Characters of Kilkenny Castle

Discover fascinating Characters

Characters of Kilkenny Castle


The 800 years of Kilkenny Castle’s history are associated with the fortune and decline of the Marshal & Butler families.

Learn more about some of the formidable characters who once lived here.

12th Century


The history of Kilkenny Castle starts with the Norman invasion of Ireland.

It also heralds the beginning of the Butler Dynasty.

William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c. 1146–1219)

  • Knighted in 1166, William Marshal spent his younger years as a knight errant and a successful tournament competitor; Stephen Langton eulogised him as the “best knight that ever lived”.
  • In 1170, Marshal was appointed as Young King Henry’s tutor-in-arms by the Young King’s father, Henry II. During the Young King-led Revolt of 1173–1174, little is known of Marshal’s activities besides his loyalty to the Young King.
  • There were many opportunities for William to display his loyalty and military mettle. At one point he even unhorsed another rebellious son, the future Richard the Lionheart, in battle.
  • In August 1189, at the age of 43, Marshal married the 17-year-old daughter of Richard de Clare (known as ‘Strongbow’). Her father had been Earl of Pembroke, and Marshal acquired large estates and claims in England, Wales, Normandy and Ireland. However, some estates were excluded from the deal. Marshal did not obtain Pembroke and the title of earl, which his father-in-law had enjoyed, until 1199.
  • Isabel’s marriage to William transformed the landless knight into one of the wealthiest men in the realm. By 1192, William and his young wife were ensconced in the running of their mini-empire, beginning with the construction of the port town of New Ross in south-east Ireland, as well as erecting a motte at Old Ross. Three years later, they began restoring Kilkenny town and castle which had been destroyed in the early 1170’s – possibly by the O’Briens. The present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshal designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.
  • By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshals also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford (circa 1200, as a thank you gift to God for granting safe passage across the Irish Sea during a particularly rough storm) and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy.
  • Marshal died on 14 May 1219 at Caversham, Berkshire, and on his deathbed passed responsibility for the under-age king to the papal legate. He was buried at the Temple Church, London.
  • His long life was celebrated in a notable middle French poem, L’histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, which consists of nearly 20,000 lines of rhyming couplets. It was written shortly after 1226 and was commissioned by Marshal’s eldest son, William. The poem is remarkable for its detail and is a valuable source not only of biography but also of social and economic history.
Isabel De Clare, (1172–1220)


  • Isabel was born in 1172 in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
  • She was the eldest child of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1130–20 April 1176), known to history as ‘Strongbow’; and Aoife of Leinster, who was the daughter of Diarmait MacMurchada.
  • Shortly before Henry II’s death in 1189, the King offered Isabel in marriage to William Marshal.
  • Isabel and William had five daughters and five sons:
  • William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1190–6 April 1231).
  • Richard Marshal , 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1191-15 April 1234)
  • Maud Marshal (1192–27 March 1248).
  • Gilbert Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (1194–27 June 1241). He married firstly, Marjorie of Scotland, daughter of King William I of Scotland; and secondly, Maud de Lanvaley.
  • Walter Marshal, 5th Earl of Pembroke (1196–24 November 1245).
  • Anselm Marshal, 6th Earl of Pembroke (1198–22 December 1245). He married Maud de Bohun.
  • Isabel Marshal (9 October 1200–17 January 1240). She married firstly, Gilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford; and secondly, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall.
  • Sibyl Marshal (1201–before 1238). She married William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby. Queen consort Catherine Parr was a descendant.
  • Joan Marshal (1202–1234). She married Warin de Munchensi, Lord of Swanscombe. Both Queen consorts Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr were her descendants.
  • Eva Marshal (1203–1246). She married William de Braose (died 1230). Queen consorts Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr were her descendants.
  • In the spring of 1207 Isabel and William Marshal took up residence on her estates in Leinster. L’histoire de Guillaume le Marechal depicts her as a personality in her own right in Ireland, and she may have been instrumental in persuading William to attend to her Irish lordship.
  • Following their arrival in Ireland, a dispute arose with Meiler Fitzhenry, a tenant of William Marshal in Leinster, who was also King John’s Justiciar. Meiler engineered William Marshal’s summons to John’s court, forcing him to leave Leinster vulnerable to a possible incursion by the Justiciar’s forces.
  • Isabel, being pregnant, did not travel with William and was entrusted to the care of knights of his household; Isabel wanted to protect her family’s inheritance in Leinster.
  • Isabel proved a very able defender of Marshal and their lands in Ireland. Almost as soon as Marshal left, she found herself embroiled in war and by 1208 she was besieged in Kilkenny Castle and “she had a man let down over the battlements to go and tell John of Earley that it was the very truth that she was besieged in Kilkenny”.
  • Isabel was very much in command of the defence of her lands even if she could not physically lead men. She was a unifying figure because of her lineage and, without her presence in Ireland and her willing participation, Marshal could have easily lost Ireland while he was trapped at John’s court.
  • Defending her lands was not Isabel’s only involvement because she was also engaged in their creation and improvement. Marshal took the fact that his only claim to the lands was through Isabel very seriously because he made many developments in Leinster with charters that had Isabel’s ‘counsel and consent’ recorded on them.
  • When making his will just before his death in 1219, William Marshal determined that the lands which he had enjoyed in right of his wife would revert to her for the duration of her life.

