James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond

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James Butler
Earl of Ormond
James Butler, 9th Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Predecessor Piers, 8th Earl of Ormond
Successor Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond
Died28 October 1546
Spouse(s) Joan FitzGerald
Thomas, Edmund, John, Walter, James, & others
Father Piers Butler
Mother Margaret FitzGerald

James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond and 2nd Earl of Ossory (c.1496 – 1546), known as the Lame (Irish: Bacach), was in 1541 confirmed as Earl of Ormond thereby ending the dispute over the Ormond earldom between his father, Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, and Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire. He died from poison in London.


Birth and origins

Family tree
James Butler with wife, parents, and other selected relatives. [lower-alpha 1]

d. 1487
of Polestown
8th Earl


c. 1473 – 1542
10th Earl

d. 1529
9th Earl
c. 1496 – 1546

d. 1565
10th Earl

c. 1531 – 1614
Black Tom
John of

d. 1570

d. 1613

c. 1585 – 1628
1st Earl

d. 1628
11th Earl

1559 – 1633

d. 1631
XXXSubject of
the article
XXX Earls of
XXX Earls of

James was born about 1496 in Ireland. [4] [5] He was the eldest son of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond and his wife Margaret FitzGerald.

At the time of his birth, his father was a contender in line for the succession of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, being a descendant of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond. His father's family, the Butlers, were an Old English dynasty that descended from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed chief butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177. [6]

Thomas's mother was a daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and his first wife, Alison FitzEustace. Her family, the Geraldines, also were an Old English family. His parents had married in 1485. [7] He was one of nine siblings, who are listed in his father's article.

Early life

As a young man Butler went with Henry VIII to France and was wounded in a leg at the siege of Thérouanne in 1513, hence his surname the Lame or Bocach. [8]

On 3 August 1515, the 7th Earl of Ormond died in London. [9] His father was heir male and succeeded. About 1520 James joined the household of Cardinal Wolsey, who praised him as a young gentleman "both wise and discreet". In early 1522, it was proposed by King Henry VIII that he marry his cousin Anne Boleyn, who was the great-granddaughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. The purpose was to resolve a dispute between her father, Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his father over the Ormond inheritance and title; Wolsey himself supported the proposal. The marriage negotiation came to a halt for unknown reasons. [10] On 18 February 1528, the King forced his father to resign the earldom of Ormond, which was given to Thomas Boleyn.[ citation needed ]

Marriage and children

In 1530 Butler married Joan Fitzgerald. She was the daughter and heiress of the other great Munster landholder, the 10th Earl of Desmond and his wife Amy O'Brien. [11]

James and Joan had seven sons: [12]

  1. Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond (1531–1614), known as Black Tom, the 10th Earl of Ormond, his successor
  2. Edmund (1534–1602), of Cloughgrenan, married Eleanor Eustace and had three sons, among whom were Theobald of Tulleophelim [13]
  3. John (before 1546 – 1570), of Kilcash, married Katherine MacCarty, daughter of Cormac na Haoine MacCarthy Reagh, 10th Prince of Carbery, and had a son Walter [14]
  4. Walter (died 1560) of Nodstown [15] [16]
  5. James of Duiske, married Margaret, daughter of James Tobin [17]
  6. Edward of Ballinahinch, married first Eleanor FitzGerald, daughter of James Fitzjohn FitzGerald, 13th Earl of Desmond, and secondly Mary Bourke, daughter of Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde by his wife Frances Walsingham [18]
  7. Piers of Grantstown married Katherine, daughter of John, 2nd Lord Power of Curraghmore [19]
Portrait study by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533. James Butler, 9th Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Portrait study by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533.


One of the heirs general to the Ormond inheritance was Thomas Boleyn, whose mother was a Butler. Boleyn was the father of Anne, whose star was rising at the court of King Henry VIII of England. As the king wanted the titles of Ormond and Wiltshire for Thomas Boleyn, he induced Piers Butler's father and his coheirs to resign their claims on 18 February 1528. Aided by the king's Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Butler was granted the earldom of Ossory instead.

