Butler, James (1610–88), 12th earl and 1st duke of Ormond, was born 19 October 1610 at Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England, eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles , and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Poyntz, of Iron Acton, Gloucestershire. Thurles was son and heir to Walter Butler (qv), 11th earl, who succeeded to the title in 1614 on the death of his uncle, Thomas (qv), 10th earl, whose one surviving child was a daughter, Elizabeth (qv). The viscount took his family to Ireland, but when returning from a visit to England was shipwrecked and drowned on 15 December 1619, leaving the 9-year-old James as the direct heir to the title. His widow Elizabeth married (a.15 June 1626) George Mathew of Thurles, Co. Tipperary, by whom she had a second family.
Youth and marriage
The details of James Butler's youth are mainly derived from Sir Robert Southwell (qv), who presented a brief and laudatory life of the duke to his grandson and successor two months after the first duke's death. According to Southwell, on his father's death, Butler's mother placed him in a school in Finchley to be raised in the Roman catholic faith, to which both parents were committed. However, through the manipulation of the law, James I claimed the young heir as a royal ward and in 1622 put him in the care of George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, under whose tutelage he received a protestant upbringing. The religious part of his education made a deep impression on the boy, but in other respects Abbot made little effort to educate his charge, and it was only the intervention of the grandfather that ensured some facility in writing, French, and Irish. His Latin was almost entirely neglected.
This was not the first time that the king had intervened in the affairs of the Butler family. He had pressed the marriage of Elizabeth, sole surviving child of the 10th earl, to his favourite, Sir Richard Preston. Subsequently, when the 10th earl died and a dispute arose over whether Elizabeth or Walter, the 11th earl, should inherit the Ormond estates, he proposed himself as arbiter, found largely in favour of Elizabeth (thus for his favourite), and put Walter in the Fleet prison when he refused to accept the verdict. After eight years Walter was released, but it was only through the marriage of James Butler to the child of this marriage – his cousin, also called Elizabeth (qv) and Preston's sole heir – that the Ormond estates were reunited. Yet even this solution cost the Butler family dear. Elizabeth Preston was born on 25 July 1615. Thus she too was a minor when her father died in 1628 and she was put under the care of Lord Holland. Holland was paid £15,000 to intervene with the king to permit Elizabeth's marriage to Butler, the marriage taking place at Christmas 1629. During the marriage negotiations Lady Isabella Rich acted as a go-between for the young couple, but she and Butler developed a mutual affection. The liaison produced a son, who was brought up secretly on the Continent, and it was only years later that Elizabeth Preston learned by accident of the affair. Nevertheless, she harboured no ill will towards either her husband or her friend.
In 1630 the young couple went to live at Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, and while there James purchased command of a troop of horse in the small Irish standing army, but he soon returned to England, where he was when his grandfather died. He succeeded to the title on 24 February 1633, and in that year returned to Ireland, a little ahead of Thomas Wentworth (qv), who had recently been appointed lord deputy.
Earl of Ormond, 1633–40
Butler's inheritance of the earldom, combined with his marriage to Elizabeth Preston, had reunited one of the most ancient and largest Old English estates in Ireland. It consisted of close to 300,000 acres, spread over some seven counties, though its core lay in Counties Kilkenny and Tipperary. During the early 1630s the income from the combined estate amounted to approximately £7,000 a year, but the young earl was very heavily in debt, his own and his wife's debts (inherited from her father) in 1633 being £45,000. His political position, moreover, was as precarious as his financial condition. The size of his estate represented a threat to the expansionist ambitions of the New English and to the crown as it sought to diminish local centres of power. Moreover, although his title made him a leader within the Old English community, his religion made him a deviant within his own family as well as within the broader landowning group.
Ormond adopted two strategies to restore the fortunes of his house: first, aggressive estate management, and second, close cooperation with the newly appointed lord deputy Wentworth, who was as much an outsider among the New English as Ormond was among the Old. The attempted restoration of the estate's finances aroused resentment among some Butler tenants, but as an agent of change he must have appeared preferable to Richard Preston, who, when he occupied Kilkenny castle during the 1620s in accordance with King James's settlement, placed guns on the battlements and directed them towards the city.
Wentworth landed in Ireland in July 1633, and by November Ormond had expressed to a friend his satisfaction with the new lord deputy. The following year, when Wentworth called a parliament, Ormond gave moderate assistance to the government during the election. At the opening of the parliament, the earl defied the deputy's order against wearing a sword as he took his seat, but the incident was allowed to pass, and in January 1635 Ormond was sworn in as an Irish privy councillor. On his part, the earl cooperated with the government's plans for an extension of plantation, even when these ran counter to the interests of some of his relatives.
After the signing of the national covenant in Scotland in February 1638 and as the dispute between Charles I and his Scottish subjects developed, Wentworth relied increasingly on his Old English, protestant ally. He increased the size of Ormond's troop of horse in February 1638, and by the end of June had promoted him lieutenant-general of the horse. The failure of the king's forces in 1639 to defeat the Scottish army led the king to rely more heavily on Wentworth, who, in turn, imposed greater responsibilities on Ormond. During the winter of 1639–40 the king had decided to raise a new Irish army to strike at the Scots from the west. As Wentworth (now promoted to earl of Strafford and lord lieutenant) had to spend most of his time in England, on 9 February 1640 he gave Ormond authority to appoint officers to the Irish army, and in September made him lieutenant-general.
Charles was forced into a truce with the Scots before the Irish army could cross to Scotland, but if Ormond played no military role at this time, his political contribution was considerable. There are two interpretations of his actions from the summer of 1640 to the autumn of 1641: first, that he was steadfast in his loyalty to both Strafford and the king; second, that, as Charles's fortunes deteriorated in 1640, the earl tried to distance himself from Strafford, and supported Charles as much to reinforce his own position in Ireland as to shore up the crown.
Political manoeuvring, 1640–41
Ormond's motives were, no doubt, varied as he responded to a series of complex and often totally unpredictable situations. Loyalty in the seventeenth century seldom precluded self-interest, but there is little evidence of a carefully calculated set of moves designed to advance his own position as Strafford's waned. Ormond was cautious and, unlike Strafford, conscious of what the law allowed a crown official to do. He had doubts about sending an army from Ireland into Scotland without the authority of the English great seal. He was also devoted to his wife, and when she was ill in the summer of 1640, he absented himself from both parliament and the army to be with her. It has been alleged that his concern was diplomatic and that he wished at this time to distance himself from government policy, but the idea is not backed by evidence. Sir Christopher Wandesforde (qv), Strafford's deputy during the second session of parliament, regretted the earl's absence as opposition to the government developed, but nobody knew that there was going to be opposition when the session began. If not devious, however, Ormond did try to use the prominence the crisis had given him to advance his interests. Shortly after declining the king's offer of the Garter that became available on Strafford's death – on the grounds that it might be used to bind a more hesitant supporter than himself to the crown – he requested the return of the palatine jurisdiction in Tipperary which had formerly been possessed by his family. This was not granted, but the request suggests a recognition of how loyalty might be turned to his own advantage.