The Histoire depicts a touching deathbed scene of the Marshal taking leave of his belle amie, when they embraced and wept together

Theobalt Walter, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206)

  • Theobald Walter (sometimes known as 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.
  • His eldest brother Hubert Walter became the Archbishop of Canterbury and Justiciar and Lord Chancellor of England.
  • Theobald was the first to use the surname Butler of the Butler family of Ireland. He was involved in the Irish campaigns of King Henry II of England and John of England.
  • On 25 April 1185, Prince John, in his new capacity as ‘Lord of Ireland’ landed at Waterford and around this time granted the hereditary office of Butler of Ireland to Theobald.
  • Theobald married Maud le Vavasour (1176–1226), heiress of Robert le Vavasour.
  • He died on 4 February 1206 and was buried at Wotheney Abbey in Limerick.

13th Century


The Butler Dynasty continues to grow with marriages to formidable women



Theobald le Botiller, 2nd Baron Butler, 2nd Chief Butler of Ireland (1200–1230)
  • Theobald le Botiller, also known as Theobald Butler, was born in January 1200. He was the son of Theobald Walter, 1st Baron Butler and Maud le Vavasour.
  • Theobald married Joan du Marais (or Marisco), daughter of Geoffrey du Marais, in 1222.
  • After the death of Theobald’s wife in 1225, Henry III of England requested him to marry Roesia / Rohese de Verdun, daughter of Nicholas de Verdun.
  • Theobald was summoned cum equis et armis (Latin: “with horses and arms”) to attend the King into Brittany, as “Theobaldus Pincerna” on 26 October 1229.
  • He died on 19 July 1230 in Poitou, France, and was buried in the Abbey of Arklow, County Wicklow.
Roesia/Rohese de Verdun (c. 1204–1247)

  • Roesia was the second wife of Theobald Butler (c. 1225), heir to the Ormond lands.
  • After her marriage to Theobald, she maintained her maiden name.
  • Unusually, their sons kept their mothers’ surname instead of their fathers. This was because, as sons of his second wife, they were not heirs to the Ormond inheritance.
  • Although there is very little known about the early life of Roesia de Verdun before her marriage, she became one of the most powerful women in 13th century Ireland.
  • When her husband Theobald died at Poitou in 1230 during the English invasion of France, de Verdun claimed her inheritances and paid the taxes to be allowed remain unmarried.
  • She applied to be femme sole to retain her independence.
  • The King authorised Maurice Fitzgerald to grant her lands in April 1233, so she was now the legal holder of all her family lands as well as her dower lands from Theobald (these were lands usually amounting to one third of a dead husband’s holdings).
  • in 1236 she built Castleroache, seven miles northwest of Dundalk, to defend her lands against Irish raiders. The castle was practically impregnable thanks to its position and design. She became the only woman ever to build a castle in Ireland.
  • Castleroache was a frontier castle between the Gaelic Irish and the ‘English’ of Ireland.
  • The Castle is the focus of several legends concerning Roesia that demonstrate how her actions merged into folklore. One story recounted is a ‘murder window’ that Roesia ordered a workman thrown out of.
  • Roesia was very pious and founded the Augustinian priory of Grace Dieu Priory in Leicestershire in 1239. As time went on, pressure began to mount on her to marry again so she decided to become a nun in 1242. This paved the way for smooth transition of power to her son, who gained seisin of his lands in 1247 after Roesia died.
  • At the dissolution of the Monasteries, the villagers of Belton removed her body and re-buried it in the parish church there.

14th Century


The 14th Century marks the beginning of the Lordship of Ormonde and the Butler’s ownership of Kilkenny Castle



James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond, 7th Chief Butler of Ireland (c. 1305–1338)

  • James was created Earl of Ormond in October 1328 and was granted lands in Tipperary.
  • He married Eleanor de Bohun, granddaughter of King Edward I, niece of Edward II and first cousin of Edward III.
  • Both James and his wife are believed to be buried at Gowran.
James Butler, 2nd Earl of Ormond, 8th Chief Butler of Ireland (1331–1382)
  • James was the younger son of the first Earl of Ormond and he became heir to the title at six years old.
  • He was the great grandson of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile and was known as ‘The Chaste Earl’ and ‘The Noble Heir’.
  • He married Elizabeth Darcy in 1346.
  • He made his military career abroad in France (1347) and Scotland (1335).
  • Most of his career in Ireland was as a trusted advisor to the monarchy.
  • He died in October 1382 at Knocktopher and is buried at Gowran.
James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405)

  • James was the son of the 2nd Earl.
  • He was sometimes called the ‘Earl of Gowran’.
  • He married Anne daughter of John, Lord Welles, in 1386.
  • In the 1390s (c.1392) he purchased the Despenser lands and Kilkenny Castle, which became the family seat for 550 years.
  • James had a large number of children, both legitimate and illegitimate. These would be the foundations of different branches, most notably the Barons of Cahir.
  • He died in 1405 at Gowran.