Butler was created, in 1535, Viscount Thurles. [22] In 1537, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Ormond died without a son, whereupon the King on 22 February 1538, restored the earldom of Ormond to Butler's father. [23]

Viscount Thurles's father died on 26 August 1539 and was buried in St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny. [24] Thurles succeeded as the 9th Earl of Ormond and was confirmed by Act of Parliament, 6 November 1541, in the Earldom of Ormond, with the pre-eminence of the original earls. Cokayne, in his Complete Peerage numbers him the 10th Earl of Ormond because he counts Thomas Boleyn as the 9th.

In the early 1540s, Lord Ormond, as he now was, gradually restored 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 gave Ormond command of the Irish forces in the Anglo-Scottish War of 1544. On the face of it, this was an honour, but allies of Ormond accused St Leger of deliberately sending Ormond into danger. [25]

Ormond himself demanded an inquiry into claims that St Leger had planned his murder, and the matter was thought to merit a Privy Council investigation; the Council found in favour of St Leger and he and Ormond were ordered to work together amicably in future. [26]

Poisoning and timeline

On 17 October 1546, James was in London with many of his household. They were invited to dine at Ely Palace in Holborn. He was poisoned along with his steward, James Whyte, and 16 of his household. He died eleven days later, on 28 October, leaving Joan a widow in her thirties. [27]

It is surprising, in view of Ormond's high social standing, that no proper investigation into his death was carried out. [28] Whoever was behind the poisoning remains a mystery. His host at the dinner, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, though he could be notably ruthless towards his enemies, had no motive for the crime, as he had no quarrel with Ormond. 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. [29]

As his birth date is uncertain, so are all his ages.
01496, aboutBorn [5]
131509, 22 AprAccession of Henry VIII, succeeding Henry VII of England [30]
171513Wounded at the siege of Thérouanne. [8]
191515, 3 AugHis father's distant cousin, the 7th Earl of Ormond died in London. [9]
341530Married Joan Fitzgerald, daughter of 10th Earl of Desmond. [11]
351531, Feb, aboutEldest son, Thomas, born [lower-alpha 3]
431539, 26 AugSucceeded his father as 9th Earl of Ormond. [24]
501546, 28 OctDied poisoned in London [27]

Offices held

See also

Notes and references


  1. This family tree is partly based on the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne [1] and on genealogies of the earls of Desmond [2] and Ormond. [3] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.
  2. The portrait was previously thought to be that of his cousin, Thomas Boleyn, but it has been officially identified as the 9th Earl of Ormond. [20] [21]
  3. Authors agree that his son Thomas was born in the early 1530s. Edwards (2004) says "about February 1531"; [31] Cokayne [32] and Lee [33] say 1532.