The earl assisted Wentworth during elections in the spring of 1640. A number of MPs, including Wandesford, were returned for Kilkenny and Tipperary who could be expected to support the government. If absent during the second session, during the third, after impeachment proceedings had been started in England against Strafford, he did what he could in the Irish lords to help his friend. When Charles wanted to appoint him lord justice in December 1640, he was deemed too close to Wentworth by Irish protestants and catholics alike. Sir William Parsons (qv) and Sir John Borlase (qv) were appointed instead. During the fourth session, held during the first months of 1641, Ormond resisted attempts to weaken the executive.
The lords' journals are missing for the May–August session of 1641, but Ormond was present in Dublin. His stance in parliament can be deduced from later evidence. Two issues predominated: land security and the limitation of the power of the executive. Bills were prepared over the summer to deal with the former, and in November Ormond urged that they be passed; on this matter his own self-interest coincided with the wishes of parliament. On the constitutional issue, however, we may presume that he remained a staunch upholder of the crown's authority. A year later, James Wishart, a Scot who owned land in Ireland, spread a rumour among English MPs that Ormond had plotted during the summer of 1641 with those who by 1642 were in rebellion. To refute the charge, Ormond pointed out to his informant, Sir Philip Percival (qv) (clerk of the Irish lords), that he could personally testify to the way Ormond had vehemently opposed in parliament those who later rose in rebellion. This could only be a reference to his position on the constitutional issue.
After investigation, Wishart denied publicly that he had made the accusation, but in 1650 the marquis of Antrim (qv), who bitterly disliked Ormond, told Cromwell's officials that he, some Old English leaders, Ormond, and the king had plotted in the summer of 1641 to use the Irish army against the English parliament. Others who later made similar charges were equally hostile to Ormond, yet many historians have accepted parts (though sometimes different parts) of Antrim's account. A papal informant in London reported to Rome on 16 July 1641 that he had received information from Ireland that the Irish parliament had reconstituted the Irish army, which had been disbanded in May and June, and had appointed Ormond as its general. This did not happen, but the report suggests that such an idea was being discussed in some circles. Apart from this, however, there is no contemporary evidence linking Ormond to such a plot and considerable evidence that Antrim's account could not have happened as he related it. Had Ormond been involved in such a plot, the Old English leaders of the rebellion could have damaged their leading opponent by releasing the information, but they never mentioned the matter. Antrim was forced to admit that he had forged documents to implicate the earl of Inchiquin (qv) in 1649 in another plot; he also received a pension from Oliver Cromwell (qv) as soon as he made his declaration against Ormond, and after the restoration he formally denied that he had ever made it.
Resisting rebellion, 1641–4
When the rebellion broke out in Ulster (22 October 1641), Ormond was at Carrick. He immediately organised forces for the defence of Kilkenny. The lords justices summoned him to Dublin on 24 October, and again on 5 November. Independently, on 31 October the king issued a commission appointing him lieutenant-general of the army; this reached Dublin on 10 November, the day after Ormond himself arrived with his troop of horse.
Ormond perceived that the rebellion could be suppressed quickly if the Old English aristocracy did not join their fellow catholics in the north and if the Ulstermen were attacked immediately. His desire to see the land security bills passed in November was consistent with his strategy of trying to ensure the loyalty of the Old English. He also proposed marching the army north for a direct attack on the insurgents. Here a fundamental difference developed between the leading lord justice, Parsons, and Ormond. Parsons opposed the granting of security of land titles and saw the rebellion as an opportunity to extend plantation after further forfeitures. He overruled Ormond's plan to march north, displayed distrust of all catholics, and ordered military actions in the Pale that were bound to arouse resentment. Decisive action was to be delayed until an army from England arrived. Ormond had some support in the Irish council, but not enough. Thus parliament was prorogued before the land security bills were even introduced, while the Ulster Irish marched south and besieged Drogheda. In December, the lords of the Pale formed the alliance with the Ulster leaders that Ormond had tried to prevent.
By the beginning of 1642 Parsons's distrust extended to Ormond, in part because many of the earl's catholic relatives had joined the uprising. The earl, however, refused to be provoked into resignation and also resisted an attempt to deprive him of command when the army was at last permitted to march north in February, if only as far as the Boyne, after the Irish had withdrawn from Drogheda. It was while returning from this expedition that he fought and won his first major battle at Kilrush, Co. Kildare, on 15 April, where the opposing general was his great-uncle, Lord Mountgarret (qv). For this victory the English parliament awarded him a jewel worth £500, possibly to wean him from loyalty to Charles.
As parliament in England approached open conflict with the king, Parsons sided with the former and Ormond with the latter, though both maintained ties with the two parties in England; in Ormond's case, because the few supplies that reached his army came from parliament. As early as May 1642 the earl complained to the king about the lords justices, a complaint repeated in September, almost immediately after his promotion from earl to marquess (30 August).
During 1642 catholic leaders had formed the Kilkenny confederation as a provisional government with a supreme council and an assembly, the latter meeting for the first time in October. This denied the authority of the Dublin government and parliament, but not the king. It was apparent that the military balance would tip in favour of the confederation once help arrived from abroad and Irish forces received better training. Ormond wished, therefore, to thrust south before the confederation could consolidate its position, and, if possible, to deny the confederates a southern port through which they could obtain supplies. No offensive took place in 1642, in part because of divisions between Ormond and the lords justices and in part because Ormond fell seriously ill during the late summer. The following year, after resisting further attempts by the parliamentary faction in Dublin to take the command of the army away from him, he eventually led the army against New Ross and Wexford. He marched out of Dublin on 1 March 1643 and reached New Ross on 12 March, but the supplies that were supposed to reach him by sea did not arrive and he had to abandon the campaign, only to discover that his route home was barred by a confederate army led by the continentally trained general, Thomas Preston (qv). Ormond won the engagement fought on 18 March, which enabled his soldiers to return to their base, but no other military advantage was obtained.
