James Butler (1st Duke Of Ormonde) - Encyclopedia

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JAMES BUTLER ORMONDE, 1ST DUKE OF (1610-1688), Irish statesman and soldier, eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and of Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Poyntz, and grandson of Walter, 11th earl of Ormonde (see above), was born in London on the 19th of October 1610. On the death of his father by drowning in 1619, the boy was made a royal ward by James I., removed from his Roman Catholic tutor, and placed in the household of Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he stayed until 1625, residing afterwards in Ireland with his grandfather. In 1629, by his marriage with his cousin, the Lady Elizabeth Preston, daughter and heiress of Richard, earl of Desmond, he put an end to the long-standing quarrel between the families and united their estates. In 1632 on the death of his grandfather he succeeded him to the earldom.

He was already noted in Ireland, as had been many of his race, for his fine presence and great bodily vigour. His active career began in 1633 with the arrival of Strafford, by whom he was treated, in spite of his independence of character, with great favour. Writing to the king, Strafford described him as "young, but take it from me, a very staid head," and Ormonde was throughout his Irish government his chief friend and support. In 1640 during Strafford's absence he was made commapder-inchief of the forces, and in August he was appointed lieutenantgeneral. On the outbreak of the rebellion in 1641 he rendered admirable service in the expedition to Naas, and in the march into the Pale in 1642, though much hampered by the lords justices, who were jealous of his power and recalled him after he had succeeded in relieving Drogheda. He was publicly thanked by the English parliament and presented with a jewel of the value of X¦20. On the 15th of April 1642 he gained the battle of Kilrush against Lord Mountgarret. On the 30th of August he was created a marquess, and on the 16th of September was appointed lieutenant-general with a commission direct from the king. On the 18th of March 1643 he won the battle of New Ross against Thomas Preston, afterwards Viscount Tara. In September, the civil war in England having meanwhile broken out, Ormonde, in view of the successes of the rebels and the uncertain loyalty of the Scots in Ulster, concluded with the latter, in opposition to the lords justices, on the 15th of September, the "cessation" by which the greater part of Ireland was given up into the hands of the Catholic Confederation, leaving only small districts on the east coast and round Cork, together with certain fortresses in the north and west then actually in their possession, to the English commanders. He subsequently, by the king's orders, despatched a body of troops into England (shortly afterwards routed by Fairfax at Nantwich) and was appointed in January 1644 lord lieutenant, with special instructions to do all in his power to keep the Scotch army occupied. In the midst of all the plots and struggles of Scots, Old Irish, Catholic Irish of English race, and Protestants, and in spite of the intrigues of the pope's nuncio as well as of attempts by the parliament's commissioners to ruin his power, Ormonde showed the greatest firmness and ability. He assisted Antrim in his unsuccessful expedition into Scotland. On the 28th of March 1646 he concluded a treaty with the Irish which granted religious concessions and removed various grievances. Mean while the difficulties of his position had been greatly increased by Glamorgan's treaty with the Roman Catholics on the 25th of August 1645, and it became clear that he could not long hope to hold Dublin against the Irish rebels. He thereupon applied to the English parliament, signed a treaty on the 19th of June 1647, gave Dublin into their hands upon terms which protected the interests of both Protestants and Roman Catholics so far as they had not actually entered into rebellion, and sailed for England at the beginning of August. He attended Charles during August and October at Hampton Court, but subsequently, in March 1.648, in order to avoid arrest by the parliament, he joined the queen and prince of Wales at Paris. In September of the same year, the pope's nuncio having been expelled, and affairs otherwise looking favourable, he returned to Ireland to endeavour to unite all parties for the king. On the 17th of January 1649 he concluded a peace with the rebels on the basis of the free exercise of their religion, on the execution of the king proclaimed Charles II. and was created a knight of the Garter in September. He upheld the royal cause with great vigour though with slight success, and on the conquest of the island by Cromwell he returned to France in December 1650.

Ormonde now, though in great straits for want of money, resided in constant attendance upon Charles and the queenmother in Paris, and accompanied the former to Aix and Cologne when expelled from France by Mazarin's treaty with Cromwell in 1655. In ,1658 he went disguised, and at great risk, upon a secret mission into England to gain trustworthy intelligence as to the chances of a rising. He attended the king at Fuenterrabia in 1659 and had an interview with Mazarin; and was actively engaged in the secret transactions immediately preceding the Restoration. On the return of the king he was at once appointed a commissioner for the treasury and the navy, made lord steward of the household, a privy councillor, lord lieutenant of Somerset (an office which he resigned in 1672), high steward of Westminster, Kingston and Bristol, chancellor of Dublin University, Baron Butler of Llanthony and earl of Brecknock in the peerage of England; and on the 30th of March 1661 he was created duke of Ormonde in the Irish peerage and lord high steward of England. At the same time he recovered his enormous estates in Ireland, and large grants in recompense of the fortune he had spent in the royal service were made to him by the king, while in the following year the Irish parliament presented him with X30,000. His losses, however, according to Carte, exceeded his gains by £868,000. On the 4th of November 1661 he once more received the lord lieutenantship of Ireland, and was busily engaged in the work of settling that country. The most important and most difficult problem was the land question, and the Act of Explanation was passed through the Irish parliament by Ormonde on the 23rd of December 1665. His heart was in his government, and he vehemently opposed the bill prohibiting the importation of Irish cattle which struck so fatal a blow at Irish trade; and retaliated by prohibiting the import into Ireland of Scottish commodities, and obtained leave to trade with foreign countries. He encouraged Irish manufactures and learning to the utmost, and it was to his efforts that the Irish College of Physicians owes its incorporation.

