nd) reflecting the family's descent in the male line from Theobald FitzWalter, living during the reign of King Henry II (1154–1189)

This is the senior branch of the family and later produced, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormond. The family seat, since 1391, was Kilkenny Castle.[2] Prior to that, the main stronghold was Gowran Castle.[3] From their position in Kilkenny, they were able to control the surrounding Gaelic kingdoms of Ormond, Éile, Ikerrin and part of Osraige. Members of the Butler family lived in Kilkenny Castle until 1935.


The family held the titles of Chief Butler of Ireland and Baron Butler. Prior to the creation of the Earldom of Ormonde, the 1st Earl's father, Edmund Butler, had been created the first Earl of Carrick. However, this title did not pass to James Butler. Seven years after his father's death, James was rewarded with an earldom in his own right – Ormond. Subsidiary titles for the earl in the Peerage of Ireland were added: Earl of Ossory (1538) and Viscount Thurles (1536). James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormond served as the commander of the Cavalier forces in Ireland and was made Marquess of Ormond in 1642, which title became extinct in 1758. He was made Duke of Ormonde in 1661, and with the title created in the Peerage of England in 1682. After 1682, the spelling "Ormonde" was used almost universally. The title was forfeit in 1715. Subsidiary titles for the duke in the Peerage of England were added: Earl of Brecknock (1660) and Baron Butler (1660).

James Fitzjames Butler, succeeded his grandfather and became the second duke. Accused of treason during the Jacobite rising of 1715, he was attainted and his English peerages declared forfeit. In 1758 his brother Charles, the de jure third duke (Irish), died and the dukedom and marquessate became extinct. The eighteenth earl, James Wandesford Butler, was created as Baron Ormonde, of Llanthony, in the county of Monmouth in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1821 on the coronation of George IV. Later, he was created the Marquess of Ormonde in the Peerage of Ireland in 1816. On his death in 1820, that title became extinct and the earldoms passed to his brother, for whom the title "Marquess of Ormonde" was re-created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1825. That title became extinct in 1997, while the earldom became dormant.


The Lordship of Ireland in 1450
Norman Lordships and native kingdoms.

The patrimony of the Butlers of Ormond encompassed most of the modern counties of Tipperary, Kilkenny and parts of County Carlow. Only the earldom of Desmond would have had more extensive land holdings than Ormond in the Lordship and Kingdom of Ireland. Following the successful Norman Invasion, the ancient Gaelic lands would have been annexed to the crown and passed as baronies or fiefs to the supporters of the crown (the victorious barons). These (administrative) baronies corresponded to the (Irish) túath ("country") or trícha cét ("thirty hundred [men]") of a Gaelic chief, for example Éile. However, sometimes baronies combined small territories, or split a large one, or were created without regard for the earlier boundaries. In the Norman period most Gaelic chiefs were killed, expelled, or subordinated by the new Norman lord; in the Tudor period, many Gaelic and Hibernicized lords retained their land by pledging allegiance to the Crown under the policy of surrender and regrant.

In 1837, the remains of the following Butler castles were recorded in County Kilkenny alone by Lewis.

"Granny or Grandison Castle, in Iverk, is one of the most considerable: it was the residence of Margaret Fitzgerald, the great Countess of Ormond, a lady of uncommon talents and qualifications, who is said also to have built the castles of Balleen and Coolkill, with several others of minor note. The Butlers owned the castles of Knocktopher, Gowran, Dunfert, Poolestown, Nehorn, Callan, Ballycallan, Damagh, Kilmanagh, and Urlingford..... The castles of Drumroe, Barrowmount, and Low Grange, are said to have belonged to Lord Galmoy;"[4]

Notable family members

Butlers of Dunboyne

The Baron Dunboyne peerage originated with Thomas Butler, 1st Baron Dunboyne (1271–1329), the son of Theobald Butler, 4th Chief Butler of Ireland.

Notable family members

Butlers of Clonamicklon and Ikerrin

This branch sprang from John Butler of Clonamicklon (1305–1330), the youngest son of Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick (1268–1321) and Joan FitzGerald, Countess of Carrick (1282–1320).He was the brother of James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond (1305–1337). From this branch descended the Viscounts Ikerrin and the Earls of Carrick (of the second creation).

Notable family members

Butlers of Cahir

This branch sprang from James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond (died 1405). The family seat, Cahir Castle, is built on an island in the River Suir. Much of the barony of Iffa and Offa West was controlled by the Butler Barons Cahir.

Notable family members

Barons of the first creation

Barons of the second creation

Butlers of Polestown and Roscrea

This branch also sprang from the 3rd Earl. Three distinct branches are associated with this branch of the family. The family tree splits firstly with Edmund MacRichard Butler; his eldest son, Sir James, founded the most illustrious sub-branch with his progeny going on to supply the 8th Earl of Ormond; his second son, Walter, founded the lesser sub-branch with his progeny going on to become baronets of Polestown. This sub-branch split thirdly to found a Roscrea branch in the barony of Ikerrin, County Tipperary, beginning with Walter's grandson.

Note: "Polestown" is also spelled in the records as Poolestown". It is now identified with the town of Paulstown in Gowran, County Kilkenny.

Notable family members

Butlers of Mountgarret, Cloughgrennan, Kilcash & Duiske

The common ancestor here is Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond. Three minor family branches sprang from his eldest son – James; Cloughgrenan, Kilcash and Duiske / Galmoye, His younger son, Richard Butler, founded the junior but long lasting Mountgarret line.

Butlers of Mountgarret

Mountgarret may take its name from the townland of Tifeaghna (Mount Garret) in the civil parish of Sheefin, in the barony of Galmoy or from Clomantagh (Mount Garret) in the civil parish of Clomantagh in the County of Crannagh. Both baronies are in the northwestern corner of County Kilkenny. The Viscounts are recorded as significant landowners there as well as in neighbouring civil parish of Coolcashin.[5] It may also refer to a district of the town of New Ross in County Wexford. This branch was in turn an offshoot of the Polestown branch.

Notable family members

Butlers of Cloughgrenan

The second son of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond was Sir Edmund Butler of Cloughgrenan who occupied lands at Cloughgrenan (a townland near Carlow town). Tulleophelim (or Tullowphelim) is near the town of Tullow in County Carlow. The castle of Tulleophlim had been built by James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond before 1450.

Notable family members

Butlers of Kilcash and Thurles

The third son of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond was John who occupied lands in Kilcash, near Clonmel, County Tipperary. His heirs went on to provide four immediate heirs to the earldom of Ormond when the senior line failed through lack of legitimate male issue.

Notable family members

Butlers of Garryricken

This branch is an offshoot of the Kilcash branch. Garryricken is a townland in the barony of Knocktopher, County Kilkenny.

Notable family members

Butlers of Duiske and Galmoye

Duiske takes its name from Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny. Galmoy is a village in the Barony of Galmoy, northwestern Kilkenny. This branch also sprang from the 9th Earl. His younger son was James Butler of Duiske.

Notable family members

Family tree

See also


  1. "The butlers of Ormond", Kilkenny Castle
  2. A History of St. Mary’s Church. Text by Imelda Kehoe. Published by the Gowran Development Association 1992
  3. Webb. Alfred. "Butler, James, 3rd Earl of Ormond", A Compendium of Irish Biography, Dublin, M.H. Gill & Son, 1878
  4. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
  5. Griffith's Primary Valuation, Tithe Applotment Books Year, 1825
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