Butler, James (1331–82), 2nd earl of Ormond , younger son of James (qv), 1st earl of Ormond, and his wife Eleanor, daughter of Humphrey Bohun, earl of Hereford, succeeded to his father's title while still a minor. As a result, his lands, mostly centred in Tipperary, were taken into royal possession; custody was then granted to Maurice fitz Thomas FitzGerald (qv), 1st earl of Desmond. But custody was taken away from Desmond in 1344, which in part provoked his ravaging of the Butler lands. Custody of the Ormond lordship was then granted to Ormond's mother and his stepfather, Sir Thomas Dagworth. Ormond's lordship in northern Tipperary was severely damaged by Desmond's actions and the increasing encroachment of the Gaelic Irish in this period, but the southern part of the county remained largely intact.
Ormond was betrothed (1346) to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Darcy (qv) and Joan, countess of Kildare; and because the king desired his presence in France, he was given his father's lands and titles (February 1347), even though he was still a minor. His military career took him to France (1347) and Scotland (1355), but most of his career was spent in Ireland, where he became one of the king's most trusted advisers. Ormond was one of the leading figures lobbying the king for direct and forcible royal intervention in Ireland, which led to the appointment of the king's son Lionel (qv) (later duke of Clarence) as lieutenant in 1361.
Ormond was well able to use his position as earl to dominate both Gaelic and Anglo-Irish, serving as keeper of the peace in Munster, as constable of Dublin castle, and as chief governor several times (March 1359–September 1360, April 1364–January 1365, September 1376–September 1379), although he refused the office in 1382, citing the costs involved and the need to protect his own lands. While Ormond played an important role on the national stage, much of his attention was focused on the protection of his own lands in Munster. He used his daughters to create alliances with the 3rd earl of Desmond (qv) and the O'Carrolls, both of whom were serious threats to his Tipperary holdings, and secured a permanent grant of the liberty of Tipperary from the king (June 1373), further cementing his authority in the region. Many of the agreements between Ormond and both Gaelic and Anglo-Irish leaders in Munster survive (Ormond deeds, ii) and shed much light on the mechanisms of lordship in mid fourteenth-century Ireland.
By the time of his death (October 1382), Ormond had secured the preeminence of his family in south-central Ireland by recovering some of the lands lost during his minority, but increasingly shifting the focus of Butler interest south and east into Kilkenny.