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Thomas Butler

6th Earl of Ossory
Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory by Sir Peter Lely.jpg
Personal details
Born(1634-07-08)8 July 1634
Died30 July 1680(1680-07-30) (aged 46)
Children11, including Charles
ParentsJames Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond
Elizabeth Preston
Military service

Vice-Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC(I) (1634–1680) was an Irish politician. He was born at Kilkenny Castle, the eldest son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, and his wife Elizabeth Preston.

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. The Butlers were an Old English family. 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 his parents were Protestants. They married on Christmas Day 1629.[2] They had 10 children, eight sons and two daughters, but five of the sons died in childhood.[3]

Thomas heads the list of siblings below as the eldest of the children that grew up to adulthood:

  1. Thomas (1634–1680), the subject of this article;
  2. Richard (1639–1686), who was the first and last Earl of Arran of the 1662 creation and predeceased his father;[4]
  3. Elizabeth (1640–1665), who married Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield[5] and had affairs with James Hamilton[6] and the Duke of York;[7]
  4. John (1643–1677), who became the Earl of Gowran;[8] and
  5. Mary (1646–1710), who married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire.[9]

Early life

As the eldest living son he was the heir apparent and wore the corresponding courtesy title. This title was first Viscount Thurles, but it changed to Earl of Ossory in 1642 when his father was elevated to the marquessate. His early years were spent in Ireland until 1647 when he accompanied his father to England and then in February 1647/8[a] to France.[10]

Ossory was an accomplished athlete and a good scholar. Having come to London in 1652 he was rightly suspected of sympathising with the exiled royalists, and in 1655 was put into prison by Oliver Cromwell. After his release about a year later he went into exile to the Netherlands where Charles II had his exile court at the time.

Marriage and children

While in exile he married Emilia von Nassau.[11]

The couple had eleven children,[12] some prominent, including:

  1. Elizabeth (died 1717), who married William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby in 1673;
  2. Henrietta (died 1724), who married Henry de Nassau d'Auverquerque, 1st Earl of Grantham.
  3. Amelia (died 1760), who inherited from her brother Charles and never married;
  4. James (1665–1745), who became the 2nd Duke of Ormonde in 1688;
  5. Charles (1671–1758), who became the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, following his elder brother's attainder in 1715;
Quartered arms of Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC(I)
The Earl of Ossory.
Family tree
Thomas Butler with wife, parents, and other selected relatives. His mother was a second cousin once removed of his father as both descended from the 9th Earl of Ormond.
9th Earl


d. 1565
10th Earl

c. 1531
– 1614
Black Tom
John of

d. 1570

d. 1613

c. 1585
– 1628
1st Earl

d. 1628)
11th Earl

1559 – 1633

d. 1631

bef. 1596 –


1st Duke


6th Earl


1st Earl



d. 1700
2nd Duke

1st Earl


d. 1717

d. 1724

d. 1738
de jure
15th Earl

d. 1766
XXXEarls & dukes of
This family tree is partly derived from the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne.[13] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.

He accompanied Charles II back to England in 1660. In 1661 Ossory became a member of both the English and the Irish Houses of Commons, representing Bristol in the former and Dublin University in the latter.

Writ of Acceleration

In 1662 he was called to the Irish House of Lords under a writ of acceleration as Earl of Ossory. His father held the title "5th Earl of Ossory" as one of his subsidiary titles. The acceleration made Thomas Butler the 6th Earl of Ossory. This was the only substantive title he ever held, as he would predecease his father and therefore never inherit his father's titles. His eldest son would later be the 2nd Duke of Ormond and the 7th Earl of Ossory.

Military career

Lord Ossory held several military appointments;

  • lieutenant-general of the army in Ireland (appointed in 1665)
  • created an English peer as Lord Butler (in 1666). Almost as soon as he appeared in the House of Lords he was imprisoned for two days for challenging the Duke of Buckingham.
  • Lord of the Bedchamber to Charles II (appointed in 1660), a post he held until his death.

