This popular form of seasonal greeting is comparatively recent in origin. W.C.T Dobson, RA, is usually regarded as having sent the first Christmas Cards in 1844. Sir Henry Cole and J.C. Horsley produced the very first commercial Christmas Card in 1846, although it was condemned by the temperance enthusiasts because members of the family group depicted on the card were seen to be enjoying a glass of wine. Christmas cards became available widely in the 1870’s when commercial firms began printing them for general consummation.
The Butler family would of course have followed the new fashion of sending and receiving cards over Christmas as was popularised by the Royal family. The simple Christmas card that we have chosen is one sent by Elizabeth Harriet Grosvenor, wife of James Butler 21st Earl and 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Hugh Lupus (Grosvenor) 1st Duke of Westminster by his first wife Constance Gertrude, daughter of George Granville, 2nd Duke of Sutherland. Elizabeth married James Butler on 2nd February 1876 at Aldford, Cheshire and she was considered to be one of the great beauties of her age. The paintings in the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny show Elizabeth and James around the time of their marriage in the 1870’s. A newspaper article of the time recorded that ‘The admiration of the Irish people for the beautiful bride of Marquess of Ormonde was universal, and we are told that when she appeared at the Dublin Court in 1876, the band then performing in St. Patrick’s Hall, suddenly stopped as she made her appearance with her handsome husband, determined (as good Irishmen and lovers of Beauty) to have a good gaze at the lovely vision’.
The small card depicts a small photograph of an older Lady Elizabeth in one corner and another small photograph of her favourite pet Sandy, her little dog, in the opposite corner. The message reads, ‘With all kind Thoughts and Best Wishes for Christmas and the New Year’ and ends with the lines ‘Love me (Lilah)’ and ‘Love my dog (Little Sandy). It is a wonderfully touching card and would have been sent to family and close friends. It is also a personal message from Lady Ormonde and no doubt would have meant a great deal to those that received the little card.
Sandy was born in Co. Tipperary in April 1895 and died on 4th June 1912 and is buried just outside the private family graveyard in the Castle Park he is fondly remembered by a beautiful headstone commissioned by Lady Ormonde in his memory. The inscription reads,
‘There are men both good and wise. Who hold that in a future state. Dumb creatures we have cherished here below, shall give us joyous greeting when we pass the golden gate. Oh how earnestly I pray it may be so.’