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Thomas Butler
Earl of Ossory
Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory by Sir Peter Lely.jpg
Detail from the portrait below
SuccessorJames, 2nd Duke of Ormonde
Born8 July 1634
Kilkenny Castle, Ireland
Died30 July 1680
London, England
Spouse(s)Emilia van Nassau
James, Charles, Henrietta, & others
FatherJames Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond
MotherElizabeth Preston

Vice-Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC (Ire) (8 July 1634 – 30 July 1680) was an Irish soldier and politician. He was the eldest son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond but predeceased his father and therefore never succeeded as duke.

Birth and origins

Thomas was born on 8 July 1634, at Kilkenny Castle.[1] He was the eldest son of James Butler and his wife Elizabeth Preston. His father was then the 12th Earl of Ormond but would be raised to marquess and duke. His family, the Butler dynasty, is Old English and descends from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177.[2]

Thomas's mother was a second cousin once removed of his father as she was a granddaughter of Black Tom, the 10th Earl of Ormond. Her father, however, was Scottish, Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond, a favourite of James I. Both parents were Protestants. They had married on Christmas Day 1629.[3]

He had three surviving brothers and two sisters,[4] who are listed in his father's article.

Family tree
Thomas Butler with wife, parents, and other selected relatives[a]

d. 1619

1st Duke



6th Earl


1st Earl


d. 1700
2nd Duke

1st Earl


d. 1717

d. 1724

d. 1738

de jure
15th Earl

d. 1766
XXXSubject of
the article
XXXEarls & dukes of
*d.v.p. = predeceased his father (decessit vita patris)

Early life

As the eldest living son, he was the heir apparent and was styled with the corresponding courtesy title, which initially was Viscount Thurles but changed to Earl of Ossory when his father became marquess in 1642.[6] Ossory, as he was after 1642, continued to live with his family in Ireland until 1647 when his father abandoned Dublin to the parliamentarians and Ossory accompanied his father to England. In 1648 his father renewed his support for the royalist cause and Ossory fled with his father to France, arriving in Caen, Normandy, in February 1648.[7] Ossory's mother also moved to Caen, where she arrived on 23 June 1648 with his siblings.[8] Ossory was educated at a school in Caen and was an accomplished athlete and a good scholar.

However, the family soon ran into financial problems. In 1652 when Cromwell had completed the conquest of Ireland, his mother brought Ossory and his sibling to London where she obtained a pension of £2000 per year from the income from her Irish estates under the condition that none of that money would be passed on to her husband.[9] In 1655 Ossory was rightly suspected of sympathising with the exiled royalists, and was jailed by Oliver Cromwell. After his release about a year later he went into exile to the Netherlands[10] where Charles II had his exile court at the time.[11]

Marriage and children

On 17 November 1659, while in exile in the Netherlands, Ossory married Emilia van Nassau, the second daughter of Louis of Nassau, Lord of De Lek and Beverweerd.[12]

Thomas and Emilia had eleven children,[13] including two sons:[14]

  1. James (1665–1745), became the 2nd Duke of Ormonde in 1688[15]
  2. Charles (1671–1758), became the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, following his elder brother's attainder in 1715[16]

—and three daughters:

  1. Elizabeth (died 1717), married William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby in 1673[17][18]
  2. Amelia (died 1760), inherited the estates of her brother Charles and never married[19][20]
  3. Henrietta (died 1724), married Henry de Nassau d'Auverquerque, 1st Earl of Grantham[21]

Later life

In 1660 at the Restoration, Ossory accompanied Charles II back to England. That same year he was appointed Lord of the Bedchamber to Charles II, a post he held until his death. Emilia was naturalised as English by act of Parliament.[22]

In 1661 Ossory became an MP for Bristol in the English and for Dublin University in the Irish house of commons.[23][24]

In 1662 Ossory was called to the Irish House of Lords under a writ of acceleration as Earl of Ossory.[25] His father had held the title "5th Earl of Ossory" as one of his subsidiary titles. The acceleration made Thomas Butler the 6th Earl of Ossory.

Full-length portrait
Portrait by Sir Peter Lely

In 1665 Ossory was appointed lieutenant-general in the Irish army. In 1665 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667), a fortunate accident allowed Ossory to take part in the Battle of Lowestoft against the Dutch.

He was created an English peer as Baron Butler of Moore Park by being summoned to the English House of Lords by a writ on 17 September 1666.[26] Almost as soon as he appeared in the House of Lords, he was imprisoned for two days for challenging the Duke of Buckingham.[10]

He acted as deputy for his father,[27] who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and in parliament he defended Ormond's Irish administration with great vigour.

