Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond

Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond and 3rd Earl of Ossory KG PC (Ire) (Irish: Tomás Dubh de Buitléir, Iarla Urmhamhan; c. 1531 – 1614), was an influential courtier in London at the court of Elizabeth I. He was Lord Treasurer of Ireland from 1559 to his death. He fought for the crown in the Rough Wooing, the Desmond Rebellions, and Tyrone's Rebellion.

Thomas Butler
Earl of Ormond
Steven van der Meulen Thomas Butler Earl of Ormonde NGI.jpg
PredecessorJames, 9th Earl of Ormond
SuccessorWalter, 11th Earl of Ormond
BornFebruary 1531
Died22 November 1614
Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland
BuriedSt Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny
FamilyButler dynasty
  • 1. Elizabeth Berkeley
  • 2. Elizabeth Sheffield
  • 3. Helena Barry
Elizabeth, only surviving child
FatherJames Butler
MotherJoan Fitzgerald

Birth and originsEdit

Thomas was born about February 1531.[a] He was the eldest son of James Butler and his wife Joan FitzGerald. His father was the 9th Earl of Ormond and head of the Butler dynasty, an Old English family that descended from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177.[5] Thomas's mother was a child of James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond. Her family, the Geraldines, also were an Old English family. It was once believed that his parents had married about 1520, but this is now known to be impossible as, in 1521-2, his father was briefly betrothed to his English cousin Anne Boleyn. James and Joan did not marry until about 1528, with Thomas as their first child being born three, rather than eleven, years later.[6]

Family tree
Thomas Butler with wife, parents, and other selected relatives.[b]
8th Earl


c. 1473 – 1542
10th Earl

d. 1529
9th Earl


d. 1565
14th Earl

c. 1533 – 1583
Rebel Earl

d. 1582
10th Earl
c. 1531 – 1614
Black Tom

d. 1600

John of

d. 1570

d. 1613

c. 1585 – 1628
1st Earl

d. 1628
11th Earl


d. 1619


1st Duke


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

He had six brothers, no sisters seem to be known, which are listed in his father's article.

Early lifeEdit

Butler was born in Ireland but was sent to London in May 1544 when he was about 13 year old.[9] to be brought up at the English court where he adopted English speech, dress, and manners, as well as the Protestant religion.[10]

Elizabeth IEdit

The future Lord Ormond and the future Queen Elizabeth met in London as children. Thomas, the "son of an Irish Earl", and Elizabeth, the "illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII", shared a common experience: neither was well-treated by the other young nobles at court. They were distant (4th) cousins through her mother, Anne Boleyn, whose paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Butler, was a daughter of the 7th Earl (open the collapsed family tree below).

Elizabeth called him her "black husband."

Earl of OrmondEdit

On 28 October 1546, when Butler was 15, his father, the 9th Earl of Ormond died in London after having been poisoned during a banquet at Ely House,[11] probably at the instigation of Anthony St Leger, who was Lord Deputy of Ireland and a political opponent. Thomas Butler succeeded as the 10th Earl of Ormond and the 3rd Earl of Ossory. He became a ward of the King.

Ormond, as he now was, was knighted on 20 February 1547, at the coronation of Edward VI.[12] On 10 September 1547 during the Rough Wooing he served at the Battle of Pinkie under Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset against the Scots.[13] In 1554, during the reign of Queen Mary, Ormond helped to put down Wyatt's rebellion.[14]

Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond, by Steven van der Meulen

His mother remarried to Francis Bryan in 1548, and then to Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond in 1551.[15]

In 1554 his illegitimate son, Piers FitzThomas Butler of Duisk, was born. There were unfounded rumours that Elizabeth was the mother, something which was particularly impossible at the time of Piers's birth when the Princess was away from court, imprisoned, then under house arrest, and frequent public questioning for her alleged complicity in the Wyatt Rebellion.[16] Piers's son, Edward would become the 1st Viscount Galmoye.

