Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle and surrounding land, c. 1698, by Francis Place, Plate 3a in "A New History of Ireland vol. IV", edited by T.W. Moody & W.E. Vaughan 1986, Clarendon Press, Oxford

"KILKENNY CASTLE: This magnificant castle which stands on high ground behind the River Nore at the southeastern end of the city was erected in the 13th century in place of an earlier moat fortress built by Strongbow. Originally it was the chief seat of the Butler family, Earls and Dukes of Ormonde and remains today the property of the Marquis of Ormonde." (Description on back of Postcard - John Hinde original)


Butler is a name now to be found in every walk of life in Ireland. The same is true of England. In the absence of a reliable pedigree, or at least a well established tradition, the origin of individual Butlers in Ireland today cannot be suggested with confidence. The history of the Ormond Butlers, however, is very well authenticated indeed for more than seven centuries their history is the history of Anglo-Irish relations from 1171 when Theobald Fitzwalter accompanied Henry II to Ireland, till our time when the ancestral castle of Kilkenny was abandoned as the seat of the family and the voluminous Ormond manuscript collection was taken over by the National Library of Ireland, where it forms an invaluable source for Irish as well as for Butler family history.

The surname Butler, (see Pedigree) as far as Ireland is concerned, dates from about the year 1220: it arose from the fact that in 1177 the Theobald Fitzwalter, mentioned above, was created Chief Butler of Ireland. The seventh in descent from him was created Earl of Ormond in I328. In 1391 the headquarters of the Ormonds was removed from Gowran to Kilkenny Castle.

For centuries a rivalry existed between the Butlers and the Geraldines (see Fitzgerald infra), and it may be said that up to the death of the Great Duke of Ormond in 1688, the effective government of the country (or, at least, as much of it as for the time being acknowledged allegiance to the King of England) was in the hands of one or the other of these great Norman houses. The Butlers have generally been regarded as more consistently loyal to the sovereign than their rivals, but as Standish O'Grady in his edition of Pacata Hibernia points out, being weaker than the Geraldines they were forced to lean on the State, and on the only occasion in which they were wronged they were just as ready to rebel as any other sept. In this connection it may be mentioned that a branch of the Butlers, for a while in the fifteenth century, took MacRichard as their surname and had an important chief somewhat in the Gaelic fashion: eventually, however, they reverted to the name Butler. Among the numerous Catholic Butlers who were loyal Jacobites perhaps the most noteworthy were the Abbe James Butler of Nantes, who was chaplain to Prince Charles Edward (the " Young Pretender") in the 1745 expedition; and Pierce Butler (1652 - 1740), third Viscount Galmoy, who fought with Sarsfield in all his Irish and French campaigns.

A branch of the Butler family has long been established in Co. Clare: a very full account of them is to be found in The Butlers of Co. Clare by Sir Henry Butler Blackall.

(from Irish Families - Maclysaght, Edward, 1957 Dublin Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd.)

Names associated in various ways with the family include the father of St. Thomas Becket- Archbishop of Canterbury, Walter- son of Walter of the Doomesday Book, Henry II, Theobald Fitzwalter, Edward II, and Ann Boylen wife of Henry VIII.

(from Butler Peerage and Baronetage, edition 103)

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