The weakness of the royal forces in Ireland, the increasingly precarious position of the king in England, and the developing alliance between the Scottish covenanters and the English parliament, meant that the king's interests were best served in Ireland by an accommodation with his catholic subjects rather than war. On 11 January 1643 Charles, in response to tentative overtures the previous summer, issued an order for a commission led by Ormond to inquire into the grievances of his Irish catholic subjects. While Ormond was campaigning in Wexford, the other commissioners met with catholic representatives at Trim on 17 March. Little was achieved, but on 23 April the king issued a second commission, addressed to the marquess alone. This authorised him to negotiate a one-year truce. The policy of accommodation could not be implemented while Parsons, who led the fight against it, remained in office. At the end of January Charles tried to deal with the situation by offering to appoint Ormond lord lieutenant. The marquess declined the honour, but on 2 April a commission was drawn up appointing Sir Henry Tichborne (qv), an Ormond ally, to replace Parsons. This arrived at the end of the month and Borlase and Tichborne were sworn in on 12 May. Cautious as ever, Ormond, who understood that the negotiations were unpopular among protestants in Ireland, offered not to proceed if the Irish council could propose an alternative means of maintaining the army. It could not; negotiations with the catholics began on 24 June, and by 15 September Ormond had arranged a one-year truce which included provision of supplies for his army. On 13 November Charles appointed him lord lieutenant at the age of 33, a promotion that he accepted, if reluctantly, and he was sworn in on 21 January 1644.
The truce permitted the marquess to send some troops to help Charles in England (modern estimates put the figure at 22,000), but it also divided protestant opinion in Ireland. The Scottish army that had landed in Ulster in 1642 was the dominant military force there, and this now allied itself to the English parliament. In Munster, meanwhile, Lord Inchiquin defected to parliament. The confederates, on their part, were also divided between those who understood that a parliamentary victory in England could only spell disaster and that therefore a peace in Ireland was essential, and those, particularly the clergy, who demanded peace terms that threatened Charles's position in England.
After rival protestant and catholic deputations had pressed their opposing points on the king at Oxford and his opponents in England began to have military successes, in July 1644 the king handed the task of reaching a settlement in Ireland to his lord lieutenant without giving him directions on what concessions he might make beyond stressing a renewal of the truce in the absence of any general agreement. By 1 September the first of a number of extensions of the truce had been secured, but agreement between the two sides remained elusive.
At the end of his life Ormond accepted a statement made on his behalf by Southwell that, up to the failure of the Uxbridge negotiations early in 1645, he had hoped for a crown–parliament alliance against the confederates. But on the collapse of these negotiations, Charles told Ormond in February to make peace on virtually any terms barring surrender of the royal title and the safety of the protestant religion, but by this date he had already given the catholic earl of Glamorgan (qv) a mission to negotiate with the confederates separately, telling Ormond only that the earl was sent to assist him. Glamorgan did not arrive in Ireland until August, but by 25 August had negotiated a secret treaty with the confederates which extended to them religious concessions that Ormond had not been prepared to make – in effect making the catholic religion the established one in Ireland. By 20 December the papal nuncio, Gian Battista Rinuccini (qv), who had arrived at Kilkenny on 12 November, had also approved the treaty. However, just before Glamorgan returned to Dublin on his way back to the king, the terms of the treaty became public. Ormond, who probably knew the terms of the Glamorgan treaty before it became public, nevertheless arrested Glamorgan (26 December), but when the confederates threatened to renew the war and Charles's involvement became obvious, the earl was released on 26 January 1646. Charles publicly repudiated Glamorgan's treaty in March, whereupon Ormond negotiated his own which made no concessions on religious issues. This was signed (26 March) and proclaimed in Dublin (30 July). At the request of the confederates, the marquess then went to Kilkenny to give emphasis to its publication there on 3 August 1646. This treaty, in turn, was denounced by Rinuccini, who, with the support of the army of Owen Roe O'Neill (qv) after its June victory at Benburb over the Scots in Ulster (5 June 1646), forced Ormond to return to Dublin, imprisoned the confederate leaders who supported it, issued a decree on 1 September that all who favoured it would be excommunicated, and set up a new council which appointed the nuncio as president. Confederate armies then prepared to converge on Dublin.
The alternative to a treaty with the confederate catholics was one with the English parliament. As early as October 1645 Ormond had sent out feelers to the English parliament about a possible accommodation. Nothing came of this move, but faced with the response to his 1646 treaty with Kilkenny, he reopened negotiations with Westminster in September of this year, during which he tried to secure a measure of toleration for catholics in Ireland. These negotiations also failed, in part because the Independents, who were unsympathetic to the lord lieutenant, controlled the key committees in England, and in part because a renewed hope for settlement with the confederates seemed to present itself. But this hope proved vain as he could not obtain an assurance for the continuation of protestant worship under a confederate government, and in February 1647 he reopened negotiations with parliament, now in possession of the person of the king. As there had been a shift towards control by presbyterians, among whom Ormond had influence, this time negotiations were successful, and on 19 June 1647 he signed a treaty handing Dublin over to the parliamentary colonel, Michael Jones (qv). He himself sailed for England on 28 July. When, at the end of August, he went to see the king at Hampton Court and offered his resignation as lord lieutenant, the king insisted that he retain the office, which he did until 1660.
Ormond has been criticised from his own day to this for duplicity in negotiation and obstinacy in failing to extend concessions to catholics. This, it has been argued, delayed peace, which denied the king Irish support, and so brought about his defeat and execution, and ultimately the devastation of Ireland. Yet in his own lifetime Ormond was also charged with betraying the protestant and English cause in Ireland. The Southwell claim, which Ormond accepted, that he did not want peace with the confederates until the Uxbridge negotiations failed, confirms that Ormond was an obstacle to peace in Ireland until 1645. However, even then he could not accept terms that were acceptable to Rinuccini without threatening his military and political position in Ireland and alienating royalists in England. Mild though his concessions to catholics were when he accepted the 1643 truce, these contributed to the desertion of the protestant forces in Ulster and Munster, to say nothing of their effect on the Scots and waverers in England. Moreover, Ormond was first and foremost a protestant, and he was given no reason to expect the survival of protestantism in Ireland separate from the English interest. When he surrendered Dublin to Jones, the liturgy of Ormond's own church was suppressed, but the surrender had the approval of the leaders of that church; moreover, it must be remembered that he did this at a time when the head of his church was in negotiation with parliament. To Ormond, the monarchy was the institution from which all other desirable ends flowed, and it seemed in 1647 that there was a stronger chance of its survival by submission to the English parliament than to a supreme council under Rinuccini's domination, with its attendant implications of continental intervention.
While in England Ormond advised the king on treaty negotiations with parliament, and when these failed and Charles escaped from the army, he took a leading role in fashioning the ultimately disastrous engagement with the Scots, which renewed the civil war in England. On the Irish side, Charles authorised Ormond in January 1648 to negotiate, under the general advice of the queen and the prince of Wales, a new peace with the confederates. To effect this, he went to Paris early in March 1648, where, with the queen, he met representatives of the confederation, who included Viscount Muskerry (qv), his brother-in-law, and Randal MacDonnell, the earl of Antrim. By correspondence, Inchiquin, leader of the protestant forces in Munster, was brought into the discussions. In April Inchiquin switched sides again and declared for the king, but it took much longer to arrange a peace with the confederation in the face of determined opposition by Rinuccini and Antrim, who had hoped to replace Ormond as lord lieutenant. Ormond landed at Cork 30 September 1648, and after taking up residence at Kilkenny, conducted negotiations with the assembly. With the help of the Old English nobility, Sir Richard Blake (qv), and to some extent that of Nicholas French (qv), bishop of Ferns, and in the wake of the news that the king was to be put on trial, a treaty was signed on 17 January 1649. By its terms, toleration was extended to catholics, the oath of supremacy was no longer required of officeholders, and catholics were to continue to hold churches in catholic-held areas until the king could be advised by a free parliament. The confederation was dissolved, but the lord lieutenant was to receive the advice of twelve commissioners of trust on matters relating to the areas controlled by the former confederation.
