Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond

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Sir Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond (died 1628) was a favourite of King James VI and I of Scotland and England. In 1609 the king made him Lord Dingwall. In 1614 he married him to Elizabeth Butler, the only child of Black Tom, the 10th Earl of Ormond. In 1619 he created him Earl of Desmond.

Richard Preston
Earl of Desmond
Died28 October 1628
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Butler
FatherRichard Preston of Whitehill

Background and early life edit

Richard was born the third son of Richard Preston of Whitehill in Midlothian, near Edinburgh. His family was gentry of the Edinburgh area and owned Craigmillar Castle in the late 16th and early 17th century.

Family tree
Richard Preston with wife, parents, and other selected relatives.[a]
10th Earl

d. 1529
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

d. 1619


1st Duke


6th Earl


1st Earl



d. 1700
XXXEarls & dukes of
XXXEarls of
*d.v.p. = predeceased his father (decessit vita patris).

Favourite edit

His family placed Richard (the younger) as a page at the King's court in Edinburgh where he is mentioned in that capacity in 1591.[2] King James had a series of personal relationships with male courtiers, called his favourites, suspected to have been the king's homosexual partners. Esmé Stewart, whom he made Earl and Duke of Lennox, seems to have been the first. After the Raid of Ruthven in 1582, the King was forced to exile Lord Lennox to France.[3]

Richard, the page, gained the king's special favour in the 1580s or 1590s after Lennox's departure. When James acceded the English throne as James I in 1603, Richard accompanied him to England and was knighted at the King's coronation in London on 25 July 1603 in the old elaborate ceremony that included the bathing of the new knight.[4] He then was made a groom of the privy chamber.[5] In 1607 Richard was appointed constable of Dingwall Castle in Scotland.[6] He bought the barony of Dingwall and on 8 June 1609 the King created him Lord Dingwall.[7] In London the King met in 1608 Robert Carr who became his favourite and seems to have supplanted Lord Dingwall, as he was now, in that role.

In 1609 Preston attended the Accession day tournament, and presented a pageant of an artificial elephant, designed by Inigo Jones, which made its way slowly around the tiltyard.[8][9]

Marriage and child edit

In 1614 the King arranged for Lord Dingwall a marriage with the rich heiress Lady Elizabeth Butler, only daughter of the Black Tom, the 10th Earl of Ormonde and widow of Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Butler of Tulleophelim,[10] who died childless in January 1613.[11]

The King imposed this marriage on Black Tom, Elizabeth's father, who did not want the royal favourite for a son-in-law but could not oppose the King's will.[12] Black Tom died soon after the marriage on 22 November 1614.[13]

Richard and Elizabeth had an only child:

Later life and death edit

On 19 July 1619 Lord Dingwall was created Earl of Desmond.[15] The Earldom of Desmond had originally been held by the Hiberno-Norman FitzGerald dynasty who were stripped of the title after the failure of the Second Desmond Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I of England. After Richard Preston's death, the title again became extinct but, under the terms of letter patent issued by James I in 1622, it was immediately re-created for George Feilding (son of the Earl of Denbigh) who was intended to marry Preston's daughter.

Alfred Webb tells us of this creation of the earldom of Desmond that:

Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond, in right of his mother, Joan FitzGerald, daughter of the 11th Earl of Desmond, claimed the Earldom after the death and attainder of all the heirs male. When his daughter was married to James I.'s Scotch favourite, Sir Richard Preston, the title was conferred on him. When the only child of the latter, a daughter, was about to be married to the son of the Earl of Denbigh, the title was passed to the intended bridegroom. The marriage never took place; yet the title was retained [by] the Earls of Denbigh.[16]

On 26 May 1623, King James I made the young James Butler, the future Duke of Ormond, a ward of Lord Desmond, and placed James at Lambeth, London, under the care of George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury to be brought up as a Protestant.[17]

His wife, Elizabeth Butler died on 10 October 1628 in Wales.[18] On 28 October 1628 Lord Desmond was drowned on a passage between Dublin and Holyhead.[19][20]

