Sunday, 31 March 2013

History of the Butlers- MacRichard line

The MacRichard line, descendants of Richard of Knocktopher, 2nd son of James 3rd Earl of Ormond

Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond, was the son of Sir James Butler (great grandson of the 3rd Earl of Ormonde through his second son Richard of Knocktopher, and Richard’s son Edmund MacRichard), and Sadbh Kavanagh, the sister of Art Bui Kavanagh of Enniscorthy known as the MacMurrough or King of Leinster, and daughter of Donnell Reagh Kavanagh eldest son of Gerald, Lord of Ferns.[i]
Piers, great great grandson of the 3rd Earl of Ormond, eventually inherited the Ormond title several decades after the death of his 3rd cousin the 7th Earl who left no male heirs. This branch of the Butlers was known as the ‘MacRichard’ line.



The ancestry of the MacRichard Butlers:

The 3rd Earl of Ormond, James, built the castle at Gowran and then purchased Kilkenny Castle from the heirs of Hugh Despenser on 12th September 1391, where he entertained King Richard II. He was appointed governor of Ireland several times. He had several legitimate and illegitimate sons, all of whom would hold powerful positions, as would their heirs: James, his heir; Richard of Knocktopher; and illegitimate sons James “Galda” ancestor of the Cahir line; and Thomas, Prior of Kilmainham.

James’s heir, James the 4th Earl, known as the White Earl, had three sons, James, John and Thomas who successively became the 5th, 6th and 7th earls, all of whom left no legitimate male heirs, although the 7th Earl’s grandson Thomas Boleyn, (by his daughter Margaret who married William Boleyn), held the title for a while until his daughter Ann Boleyn fell out of favour with her husband Henry VIII and was beheaded.
The White Earl and his successors were continuously absent from Ireland, preferring the English Court, which resulted in the disintegration of the earl’s authority and the growing influence of the junior branches.
The White Earl gave the deputyship in 1462 to Edmund MacRichard, his brother Richard Butler of Knocktopher’s son- his line was known as MacRichard for a period before reverting back to Butler. Sir Richard’s sons “were not brought up after the English fashion”. Edmund MacRichard, referred to as ‘MacRichard’, was renowned for his knightly exploits.
The White Earl also gave the keepership of his kern (household troops) to his half-brother, James Galda, lord of Cahir; and, very probably, the seneschalship of the liberty of Tipperary to the Butlers, lords of Dunboyne and Kiltinan. Yet such a solution merely intensified existing rivalries. When Edmund MacRichard’s grandson Piers succeeded to his father’s inheritance in 1487 he inherited not only the deputyship (held by his father James, and grandfather Edmund), but historic rivalries as well, the most bitter undoubtedly being the conflict, now in the third generation, with the descendants of James Galda (Barons of Cahir). When the White Earl’s successors, James , John and Thomas, absented themselves for more than half a century (1452-1515) the junior branches were given free rein to indulge their rivalries unchecked.” [ii]

MacRichard’s exploits were often recalled in the ‘Annuls of the Four Masters’ [iii], which contain records of events between 550 AD and 1616 AD.
In 1464, the Annuls recorded:
 MacRichard Butler, the most illustrious and renowned of the English of Ireland in his time, died.”
He was succeeded in the deputyship by his son James Butler of Pottlerath.
1486 A.D.- “James, the son of MacRichard Butler, the representative of the Earl of Ormond, died.”

Sir James Butler had two sons with Sadbh Kavanagh, before they had received the necessary papal dispensation for their marriage. When they eventually married in 1465, these two sons, Edmund and Theobald “lay under a cloak at their parents wedding”. Edmund’s line became known as the Butlers of Neigham and his granddaughter would marry his younger brother Piers’ second son Richard, 1st Viscount Mountgarrett. At one stage, his son Theobald would claim the Ormond Earldom on grounds that his father was not illegitimate and therefore, as the eldest, should have inherited the earldom instead of younger brother Piers.