War against parliament, 1649–50
In 1680, on receiving the news that his eldest son had died, Ormond compared his emotions to those he experienced on hearing of the death of Charles I. He responded by working as hard for Charles's son as he had for the father. On 9 March 1649 he wrote to Michael Jones, who did not support the killing of the king, to persuade him to declare for Charles II. This attempt to gain Dublin without a battle failed, but he gradually put together a catholic–protestant army, including Inchiquin, Castlehaven (qv), and Viscount Taaffe (qv) as commanders. Noticeably absent from this roster was Owen Roe O'Neill, who, offended by the commissioners of trust, made a truce with the parliamentary leaders in Ireland.
Had Ormond advanced immediately on Dublin, he might have taken it. He was short of supplies to the point that his soldiers sometimes mutinied, but Jones faced a similar shortage. The advance on Dublin did not begin until 30 May and was pursued slowly. By 12 July Inchiquin had taken the lesser parliament-held towns of Dundalk, Newry, Trim, and Drogheda, but after receiving reinforcements from England on 26 July, Jones sallied out of Dublin to attack the encroaching royalist forces. On 2 August Ormond's army was routed at Rathmines, and within two weeks Cromwell had landed his army of 12,000 men in Dublin.
Ormond had lost not only a battle at Rathmines, but many of his most experienced officers and most of his supplies and munitions. This meant that he was in no condition to resist the powerful army that Cromwell brought with him. After the massacre at Drogheda, he wrote to the king reporting the terror the action had inspired in his forces, and, despite reaching an agreement with O'Neill on 20 October 1649, and after O'Neill's death in November (a major blow) an alliance with Heber MacMahon (qv), the catholic bishop of Clogher, he could do little more than hang on Cromwell's flanks. Early in December he managed to force Cromwell to withdraw from Waterford despite little cooperation from the townsmen, and in February 1650 he checked an initial Cromwellian advance on Kilkenny, still the centre of resistance to the parliamentary forces, but on 28 March that city surrendered.
Cromwell left Ireland on 26 May, but his success had undermined the marquess's support. On 8 March 1650 he met with the bishops and the commissioners of trust at Limerick and threatened to leave the country if he did not receive more united support. He received assurances from the bishops, but the town of Limerick refused to accept a garrison of his troops. In June MacMahon, Ormond's strongest ally among the catholic bishops, after taking command of the Ulster forces with the viceroy's support, was routed and subsequently hanged. The same month Charles II took the Solemn League and Covenant in Scotland and declared the Irish peace of 1649 null and void. Ormond's initial reaction was to denounce the news as a forgery, only to discover that it was true. In August the catholic bishops absolved the population of obedience to him and in September they decreed an excommunication on all who supported him. An assembly met at Loughrea on 26 November which, after much debate, asked Ormond to depart, leaving the catholic but strongly royalist earl of Clanricard (qv) as lord deputy. As Ormond had previously obtained the king's permission to do this, on 11 December 1650 he sailed into exile with some forty companions, including Inchiquin, Richard Bellings (qv), formerly the secretary of the supreme council, and Daniel O'Neill (qv), the protestant nephew of Owen Roe.
Ormond's exile began in Caen, where he was reunited with his wife and family, though his poverty forced his wife in August 1652 to leave for England to plead with Cromwell for permission to live with her children on a portion of her Irish estates. This was granted in February 1653 on condition that she ceased all communication with her husband. Ormond remained in Caen for most of 1651 except for brief intervals, once (January) going to Paris to pay his respects to the queen, and again (September) when Charles II called on him to repair a rift between the queen and her son, James (qv), duke of York. Otherwise, the only major affair in which he was involved was the abortive scheme for the duke of Lorraine to lead an army to Ireland, a project to which the marquis gave only lukewarm support.
After Worcester, Charles II resided in Paris with his mother, and there the lord lieutenant joined him in December, where, in alliance with Edward Hyde (created earl of Clarendon, 1661), he helped to lead a faction in the exiled court in opposition to one led by the queen. On 30 June 1654 Charles was forced to leave Paris as Mazarin drew closer to Cromwell in opposition to Spain. Ormond accompanied his monarch to Cologne (via Spa and Aachen), and from this point, Hyde and Ormond dominated the king's council. In November of this year, however, the marquess returned to Paris to dissuade the queen mother from trying to convert the young prince, Henry, duke of Gloucester, to catholicism, an event that was bound to damage the royal cause. The queen refused to relent, forcing Ormond to pawn the jewel that parliament had given him in 1642 to raise the necessary funds to take the young prince back to his brother. The pair left Paris on 8 December 1654. As it was too dangerous to attempt to go directly to Cologne, they went first to Brussels and thence to Antwerp, where Gloucester became seriously ill. Ormond remained with his charge until he had begun to recover, but ultimately returned to Cologne alone as, by February 1655, Charles wanted him to accompany him incognito to Middelburg, from where he could sail to England if Penruddock's rising succeeded. When it failed (March), the marquess returned with his master to Cologne, only to be sent on another mission in June, this time to persuade the duke of Neuburg at Düsseldorf to intervene on the king's behalf with Spain. On his return, he was asked to escort Princess Mary, the king's sister, who was married to the prince of Orange, to Cologne, and subsequently to accompany the royal couple as they visited Koblenz, Mainz, and Frankfurt.
The Cromwell–Mazarin treaty of 1655 against Spain induced some Spanish sympathy for the Stuart cause. In December of that year, therefore, Ormond was sent to Brussels to reinforce Charles's agent there as he negotiated with the authorities in the Spanish Netherlands for a treaty. After Charles himself arrived incognito, a treaty was signed early in April 1656, and during the next year the lord lieutenant used his influence to persuade Irish soldiers in French service to join their king in fighting for Spain. With Ormond's assistance, Charles's army in the Netherlands grew from 400 in August 1656 to over 2,500 by March 1657, its most notable action being the successful raid on the outworks of Mardyke on 22 October 1657, when Ormond had his horse shot under him.