15th Century


The Butler Family become embroiled in the War of the Roses in the 15th Century

James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, 10th Chief Butler of Ireland (c. 1390–1452)
  • James was the son of the 3rd Earl and was known as the ‘White Earl’.
  • He married Joan Beauchamp, daughter of William, Lord Abergaveny, in 1413. They had three sons, each of whom succeeded him to the Earldom in turn.
  • Following Joan’s death in 1430, he married Elizabeth FitzGerald, daughter of Gerald, 5th Earl of Kildare, in 1432.
  • James was one of the most important figures in Irish politics in the early 15th century.
  • James took part in King Henry V’s campaigns in Ireland and France and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland several times.
  • The Butler family’s intense rivalry with the Talbots grew.
  • He died in August 1452 and is buried in St Marys Abbey, Dublin.
James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormond, 11th Chief Butler of Ireland, Earl of Wiltshire (1420–1461)

  • James was the eldest son of the 4th Earl of Ormond.
  • He married Avice Stafford (by whom he inherited substantial lands in the west country of England) in 1438.
  • After the death of his first wife, he married Eleanor Beaufort, sister of the Duke of Somerset.
  • He was made Lord treasurer of England in 1455 and Knight of the Garter in 1459.
  • He was a prominent Lancastrian in the War of the Roses and fought a number of battles at St Albans, Wakefield, Mortimer’s Cross and Towton (1461).
  • He was captured and executed at Newcastle in 1461.
John Butler, 6th Earl of Ormond, 12th Chief Butler (1422–1477)
  • John was the second son of the 4th Earl. He was unmarried but had at least one illegitimate son (Sir James Butler).
  • After the execution of his brother, the 5th Earl, John fled to Scotland with the Lancastrians.
  • He attempted a new Lancastrian uprising in Ireland, however the revolt ended with the defeat of his kinsmen at the Battle of Piltown in the summer of 1462 by the 8th Earl of Desmond. John was not present at the battle.
  • He went into exile in Portugal and France from 1464.
  • He returned to England 1470-71 on the restoration of Henry VI.
  • John died in the Holy Land in 1477.
Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, 13th Chief Butler (1424–1515)
  • Thomas was the third son of the 4th Earl and was known as ‘Earl of the Wool’.
  • He was born in Ireland but spend most of his life in England. He married Anne Hankford of Annery, Monkleigh, Devon (holder of a significant landed estate as a result of marriage).
  • Thomas was a supporter of the Lancastrian cause. Under Henry VII, he managed to recover the family position in England: his lands were restored; he was appointed Chamberlain to the Queen in 1486); and appointed Ambassador to Brittany (1491) and Burgundy (1497).
  • From the 1490’s he faced troubles in Ireland, as he lacked a male heir. On his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn.
  • He died in August 1515 and was buried in the Chapel of St. Thomas Acre, London.
  • Thus, the senior male line of the Chief Butlers of Ireland and the Earls of Ormond become extinct, as there was no male issue. His two daughters became co-heiresses who inherited the Butler estates in England:
  • Lady Anne Butler (1455–1533). She was the heiress of Annery which were her mother’s estates. She married firstly Ambrose Cressacre with whom she had no children; and secondly, Sir James St. Leger with whom she had two sons: Sir George St. Leger and James St. Leger.
  • Lady Margaret Butler (1465–1537). She married Sir William Boleyn and they were the parents of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, Second wife of Henry VIII.

16th Century


Family feuds and civil war come to the Butler Family and Kilkenny Castle. The 16th century is also marked with Royal favour and court intrigue

Sir James Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, 14th Chief Butler of Ireland and 1st Earl of Ossory (1467-1539) [Piers Ruadh]

  • Piers Butler was the third son of Sir James Butler and Sabh Kavanagh. He was the great grandnephew of James, the 3rd Earl, and married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare.
  • They were a very determined couple and in the early years were reduced to poverty by Sir James Ormond, agent and illegitimate nephew of the absentee 7th Earl. Piers was responsible for his murder.
  • In 1505 Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, appointed Piers as his deputy in Ireland, however ten years later in 1515 on the former’s death, a long dispute followed over the lands and titles with the 7th Earl’s grandchild, Sir Thomas Boleyn.
  • In 1528 Piers relinquished his claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties.
  • After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538. Piers died in August 1539.
  • He had three Sons and six daughters. His eldest son, James, succeeded him in 1539 as 9th Earl and his second son, Richard (d.1571), was created 1st Viscount Mountgarret in 1550.
  • Piers is buried in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny with his formidable wife.
Margaret Fitzgerald, Countess of Ormond, Countess of Ossory (c. 1473–1542)

  • Margaret was an Irish noblewoman and a member of the powerful and celebrated FitzGerald dynasty also known as “The Geraldines”. She married Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, by whom she had four sons and five daughters.
  • Lady Margaret was born in Ireland, the daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and his first wife Alison FitzEustace, daughter of Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester.
  • In 1485, she married Piers Ruadh Butler, son of Sir James Butler of Polestown (modern day Paulstown) and Sabh Kavanagh. The marriage was political; arranged with the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families.
  • Piers had a claim to the Earldom of Ormond, and on 3 August 1515, upon the death of the 7th Earl of Ormond (who had only two daughters as heirs), he succeeded as the 8th Earl of Ormond. Years earlier, in 1498, he and Margaret had seized Kilkenny Castle and made it their chief residence. Through her considerable efforts, the standard of living inside the castle had been greatly improved.
  • The earldom of Ormond was restored to Piers on 22 February 1538 after Thomas Boleyn, whose daughter Queen Anne Boleyn had been executed for High Treason in 1536, died. Prior to that date, Piers and Margaret had continued to style themselves as Earl and Countess of Ormond.
  • Margaret was sometimes styled the “Great Countess of Ormond”. She signed herself “Margaret Fitzgerald of the Geraldines”, and occupied herself in legal matters regarding her family and the Ormond estates having worked with Piers in developing the estate, expanding and rebuilding manor houses. She also established Kilkenny Grammar School.
  • She urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers and artificers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and diapers (a type of cloth).
  • Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.
  • When her husband Piers died in 1539, Margaret was the sole executor of his will. She herself died on 9 August 1542 and was buried in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny alongside Piers. Their effigies are on their tomb.
James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, 15th Chief Butler, 2nd Earl of Ossory (1496–1546) [James the Lame]