Ormonde's personality had always been a striking one, and in the new reign his virtues and patriotism became still more conspicuous. He represented almost alone the older and nobler generation. He stood aloof while the counsels of the king were guided by dishonour; and proud of the loyalty of his race which had remained unspotted through five centuries, he bore with silent self-respect calumny, envy and the loss of royal favour, declaring, "However ill I may stand at court I am resolved to lye well in the chronicle." He soon became the mark for attack from all that was worst in the court. Buckingham especially did his utmost to undermine his influence. Ormonde's almost irresponsible government of Ireland during troublous times was no doubt open to criticism. He had billeted soldiers on civilians, and had executed martial law. The impeachment, however, threatened by Buckingham in 1667 and 1668 fell through. Nevertheless by 1669 constant importunity had had its usual effect upon Charles, and on the 14th of March Ormonde was removed from the government of Ireland and from the committee for Irish affairs. He made no complaint, insisted that his sons and others over whom he had influence should retain their posts, and continued to fulfil with dignified persistence the duties of his other offices, while the greatness of his character and services was recognized by his election as chancellor of Oxford University on the 4th of August.

In 1670 an extraordinary attempt was made to assassinate the duke by a ruffian and adventurer named Thomas Blood, already notorious for an unsuccessful plot to surprise Dublin Castle in 1663, and later for stealing the royal crown from the Tower. Ormonde was attacked by this person and his accomplices while driving up St James's Street on the night of the 6th of December, dragged out of his coach, and taken on horseback along Piccadilly with the intention of hanging him at Tyburn. Ormonde, however, succeeded in overcoming the' horseman to whom he was bound, and his servants coming up, he escaped. The outrage, it was suspected, had been instigated by the duke of Buckingham, who was openly accused of the crime by Lord Ossory, Ormonde's son, in the king's presence, and threatened by him with instant death if any violence should happen to his father; and some colour was given to these suspicions by the improper action of the king in pardoning Blood, and in admitting him to his presence and treating him with favour after his apprehension while endeavouring to steal the crow/ jewels.

In 1671 Ormonde successfully opposed Richard Talbot's attempt to upset the Act of Settlement. In 1673 he again visited Ireland, returned to London in 1675 to give advice to Charles on affairs in parliament, and in 1677 was again restored to favour and reappointed to the lord lieutenancy. On his arrival in Ireland he occupied himself in placing the revenue and the army upon a proper footing. Upon the outbreak of the popish terror, in England, he at once took the most vigorous and comprehensive steps, though with as little harshness as possible, towards rendering the Roman Catholics, who were in the proportion of 15 to i, powerless; and the mildness and moderation of his measures served as the ground of an attack upon him in England led by Shaftesbury, from which he was defended with great spirit by his son Lord Ossory. In 1682 Charles summoned Ormonde to court. The same year he wrote "A Letter. .. in answer to the earl of Anglesey, his Observations upon the earl of Castlehaven's Memoires concerning the Rebellion of Ireland," and gave to Charles a general support. On the 9th of November 1683 an English dukedom was conferred upon him, and in June 1684 he returned to Ireland; but he was recalled in October in consequence of fresh intrigues. Before, however, he could give up his government to Rochester, Charles II. died; and Ormonde's last act as lord lieutenant was to proclaim James II. in Dublin. Subsequently he lived in retirement at Cornbury in Oxfordshire, lent to him by Lord Clarendon, but emerged from it in 1687 to offer a firm and successful, opposition at the board of the Charterhouse to James's attempt to assume the dispensing power, and force upon the institution a Roman Catholic candidate without taking the oaths according to the statutes and the act of parliament. He also refused the king his support in the question of the Indulgence; notwithstanding which James, to his credit, refused to take away his offices, and continued to hold him in respect and favour to the last.

Ormonde died on the 21st of July 1688, not having, as he rejoiced to know, "outlived his intellectuals"; and with him disappeared the greatest and grandest figure of the times. His splendid qualities were expressed with some felicity in verses written on welcoming his return to Ireland and printed in 16$2: "'A Man of Plato's grand nobility, An inbred greatness, innate honesty; A Man not form'd of accidents, and whom Misfortune might oppress, not overcome.. .

Who weighs himself not by opinion But conscience of a noble action." He was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 1st of August.

He had, besides two daughters, three sons who grew to maturity. The eldest of these, Thomas, earl of Ossory (1634-1680) predeceased him, his eldest son succeeding as 2nd duke of Ormonde. The other two, Richard, created earl of Arran, and John, created earl of Gowran, both dying without male issue, and the male descent of the 1st duke becoming extinct in the person of Charles, 3rd duke of Ormonde, the earldom subsequently reverted to the descendants of Walter, 11th earl of Ormonde.


- Life of the Duke of Ormonde, by Thomas Carte; the same author's Collection of Original Letters, found among the Duke of Ormonde's Papers (1739), and the Carte MSS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford; Life of Ormonde, by Sir Robert Southwell, printed in the History of the Irish Parliament, by Lord Mountmorres (1792), vol. i.; Correspondence between Archbishop Williams and the Marquess of Ormonde, ed. by B. H. Beedham (reprinted from Archaeologic Cambrensis, 1869); Observations on the Articles of Peace between James, Earl of Ormonde, and the Irish Rebels, by John Milton; Hist. MSS. Comm. Reps. ii.-iv. and vi.-x., esp. Rep. viii., appendix, p. 499, and Rep. xiv. App.: pt. vii., MSS. of Marquis of Ormonde, together with new series; Notes and Queries, vi. ser. v., pp. 343, 43 1; Gardiner's Hist. of the Civil War; Calendar of State Papers (Domestic) and Irish,z633 - z662,with introductions; Biographia Britannica (Kippis); Scottish Hist. Soc. Publications: Letters and Papers of 1650, ed. by S. R. Gardiner, vol. xvii. (1894).

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