By the end of this year it had become imperative, in part because of Spanish demands for a rising in England, to send one of Charles's senior advisers to England to determine if there was sufficient royalist strength there to seize a port at which a Spanish army might disembark. Ormond was sent and landed at Westmarch, near Colchester, early in January, from whence he made his way to London in disguise. His meeting with royalists convinced him that no internal rising was possible, but he had to flee quickly as one of those with whom he met was working for Cromwell, and his only route of escape was to Dieppe, which he reached on 28 February. As it was too dangerous to try to return to the Spanish Netherlands from France directly, he had to follow a circuitous route via Lyons, Geneva, and thence down the Rhine, getting back to Brussels on 10 May 1658. Spain was decisively defeated at the battle of the Dunes the following month, on the news of which Charles, with the marquess, moved to Hoogstraten, on the Dutch border, in case a quick escape became necessary. It was here that the court in exile learned of Cromwell's death in September. By November peace talks had begun between France and Spain and by the end of the year the king and Ormond were back in Brussels.
In 1659 Ormond went to Paris to attempt to persuade the queen to use her influence with the French to assist Charles during another royalist rising that was being prepared in England. Both this project and the rising (Booth's) had failed by August, whereupon Charles, with Ormond, Digby (earl of Bristol), and Daniel O'Neill, sought to intervene at the negotiations taking place between France and Spain in the Pyrenees, with the intention of securing joint Spanish–French intervention on behalf of the royalists. By September the exiles had reached Toulouse. Charles proceeded to Spain to meet the Spanish prime minister while Ormond remained in France and secured a direct meeting with Mazarin, who, however, politely refused to help in any way, but the journey had not been entirely in vain. Spain had given Charles money, of which he was sorely in need, and he and Ormond were able to visit the queen at Saint-Colombe in December on their return journey, where relations between Charles and his mother were repaired.
By 16 December Charles and his Irish adviser had returned to Brussels. In January 1660 a Franco–Spanish invasion was still being sought, but in mid- February messengers arrived at Ormond's house with the news, first that the protestants in Ireland wanted to restore the monarchy, and shortly after, that Gen. George Monck (qv) had begun to move in the same direction. The idea that the king should go first to Ireland was mooted, but by the end of March Monck had himself responded favourably to overtures, whereupon it was evident that Charles should make England his destination. Ormond helped Hyde and Secretary Nicholas draw up the declaration of Breda, which was ready by 4 April, and on 25 May he, with his two sons, Thomas and Richard, who by now had joined him on the Continent, were with the king as he stepped ashore at Dover to end his exile.
Even before the royal party arrived, it had been decided that Ormond would resign as lord lieutenant of Ireland because the English convention parliament had bestowed the title on Monck, and it was deemed impolitic to deprive the general of the title, though Ormond's resignation and Monk's royal appointment did not take effect until the second half of June. On 25 July John, Lord Robartes (qv), was appointed lord deputy, but neither he nor Monck wanted to go to Ireland, leading to the appointment of Roger Boyle (qv), earl of Orrery, and Sir Charles Coote (qv), both of whom had served Cromwell but had worked for the return of the monarchy during 1660, as lords justices, together with Sir Maurice Eustace (qv).
Ormond probably shed the lieutenancy with few regrets. His family and private affairs required much attention and he received many other offices and rewards. He was appointed lord steward of the household by 4 June and was later made high steward of Westminster, Kingston, and Bristol, and lord lieutenant of Somerset, and (in July) created earl of Brecknock and baron of Lanthony in the English peerage. He was also among the first to be appointed to Charles's English privy council, and more significantly, by 15 June had joined five other men, including Hyde and Monck (duke of Albemarle), within Charles's inner cabinet. His private fortune began to be restored when the English lords approved an act on 24 July returning his Irish estates to him, and even though the king did not sign the warrant giving effect to the act until November, by October his agents were repossessing his land. Charles also restored the principality of Tipperary, which King James had taken from the family and which Charles I had declined to return in 1641. As a final honour, on 30 March 1661, the king created him duke of Ormond.
Although without formal office, Ormond involved himself in Irish affairs, and by mid-August 1660 Samuel Pepys remarked a conflict over Irish issues at court between Ormond, on one side, and Albemarle and Robartes on the other. One reason for such differences was that the marquess championed the Church of Ireland, which, in his view, continued to enjoy the status it possessed in 1641, all measures taken against it since then being illegal. In early June 1660 Ormond began to consider appointments to the church and to TCD, of which he was chancellor, and he received copies of the king's letters to the lord deputy relating to such appointments, including one dated 1 August making John Bramhall (qv) archbishop of Armagh. Later that year, when there was an attempt to deprive the church of some of its land, Ormond intervened on its behalf, and he received formal thanks on 9 February 1661 for his efforts. The announcement later that year that he was to become lord lieutenant was greeted enthusiastically by the bishops.
Ormond knew what he wanted in respect of the church and was able to obtain his objective, in part because of the absence of concerted opposition. By contrast, he had to adopt a much more pragmatic attitude to the enormously complex issue of the Irish land settlement. The settlement he accepted, indeed helped to establish, was not the one he wanted, but the one that he deemed likely to produce the least political unrest. As a result, the politically weak catholics suffered injustice for which, then and later, they held Ormond responsible. Initially he sought to protect their interests, and this assistance was acknowledged in August 1660. However, he was no match for the protestant claimants, who enjoyed the advantage of physical possession of the land and influence over the army in Ireland. These consisted of essentially two groups: protestants whose families had lived in Ireland before 1641, and the Cromwellian settlers and soldiers. The two worked in close accord, and it was the former who, by means of their position in the Irish council and parliament, ensured that the transfer of the major part of Irish lands into protestant hands was confirmed. They were ably led by Broghill, who ingratiated himself with the king and was granted the earldom of Orrery in September 1660. It was largely Orrery's work that produced the 30 November ‘Declaration for settlement’, which heavily favoured protestants. Ormond was well aware of how harsh the declaration was to the original owners of the land (though Orerry had tactfully made concessions to Ormond's relatives), and he claimed that he had done what he could to help them, but admitted the limits of his influence.
Since the declaration lacked statutory authority, it had to be replaced by an act of settlement, and the overwhelmingly protestant Irish parliament, which met on 8 May 1661, had by July agreed on a bill to send to England. Here there was further debate on the bill, and Ormond, as Richard Bellings recognised, again tried to use his influence on behalf of the catholics, who, however, declined to follow his advice. Ormond's correspondence, particularly with Orrery, shows him (contrary to Carte's assertion) to have been involved in the discussions about the bill before the warrant for his appointment as lord lieutenant was issued on 4 November 1661. It also reveals an attempt to persuade Orrery that some concessions to the catholics were not inconsistent with making the protection of the English protestant interest in Ireland a priority. Such assurances enhanced his standing among the protestants, but catholics learned of them, which led them by early 1662 to regard Ormond and his relatives as their greatest enemies. The duke's private opinion on the matter was voiced late in 1661, when he told the Irish chancellor that a new Ireland would have to be discovered if all who had claims to Irish land were to be satisfied.