On 12 March 1672 he attacked the Dutch Smyrna fleet with HMS Resolution,[28] starting the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–1674) in an action that he is said to have greatly regretted later in life.[29]

In May 1672 he fought against the same enemies in the Battle of Solebay, serving with great distinction on both occasions.

While visiting France in 1672, he rejected the liberal offers made by Louis XIV to induce him to enter the service of France.

In August 1673 he added to his high reputation by his conduct during the Battle of Texel in August 1673.[10] From 1677 until 1679, he served alongside his father as a Lord of the Admiralty.

Ossory was intimate with William, Prince of Orange,[30] and in 1677 he joined the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British contingent and excelling at the siege of Mons in 1678.

In 1680 he was appointed governor of English Tangier, but his death prevented him from taking up his new duties.[10]

Death, succession, and timeline

Ossory died on 30 July 1680 at Arlington House in London.[31][32] He was buried provisionally in Westminster Abbey on 31 July 1680.[33] The ceremony of burial was performed belatedly on 13 November 1680.[34] Some say Ossory's body was later taken to Ireland and reburied in the family vault in St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny. James, his eldest son, succeeded him as the 7th Earl of Ossory and would in 1688 become the 2nd Duke of Ormond.

Italics for historical background.
Age Date Event
0 8 July 1634 Born at Kilkenny Castle, Ireland[1]
8 30 Aug 1642 Father advanced to Marquess of Ormond.[6]
9  Nov 1643 Father appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.[35]
12–13 1647 Left Dublin for England with his father[7]
13 Feb 1648 Arrived at Caen, France, with his father[7]
14 30 Jan 1649 Charles I beheaded[36]
25 17 Nov 1659 Married Emilia von Nassau[12]
25 29 May 1660 Restoration of Charles II[37]
25 about Jun 1660 George Monck appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.[38]
26 18 Apr 1661 MP for Dublin University in the Irish House of Commons[24]
27 21 Feb 1662 Father re-appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.[39]
27 22 Jun 1662 Became the 6th Earl of Ossory by writ of acceleration[25]
32 17 Sep 1666 Created Baron Butler of Moore Park in the English peerage[26]
33 7 Feb 1668 Appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland[27]
37 12 Mar 1672 Attacked the Dutch Smyrna fleet[29]
46 30 July 1680 Died[32]

Notes and references


  1. ^ This family tree is partly derived from the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne.[5] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.