Piers 8th Earl of Ormond, born c.1466, was James and Sadbh’s first ‘legitimate’ child, and was known as Piers Roe, which means ‘Red’ due to his colouring, and it was he who eventually inherited the Earldom, to become the 8th Earl of Ormond. His succession to this title would be a long and difficult road.

The powerful Fitzgerald family (two factions- Earls of Kildare and Earls of Desmond), known as the Geraldines, became increasingly involved in Butler affairs.
 The Geraldine dominated Irish administration did everything it could to frustrate the restoration of the earldom of Ormond as an effective political force; lower down the political scale the lords of Cahir appear to have been involved with the earls of Desmond, while the MacRichard Butlers leaned towards the earls of Kildare. This became a political minefield. Although in theory, Thomas 7th  Earl of Ormond was in control of the earldom in Ireland, in practice his kinsmen were in complete authority of the Tipperary-Kilkenny heartland.”
 Piers, who married Margaret Fitzgerald, second daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare, was heir to the MacRichard estates in right of his father. They included Paulstown (co Carlow), Callan, (Co Kilkenny), and Carrick-on-Suir. The MacRichard family also had interests in northern Tipperary and more importantly, Piers’ father bequeathed him ‘the custody and defence of the lands of my lord the earl of Ormond’, which meant in effect that as deputy he controlled the demesne manors in County Kilkenny, including the castle of Kilkenny itself. There were limits to his influence, most notable in the liberty of Tipperary, where the earl exercised a viceregal authority. Here the junior branches reigned supreme, including the two most important families, Cahir and Dunboyne, neither of which was prepared to submit easily to the scion of the house of MacRichard.”[iv]

The Butler of  Ormond  arms on the tomb of Piers 8th Earl of Ormond and wife Margaret Fitzgerald, in St Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny


Notably, the second heraldic symbol of a rose inside a rose was the symbol used by the House of  Tudor to represent the joining of the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York. However, this particular symbol has three roses and the meaning and relevance to Piers and Margaret is uncertain.
Also, strangely, the Ormond Coat of Arms on the tomb contains a crescent in the centre which usually denotes a second son as on the tomb of their son Richard 1st Viscount Mountgarrett- why it should be on Piers' tomb is also a mystery.