  • In 1520 there was a plan to marry James to a daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn in an effort to end the controversy over the Earldom – but nothing came of it.
  • James married Joan Fitzgerald, daughter of James Fitzgerald, 11th Earl of Desmond.
  • James was nicknamed ’The Lame’ because of a limp he sustained after taking part in the 1513 invasion of France as part of Henry VII’s army.
  • He had been reared at the Court of Henry VIII and he was created Viscount of Thurles during the lifetime of his Father, Piers.
  • Henry VIII appointed him Lord Treasurer of Ireland (1532) and he was given seven religious houses on the dissolution of the Monasteries. He was held in high regard by Henry, with the decline of the Geraldines.
  • He died 1546, aged 42, of food poisoning, eleven days after attending a supper at Ely House, Holborn, accented as accidental rather than malicious circumstances.
  • James’ body is buried in the Chapel of St. Thomas of Acon, London and his heart is interred in an unscribed tomb in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormonde, 3rd Earl of Ossory, 2nd Viscount of Thurles, 16th Chief Butler (c. 1531–1614) [Black Tom]

  • From 1544 Thomas was reared at court with future the future king Edward VI.
  • In 1546 he inherited the titles of Ormond and Ossory on the sudden death of his father. But, being underage, he became a ward of court and was thus reared a Protestant.
  • He won his spurs – and possibly his nickname – when suppressing the Wyatt revolt against Queen Mary (1554) led by Sir Thomas Wyatt.
  • After the death of his mother, Joan Fitzgerald, the old feud between the families broke out again and Black Tom defeated the Earl of Desmond at Affane (1565), the last pitched battle in Britain or Ireland.
  • Elizabeth I held him in high esteem, promoting him to Lord Treasurer of Ireland in 1559.
  • Thomas had a long life incorporating the Desmond Rebellions and the Ulster Rebellion.
  • He was at Tilbury in 1588 in a senior capacity in preparation for the Spanish Armada and was at Whitehall a year later. He was held in high repute and made Knight of the Garter in 1588 and Earl Marshal of England in 1591.
  • In 1600 he was taken as a hostage of the O’Moores for two months and may have come under the influence of Fr. Archer.
  • He died aged 83 on 22 November 1614 and is buried in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond, 17th Chief Butler, 4th Earl of Ossory (1559–1633) [Walter of the Beads]
  • Walter was a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash and a nephew of the 10th Earl.
  • He married Helen (or Ellen) Butler, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Mountgarret.
  • They had three sons and nine daughters.
  • He was a devout Catholic, unlike his conformist uncle.
  • His claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance.
  • Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625.
  • His eldest son, Thomas, Viscount Thurles, was an important Roman Catholic and married Elizabeth Poyntz (Lady Helen), daughter of Sir John Poyntz of Gloucester, against Walters wishes. Thomas drowned at sea in 1619.
  • Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles.
  • Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue. They were married on Christmas Day 1629.
  • Walter’s life was dogged with disputes and he died on 24 February 1633 at Carrick-on-Suir.

17th Century


The 17th Century saw the Butler family rise in the peerage from Earls to Dukes

James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormond, 1st Marques, 1st Duke of Ormond (1610–1688)

  • As a boy, James was made a royal ward and was educated a Protestant (as his father had drowned, and his grandfather was imprisoned).
  • In 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), daughter of Elizabeth Butler and Richard Preston, Baron Dingwall, Earl of Desmond. This marriage resolved the difficulties of inheritance which had beset the Butler/Ormond inheritance. They had eight sons and two daughters, of which five survived into adulthood:
  • Thomas, Earl of Ossory-(1634–80) [The Gallant Ossory]
  • Richard, 1st Earl of Arran (1638–86)
  • John, Earl of Gowran (1643–76)
  • Mary, Duchess of Devonshire (1653–1687)
  • Elizabeth, Countess of Chesterfield (1640–1665)
  • In 1633, James was created Earl on the death of his grandfather Walter.
  • He was created Marquess of Ormonde in 1652.
  • James was a supporter of the Monarchy during the Cromwellian crisis. He lived in exile with the future Charles II.
  • After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, James:
  • was created both an English and Irish Duke;
  • accepted the Knighthood of the Garter;
  • held peerages in England, Ireland and Scotland; and
  • was made Privy Councillor of all three countries.
  • In 1669 he was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Chancellor of Dublin University and Oxford University.
  • He procured the incorporation of a College of Physicians in Dublin and founded the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham (1670s/80s).
  • The last decade of James’ life was marked by tragedy; all three of his sons and his wife died during that time.
  • He died in 1688 at his residence in Kingston Lacy, Dorset and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Elizabeth, Duchess of Ormond and suo jure Lady Dingwall (1615–1684)