On 17 November 1558 Elizabeth succeeded Mary as Queen of England.[17] On 26 August 1559 Ormond was appointed Lord Treasurer of Ireland by the Queen,[18][19] which automatically made him a privy councillor of Ireland.[20]

First marriageEdit

About 1559 Ormond married his first wife, Elizabeth Berkeley, daughter of Thomas Berkeley, 6th Baron Berkeley and Anne Savage.[21] She was considered a beauty at the court. However, the marriage was not happy and she had lovers. They separated in 1564 without having had children, but she refused a divorce. She would finally die on 1 September 1582 in Bristol. That meant that Ormond did not have an heir and that according to the normal rule of succession, his younger brother Edmund was his heir presumptive.

In the 1560s Ormond built the Tudor manor-house extension to Ormonde Castle on the banks of the River Suir in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.[22] All of this was to provide Elizabeth with a suitable palace at which to stay when she travelled to Ireland. Elizabeth planned twice to visit him there: once in 1602 (which visit was cancelled by her illness); and again in 1603. She died, however, before the planned visit could take place. It is known that Elizabeth appreciated Thomas's effort, and was—as she was with all of her maternal cousins—very fond of him. Thomas survived Elizabeth by 11 years.

Ormonde Castle at Carrick on Suir

Irish warsEdit


Much of Ormond's life was taken up with a fierce feud with his hereditary foes, the Earls of Desmond. The Desmonds were the Ormonds' neighbours on the western and southern sides. Despite their enmity, these two families were both more or less Gaelicized Old English and had intermarried many times; the last such marriage having been that of Ormond's parents. The Desmond rebellions should also be seen in the wider picture of the Tudor conquest of Ireland.

In 1560 his mother's intervention secured a peaceful outcome to a stand-off at Bohermore (known as "the battle that never was").[23] However, only a bit more than a month after her death on 2 January 1565,[24] on 8 February 1565, the two sides fought the private Battle of Affane, in which her husband Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond was taken prisoner by the Ormond faction[25] after her son Edmund had shot him into the hip with his pistol.[26] Lords Ormond and Desmond were called to London and promised to keep the peace.

Ormond was that summer high in favour with the Queen.[27]

First Desmond rebellionEdit

The first Desmond Rebellion (1569–1573) was started by James fitz Maurice FitzGerald, captain of the Desmond forces in the earl's absence. He was supported by many Irish in southern Ireland but also by some of Ormond's six brothers, notably Edmund.[28] The rebellion was directed against Henry Sidney the Lord Deputy of Ireland. Ormond returned to Ireland landing at Waterford in July 1569.[29] His brothers submitted quickly.

The arms of the 10th Earl of Ormond

However, Edmund, Edward and Piers were attainted in April 1570[30] by an act of the Irish Parliament. That meant that Edmund ceased to be Ormond's heir presumptive and the next brother, John Butler of Kilcash, took his place. However, not for long as John died on 10 May 1570.[31] John's eldest son, Walter, therefore became heir presumptive. James fitz Maurice FitzGerald surrendered on 23 February 1573 and Gerald followed in September ending the first Desmond rebellion.

Lord Desmond was released about 1573 and allowed to return from England to Ireland. James FitzMaurice FitzGerald left for the continent.

Second Desmond rebellionEdit

The second Desmond Rebellion (1579–1583) was triggered by the landing of James fitz Maurice FitzGerald at Dingle On 17 June 1579.[32] Lord Desmond rose in rebellion. Ormond was appointed governor of Munster and sent to Ireland.

Both rebellions desolated Munster for many years. Ormond was a Protestant belonging to the Church of Ireland[33] and threw his great influence on the side of Queen Elizabeth I and her ministers in their efforts to crush the rebels, although he was motivated as much by factional rivalry with the Desmond dynasty as by religion. He had command of the Royal Irish Army tasked with the suppression of the rebellions, which he eventually accomplished.

