Butler, James

, duke of Ormond, an eminent statesman, the son of Thomas Butler, esq. a branch of the Ormond family, was born at Newcastle house, in Clerkenwell, 1610. Oh the decease of Thomas, earl, of Ormond, his grandfather Sir Walter Butler, of Kilcash, assumed the title, and his father was styled by courtesy viscount Thurles. After the death of his father, in 1619, who left a widow and seven children in embarrassed circumstances, this title devolved upon him. In 1620 he was sent over to England by his mother, and educated partly at a school at Finchtey, in Middlesex, but king James claiming the wardship of him, he was put under the tuition of. archbishop Abbot, who instilled in him that love for the protestant religion which he afterwards displayed on so many occasions. On the death of king James he was taken home by his grandfather the carl of Ormond; and in 1629 he married his cousin, lady Elizabeth Preston, a match which terminated some disputes that had long been agitated between the families. In 1630 he purchased a troop of horse in Ireland, and two years after succeeded, by the death of his grandfather, to the earldom of Ormond. During the earl of Stratford’s viceroyalty in Ireland, his talents were much noticed by that nobleman, who predicted his future fame. On the commencement of the rebellion in Ireland in 1641, he was appointed lieutenant-generaJ and commander in chief of an army of only 3000 men, but with this inconsiderable force, and a few additional troops raised by himself, he resisted the progress of the rebels, and in 1642 dislodged them from the Naes near Dublin, raised the blockade of Drogheda, and routed them at Kiirush. His exertions, however, being impeded by the jealousies of the lords justices and of the lord lieutenant, the king, that he might act without controui, gave him an independent commission under the great seal, and created him marquis of Ormond. In 1643 he obtained a considerable victory with a very inferior force over the rebels under the command of the Irish general Preston, but for want of suitable encouragement, he was under a necessity of concluding a cessation | of hostilities, for which measure he was much blamed in England; though he availed himself of it by sending over troops to the assistance of the king, who was then at war with the parliament. His majesty, however, duly appreciating his services, appointed him lord lieutenant of Ireland, in the room of the earl of Leicester, in the beginning of the year 1644; but in the exercise of this office, he had to contend both with the rebellious spirit of the old Irish, and the machinations of the English parliament, and after maintaining an unsuccessful struggle for three years, he was, in 1647, obliged to sign a treaty with the parliament’s commissioners, and to come over to England, where he waited on ‘the king at Hampton-court, and obtained his majesty’s full approbation of all his proceedings; but in the hazardous state of public affairs he thought it most prudent to provide for his own safety by embarking for France.