  • Elizabeth was the only daughter of Elizabeth Butler and Richard Preston and was the heiress of Thomas Butler 10th Earl of Ormond.
  • When the tenth earl died in 1614, a dispute over the Ormond estate was settled by James so that it was divided between the eleventh earl and the Dingwalls. By the influence of George Villiers, subsequently duke of Buckingham, Dingwall was made Baron Dunmore and earl of Desmond in 1619.
  • Through this award, Elizabeth Preston became heir to much of the Ormond estate and to the title Lady Dingwall on her parents’ deaths in 1628.
  • There had earlier been plans for her to marry George Fielding, Buckingham’s nephew, but she showed a preference for her cousin, James Butler, Viscount Thurles (1610–1688), also a grandchild of the tenth earl, and heir to the title.
  • In 1630 the couple went to live at Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary and Elizabeth became Countess on her husband’s succession in 1633.
  • Between 1632 and 1646 she gave birth to eight sons and two daughters, five of whom survived to adulthood:
  • Thomas Ossory(1634-80) (the Gallant Ossory)
  • Richard, 1st Earl of Arran (1638-86)
  • John, Earl of Gowran (1643-76)
  • Mary, Duchess of Devonshire (1653-1687)
  • Elizabeth, Countess of Chesterfield (1640-1665)
  • Elizabeth is author of the largest body of extant correspondence of any woman from 17th century Ireland.
  • The family was living at Carrick when the 1641 rebellion broke out. The earl went to Dublin to command the army and Elizabeth and her children moved to Kilkenny Castle, the Ormond seat but also the confederate capital.
  • When Ormond departed for England, after surrendering Dublin to the English parliament in 1647, he left his wife behind for a month to discharge his debts.
  • It became evident that there would not be enough money to support the family, and therefore in August 1652 she left for England with her family to plead with Cromwell for some support from her own Irish estates. Through the intervention of friends, and because she had assisted protestants during the rebellion, the English parliament issued an order in 1653 to permit her to live in her house at Dunmore, Co. Kilkenny, and receive £2000 per annum from her estate. This income was allowed on condition that she sent no funds to, nor had any contact with, her husband.
  • After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Lady Ormond re-joined her husband in England, after sending useful political advice from Ireland. Subsequently, as Duchess of Ormond (from March 1661), she maintained a household that she deemed in keeping with her husband’s rank and the office of Lord Lieutenant, which he held from 1662 to 1669 and from 1677 to 1685.
  • Her health began to fail in 1681 and although a visit to Bath in 1683 induced an improvement she died on 21 July 1684 at St James Square, London. She was buried in Westminster Abbey on 24 July, deeply mourned by her husband, who was buried beside her four years later.
Elizabeth Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield (1640–1665)

  • Elizabeth Butler was born on 29 June 1640 at Kilkenny Caslte as the fifth child and the eldest daughter of James Butler and Lady Elizabeth Preston.
  • Her father was Earl of Ormond at the time, but would become Marquess and finally Duke of Ormond.
  • She married Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, as his second wife, sometime before 25 September 1660. He was one of the lovers of the notorious Barbara Villiers,  mistress of King Charles II. There were many at court who believed Barbara’s first child, Anne, bore a strong resemblance to Chesterfield.
  • Together Elizabeth and Chesterfield had one daughter, Lady Elizabeth Stanhope, later Countess of Strathmore, although the child’s paternity was in doubt.
  • According to Samuel Pepys, theirs was a marriage of convenience, but Chesterfield, despite his own past conduct with Barbara Villiers, became jealous when rumours spread that his wife was having affairs with both James Hamilton and the Duke of York, with whom she is said to have been caught “in flagrante delicto”.


James Butler, 13th Earl of Ormonde, 2nd Marquess and 2nd Duke, 19th Chief Butler (1665–1745)

  • James Butler was born on 29th April 1665 in Dublin Castle. He was the second and eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler 6th Earl of Ossory and his wife Emilia of Nassau.
  • A sickly child, James was sent by his grandfather to France. On his return to England, he entered Christ Church Oxford, but left within a year on his father’s untimely death in 1680.
  • He married twice:
  • Anne Hyde in 1682. Anne was the daughter of Lawrence 1st Earl of Rochester and niece of James II.
  • Mary Somerset in 1685. Mary was the daughter of Henry 1st Duke of Beaufort.
  • His second marriage produced one son and five daughters. Only two daughters survived into adulthood:
    • Lady Elizabeth (died in 1750 unmarried)
    • Lady Mary (died in 1713 as Lady Ashburnham)
  • On his succession to the Dukedom in 1688, the Butler family standing in society was at its highest point. James inherited all the Ormonde properties and title, from his grandfather, the 1st Duke, and the Dingwall title and properties from his grandmother, the 1st Duchess.
  • After a promising start to his career, it became obvious that the 2nd Duke did not have the strong character of his grandfather and his achievements remained mostly military.
  • In 1690 he fought for William III at the Battle of the Boyne.
  • He succeeded the Duke of Marlborough as Commander in Chief of Queen Anne’s forces and as Captain General in 1712.
  • Prior to the accession of George I in 1714, the 2nd Duke was already in contact with the Jacobites, even though he signed the proclamation of George’s accession.
  • Following involvement in a Jacobite rising in the West Country, he was impeached and in 1715 a Bill of Attainder was pursed against him.
  • His English estates and honours as well as his Scottish honours were seized. He fled to France and was appointed Commander-in-Chief in England/Ireland by Prince James (the ‘Old Pretender’),. Later in 1732 he was appointed Captain General to the King of Spain for the invasion of England and appointed Regent of England and Ireland during Prince James’s absence.
  • He lived out his life in exile. He died in Avignon, France and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Charles Butler, 14th Earl of Ormonde, de jure 3rd Marquess, 3rd Duke (Duke of Arran, Jacobite Peerage) (1671-1758)