Second marriage and childrenEdit

At the age of 51, having been freed by the death of his estranged first wife on 1 September 1582, Ormond remarried Elizabeth Sheffield on 9 November in London. She was the daughter of John Sheffield, 2nd Baron Sheffield and Douglas, daughter of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham.

Thomas and Elizabeth had three children:

  1. John (1584–1589), died young;[34]
  2. Elizabeth (before 1593 – 1628), married 1st her first cousin Theobald, son of Thomas's brother Edmund, but Theobald died childless in 1613; she married 2ndly Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond, and had one daughter, Elizabeth Preston;[35]
  3. Thomas (before 1601 – 1606), died young.[36]

Later life and third marriageEdit

In 1580 Ormond improved Kilkenny Castle by building the great gallery.[37]

In spring 1588, the Queen made Ormond a Knight of the Garter.[38] When in the summer of that year the Spanish Armada menaced England, he was with her at the review of the troops at Tilbury where she gave the patriotic speech to the troop at Tilbury. He had at that occasion the honour to carry the sword of state before her.[39]

In 1600 he helped to suppress Tyrone's Rebellion. Between April 1600 and June 1600 he was held captive by Owny MacRory O'More who had invaded Munster with Irish forces from Leinster.

Ormond's second wife died in November 1600.[40] In June 1601 Ormond, aged 70, married his third wife, Helena Barry, daughter of David de Barry, 5th Viscount Buttevant.[41] It was her second marriage, her first husband having been John Power. The marriage remained childless.[42]

He was further honoured by being appointed vice-admiral of Leinster in 1602.

An anonymous manuscript originating from the library of the Irish College at Louvain[43] tells us the following anecdote.

The 10th Earl of Ormond, as an old blind man, celebrated Christmas with his family at Carrick Castle. The adults sat at the table, while the children played on the floor around them. The Earl heard a noise behind him and asked who it was. He was told it was little Jemmy of Kilcash, Walter's grandson whipping his top. The Earl asked for the boy to be brought to him, held him on his lap, and caressed his hair. He sighed and said "My family shall be much oppressed and brought very low, but by this boy it shall be restored again and in his time be in greater splendour than ever it has been".[44]

In 1613 his son-in-law Lord Tulleophelim died childless in his forties.[45] A son of Lord Thomond asked for his widow Elizabeth's hand, but the King decided that she should marry Lord Dingwall, a favourite from his days in Scotland.[46]

Death and timelineEdit

The tenth Lord Ormond died on 22 November 1614 at Carrick.[47] As the Earl died without legally recognised male issue, and his younger brother Edmund was attainted, the Earldom reverted in the male line, to the Kilcash cadet branch, which had started with the third brother John Butler of Kilcash and whose living representative was John's son Walter.

Offices heldEdit


  • Treasurer of Ireland (1559–1614)[19]
  • Lieutenant of County Tipperary (1575)
  • Lieutenant of County Kilkenny (1575)
  • Lord General of the Forces in Munster (1582–1583)
  • General of the Forces in Leinster (1594–1596)
  • Lieutenant-General of the all Forces in Ireland (1597)
  • Vice-Admiral of Leinster (1602)

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ a b Authors seem to agree that he was born either in 1531 or in 1532. Edwards (2004) says "about February 1531";[1] Edwards (2009) says "1531–1614";[2] Cokayne (1895)[3] and Lee (1886)[4] say 1532.
  2. ^ This family tree is derived the one in Cokayne[7] and from the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne.[8] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.