Lord lieutenant, 1661–9
It was Albemarle, who wanted a settled title to his own Irish estates, who proposed to the king that Ormond replace him as lord lieutenant as the only man who could bring about a settlement. Ormond accepted the appointment, as he explained to Hyde (now earl of Clarendon), because he shared Albemarle's self-interest in a settlement being reached and his conviction that he could contribute to that end; but due to his responsibilities in England, he was not able to land in Ireland until 26 July 1662. On the following day he was sworn in, and was then able to give consent to the act of settlement, which had passed both houses in his absence during May.
There had been one concession to catholics in the act of settlement: the provision of a court to consider the claims of those who were otherwise excluded from receiving land by the act. This, along with other reservations, aroused such concern in protestant circles that it became necessary to prepare another bill to explain the act of settlement, and it was while this was in preparation that a plot was initiated by discontented protestants to surprise Dublin castle on 5 March and overthrow the government. Ormond had intelligence of the impending coup and forestalled it, but the conspiracy, which included several MPs, continued, one of the leaders being Thomas Blood (qv), a former Cromwellian officer. Again Ormond had advance warning of the event, and on 21 May arrested twenty-four of the leaders, though Blood escaped.
Ormond interrogated some of the conspirators himself, and he used his knowledge to assert his authority over the commons. He prorogued parliament in April, and in July hanged one of the MPs who had been implicated, but he was also alarmed at what had been attempted, as the army was unpaid and many officers sympathised with the conspirators. The explanatory bill (as dispatched to England in September 1663) therefore reflected his fears of protestant protest and his inability to resist the strong protestant interest in the council. The English council, by contrast, encouraged by Richard Talbot (qv), one of the protagonists of the Irish catholics in England, objected to the absence of concessions to the catholics. Ormond understood the objections, but responded by stressing that if there was no land settlement there was likely to be political upheaval, and that the composition of the Irish council and parliament precluded a just settlement for catholics. His suggested means for injecting more justice into the process, which would have given him substantial discretionary power, was not accepted.
Debate on the bill continued in England until, in April 1664, the king sent for the duke to assist in bringing the discussions to a conclusion. Ormond delayed his departure until the end of May, when he left his son, Ossory (qv), as lord deputy, but even after his arrival, the debate continued. The bill was not ready to return to Ireland until 26 May 1665, but when it did, it contained a key provision that the Cromwellians would give up one-third of the territory they occupied in order to provide enough land to satisfy other claims. Ormond and Orrery both sat on the committee that introduced this change. The duke returned to Ireland in September 1665 and debate on the bill began in the Irish parliament the next month. There were times when it looked as though it would not pass, but by careful management on Ormond's part, and with the assistance of reports of a possible French invasion, which induced some MPs to support the government, in December the bill passed the commons with only one negative vote and the lords without opposition.
Ormond's personal benefits from the settlement have to be balanced against what he was owed. For instance, just after he was appointed lord lieutenant the Irish parliament granted him £30,000. After the cost of collecting this sum had been deducted, he received £26,440, but this grant was conditional on his agreement to seek neither back rent nor damages for harm done from those who occupied his lands between 1653 to 1660. Carte calculated the rent owing at £140,000, but even if we credit Ormond with only the £7,000 rental he was collecting early in the 1630s, he should have received £49,000. The duke, therefore, received much less than what he could have claimed, and other sums granted similarly fell short of what was due. Carte, therefore, undoubtedly exaggerated in estimating the duke's net losses as a result of the settlement at over £800,000, but it is clear that Ormond accepted personal losses in order to attain the permanent settlement which he believed was much preferable to no settlement at all.
Separate from, yet connected to, the issue of the land settlement was the question of the status of the Roman catholic church in Ireland, the two leading spokesmen for the church being Peter Walsh (qv), a Franciscan friar, and the layman, Richard Bellings, both of whom had gained Ormond's confidence by opposing Rinuccini during the negotiations of the 1640s. In October Walsh wrote to Ormond stressing that the catholics were the natural supporters of monarchy and that the terms of the 1649 treaty should be honoured. He was appointed procurator (or agent) in London for the Irish clergy by Archbishop Edmund O'Reilly (qv) in January 1661, and in March he published his letter. With Bellings's assistance he secured Ormond's intervention with the king for the release of 120 priests from prison in Ireland, and that winter Bellings drew up the ‘Loyal remonstrance’, which denounced foreign intervention in temporal affairs, though it said nothing about the pope's powers of deposition. Walsh conveyed this document to Ormond, who indicated that its value would depend on how many signed it. Walsh collected some signatures in London, but after Ormond had become viceroy, crossed to Ireland and continued to collect them there. However, only seventy priests, out of a possible 2,000, signed the document because it had aroused opposition in Rome and elsewhere on the Continent. Walsh persuaded Ormond in 1666 to permit a meeting of a national congregation of Irish clergy to discuss the remonstrance on the grounds that further support could not be gained without it. O'Reilly attended and met Ormond, but, although the meeting was civil, the primate gave Walsh no support. While, therefore, the congregation expressed loyalty to the king, it did not address such issues as the pope's deposition powers, and Ormond ordered it to disband. He nevertheless continued as a friend to Walsh, who at the end of the duke's life attempted (but failed) to convert him to catholicism. Catholic worship was permitted under Ormond, but catholics were not allowed to reside in towns. In short, he made no effort to suppress the religion practised by the vast majority of the population so long as it posed no threat to the state, but on two occasions he mentioned in correspondence that he had only encouraged Walsh in order to sow disagreement in catholic ranks.
The duke's approach to protestant nonconformity followed similar lines. So long as religion did not interfere with the state he did not intervene. For instance, just before taking up his post as lord lieutenant he gave orders, first that all soldiers in the army who did not participate in Church of Ireland ceremonies were to be removed, but secondly that congregationalists be permitted more indulgence than the law allowed. After the discovery of Blood's plot, his attitude to presbyterianism became harsh, as he suspected ministers in Ulster of being involved. Initially he gave them a choice of departure from the kingdom or imprisonment, but typically, in writing to Secretary Bennet about the matter, he conceded that he had no legal authority to do either and he asked for direction. The advice he received was to treat the ministers tolerantly, advice that he followed somewhat grudgingly. Twenty years later he explained the relatively tolerant policy towards nonconformists in Ireland, by comparison to that in Scotland, by pointing to the differences between the laws of the two countries. In Ireland there were no laws specifically aimed at protestant nonconformists. The only laws that could be directed against them were those aimed at catholics, and, he argued, it would be as impolitic to apply these to protestants alone as it would be disastrous to the economy, and therefore to the king's revenue, to apply them to the population as a whole.