  • Charles was the second son of Thomas, Earl of Ossory and Lady Emilia of Nassau.
  • In 1705 he married Elizabeth Crew, daughter of Thomas, 2nd Lord Crew.
  • He attended the University of Oxford and took the Grand tour of Europe.
  • Charles reaped rewards and titles in his support for William III, becoming Baron Butler of Weston in the English Peerage (1694) and Earl of Arran in the Irish Peerage (1694). He also rose through the ranks in the British Army.
  • After the impeachment of his brother the 2nd Duke in 1715, he succeeded him as High Steward of Westminster and Chancellor of Oxford University, two posts he held until his death.
  • In 1721 he obtained a private act of the English Parliament permitting him to purchase the 2nd Duke’s forfeited estates, which had been vested to the crown.
  • The attainder on his brother’s 2nd Duke estate did not cause the forfeiture of the Irish titles or estates. So, Charles, Earl of Arran was therefore de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of Ireland.
  • He lived in St. James’s Place and Grosvenor St. in London, and a country house in Bagshot Park, Surrey.
  • Charles died in 1758 at his lodgings next to the Tilt Yard, Whitehall, London and was buried in S.t Margaret’s, Westminster. Upon his death the Dukedom and Marquisate became extinct.

18th Century


The 18th Century marked a change for the Butler family and Kilkenny Castle

John Butler,15th de Jure Earl of Ormond, 21st Chief Butler, (died 1766)
  • John was the third and only surviving son of Thomas Butler of Kilcash and his wife Lady Margaret Bourke (Lady Iveigh). Thomas Butler was a grandson of Richard Butler, brother of the 1st Duke of Ormond.
  • As second cousin of Charles Butler, Lord Arran, John became the male heir to the Ormonde Estates.
  • He married Bridget Stacey from Ockingham, Berkshire.
  • In 1758 John succeeded as de jure to the family honours, which he did not assume.
  • In 1760, upon the death of Lady Amelia Butler (the unmarried sister of Charles Butler de jure 3rd Duke) he succeeded to the Ormonde Estates.
  • He died on 24th June 1766 without issue and is buried with his Butler ancestors at Kilcash.
Walter Butler, 16th de Jure Earl of Ormond, 22nd Chief Butler (1703–1783)

  • Walter was the only son of John and Frances Butler of Garryricken.
  • He was the cousin of John Butler the de jure 15th Earl of Ormond.
  • He married Eleanor Morres, daughter of Nicholas Morres and Susanna Talbot).
  • Walter succeeded to the family estates on 1766 on the death of the 15th Earl and thus moved from Garryricken House to Kilkenny Castle.
  • He was Catholic and had no political power, apart from Landlord.
  • He was responsible for the fine stable block and tower house across the road from Kilkenny Castle (now the Kilkenny Design Centre and Butler House), both built in the 1770’s and 1780’s. Both buildings were partly financed by the dowry of his wealthy daughter- in-law, Lady Anne Wandesforde.
  • His youngest daughter, Eleanor, is known as one of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’.
  • He died in 1783 and is buried at Kilcash.
Lady Charlotte Eleanor Butler (1739–1829)

  • Eleanor was the youngest daughter of Walter Butler of Garryricken (1703–1783) and his wife, Eleanor Morres (died 1794).
  • She is known as the elder of the two ‘Ladies of Llangollen’.
  • She was educated abroad by the English Benedictine nuns of the convent of Our Lady of Consolation in Cambrai, where her Jacobite grand-aunt was a pensioner. Reared in the liberal and anti-clerical environment at Cambrai, she was open about her opposition to Irish Catholicism. She was also well read in literature.
  • By the time she returned to Ireland, her brother John (1740–95) had claimed the family titles and was recognised as 17th earl of Ormond.
  • In 1768 the thirteen-year-old Sarah Ponsonby arrived in Kilkenny to attend a local school. Following her visit to the Butler family at Kilkenny castle, and despite the difference in age, the two formed an immediate friendship and corresponded secretly.
  • Both Eleanor and Sarah were discontented with their life and planned to leave their difficulties behind to settle in England.
  • In their first attempt to flee in March 1778, they left for Waterford disguised as men and wielding pistols, but their families managed to catch up with them. Eleanor was then sent to the home of her brother-in-law Thomas ‘Monarch’ Kavanagh of Borris, Co. Carlow, but made a second, successful attempt and ran away to find Sarah in Woodstock, County Kilkenny. Her persistence won out when both families finally capitulated and accepted their plans to live together.
  • The two set out for Wales in May 1778 and, after an extensive tour of Wales and Shropshire, eventually settled in Llangollen Vale, where they rented a cottage which was renamed Plas Newydd.
  • Having made a deliberate decision to retire from the world, they spent the greater part of their days corresponding with friends, reading, building up a large library and making alterations to Plas Newydd, which took on a fashionable Gothic look.
  • Their numerous and illustrious visitors included Hester Lynch Piozzi, Charles and Erasmus Darwin, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the duke of Gloucester and Josiah Wedgwood.
  • They lived mainly off their respective allowances and Butler’s royal pension (granted through the influence of Lady Frances Douglas), but spent beyond their means and were often in debt.
  • Eleanor died on 2 June 1829, and is buried alongside the ladies’ loyal long-time maid, Mary Carryll, at Llangollen church. Sarah Ponsonby was subsequently buried with them.
John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormond, 23rd Chief Butler of Ireland (1740–1795)
  • John was the only son and heir to Walter 16th de jure
  • He is known as ‘Jack of the Castle’.
  • He married Lady Anne Wandesforde, only child of John Wandesforde, 1st Earl of Castlecomer, and they had eight sons and two daughters.
  • To facilitate this marriage, he conformed to the Church of England. This conformation gave him the right to stand as an MP.
  • He was member of the Royal Dublin Society from 1768.
  • He was a frequenter of the Hole in the Wall tavern in Kilkenny.
  • John died in 1795 in Kilkenny Castle and is buried with his ancestors at Kilcash.
Anne Wandesforde (1754–1830)

