6 January 1683

The duchess of Ormonde – probably writing from London – to her son, the earl of Arran


6 of Jan


Tow of your Leters came together to my hands upon wedensday Last the one of the 21 of [Decem]ber the other of the 23 of the Same; with an accompt of My daghter Arrans health and Sattisfaction, and the prudent resolutions shee has takene, which I am infinitlie satisfiede with, as what will make you Both hapie, which I pray God may Continow to the Ende of both your days, and that Evrye yeare of your Liufs, may increase your vallew one of a Nother, your Litell Soon is very well, and grows a Fine stronge Childe, but Betie is Lady Blouse still, you willbee I supose surprised to heare that your Father is become a Purcheser of my Lord St Allbans House which hee gives 9 thowsand pound For but is thay Say a good bargine; for it cost above fiftine thowsand Pound the Buildinge, and will Sett for as much or more then the Intrest of his Mony, I thank you for your good intendment to Mr Ryder which if it may bee by giveinge hime a Senecure it cane noe ways hinder his presant undertakinge but incoridge hime to Continow it, as I find hee is resolvede, and never to Louke for further preferment, if hee may obtane some adistionall healpe to what hee has, for hee is an whoe is a hospitable Man; and much valewed in the Plase where hee Lives, The Mach for Betye Stanope is broke ofe on hir Side, whoe could by noe Menes bee perswaded to Like of the Person, that was proposede to hir, whoe I never saw but is I heare; farr more Considerabell in his understandinge then in his outward Figure and for his Fortune, theris non Now, to bee had that Ecqualls hime, but upon the whole Matter that affare is at an Ende It beinge the Part of hir Frinds to propound; but Not to Compell aganst hir owne inclination, The Lord Belemont Diede 2 days a goe, and Left My Lord of Chesterfilds Second Soon His Ayre of all his Reall and personall Estate

Letter written by the duchess of Ormonde – probably from London – to her son, the earl of Arran

Reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Ireland (NLI, Ormond Papers, 2427, no. 7735, p. 225)

Letter written by the duchess of Ormonde – probably from London – to her son, the earl of Arran

Reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Ireland (NLI, Ormond Papers, 2427, no. 7735, p. 225)

Richard was Elizabeth second surviving son. He was named Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1682 and  governor of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in 1683. In 1662, he married Mary Stuart , daughter of the duke of Richmond and Lennox. Follwoing her death in 1668, he remarried Dorothy Ferrers in 1673. Richard died in 1686 with only one surviving daugther, Charlotte.

Richard Butler, earl of Arran (1639-1686) by Samuel Cooper (1609-1672)

Reproduced courtesy of The Portland Collection, Harley Gallery, Welbeck Estate, Nottinghamshire / Bridgeman Images

Dorothy was the daughter of  John Ferrers of  Tamworth Castle and Anne Carleton. She married Richard, earl of Arran in 1673.  Their only surviving child, Charlotte married Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis.

Dorothy Ferrer, countess of Arran (1650-1716) by William Wissing (1656-1687).

English Heritage, Audley End House and Gardens. Photography courtesy of Mark Asher.

The letters sent in the final years of the duchess’s life reveal a more settled and contented existence but similar preoccupations with her family and their position in the world.


The duchess’s letters to Richard, Earl of Arran – her middle and now only surviving son – are mainly concerned with updating him on the well-being of his wife and children, who lived with the duke and duchess in England while Arran served in Ireland. The affectionate indulgence for her grandchildren is clear from her playful description of his young daughter as ‘Lady Blouse’ (something similar to ‘little madam’ today). It is also evident in her account of another granddaughter’s refusal of a suitor because of his looks. She expresses her approval of the steps Arran and his second wife, Dorothy Ferrars, have taken to deal with their marital troubles. She no doubt draws upon the ups and downs of her own marriage to share her hopes that they might find the happiness that she has found with her husband. The duchess’s letters to Arran reveal a tenderness that is not apparent in her letters to her other sons. He is the one who exhibits the values of honour and duty that are so important to her.

The letters to Arran are among her last. The duchess of Ormonde died early in the morning of Monday, 21 July 1684, with her husband by her side. She was buried in Westminster Abbey in the plot from which her old enemy Cromwell had been exhumed.

At least two elegies were produced after her death. They each praise her exemplary feminine virtues; commemorate her roles as wife, mother, and grandmother; and celebrate her status as consort to the duke of Ormonde. The theme of the couple’s enduring, loving, and companionate marriage is taken up in a letter of condolence that the duke of Ormonde received from his close friend, Michael Boyle, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, after Elizabeth’s death:


yow have now shut the gullfe; and have past the greatest difficulty of yowr life; you have lost, The noblest person, The wisest female, and the best of wives that Ever lived; […] If my [memory] fayles me not It is about 55 yeares that yow have bin happy in each other; what an age of mercyes have yow possesd togeather? How have yee supported each other through with the changes and varietys of fortune? and have made even yowr Sufferinge easy to yow both by yowr mutuall assistances? God hath bine infinitaly kind & indulgent to yow both all those past yeares of yowr life; and I know yowr Grace to be so much a Christiane as not to repine, that now, at the latter end of yowr dayes he should make that seperation which mortallity cannot avoyd.


The duke of Ormonde died on 21 July 1688, four years to the day after his wife passed away. He was buried with her in Westminster Abbey.