  1. ^ a b Davies 2004, p. 226, left column. "... was born at Kilkenny Castle on 8 July 1634."
  2. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 640. "Theobald le Boteler on whom that office [Chief Butler of Ireland] was conferred by King Henry II., 1177 ..."
  3. ^ Airy 1886a, p. 53, line 2. "... the marriage took place on Christmas of the same year [1629] ..."
  4. ^ Perceval-Maxwell 2004, p. 130, right column, line 33. "... between 1632 and 1646 Elizabeth ... gave birth to eight sons including Richard Butler, five of whom died as children, and two daughters."
  5. ^ Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  6. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 149, line 27. "He [James Butler] was cr. [created] 30 Aug. 1642 Marquess of Ormonde [I. [Ireland]];"
  7. ^ a b c Airy 1886b, p. 81, right column, line 23. "Here [in Kilkenny] he remained, and was carefully educated throughout the Irish rebellion, until Ormonde surrendered Dublin to the parliamentary commissioners in 1647, when he accompanied his father to England, and shortly afterward, in February 1647-8, to France."
  8. ^ Carte 1851, p. 384. "The marchioness of Ormond had landed in that country on June 23d [1648], with her two sons and three daughters, and had taken up her residence at Caen."
  9. ^ Perceval-Maxwell 2004, p. 131, line 5. "... receive £2000 per annum from her estate on condition that she sent no funds to, nor had any contact with, her husband."
  10. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  11. ^ Airy 1886b, p. 82, left column, line 44. "Thence he went to Holland, and avoided the refugee court of Charles, lest he should give Cromwell a pretence for taking away his mother's estate."
  12. ^ a b Lodge 1789, p. 59, line 27. "He married 17 November 1659, N.S. the Lady Amelia Nassau, eldest daughter of Louis, Lord of Beverwaert ..."
  13. ^ Davies 2004, p. 226, right column, line 21. "The marriage produced eleven children ..."
  14. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 641, line 39. "2 sons: James 2nd Duke; and Charles, created earl of Arran, but d. [died] without issue 1758."
  15. ^ Ward 1886, p. 60. "... was born in Dublin Castle, 29 April 1665, the second but eldest living son of Thomas, Earl of Ossory, and of his wife Emilia, daughter of de Beverweerd ..."
  16. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 226, line 10. "was b. [born] 4 Sep 1671."
  17. ^ Debrett 1816, p. 130, line 22. "William-Richard-George, 9th earl, lord-lieutenant of Lancashire, May 11, 1676, m. Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Ossory, and sister of James, duke of Ormond ... "
  18. ^ Burke & Burke 1915, p. 1550, right column, line 16. "1. Elizabeth, m. [married] 10 July 1673, William George Richard, 9th Earl of Derby. ... She d.s.p. [died childless] 5 July 1717."
  19. ^ Dunboyne 1968, p. 18. "While the 2nd Duke was in exile, his estates were bought in 1721 by his brother, the Earl of Arran, and settled first on their sister, Lady Amelia Butler, who inherited them when, in the words of Walpole 'a young heiress of 99'—she died two months short of her centenary—and secondly on John Butler of Kilcash, the representative of Richard, younger brother of the 1st Duke."
  20. ^ Burke & Burke 1915, p. 1550, right column, line 18. "2. Emilia, d. unm. [died unmaried] 1760."
  21. ^ Burke & Burke 1915, p. 1550, right column, line 19. "Henrietta, m. [married] 12 Jan. 1697, D'Auverquerque, Earl of Grantham. He d. [died] 5 Dec. 1754. She d. 11 Oct. 1724 ..."
  22. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 27 August 1660 Pages 144-145 Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 11, 1660-1666". British History Online. HMSO 1830. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  23. ^ Davies 2004, p. 226, right column, line 27. "He served as MP for Bristol from 16 May 1661 to 14 September 1666 ..."
  24. ^ a b House of Commons 1878, p. 615. "1661 / 18 Apr. / Thomas Earl of Ossory A.M. / ditto [Dublin University]"
  25. ^ a b Airy 1886b, p. 82, right column. "On 22 June 1662 Charles ordered that he should be called to the House of Peers in that country [Ireland]."
  26. ^ a b Cokayne 1912, p. 451, line 15. "... was v.p. sum. to Parl., 17 Sep. 1666 by writ ..."
  27. ^ a b Fryde et al. 1986, p. 170, line 2. "1668, 7 Feb. / 25 Apr. / Thomas Butler, e. [earl] of Ossory, L.D. [Lord Deputy]"
  28. ^ Airy 1886b, p. 83. "in command of the third-rate king's ship the Resolution ..."
  29. ^ a b Evelyn 1901, p. 76. "12th March 1672. Now was the first blow given by us to the Dutch convoy of the Smyrna fleet, by Sir Robert Holmes and Lord Ossory, in which we received little save blows and a worthy reproach for attacking our neighbors ere any war was proclaimed ..."
  30. ^ Armstrong 2009, 4th paragraph. "In October 1670 he travelled to the United Provinces to escort Prince William of Orange to England, and became one of William's closest friends thereafter;"
  31. ^ Evelyn 1901, p. 146. "... he was persuaded to remove to Arlington House ... He died the Friday following, the 30th of July ..."
  32. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 150, line 28. "He [Ossory} d. v.p. [predeceased his father] of a violent fever, after four days illness, 30 July 1680 ..."
  33. ^ Chester 1876, p. 199. "1680 July 31 Lord Ossery was layd in ye Duke of Monmouth's vault, at midnight till ye Duke of Ormond's pleasure be known."
  34. ^ Chester 1876, p. 200. "1680 Nov. 13 Lord Ossery had ye ceremony of burial performed over him by Mr. Crispion."
  35. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 169, line 4. "1643, 13 Nov. /21 Jan. 1644 /James Butler, 1st m. of Ormond, L.L. [Lord Lieutenant] (appd by K. Charles I)"
  36. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 17. "Charles I. ... exec. 30 Jan. 1649 ..."
  37. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 39. "Charles II. ... acc. 29 May 1660 ..."
  38. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 169, bottom. "1660 ? June / Lt.-Gen. George Monck, duke of Albemarle, L.L. [Lord Lieutenant]"
  39. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 170, line 1. "1662, 21 Feb. / 27 July / James Butler, duke of Ormond, L.L. [Lord Lieutenant]"