In his earlier years, after his marriage to Margaret Fitzgerald in c.1495, they were ‘reduced to penury’ by Sir James Ormond (bastard son of the 6th Earl), and at one time were forced ‘to lurk in the woods’.
Sir James Ormond had been appointed by his uncle Thomas 7th Earl of Ormond and Henry VII when the Earl of Kildare and his protégé Piers, fell out of favour with the king who suspected them for supporting Henry’s enemies. In 1491 Henry commissioned Sir James Ormond to go to Ireland and “he was given command of a small force with additional power to array the men of Tipperary and Kilkenny, to arrest and imprison, and to act without reference to the lieutenant (Kildare) ‘for the time being’. On the following day, the earl of Ormond made James his deputy and special attorney in Ireland to command the castles of Kilkenny and Carrick, administer the earl’s manors, lead his tenants in war, and direct his officers and kinsmen. The most likely target for his attack was the MacRichard camp and their Irish allies in Leinster (the MacMurrough/Kavanagh connection). Piers was later to complain to the earl that Sir James Ormond ‘took and kept me in prison by a long season contrary to his oath and promise made upon the holy Cross and other great relics… til my lord of Desmond by his great instant labour had gotten me to my liberty’. [v]
The king arranged for a cessation of the enmity between the ‘two noble bloods’ at a meeting in Salisbury in 1496, attended by the earls of Kildare and Ormond. Sir James had outlived his usefulness. The effect was therefore to declare an open season on Sir James.  Piers with Lady Margaret ‘being great with child and upon necessity constrained to use a spare diet’, was ‘so eagerly pursued by the usurper (Sir James), as he durst not bear up head, but was forced to hover and lurk in woods and forests’. Margaret ‘was not able any longer to endure so straight a life’. Whereupon Piers swore that ‘he never would return before he did relieve her grief’. He set out to scour the countryside around Dunmore (near Kilkenny) for a cask of wine, when whom should he meet but “Black James” whose thoughts at that moment were directed towards ‘a fair and beautiful gentlewoman called Rose Barre, which he promised to have seen the morrow after.’ Not one to miss an opportunity, Piers ‘with a courageous charge gored the Bastard through with his speare.’[vi]  Writing to the earl on 7 Sept, 1497. Piers explained how he had endeavoured to save the earl from the machinations of that ‘great and ancient Rebel’ Sir James. He even managed to suggest that although James fell by his hand he was acting only as an agent of God’s grace ‘which would that every ill deed should be punished’. Piers implied that he would like to be appointed as the earl’s deputy. The earl however, did not appoint Piers as his deputy, preferring instead to run his lordship through his agents. Piers seems still to have been out in the cold as late as 17 May 1504.” [vii]
When Thomas 7th Earl of Ormond died without a male heir, Piers embarked on a course to deliver the earldom into his hand. He would have to prove that the earldom was entailed and that the MacRichard Butlers were the true heirs through his great grandfather Richard of Knocktopher brother to the 4th Earl. He would also have to prove that his elder brothers were illegitimate despite an act of the Irish Parliament legitimizing them in 1468, and that his own birth was legitimate. His mother, Sadbh/Sabina MacMurrough Kavangh, had required a dispensation to legalise her marriage (which contravened the ‘Statutes of Kilkenny’ laws against unions between English and Irish) and Piers had a ten year battle to prove that the dispensation had been legitimately granted and that consequently his claim to the Ormond title was valid. Some eighteen witnesses testified that Piers was born after his parents had obtained a dispensation to marry in the parish church of Listerlin, and that his brothers were present at the ceremony ‘laying under a cloak’. As late as 1521, Piers was petitioning the king to repeal the act of 1468. His brother Theobald was still laying claim to the earldom in the 1530’s. [viii]
Piers appointed himself Earl of Ormond on the death of Earl Thomas in 1515 and the claim was generally recognized in Ireland, especially after he made peace with the two rival Butler branches, the Lords Cahir and Dunboyne.

However, Piers had to surrender his hard won prize in 1529 to Thomas Boleyn, father of Ann Boleyn and grandson of the 7th Earl of Ormond through the Earl’s daughter who married William Boleyn. In compensation, Piers was created Earl of Ossory in 1527 and made governor of Ireland. The fall from grace of the Boleyns provided Piers with the opportunity to recover his lost titles and estates. He had retained influence at the English Court through his close friendship with Cardinal Wolsey and when the titles and estates were declared forfeit to the Crown, Piers was granted the estate,s and the title as 8th Earl of Ormond in February 1538.

Piers and Margaret were a formidable team, establishing a weaving trade by “bringing out of Flanders and other countries, artificers who …make diaper, tapestry, turkey-carpetts, cushion, and other workes”, and founding Kilkenny College “out of which schoole have sprouted such proper ympes” and as having “planted great civility in the countyes of Tipperary and Kilkenny”. The city of Kilkenny was in a thriving condition and Piers encouraged trade and industry.[ix]

Margaret was known as “a ladie of such port that all estates of the realm crouch unto her”.
Margaret favoured Ballyraggett Castle in northern county Kilkenny as her favourite residence and is said to have “ frequently issued from the castle at the head of her armed retainers to ravage the property of such of the neighbouring families as she deemed to be her enemies.” Ballyraggett Lodge was described as a “fine mansion”. Margaret’s favourite property at Ballyraggett was inherited by her second son Richard Butler.[x]


According to Art Kavanagh’s book “The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy of Kilkenny” [xi]:
 Piers was given a Gaelic upbringing by his Kavanagh mother but his FitzGerald wife, the famous Lady Margaret soon brought him back to ‘civility’. She was the daughter of the Great Earl of Kildare but when she married Piers she soon became a dedicated Butler and used her not inconsiderable talents and influences to further her interests of that family. Her eldest son was James who became 9th Earl of Ormond, and Richard was her second son. She strove with all her maternal instincts to ensure that Richard became a powerful lord also.” The article also makes the vague implication that It might be possible that Henry VII had an affair with Margaret FitzGerald the wife of Piers Roe, the 8th Earl but if this is the case it is certainly not information that is in the public domain, while it may have been part of the family lore. It is well known that Margaret made every effort to advance her son Richard, but from what we know of her character this was to be expected.(Notably, there is a striking resemblance between James, Piers’ heir, and Henry VIII, as seen in their respective portraits painted by Holbein, however, this may be purely artist’s license.)