  • Anne was born on 8th June 1754, the daughter of John Wandesforde, 1st Earl Wandesforde of Castlecomer and Agnes Elizabeth Southwell.
  • She married John Butler, 23rd Chief Butler, 17th Earl of Ormond.
  • Her sons Walter and James became 18th and 19th Earls of Ormonde while a younger son Charles inherited the Wandesforde estates and took the name Wandesforde.
  • Anne placed a strong emphasis on health. In Castlecomer she had organised a fever hospital, dispensary and infirmary during the difficult period of the nineteenth century.
Walter Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde (2nd creation), 18th Earl of Ormond, 24th Chief Butler of Ireland (1770–1820)

  • Walter, at twelve years of age, lay the first foundation stone of new building of Kilkenny Castle (30 July 1782).
  • In 1791, on the restoration of the family titles, he was given the title Viscount Thurles and, on the death of his Father John in 1795, he gained all the other titles. He took his seat in the House of Lords in 1796.
  • He was married in 1805 to Anna Price Clarke, of Sutton Hall, Derbyshire, only daughter and heiress to her family estates.
  • He was made Knight of St. Patrick in 1798, Peer of the UK in 1801 (with the title Baron Butler of Llanthony) and in 1816 was given the title Marquess of Ormonde (which on his death without issue became extinct).
  • In 1808 he negotiated the sale to the crown – for the sum of £216,000 – the grant of the presage of wines in Ireland. This was confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1811.
  • He attended Eton briefly, an engaging young man of high promise; but he became a companion of the Prince Regent and his talents were wasted in the fashionable society he frequented.
  • He died at Ulcombe, Kent in 1820 and is buried in the Churchyard there.
  • Upon his death, it was found that Walter’s estate was massively bankrupt. It was left to his successor James, the next Earl of Ormond and his younger brother Charles to bring order to the families’ financial affairs.

19th Century


Kilkenny Castle underwent dramatic changes in the 19th Century with the addition of the Picture Gallery wing, turning it in to the Castle we see today

James Butler, 19th Earl of Ormond, 1st Marquess of Ormonde, 25th Chief Butler of Ireland (1774–1838)

  • James was the brother of Walter, 18th Earl of Ormond.
  • James was educated at Eton and became MP for Kilkenny City and County in 1796.
  • In 1807 he married Grace Louisa Staples, daughter of John Staples of Lissan, Co Tyrone. They had ten children.
  • He succeeded his brother as 19th Earl of Ormond in 1820 and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland.
  • James was made a Knight of St. Patrick in 1821 and Marquess (3rd creation) in 1825.
  • A Whig by political affiliation, he voted initially for the Act of Union and then opposed it later.
  • He was a consistent supporter of Catholic Emancipation but generally voted with the government and opposed parliamentary reform, although he voted for the Reform Bill in 1838.
  • James died 1838 and is buried in St. Mary’s Church, Dublin.
John Butler, 20th Earl of Ormond, 2nd Marquess of Ormonde, 26th Chief Butler of Ormonde (1808–1854)

  • John was the eldest son of James Butler the 19th Earl of Ormonde.
  • He was educated at Harrow and was an elected Whig MP for Co. Kilkenny
  • In 1843 he married Frances Jane Paget (1817 -1903), daughter of 1st Earl of Uxbridge, which whom he had four sons and two daughters.
  • He was a scholar, author of ‘Autumn in Sicily ‘(1850) and editor of ‘Vita Sancti Kannedi ‘(1853).
  • He was Vice President of the RDS and Patron of the Kilkenny Archaeology Society and, with Rec James Graves, he arranged the vast collection of Ormonde manuscripts in the Muniments Room of Kilkenny Castle
  • He was recognised as a benevolent landlord during the Famine of the 1840s.
  • He died on 25 September 1854 while holidaying at Loftus Hall, Co. Wexford and is buried in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny
James Edward Butler, 21st Earl of Ormonde, 3rd Marquess, 27th Chief Butler of Ireland (1844–1919)