In 1665 a fortunate accident had allowed Ossory to take part in the Battle of Lowestoft against the Dutch, and in May 1672, being now in command of a ship, he fought against the same enemies in the Battle of Solebay, serving with great distinction on both occasions. The earl was partly responsible for this latter struggle, as on 12 March 1672, before war was declared, he had attacked the Dutch Smyrna fleet, an action which he is said to have greatly regretted later in life.[14] Whilst visiting France in 1672 he rejected the liberal offers made by Louis XIV to induce him to enter the service of France, and returning to England he added to his high reputation by his conduct during the Battle of Texel in August 1673. From 1677 until 1679, he served alongside his father as a Lord of the Admiralty.

The earl was intimate with William, Prince of Orange, and in 1677 he joined the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British contingent and winning great fame at the siege of Mons in 1678. He acted as deputy for his father, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and in parliament he defended Ormond's Irish administration with great vigour. In 1680 he was appointed governor of English Tangier, but his death prevented him from taking up his new duties.

One of his most intimate friends was John Evelyn, who eulogizes him in his Diary.

Death and succession

Ossory died on 30 July 1680.[15] He was buried provisionally in Westminster Abbey on 31 July 1680.[16] The ceremony of burial was performed only on 13 November 1680.[17] 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.

Notes and references

  1. ^ The dual year shows that this Julian date falls into the next year when the start of the year is adjusted from 25 March to 1 January. See Old Style and New Style dates.
  1. ^ Davies 2004, p. 226, left column: "... was born at Kilkenny Castle on 8 July 1634."
  2. ^ Airy 1886a, p. 53, line 2: "... the marriage took place on Christmas of the same year [1629] ..."
  3. ^ Perceval-Maxwell 2004, p. 130, right column, line 3: "... between 1632 and 1646 Elizabeth ... gave birth to eight sons including Richard Butler, five of whom died as children, and two daughters."
  4. ^ Burke 1949, p. 1540, right column, line 31: "RICHARD, cr. 13 May 1662 Baron Butler, Viscount of Tullogh and EARL OF ARRAN ..."
  5. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 114, bottom: "PHILIP, 2nd earl m. 1st Anne, da. of Algernon Percy, earl of Northumberland; 2ndly Elizabeth, da. of James Butler, duke of Ormond; and 3rd ..."
  6. ^ Hamilton 1888, p. 181: "Hamilton, therefore was no further embarrassed than to preserve Lady Chesterfield's reputation, who, in his opinion, declared herself rather too openly in his favour ..."
  7. ^ Pepys 1893, p. 360: "He tells me also how the Duke of York is smitten in love with my Lady Chesterfield (a virtuous Lady, daughter of my Lord Ormond); and so much, that the duchess of York hath complained to the king and her father about it, and my Lady Chesterfield is gone into the country for it."
  8. ^ Burke 1949, p. 1540, right column, line 39: "JOHN, cr. EARL OF GOWRAN 1676, m. Lady Anne Chichester, dau. of 1st Earl of Donegal, but d.s.p. 1677, when the dignity expired."
  9. ^ Burke 1949, p. 1540, right column, line 43: "Mary m. 1st Duke of Devonshire, K.G., and d. 31 July 1710, leaving issue."
  10. ^ Airy 1886b, p. 81, 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."
  11. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 59, line 27: "He married 17 November 1659, N.S. the Lady Amelia Nassau, eldest daughter of Louis, Lord of Beverwaert ..."
  12. ^ Davies 2004, p. 226, right column: "The marriage produced eleven children ..."
  13. ^ Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17: "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  14. ^ 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 ..."
  15. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 150, line 28: "He [Ossory} d. v.p. of a violent fever, after four days illness, 30 July 1680 ..."
  16. ^ 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."
  17. ^ Chester 1876, p. 200: "1680 Nov. 13 Lord Ossery had ye ceremony of burial performed over him by Mr. Crispion."

External links


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ossory, Thomas Butler, Earl of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 354.

Parliament of England
Preceded by
John Stephens
Sir John Knight
Member of Parliament for Bristol
with Sir John Knight

Succeeded by
Sir John Knight
Sir Humphrey Hooke
Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Ormonde
(Lord Lieutenant)
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Lord Robartes
(Lord Lieutenant)
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Butler
Succeeded by
James Butler
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
James Butler
Earl of Ossory
(writ in acceleration)
Succeeded by
James Butler
Military offices
Preceded by
Palmes Fairborne
Governor of Tangier
Succeeded by
Charles FitzCharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth

2 Annotations

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

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.