  1. ^ Edwards 2004, p. 220. "... was born about February 1531"
  2. ^ Edwards 2009, 1st paragraph. "1531–1614"
  3. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 15. "... b. [born] 1532;"
  4. ^ Lee 1886, p. 79, left column. "born in 1532"
  5. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 640. "Theobald le Boteler on whom that office [Chief Butler of Ireland] was conferred by King Henry II., 1177 ..."
  6. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 5. "He m. [married], about 1520, Joan, da. [daughter] and h. [heir] of James (Fitz-Maurice FitzGerald), 11th Earl of Desmond [I. [Ireland]] ..."
  7. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 146.
  8. ^ a b Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  9. ^ a b Edwards 2004, p. 220, left column, line 40. "Butler departed for London early in May 1544 and entered a select group of English and Welsh noble youths ..."
  10. ^ Barron 1911, p. 880, para 4, line 1. "... Earl James was poisoned at a supper in Ely House in 1546, and Thomas the Black Earl, his son and heir, was brought up at the English court, professing the reformed religion."
  11. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 6. "He d. [died] in London, 28 Oct. 1546, from the effects of poison taken on the 17th at supper at Ely House, Holborn ..."
  12. ^ a b Lodge 1789, p. 31, line 16. "... at whose coronation 20 February 1546 [O.S.] he was made a Knight of the Bath."
  13. ^ a b Lodge 1789, p. 31, line 21. "... served as a volunteer under the Duke of Somerset in his Scots expedition, and behaved with great bravery in the battle of Musselburgh."
  14. ^ Dunboyne 1968, p. 13, line 12. "Black Tom won his spurs and possibly his nickname when suppressing the rebellion against Queen Mary of Sir Thomas Wyatt, whom some called White Tom."
  15. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 9. "His widow m. [married] Sir Francis Bryan, Knight Marshal of Ireland, and m. subsequently (as his first wife) Gerald (Fitz James FitzGerald), 15th Earl of Desmond [I.] (the rebel earl, forfeited in 1582) ..."
  16. ^ Dunboyne 1968, p. 13, line 32. "... rather startling rumour that the Virgin Queen bore him Piers Butler of Duiske ..."
  17. ^ a b Fryde et al. 1986, p. 43, line 41. "Elizabeth I ... acc. 17 Nov. 1558;"
  18. ^ Burke & Burke 1909, p. 14400, left column, line 11. "... Queen Elizabeth, by whom, in 1559, he was constituted lord treasurer of Ireland. ..."
  19. ^ a b c Lodge 1789, p. 33, line 17. "The Queen, 26 August 1559, (in the first year of her reign) made him Lord Treasurer of Ireland."
  20. ^ Lee 1886, p. 79, right column, line 5. "... took the oath as privy councillor in 1559, and became Lord Treasurer of Ireland at the same time;"
  21. ^ a b Edwards 2004, p. 221, left column. "Ormond married Elizabeth (1534–1582), daughter and heir of Thomas Berkeley, 6th Baron Berkeley, and his second wife, Anne, about 1559 "
  22. ^ O'Mahany 2018, p. 137. "Thomas Butler, better known as Black Tom, significantly modified the 14th-century fortress and the 15th-century tower houses, when they became integrated into the 10th Earl's new house constructed in 1565."
  23. ^ McCormack 2009, 3rd paragraph: "The following year the conflict seemed set for a dramatic climax when the two earls gathered their forces, each reputed to have been approximately 5,000 men, near Tipperary town. A bloody battle was prevented by the timely intervention of Gerald's wife, who was also Ormond's mother ..."
  24. ^ a b McGurk 2004, p. 809, line 44. "The death of Desmond's wife on 2 February 1565 ..."
  25. ^ a b Joyce 1903, p. 146, line 15. "Desmond, taken unawares, was defeated in a battle fought in 1565 at Affane in the County Waterford, and he himself was wounded and taken prisoner."
  26. ^ a b McGurk 2004, p. 809, left column. "On 8 February 1565 the two rival armies met at the ford of Affane on the Blackwater in co. Waterford. Desmond was wounded in the thigh and taken prisoner by Ormond, but soon released."