  • James was the eldest son of John Butler, 20th Earl of Ormonde.
  • He was educated at Harrow from 1858 to 1861.
  • In 1876 he married Elizabeth Harriet Grosvenor, eldest daughter of Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster with whom he had two daughters:
  • Lady Beatrice Frances Elizabeth Butler (28 Dec 1876–29 Feb 1952).
  • Lady Constance Mary Butler (26 Mar 1879–20 Apr 1949).
  • He was an Officer of the Life Guards and a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick.
  • Lands and Yachts absorbed his attention.
  • He welcomed King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra during the Royal Visit at Kilkenny Castle 1904.
  • He died in October 1919 and was buried in the newly consecrated cemetery on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.
Elizabeth Harriet (Grosvenor) Butler (1856–1928)

  • Elizabeth was born in 1856. She was the daughter of Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, and Lady Constance Gertrude Leveson-Gower.
  • She married James Edward William Theobald Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde (son of John Butler, 2nd Marquess of Ormonde and Frances Jane Paget), on 2 February 1876 at Aldford, Cheshire, England.
  • For many years she and her husband were among the foremost figures in the society of England and Ireland.
  • At Kilkenny Castle, Lord Ormonde’s Irish seat, she and her husband entertained King Edward and Queen Alexandra among many others.
  • During the War, Elizabeth took an active part in leading the charitable efforts of Co. Kilkenny, as president of the county branches of the British Red Cross Society and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association, and as a member of other institutions.
  • She also conducted a fund for prisoners of war of the Royal Irish Regiment.
Lady Constance Mary Butler (1879–1949)

  • Constance Mary Butler was the daughter of James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde and Lady Elizabeth Harriet Grosvenor.
  • Her grandfathers were John Butler, 2nd Marquess of Ormonde and Hugh Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster. Her great-grandfather, George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland, was a member of the Leveson-Gower family. Another great-grandfather, Edward Paget, was the British Governor of Ceylon.
  • Constance’s older sister Beatrice married Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, an officer in the British Army.
  • Both of her parents were active in yachting, and Lady Constance was recognized as a keen yachtswoman and swimmer.” In 1905, The Bystander magazine reported that “Lady Ormonde and her daughter always wear, when yachting, the most severely simple and workmanlike clothes.” She was also considered a beauty among the noblewomen of her generation, and what she wore (on dressier occasions than yachting) was reported in detail on society pages.
  • She and her sister attended the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, seated in a box set aside for personal friends of the Queen and Queen Alexandra.
  • During World War I she managed a Red Cross depot for medical and surgical supplies, and collaborated with Bishop John Henry Bernard on translating, editing, and publishing the Charters of Duiske Abbey.
  • Later in life, Lady Constance Butler remained interested in medical work, and became an expert on radiography, heading the x-ray department at St. Andrew’s Hospital in London by 1924.

20th Century


The 20th Century caused great change for both Ireland and the Butler family at Kilkenny Castle

James Arthur Butler, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, 4th Marquess, 28th Chief Butler of Ireland (1849–1943)
  • James was a younger brother of the 21st Earl of Ormonde.
  • He was educated at Harrow (1864–68) and Cambridge.
  • In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of General Anson Stager of the American Army. Ellen was an American heiress and brought quite a fortune into the Butler Family
  • He was a member of the Life Guards.
  • Because of age he handed over the Ormonde properties to his son, George, Earl of Ossory.
  • James’ principal home was at Gennings, Kent where he died in 1943.
James George Anson Butler, 23rd Earl, 5th Marquess, 24th Chief Butler (1890–1959)

  • James (usually known by his second name, George) was the eldest son of the 22nd Earl of Ormonde.
  • George was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst.
  • In 1915 he married Sybil Fellowes, daughter of 2nd Lord de Ramsey and Winston Churchill’s first cousin. They had two children, Moira and Anthony.
  • George retired from the Army in 1920.
  • George and Sybil were in residence at Kilkenny Castle in 1922 when the building was occupied by Republicans and besieged by troops of the Free State.
  • He oversaw the 1935 auction of contents at Kilkenny Castle.
  • In 1943 he became Earl of Ormonde following his father’s death.
  • George died in 1944 and is buried on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.
James Arthur Norman Butler, 24th Earl, 6th Marquess, 30th Chief Butler (1893–1971)

  • James (usually known by his second name, Arthur) was the younger brother of the 23rd Earl of Ormonde.
  • In 1924 he married Jessie Carlos of Sunninghill, Berkshire and they had two daughters: Jane Heaton and Martha Ponsonby.
  • Arthur was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst. He pursued a military career and served in both world wars.
  • From 1945 onwards, Arthur lived at Gennings Park in Kent with his widowed mother Ellen. In 1955, after her death, he moved with his wife to Cantley Farm, Wokingham, Berkshire.
  • In 1967 he sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.
  • He died in 1971 and is buried on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.
James Hubert Theobald Charles Butler, 25th Earl, 7th Marquess, 31st Chief Butler (1899–1997)

  • Charles was the son of the Rev Lord James Theobald Bagot. He was a grandson of James Butler, 21st Earl of Ormonde and a cousin of the 23rd and 24th Earls of Ormonde
  • He had a military background and emigrated to the USA in the 1920s.
  • He married twice:
  • In 1935 he married Nan Gilnin and they had two daughters: Lady Ann and Lady Cynthia
  • In 1976 he married Elizabeth Rearden.
  • He died on the 25th October 1997 in Chicago Illinois and his ashes are interred on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.
  • Upon his death, the Marquessate of Ormonde became extinct and the Earldoms of Ormonde and Ossory and the Viscountcy of Thurles became dormant.