Piers and Margaret made a series of powerful alliances through the arranged marriages of their children, thereby securing his position of power and influence in Ireland. His six daughters were married to Barnaby FitzPatrick lord of Upper Ossory, Richard le Poer of Curraghmore 1st Lord Power, James Butler lord of Dunboyne, Gerald Fitzgerald lord of Decies, Thomas Butler lord of Cahir, and the earl of Thomond. His son and heir James married the daughter of the Earl of Desmond, and his second son Richard would marry four times, to the daughters of powerful men.

The following descendant tree shows how the various Butler lines were linked through the descendants of Piers.




Prendergast in his book “The Cromwellian Settlement”, [xii] noted that the Irish had accepted the Old English as their leaders and had forgiven the robbery of their lands.
 The Fitzgeralds and the Butlers soon became to them as much their natural leaders and captains as the O’Briens, the McCathys and O’Neills. The English lived unharmed among the Irish, as secure of their castles and lands as native Irish, and in fact, their devotion to them was unbounded. And the love of lord and tenant was reciprocal.”

Piers died only eighteen months after the restoration of his title, on 26 August 1539, and was the first of the earls to be buried at St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny. His legacy was the survival of the lordship of Ormond. Piers was succeeded by his eldest son James, the 9th Earl of Ormond.

St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny




Tomb of Piers 8th Earl of Ormond and wife Margaret
Thomas Viscount Thurles, father of 1st Duke of Ormonde on far side


Margaret's head-dress
(Photos courtesy of Annabelle Taylor)



The Mountgarrett Line from 1st Viscount Mountgarrett, son of Piers Butler 8th Earl of Ormond

Richard Butler, born c.1500-06, was the second son of Piers Butler 8th Earl of Ormond and Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare.
Richard would become a very powerful lord, and, following the premature death of his brother James the 9th Earl of Ormond in 1546 due to food [poisoning at a banquet at Holburn, London, and during his nephew’s minority, would continue to keep the MacRichard Butler power base in Ireland, alive and well. He was knighted in 1546/7 and created Viscount Mountgarrett 23 October 1550.

Prior to being created Viscount Mountgarrett, Richard was made keeper of the Castle of Ferns in Co. Wexford in 1538 in place of the MacMurrough (Kavanagh, King of Leinster). This was a significant step in the introduction of English rule in the Irish dominated County of Wexford and the decline of the powerful Kavanagh clan. Richard Butler was the last Anglo-Irishman, or Old English, to hold the position as after him the constableship was always granted to a ‘New English’ soldier by the crown.

Richard was appointed to two commissions for the preservation of the peace in the Counties of Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford. In 1541 Richard Butler was given leases of lands in Kilkenny and Wexford. Two years later, in 1543 he got a grant of all the Augustinian lands in and near New Ross in Co. Wexford.

He was created Viscount Mountgarrett and Baron Kells in 1550 in direct response to his plea to be given a title that would outshine that of the McMurrough. (ie. Kavanagh, King of Leinster, who was classed as “the Irish enemy”).
He was already installed in Mountgarrett Manor and castle, on the outskirts of New Ross, and it was from this that the name Mountgarrett derived. The Manor was formerly Church lands and the castle was the home of the famous Bishop Barrett. In addition Mountgarrett bought the lands of Kayer (Davidstown to Glynn) from Foulks Denn (ie. Furlong), in 1556. The Kayer lands were later demised to Piers Butler his son.