During his short residence in this country, he corresponded with the Irish for the purpose of inducing them to engage in the royal cause; and having engaged lord Inchiquin to receive him in Munster, he landed at Cork, after escaping the imminent danger of shipwreck, in 1648, and on his arrival, adopted measures which were not a little assisted by the abhorrence which the king’s death excited through the country; and in consequence of this favourable impression, the lord lieutenant caused Charles II. to be immediately proclaimed. But Owen O’Neile, instigated by the pope’s nuncio, and supported by the old Irish, raised obstacles in his way, which he determined to overcome by the bold enterprise of attacking the city of Dublin, then held for the Parliament by governor Jones. This enterprise, however, failed, with very considerable loss on the part of the marquis; and soon after Cromwell arrived in Ireland, and having stormed Drogheda, surrendered it to military execution, thus striking tenor into the Irish, so that they becoming dissatisfied with the lord lieutenant, and insisting on his leaving the kingdom, he embarked for France, in 1650, and joined the exiled family. In order to retrieve his affairs, the marchioness went over to Ireland, and having in some measure succeeded in exempting her own estate from forfeiture, she remained in the country, and never saw her husband till after the restoration. In the mean while the marquis was employed in various Commissions in behalf of the king; and he rendered | essential service to his cause by rescuing the duke of Gloucester out of the hands of the queen-mother, and preventing her severe treatment from inducing him to embrace the Catholic religion. He was also instrumental in detaching the Irish Catholic regiments from the service of France, one of which he was appointed to command, and in obtaining the surrender of the town of St. Ghilan, near Brussels, to the Spaniards. In a secret embassy to England for the purpose of inquiring into the actual state of the royal party, he had some narrow escapes from the spies of Cromwell; and at length, when Charles II. was restored to the throne of his ancestors, the Marquis accompanied him, and not only recovered his large estates in the county of Tipperary, but was raised to the dignity of duke of Ormond, and officiated as lord high steward of England at the king’s coronation. In 1662, he was again appointed lord lieutenant, and had considerable success in reducing the country to a state of tranquillity; and he promoted various very important and lasting -improvements, particularly with respect to the growth of flax and manufacture of linen. His attachment to earl Clarendon, however, involved him in the odium which pursued that great man; and notwithstanding the purity of his conduct, he was deprived of his government by the machinations of the duke of Buckingham, in 1669; but in the same year he was elected to the office of chancellor of the university of Oxford. In 1670 a desperate design was formed ’ against him by colonel Blood, whom he had imprisoned in Ireland on account of his having engaged in a plot for the surprisal of D.ublin castle. Blood, being at this time in London, determined to seize his person, in his return from an entertainment given in the city to the Prince of Orange; and in the prosecution of his purpose, his accomplices dragged the duke out of his coach, and placed him behind one of them who was on horseback, in order to convey him to Tyburn, and execute him on the pubiic gallows; or, as others say, to take him out of the kingdom, and compel him to sign certain papers relating to a forfeited estate of Blood. The duke by his struggles threw both the man and himself from the horse, and by seasonable assistance he was released from the custody of these assassins. This daring act of violence excited the king’s resentment; but Blood, for certain reasons, having been taken into favour, hi* Majesty requested the duke to forgive the insult. To | which message he replied, “that if the king could forgive Blood for attempting to steal his crown, he might easily forgive him for an attempt on his life; and that he would obey his Majesty’s pleasure without inquiring into his reasons.” For seven years the duke was neither in favour with the court nor employed by it; but at length, in 1677, he was surprised by a message announcing the king’s intention to visit him. The object of this visit was to disclose his Majesty’s resolution of appointing him to the lord lieutenancy of Ireland; and this resolution had been adopted by the influence of the duke of York, who had reason to imagine, that the “cabal,” or court party, proposed to introduce the duke of Monmouth into this high station in the room of the earl of Essex, who had been removed. In order to counteract this plan, the duke of York recommended his grace of Ormond to the king, as the most likely person to engage general confidence, and to unite discordant parties in both countries. On this the duke consented, and upon his arrival adopted vigorous measures for disarming the papists and maintaining public tranquillity; and though he did not escape calumny, the king determined to support him against all attempts for removing him, and declared with an oath, *‘ that while the duke of Ormond lived, he should never be put out of that government." He opposed the duke only in the measure of calling a parliament in Ireland for settling affairs, to which the king would not give his consent. In 1682, when he came over to England to acquaint the king with the state of his government, he was advanced to the dignity of an English dukedom; but, notwithstanding this mark of royal favour, he had given such offence by his importunity with respect to an Irish parliament, that immediately on his return he was apprised of an intention to remove him. Upon the accession of James, the duke caused him to be proclaimed, and soon after resigned his office and came over to England.; Although the duke’s principles did not suit the projects of the new reign, he was treated with respect by the king, and received from him the honour of a visit whilst he was confined to his chamber with the gout. He died at Kingston ^hall, in Dorsetshire, July 21, 1688, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, and was buried in Westminster-abbey.

He was, without doubt, one of the best as well as the greatest men of his time; ’had all the virtues requisite to | adorn a man of his rank, and very few foibles. In respect to his personal accomplishments, he was exceeded by none, and equalled but by few: he had the look and air of a man of quality; a very graceful and easy behaviour, which at the same time was lull of dignity, and created respect in all that saw him. He spoke extremely well, both in private conversation and upon public occasions, and expressed himself with much facility and freedom. He had a very comprehensive genius, so that there were few subjects that he was not master of; and yet, with all his parts and all his experience, he was extremely modest. His political principles were entirely agreeable to the constitution: he was loyal to his prince in all circumstances, and without any regard to consequences. He understood the interest of the nation, and pursued it steadily. He thought that the law was to be the guide of sovereigns as well as subjects, and therefore judged it his duty to assert it upon all occasions. He was descended from a very noble and fortunate family, and was himself the most fortunate of that family. He was extremely happy in domestic concerns, living with the duchess in the most sincere friendship, as well as the most tender affection; regarding her death, which happened about four years before his own, as the greatest misfortune of his life. He passed through a long life and variety of fortunes with honour and reputation; was esteemed and beloved by the good men of all parties; and died universally regretted. 1


Biog. Brit. Carte’s Life of the Duke of Ormond, 2 vols. fol.