As his birth date is uncertain, so are all his ages.
Age Date Event
0 1580, estimate Born, near Edinburgh
10–11 1591 Page at the court in Edinburgh.[2]
22–23 1603, 24 Mar Accession of King James I, succeeding Queen Elizabeth I[21]
26–27 1607 Made constable of Dingwall Castle.[6]
28–29 1609, 8 Jun Became Lord Dingwall.[22]
33–34 1614 Married Elizabeth Butler.[10]
33–34 1614, 22 Nov Father-in-law, Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond, died at Carrick.[13]
34–35 1615, 25 Jul Daughter born.[14]
38–39 1619, 16 Jul Became Earl of Desmond[15]
44–45 1625, 27 Mar Accession of King Charles I, succeeding King James I[23]
47–48 1628, 10 Oct Wife died in Wales.[18]
47–48 1628, 28 Oct Drowned on a passage between Dublin and Holyhead[19][20]

Notes and references edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ This family tree is partly derived from the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne.[1] Also see the mention of his daughter in the text.

Citations edit

  1. ^ Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  2. ^ a b Paul 1906, p. 121, line 11. "I. Richard Preston, third son of Richard Preston of Whitehill, was attached to the royal household, and in 1591 is styled 'page'."
  3. ^ Paul 1906, p. 356, line 16. "The success of the Raid of Ruthven forced King James VI. to sign an order for his departure in 1582 ..."
  4. ^ Cokayne 1890, p. 128, line 3. "... was made K.B. at his coronation, 25 July 1603 ..."
  5. ^ Crawfurd 1716, p. 92. "He was educated at the Court, and being of an agreeable and winning Deportment, he soon grew into his Majesty's special favour, attaining first the honour of knighthood, and e're long was made one of the Grooms of the Bed Chamber."
  6. ^ a b Paul 1908, p. 121, line 25. "... had the Constabulary of Dingwall bestowed on him 1607."
  7. ^ Paul 1906, p. [ 121.
  8. ^ Butler 2008, p. 172.
  9. ^ Birch & Williams 1848, p. 92. "... a pageant which was an elephant with a castle on its back; and it proved a right partus elephantis for it was long a coming; til the running was well entered into and was then as long a creeping about the tilt-yard, all which time the running was intermitted."
  10. ^ a b Paul 1906, p. 121, line 29. "He married, through the influence of the King, in 1614, Elizabeth Butler, widow of Theobald, Viscount Butler of Tulleophelim, and daughter and only surviving child of Thomas, tenth Earl of Ormonde and Ossory."
  11. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 150, line 8. "Tulleophelim [I.] who d. s.p. Jany. 1613. ..."
  12. ^ Carte 1851, p. cxv, line 22. "... the king obliged the earl of Ormond to marry his daughter to Sir Richard Preston, a Scots gentleman who had been bred up with him and was highly in his favour."
  13. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 30. "He d. at Carrick, 22 Nov. 1614, aged82, having been 15 years blind."
  14. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 150, line 5. "She [Elizabeth Preston] who was b. [born] 25 July 1615 ..."
  15. ^ a b Paul 1906, p. 122, line 2. "By the influence of the Duke of Buckingham Lord Dingwall was, on the 19 July 1619, created Baron Dumore County Kilkenny and Earl of Desmond in the peerage of Ireland."
  16. ^ Webb 1878, p. 146, left column, line 15.
  17. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 43, line 28. "He was granted in Ward 26 May 1623 to Richard, Earl of Desmond, and by order of K. James I educated under the eye of Doctor George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury ..."
  18. ^ a b Paul 1906, p. 122, line 15. "Lord Dingwall's wife, Elizabeth Butler, died in Wales 10 October 1628 ..."
  19. ^ a b Cokayne 1890, p. 89, line 29. "... he [Richard Preston] died s.p.m. 28 Oct. 1628 ..."
  20. ^ a b Paul 1906, p. 122, line 16. "... and he was drowned on the passage between Dublin and Holyhead eighteen days later, 28 October same year [1628]."
  21. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 1. "James I ... acc. 24 Mar. 1603 ..."
  22. ^ Paul 1906, p. 121, line 27. "... [Richard] was on 8 June 1609 created Lord Dingwall, with remainder to his heirs and assigns whatsoever."
  23. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 16. "Charles I. ... acc. 27 Mar. 1625 ..."

Sources edit