The following entry from “The Peerage of Ireland[xiii] on the Mountgarrett Viscountcy:
Richard 1st Viscount Mountgarrett: Richard, the second son is described to have been a Knight of goodly personage, and as comely a man as could be seen; he was a very honourable and worthy gentleman, and performed many great services to the Crown of England. Created Viscount Mountgarrett on 5 August 1550 and by patent on 23 October 1550. In the Reigns of King Edward and Queen Mary, he was keeper of the castle of Fernes; and 20 Mar 1558 (Eliz I) joined in a commission of martial law with Sir Nicholas Devereux for the territories of Fassaghbentry and Le-Moroes country. 13 April 1559 was in several commissions for the preservation of the peace in the counties of Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wexford, during the absence of the Lord Deputy Sussex in the North, upon his expedition against Shane O’Neile; and 12 Jan following was present in the Parliament, then opened by the said L.D. He departed this life in 1571 and was buried in the Cathedral Church of St Canice, Kilkenny, in a tomb, whereon is engraven his effigies in armour with his feet resting against a dog and a circumscription now defaced, what remained legible being
Ricardus Butler, Vicecomes Montgarrett - Qui obut 20 Dece bris 1571.

P. Hore’s book “History of the Town and County of Wexford”  has the following entries:
 In October 1552, Richard Butler, Viscount Mountgarrett, was granted a lease of the lands of St. Johns by Enniscorthy and the Rectory of Kilcorbrey. To hold for 21 years from 1563 at the rent of 43s.[xiv]

 “c.1555- The Earl of Kildare claimed, amongst other Manors and lands, the Manor of ‘Inskorthy’ (Enniscorthy). In the Parish of Chaple and in Ballymacar 8 plowe lands within the Barony of Cayre (Kayer) etc.”

 Again in 1562 we find the Manor of Ferns applied for to the Privy Council in England by Lord Mountgarrett, who declares he is “willing to kepe the same as all Captaines doth with the appurtenances. [xv]

Richard Viscount Mountgarrett continued to wield considerable power after the premature death of his brother James the 9th Earl or Ormond, as the heir Thomas was still a minor.

Richard married his uncle’s grand-daughter Eleanor/Ellen Butler (ie. the daughter of Theobald Butler and granddaughter of Edmund Butler of Neigham, Piers’s eldest brother), by whom he had six sons, (NB. Eleanor still living 4 June 1575, according to Burke), one of four marriages:
1.) Edmund (his heir, who married Grizel/Grainy FitzPatrick dau. of Baron of Upper Ossory), b.c.1540
2.) Pierce (of Kayer; who married Margaret Devereux dau. of Sir Nicholas Devereux of Balmagir, co Wexford)
3.) John (of New Ross, married _ O’Meagher),
4.) Thomas (of Castlecomer and Coolnaheen in Co. Kilkenny, who married Eleanor Power),
5.) James
6.) Theobald, d.s.p.
and daughters:
Margaret (married Nicholas Devereux Jnr of Balmagir);
Eleanor (married secondly Thomas Butler, 2nd Baron Cahir);
Ellice (married Walter Walsh of Castlehoel, High Sheriff of Co. Kilkenny- Burkes Peerage. NB Lord Dunboyne has name as Mary);
Ellen (married Sir Oliver Shortall of Ballylarkin);
Catherine (married Marcus FitzHarris of Macmine Castle- Burkes Peerage. NB. Lord Dunboyne has name as Joan).

Richard’s other marriages:
1. Catherine Barnewall, dau & heiress of Peter Barnewall- issue a son who died young and unmarried;
2. Married 1541 (divorced 1541) Anne Plunkett, dau of 4th Lord Killeen (she m. 2nd William Fleming);
3. Married (divorced 1546) Eleanor Fitzgerald. dau of John, Earl of Desmond, and widow of Thomas Tobin of Killaghy, feudal Lord of Cumphinsagh. Co Tipperary (she m. 3rd John Og Fitzgibbon the White Knight).
4. Ellen/Eleanor Butler (Burkes Peerage) NB. The Peerage of Ireland 1789 has Richard’s marriage to Eleanor Butler as his first marriage.

