The 16th-Century crisis in the Ormond succession

Two outstanding members of the Butler family emerge during the sixteenth century. These were Piers Butler (d.1539), 8th Earl of Ormond and Earl of Ossory, and his grandson, Thomas Butler (1532-1614), 10th Earl of Ormond. Piers was cousin to the previous earls of Ormond and during their prolonged absence from Ireland, his father Sir James Butler (d.1487) had laid claim to the Ormond land and titles.

This had precipitated a crisis in the Ormond succession when the seventh earl had died without an heir. 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 Henry VIII. As a consequence of the king’s favour, Thomas was successful in obtaining the titles of Ormond and Wiltshire.

Meanwhile, Piers had seized Kilkenny Castle (c.1498) and with his wife, Margaret fitzGerald (d.1542), the dynamic daughter of the earl of Kildare, probably improved the living accommodation there.

After a prolonged struggle, eventually aided by Henry VIII’s Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Piers was granted the earldom of Ossory and was finally successful in regaining the Ormond title in 1538. This title was inherited by his son James, 9th Earl of Ormond and Earl of Ossory.