  1. Dunboyne 1968, pp.  16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  2. Burke 1883, pp.  204–206Genealogy of the earls of Desmond
  3. Burke & Burke 1915, pp.  1548–1552Genealogy of the earls of Ormond
  4. Cokayne 1895, p.  147, line 14. "... s. and h., b. about 1490."
  5. 1 2 Wright 2004, p.  151, left column, line 27. "Some historians have estimated that he must have been born c. 1485, others reckon 1504, but surviving evidence indicates that he was born about 1496 when his mother was recorded soon after marrying his father as 'greate with childe'."
  6. Debrett 1828, p.  640. "Theobald le Boteler on whom that office [Chief Butler of Ireland] was conferred by King Henry II., 1177 ..."
  7. Cokayne 1895, p.  147. "He m. in 1485 Margaret, 2nd da. of Gerald (FitzGerald) 8th Earl of Kildare ..."
  8. 1 2 Wright 2004, p.  151, left column, line 34. "... 1513, when as a teenager, he went overseas to participate in Henry VII's invasion of northern France. While serving at the siege of Thérouanne, he received a serious leg wound which caused him to limp for the rest of his life—hence his epithet bocach (the lame)."
  9. 1 2 Cokayne 1895, p.  143. "He [the 7th Earl] d. s.p.m. [died without male issue], 3 Aug. 1515 and was bur. [buried] in the church of St. Thomas of Acon, afsd."
  10. Fraser 2012, p.  149–152.
  11. 1 2 Wright 2004, p.  151, right column, line 28. "... in 1530 he married Joan (d. [died] 1565), sole daughter and heir of James Fitzgerald, the late earl of Desmond (d. 1529)."
  12. Butler 1929, p. 29. "... seven sons were born by his wife, Joan, daughter and heiress of James, eleventh Earl of Desmond."
  13. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 42. "2. Edmund, Sir, Knt. of Roscrea and Cloughgrenan, co. Carlow, m. [married] Hon. Eleanor Eustace, dau. [daughter] of Rowland, 2nd Viscount Baltinglass ..."
  14. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 57. "3. John, of Kilcash, to whom his father granted lands by deed, 26 May 1544; ..."
  15. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 64. "4. Walter, of Ballynodagh, m. [married] Jane, dau. [daughter] of O'Brien Goragh ..."
  16. Lodge 1789, p.  28, line 18. "Walter Butler of Ballynenoddagh, Nodstown, or Moyalisse, Esq; who married Anne, daughter of Mae Brian O Gonagh, and dying in 1560, was buried at Kilkenny;"
  17. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 66. "5. James, of Duisk, m. [married] Margaret, dau. [daughter] of James Tobin, of Consinnagh ..."
  18. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 70. "6. Edward, of Cloughinche, m. [married] 1st, Lady Eleanor FitzGerald, dau. [daughter] of James FitzJohn, 14th Earl of Desmond; and 2ndly, Margaret Burke, dau. of Richard, 4th Earl of Clanricarde. ..."
  19. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, right column, line 75. "7. Piers, of Grantstown, m. [married] Katherine Le Poer, dau. [daughter] of John, 2nd Lord Power of Curaghmore ..."
  20. Hans Holbein the Younger. "James Butler, later 9th Earl of Ormond and 2nd Earl of Ossory (c.1496-1546)". Royal Collection Trust . Inventory no. 912263.
  21. Starkey 1981, p. 300, right column. "And the obvious sitter is James, who was still only Lord James Butler when the drawing was probably made."
  22. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, line 36. "... created, in 1535, Viscount Thurles ..."
  23. Burke & Burke 1915, p.  1549, line 15. "Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Ormonde, dying s. p. m. [without male issue] in 1537, the King restored the Earl of Ossory to his original title of Ormonde."
  24. 1 2 Cokayne 1895, p.  147, line 9. "He d., 26 Aug. 1539, and was bur. in the church of St. Canice, Kilkenny."
  25. Edwards 1977, p.  58, line 9. "... a letter arrived a Gowran anonymously accusing St Leger of deliberately throwing Ormond into a situation out of which it was hoped he would not escape alive."
  26. Edwards 1977, pp.  59, line 5. "Ormond and St Leger were officially reconciled at the meeting with the Council, and the Lord Deputy returned to Ireland — vindicated."
  27. 1 2 Cokayne 1895, p.  148, line 6. "He d. [died] in London, 28 Oct. 1546, from the effects of poison taken on the 17th at supper at Ely House, Holborn ..."
  28. Edwards 1977, p.  58.
  29. Murray 2009, p.  192. "Whether Ormond's death was directly attributable to the viceroy's actions, or simply a remarkable coincidence, is now impossible to determine."
  30. Fryde et al. 1986, p.  42, line 23. "Henry VIII … acc. 22 April 1509;"
  31. Edwards 2004, p.  220. "... was born about February 1531"
  32. Cokayne 1895, p.  148, line 15. "... b. 1532;"
  33. Lee 1886, p.  79, left column. "born in 1532"


Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Ormond
Earl of Ossory

Succeeded by
New creation Viscount Thurles

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