Richard died in 20 December 1571 and his elaborate tomb is in St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, along with many other members of the Ormond line.
Tomb of Richard 1st Viscount Mountgarrett
in St Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny


Dog at Mountgarrett's feet

Mountgarrett coat of arms on side of tomb
viz. Ormonde arms with crescent to denote 2nd son
(photos courtesy of Annabelle Taylor)


 Richard 1st Viscount Mountgarrett c.1506-1571 (married to Eleanor Butler d/o Theobald Butler of Neigham, s/o Edmond of Neigham);
second s/o Piers 8th Earl of Ormond 1466-1539 (brother of Edmond of Neigham) (married to Margaret Fitzgerald, d/o Gerald 8th Earl of Kildare);
s/o James Butler of Pottlerath/Callan d.1487 (married to Sadbh Kavanagh sister of King of Leinster and d/o Donnel Reagh, Lord of Ferns);
s/o Edmund MacRichard (Butler) of Polestown and Knocktopher d.1464 (married to Catherine/Gylys O’Carroll d/o Mulroney O’Carroll);
s/o Richard Butler of Knocktopher 1395-c.1440 (married to Catherine O’Reilly d/o Gildas O’Reilly, Lord of East Breffny, co Cavan);
s/o James 3rd Earl of Ormond 1360-1405 (married to Anne Welles, d/o John de Welles 4th Lord Welles);
s/o James 2nd Earl of Ormond 1331-1382 (married to Elizabeth Darcy d/o John 1st Lord Darcy);
s/o James 1st Earl of Ormond 1305-1338 (married to Eleanor de Bohun d/o Humphrey de Bohun 6th Earl of Hereford High Constable of England, and Princess Elizabeth d/o of King Edward I);
s/o Edmond Butler of Roscrea 6th Chief Butler of Ireland 1270-1321 (married to Joan FitzGerald d/o John 1st Earl of Kildare);
s/o Theobald le Botelier 4th Chief Butler c.1242-1285 (married to Joan FitzGeoffrey g/do Earl of Essex Justiciar of England);
s/o Theobald le Botelier 3rd Chief Butler of Ireland b.c.1210 (married to Margery de Burgh d/o Richard, Lord Deputy of Ireland);
s/o Theobald le Botelier 2nd Chief Butler b.c.1180 (married to Joan du Marreis d/o Geoffrey du Marreis, Justiciar of Ireland;
s/o Theobald fitzWalter 1st Chief Butler of Ireland d.1205 ( married to Maud Vavasour d/o William le Vavasour, Justiciar of England);
s/o Hervey Walter d.1189 (married to Maud de Valognes);
s/o Hervey Walter b.c. 1090/1100- d.1168, (probable son of ‘Walter’).




[i]  the Kavanagh family  had a close association with the  Butlers through the centuries- [ii] C.A. Empey, From Rags to Riches: Piers Butler earl of Ormond, 1515-39, Journal of the Butler Society Vol 2 No.3, p.301
[iv] C.A. Empey, From Rags to Riches: Piers Butler earl of Ormond, 1515-39, Journal of the Butler Society Vol 2 No.3, p.302
[v] C.A. Empey, From Rags to Riches: Piers Butler earl of Ormond, 1515-39, Journal of the Butler Society Vol 2 No.3, p305
[vi] Ibid, p306
[vii] Ibid, p307
[viii] C.A. Empey, From Rags to Riches: Piers Butler earl of Ormond, 1515-39, Journal of the Butler Society Vol 2 No.3, p.308
[ix] Lord Dunboyne,  “Butler Family History” 7th Ed 1991, p14; and W. Nolan and K. Whelan (Eds) Kilkenny, History and Society, 1990- Ch 6 The Ormond Butlers of Co Kilkenny, p111
[x] Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1830
[xi] Art Kavanagh, The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy of Kilkenny, Dublin, 2004, p61
[xii] John P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, 3rd Ed, Mellifont Press Dublin 1922 (1st Ed 1865), p.40
[xiii] John Lodge and Mervyn Archdall, The Peerage of Ireland, Volume IV, pub 1798
[xiv] P.H. Hore, History of the Town and County of Wexford, pub 1900-1910, Volume 6, p.366
[xv] Ibid, p40