The 17th Century
It was during this century that the Ormonds reached the apogee of power, position, and estates. The long drawn out dispute over the Ormond inheritance had ended with an arranged marriage between Elizabeth Preston (1615-84), granddaughter of Thomas, the tenth earl, and her cousin James Butler (1610-88) 12th Earl of Ormond, later 1st Marquess and 1st Duke of Ormond. Ormond, as a loyal supporter of the beleaguered King Charles I, had been made commander-in-chief of the king’s forces in Ireland in 1641.
Following the royalists’ defeat at the hands of the Cromwellian army, Ormond crossed to France and spent another decade travelling about Northern Europe with the exiled king, Charles II. After the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England, Ormond was elevated to a dukedom for his loyal service to the Stuart monarchy. As Ireland’s sole duke and Viceroy, Ormond had reached the pinnacle of aristocratic society in the country.
When another James Butler (1665-1745) succeeded his grandfather as second duke of Ormonde, he came into a vast inheritance from both of his grandparents. Ormonde, having allied himself with the victorious King William in the constitutional crisis that beset England in 1688, enjoyed an amicable relationship and prospered under the king and his successor Queen Anne.
However he began to drift towards the Jacobites and, shortly after the accession of Hanovarian George I in 1716, Ormonde was impeached. He went into exile, leaving his wife in London, eventually to live out his days in Avignon, France. As a consequence the Ormonde properties were seized.
The English estates were sold but Ormonde’s brother Charles (1671 -1758), Earl of Arran, was successful in saving Kilkenny Castle and other properties that formed the Irish part of the Ormonde inheritance.