The two other major issues that preoccupied Ormond during his first term in office after 1660 were finance and the army, the two being closely linked. In 1662 the army's pay was over £121,000 in arrears, and bankruptcy could only be avoided by a subvention of £100,000 from England. He had little interest in financial administration and left it largely in the hands of the vice-treasurer, Arthur Annesley (qv), earl of Anglesey. Nevertheless, he reduced the size of the army, which accounted for 85 per cent of expenditure, and by 1664 the army was fully paid. Partly because of the English ban on Irish cattle exports, which Ormond had strenuously but unsuccessfully opposed, Irish finances deteriorated to the point that by 1666 army pay was thirteen months in arrears despite further subventions from the English treasury. When a mutiny over pay broke out at Carrickfergus in May 1666, Ormond suppressed it quickly and executed nine of the ringleaders, but the discipline he imposed opened the way for his enemies at court, led by the duke of Buckingham, to submit charges that threatened impeachment.
The attempt at impeachment failed, but by 1668 a coalition had formed, led by Orrery, who opposed Ormond's plans to call another Irish parliament as he suspected it would challenge his presidency of Munster, and Buckingham in England, who, having engineered Clarendon's fall, had now set his sights on the chancellor's friend in Ireland. Where Ormond was vulnerable was in the matter of Irish financial administration. By April 1668 he had been forced, with the king's permission, to cross to England to defend his record as he knew that Orrery was planning to go to court himself to launch his attack. Ossory, for a second time, was appointed lord deputy.
Out of favour, 1669–77
Initially Orrery's challenge was deflected, but a commission was set up to examine the Irish accounts, and by early in the new year the king had been persuaded not only of deficiencies in Irish administration, but that proper management could turn Ireland from a burden on the English treasury into an asset. On 14 February 1669 he announced that Lord Robartes would replace Ormond. Significantly, Robartes's appointment did not represent a victory for either Orrery or Buckingham. This has led to the conclusion that Charles's decision to dismiss Ormond was as much motivated by the secret negotiations he was carrying out with Louis XIV as by administrative considerations. As he was preparing to extend indulgence to all who were not anglicans, it was inconvenient to have a staunch anglican running Ireland. Ormond's departure from office, therefore, can be seen as part of Charles's new policy as he moved towards the treaty of Dover.
In August 1669 a highly critical report on the Irish revenue was presented to the English council, and Ormond faced isolation and snubs at court, but he remained politically active. His installation as chancellor of Oxford (August 1669) on Archbishop Sheldon's recommendation reflected anglican appreciation for his support. He nearly won a campaign to impeach Orrery in England, and in Ireland he turned the council against his successor. This, combined with Robartes's own tactlessness, led to his replacement by John, Lord Berkeley (qv), in February 1670. It was at the end of this year (6 December) that Thomas Blood, attempting to avenge those who had been executed after the failure to seize Dublin castle in 1663, pulled the 60-year old duke from his coach on his way home from a banquet and tried to carry him to Tyburn to hang him. Ormond only escaped by putting up a resistance that enabled his servants to come to his rescue. Charles subsequently forgave Blood and it was believed that Buckingham's hand lay behind the attack, but by the end of 1673 Buckingham was out of favour and Ormond was able to join an attack on him in the lords early in 1674.
Berkeley's tenure of office was also short as he was replaced by Arthur Capel (qv), earl of Essex, in May 1672, an appointment acceptable to the duke though inspired by Charles's policy of alliance with France against the Dutch and toleration towards catholics in Ireland and England. By 1671, however, the man with growing authority in Ireland was Richard Jones (qv), Lord (subsequently earl of) Ranelagh, who, by August, headed a commission of the Irish treasury which, by means of the ‘Ranelagh undertaking’, promised to collect Irish revenue, meet Irish expenses, furnish both money and troops to Charles, and supply a large profit to himself. By 1675 Ranelagh, now vice-treasurer and in alliance with Danby, had more power in Ireland than the lord lieutenant.
Since 1673 Ormond had expressed a desire to return to Ireland, but he stayed in England during the Dutch war. With peace in 1674, however, he was allowed to return home to Kilkenny, which he did via Oxford and Bath, setting sail for Waterford from Minehead on 27 June. He quickly went to Dublin to pay his respects to Essex, but was received coolly, and therefore returned to Kilkenny to relax and hunt until Charles summoned him to the English parliament, where he helped beat back the opposition led by Shaftesbury and Buckingham in April 1675.
Ormond wanted to return to Kilkenny, but in August the king asked for advice about Irish finances as Ranelagh claimed to be owed over £100,000. Ormond, now in alliance with Essex, challenged the entire Ranelagh undertaking. Ranelagh responded by charging that deficiencies in Irish finances stemmed from Ormond's maladministration before 1669. Charles could not expose Ranelagh without exposing himself and needed him because he provided revenue. Thus he decided to dismiss Essex. Danby proposed Monmouth as a replacement, but this was unacceptable to the duke of York, who pushed Ormond as a compromise candidate. Charles declared himself satisfied with Ormond's previous administration and pressed the Irish duke and Ranelagh to be reconciled. Ormond, on his part, understood that the price of returning to office was accommodation with Ranelagh and Danby, and his reappointment was announced on 24 May 1677. He nevertheless maintained friendly relations with Essex, who personally passed over the sword of office in Dublin on 24 August.
Lord lieutenant, 1677–84
Ormond wanted his third term as viceroy to be remembered for military improvement, fiscal solvency, and security of land tenure. The route to the first of these goals was the second, which was attained, but credit for this success goes to others, and the issue of land was more vexed when he left office in 1685 than when he began his third term. To the duke, the key to the implementation of his policies was the calling of another Irish parliament. This could confirm land titles, increase revenue, and thus provide the means for army improvement. From 1677 to 1683 various proposals for summoning parliament were made, but no parliament met. On 19 July 1677 Ormond presented to the king proposals for a parliament which included provision for confirmation of land titles. Despite strong opposition in the Irish council to the land bill, which was deemed too favourable to catholics, eighteen bills were sent to England for approval on 31 July 1678.
As Charles was desperately short of money, he favoured calling an Irish parliament as it was likely to increase Irish revenue, and during the summer Ormond expected the bills to return in September and parliament to meet in November. There were, however, strong forces at work thwarting the lord lieutenant's intentions. First, Ranelagh, who retained control over Irish finances and his influence at court by diverting over £20,000 of Irish revenue to the king's privy purse, feared that an Irish parliament would examine his accounts and attack him. Second, although Danby had been no ally to Ormond, his fall in March 1678 opened the way for the promotion of councillors in England, such as Shaftesbury, even less favourably disposed to the duke than Danby had been. Opposition to any measure that might favour catholics grew in England and thus to the confirmation bill. Finally, the paranoia in England associated with the ‘popish plot’ (1678–81) precluded the calling of a parliament in Ireland.