  27. ^ Weir 1999, p. 166, line 29. "When her distant cousin, Thomas Butler, tenth Earl of Ormonde and Lord Treasurer of Ireland, visited court, she began singling him out."
  28. ^ Lee 1886, p. 80, left column. "In June 1569 Sir Edmund, who had a personal hatred of Sidney, in temporary concert with some members of the Desmond family, broke into open revolt against the lord deputy."
  29. ^ Lee 1886, p. 80, left column, bottom. "He landed in Waterford in July 1569, and found Munster in the throes of a civil war, in which his brother Sir Edmund was matched against Sidney's lieutenant, sir Peter Carew."
  30. ^ a b Lee 1886, p. 80, right column, line 7. "In April [1570] Ormonde's three brothers Edmund, Edward and Piers, were attainted, and Ormonde passionately protested against the indignity."
  31. ^ Burke & Burke 1909, p. 1399, right column, line 77: "3. John, of Kilcash, to whom his father granted lands by deed, 26 May, 1544; ..."
  32. ^ McCormack 2004, p. 820, right column, bottom. "James landed at Dingle, co. Kerry, on 18 June 1579 "
  33. ^ Carte 1851, p. cxviii"I had almost forgot to observe that this earl Thomas was a protestant ..."
  34. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 33. "John Butler, styled Viscount Thurles, 1st s. [son] and h. ap. [heir apparent], b. [boern] 1584, d. [died] an infant and was bur. [buried] in Westm. [Westminster] Abbey."
  35. ^ Burke & Burke 1909, p. 14400, left column, line 20. "Elizabeth, m. [married] 1st Theobald, Viscount Butler of Tulleophelim, who d.s.p. [died childless] Jan. 1613; and 2ndly Sir Richard Preston, created a peer of Scotland, 8 June 1609, under the title of Baron Dingwall, with remainder to his heirs whatsoever ..."
  36. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 35. "Thomas Butler, styled Viscount Thurles, 2nd but only surviving s. [son] and h. ap. [heir apparent], sheriff of co. Tipperary 1605; d. unm. [died unmarried] and v.p. [predeased his father] 12 Jan. 1605/6 and was bur. [buried] at Carrick, M.I."
  37. ^ Edwards 1998, p. 48. "... in 1580 he modernised the design of Kilkenny Castle, hiring the local builder, Robert Freney, to construct a 'great gallery'."
  38. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 20. "He was el. K.G. 23 April and inst. 27 May 1588."
  39. ^ a b Weir 1999, p. 392. "... the Earl of Ormonde bearing the sword of state."
  40. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 27. "She [Elizabeth Sheffield] d. [died] Nov. 1600 and was bur. [buried] at St Canice. Kilkenny."
  41. ^ a b Edwards 2004, p. 225, left column, line 6. "At some time between 2 and 24 June 1601 Ormond married Helen (d. [died] 1642), daughter of David Barry, Viscount Buttevant ..."
  42. ^ Burke 1866, p. 25, left column. "Her lordship m. [married] 2ndly Thomas, earl of Ormonde, but had no issue;"
  43. ^ Graves 1863, p. 277, line 1. "... transferred from the Irish College at Louvain to the Burgundian Library at Bruxelles."
  44. ^ Graves 1863, p. 278–279.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  45. ^ a b Burke & Burke 1909, p. 1400, left column, line 20. "... Theobald, Viscount Butler of Tulleophelim, who d.s.p. [died without issue] Jan. 1613;"
  46. ^ Bagwell 1909, p. 139. "Tullophelim died childless early in 1613, and a son of Lord Thomond's immediately sought the widow's hand, but the King insisted on her marrying Richard Preston, a Scottish gentleman of the bedchamber ..."
  47. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 148, line 30. "He d. [died] at Carrick, 2 Nov. 1614, aged 82, having been 15 years blind."
  48. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 43, line 15. "Edward VI ... acc. 28 Jan. 1547;"
  49. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 43, line 27. "Mary I ... acc. 6 Jul. 1553;"
  50. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 1. "James I ... acc. 24 Mar. 1603 ..."


Further readingEdit

Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Ormond
Earl of Ossory

Succeeded by