2 Annotations

First Reading

jeannine  •  Link

From Grammont's footnotes

Thomas Earl of Ossory, eldest son of the first, and father of the last Duke of Ormond, was born at Kilkenny, 8th July, 1634. At the age of twenty-one years he had so much distinguished himself, that Sir Robert Southwell then drew the following character of him: -- "He is a young man with a very handsome face; a good head of hair; well set; very good-natured; rides the great horse very well; is a very good tennis-player, fencer, and dancer; understands music, and plays on the guitar and lute; speaks French elegantly; reads Italian fluently; is a good historian; and so well versed in romances, that if a gallery be full of pictures and hangings, he will tell the stories of all that are there described. He shuts up his door at eight o'clock in the evening, and studies till midnight: he is temperate, courteous, and excellent in all his behaviour."
[Evelyn, who became acquainted with the Earl of Ossory at Paris in 1649-50, records the following amusing anecdote in his diary: -- "May 7th, 1650. -- I went with Sir Richard Browne's lady and my wife, together with the Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Ossory, and his brother, to Vamber, a place near the City famous for butter; when coming homewards, being on foot, a quarrel arose between Lord Ossory and a man in a garden, who thrust Lord Ossory from the gate with uncivil language, on which our young gallants struck the fellow on the pate, and bid him ask pardon, which he did with much submission, and so we parted; but we were not gone far before we heard a noise behind us, and saw people coming with guns, swords, staves, and forks, and who followed flinging stones; on which we turned and were forced to engage, and with our swords, stones, and the help of our servants (one of whom had a pistol) made our retreat for near a quarter of a mile, when we took shelter in a house, where we were besieged, and at length forced to submit to be prisoners. Lord Hatton with some others were taken prisoners in the flight, and his lordship was confined under three locks, and as many doors, in this rude fellow's master's house, who pretended to be steward to Monsieur St. Germain, one of the Presidents of the Grand Chambre du Parlement, and a Canon of Notre Dame. Several of us were much hurt. One of our lacquies escaping to Paris, caused the bailiff of St. Germain to come with his guard and rescue us. Immediately afterwards came Monsieur St. Germain himself in great wrath on hearing that his housekeeper was assaulted; but when he saw the king's officers, the gentlemen and noblemen, with his Majesty's Resident, and understood the occasion, he was ashamed of the accident, requesting the fellow's pardon, and desiring the ladies to accept their submission and a supper at his house."

And again, May 12th. -- "I have often heard that gallant gentleman, my Lord Ossory, affirm solemnly that in all the conflicts he ever was in, at sea or on land (in the most desperate of which he had often been), he believed he was never in so much danger as when these people rose against us. He used to call it the battaile de Vambre, and remember it with a great deal of mirth as an adventure en cavalier."]

His death was occasioned by a fever, 30th July, 1680, to the grief of his family and the public.… see note 49

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Thomas, lord Butler, earl of Ossory, general of his majesty's subjects of Great Britain, in the service of his highness the prince of Orange, and the States of the United Provinces; lieutenant-general of his majesty's forces in the kingdom of Ireland; lord-chamberlain to the queen; one of the lord's of his majesty's most honourable privy-council, in the kingdoms of England and Ireland; one of the lords of his majesty's bed-chamber; and knight of the most noble order of the Garter.
A pompous list of titles and honours, under the portraits of men of rank, sometimes compose the history of the persons represented. Here we have a man who shone with unborrowed lustre, whose merit was the foundation of his fame. Though he seemed born for the camp only, he was perfectly qualified for the court; not as a wit, a mimic, or buffoon, but by a propriety of behaviour, the result of good sense and good breeding. His courage on board the fleet was scarcely exceeded by that of prince Rupert and the duke of Albemarle; and theirs was never exceeded by that of any other sea-officer. He commanded the English troops in the service of the prince of Orange; and at the battle of Mons contributed greatly to the retreat of marshal Luxemburg, to whom Lewis XIV. was indebted for the greatest part of his military glory. He, on this occasion, received the thanks of the duke of Villa Hermosa, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and also the thanks of his Catholic majesty himself. His speech, addressed to the earl of Shaftesbury, in vindication of his father, was universally applauded: it even confounded that intrepid orator, who was in the senate what the earl of Ossory was in the field. These his great qualities were adorned by a singular modesty, and a probity which nothing could corrupt. Poets and historians praise him in much the same terms, as prose naturally rises to the language of poetry on so elevated a subject. He died July 30, 1680, in the 46th year of his age. The duke of Ormond, his father, said, "that he would not exchange his dead son for any living son in Christendom."
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.