Ormond responded as moderately as he could to the excesses of the ‘popish plot’. He had to carry out the orders issued from England that were directed against catholics in Ireland, but he did so as humanely as possible and in strict accordance with Irish law. Oliver Plunkett (qv) died a martyr's death (1 July 1681) in London, but his conviction of treason by an English jury was after two acquittals by Irish protestant ones. The consequence of this moderate policy was that Ormond was accused in both Ireland and England of being a crypto-catholic.
In 1679 and 1680 the duke again made preparations for a parliament, and by 13 June 1680 sent a revised set of twenty-six bills to England, some of the new ones being directed against catholics, particularly against the clergy; but by the following year an improvement in Irish revenue, and new arrangements for collecting it, rendered a parliament less necessary. By 1682, as the passions of the ‘popish plot’ subsided and as Charles regained control over his administration, Ormond received permission to go to England. On 3 May 1682 the duke and duchess sailed for England and their second son, Richard Butler (qv), earl of Arran, was sworn in as deputy (Ossory having died 30 July 1680). The principle reason for this journey was to arrange a marriage for James, their grandson, but Ormond also wished to discuss Irish revenue matters in England.
Danby and Ranelagh had made it clear in 1677 to the new viceroy even before he left England to take up his post that they were to manage Ireland's finances. Danby's fall weakened Ranelagh, but English control of Irish finances did not diminish. By August 1682, contrary to Ormond's advice, Charles had decided to replace the system of farming Irish taxes by direct management through commissioners who reported to the English lord treasurer. From this date onwards, Ormond became little more than a popular figurehead. On 9 November 1682 he was created a duke in the English peerage, but the most important decisions relating to Ireland were made in England and often without the knowledge of its chief governor. In 1683 Arran complained to his father that Ireland was becoming little more than an English province, but the old man (now in his seventy-third year) accepted the situation without rancour so long as he could retain office and the prestige that accompanied it. The commissioners for Irish revenue proved efficient in reducing corruption and increasing revenue, and as a result there was more money to direct towards the Irish army. This institution became of increasing importance to the royal brothers as they moved towards a form of absolutist government, and Ormond was as content to occupy himself in improving the army as Charles and James were to have this done by one who had impeccable anglican credentials.
Ormond prepared to return to Ireland in 1683, but in August was ordered to stay in England to reinforce the crown as it was dealing with the Rye House plot. Early the next year he fell ill, but on 17 June 1684 he was ordered back to his post, though his departure was delayed by his wife's illness (she died 21 July), and he did not set off until 5 August, arriving in Dublin on 19 August. About this date, Charles, under the influence of James and Richard Talbot, decided to dismiss Ormond, the letter of dismissal being dated 19 October. The dismissal was as unexpected as it was unwelcome, and the duke asked to be spared a winter journey back to England. Charles granted this request, but after his death (February), James ordered Ormond to return to England to be present at the coronation. He left Ireland for the last time on 20 March, and, as lord high steward of England, served as the bearer of the crown at the coronation.
Ormond's position during his last term as governor has aroused contempt. Certainly, while receiving honours publicly, he was humiliated privately, and Ireland lost what measure of autonomy it possessed in 1677 under his administration. Yet he diminished the impact of protestant fanaticism in Ireland during the ‘popish plot’; he encouraged trade and industry and education in Ireland, particularly in Kilkenny; he was a prime mover in the foundation of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham for retired soldiers; he patronised the theatre in Dublin, and fought vigorously, if usually ineffectively, for Ireland's interests and for the principle that Ireland's taxes should be spent in Ireland. For all the pomp and popular acclaim that accompanied him in both Ireland and England, he possessed little real power, yet, as has been remarked, the disasters wrought by Ireland's governments before 1660 and after 1685 highlight by contrast the benefits of Ormond's unadventurous, moderate pragmatism.
Last years, 1684–8
In 1684 it had been planned that Laurence Hyde (qv), earl of Rochester, should become lord lieutenant, but on his promotion to lord treasurer, it was his brother, Henry Hyde (qv), 2nd earl of Clarendon, who succeeded to the position, though Talbot (who became viceroy on 8 January 1687) determined Irish policy. It was Talbot's intention to reopen the land question, and so opposed to this was Ormond that he decided not to return to Ireland in his last years. On the religious question he made his position clear. The king ordered his courtiers to attend mass in March 1685. He went to the church, but with a few others, remained outside during the service.
Although the duke retained his post as high steward, during his remaining years he gradually withdrew from public life, turning his attention to family affairs and helping Southwell prepare material for a full biography which was never completed. Nevertheless, he opposed James's wish to repeal the test act and to appoint Roman catholics to positions from which they were excluded by law. Two unsuccessful attempts were made to convert him to catholicism, one being inspired by the king, the other being made directly by his friend Peter Walsh. In resisting the latter, Ormond used Christ's words to argue that salvation would be granted to those whose actions in life warranted it, not because a particular form of worship was followed. During this period he lived first at Clarendon's house, Cornbury, Oxfordshire, and when that earl returned to England in 1687, the duke purchased a house at Kingston Lacy, Dorsetshire. It was here that he died without pain on 21 July 1688 after a gradual decline.
Ormond had eight sons and two daughters by his wife, Elizabeth Preston: Thomas (b. 1632, died young); Thomas (1634–80), who became the earl of Ossory; James (b. 1635, died young); James (1637–a.1644); Richard (1638–86), who became the earl of Arran; Elizabeth (1640–65); Walter (b. 1641, died young); John (1643–76), who became the earl of Gowran; James (b. 1645, died young); and Mary (1646–1710). There was one illegitimate son by Isabella Rich. The duke was succeeded by his grandson, James (qv), son of Thomas, earl of Ossory.
Sources and historiography
The principal manuscript collections on Ormond are the Carte MSS in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, some of which have been published by Thomas Carte in his Life (see below) and by J. T. Gilbert in his History of the Irish confederation (1882–91), and the Ormond MSS in the NLI, Dublin, many of which have been published by the HMC: in the appendices to the 2nd, 4th, and 6th to 10th reports, the two-volume appendix to the 14th report, old series (1895–9), and the eight-volume new series (1902–20). In addition, apart from the many documents relating to Ormond in the public records, there is much material on the duke in such collections as the Clarendon and Rawlinson MSS (Bodl., Oxford), the Egerton, Harleian, Landsdowne, Stowe, Sloane and Additional MSS (BL, London), the Forster MSS (Victoria and Albert Library, London), the Coventry MSS (Longleat House, Warminster) and TCD.
Virtually every contemporary account of seventeenth-century Ireland refers to Ormond. Some of those by catholics, such as the Aphorismical discovery of treasonable faction and Nicholas French's Unkinde desertor of true men and loyal frinds, held Ormond responsible for their defeat and subsequent dispossession. The latter had been written by 1668, but was not published until 1676, and was answered by the 1st earl of Clarendon before his death in 1674. Although parts of this answer circulated in manuscript, the identity of its author was not known for many years, even by Ormond. It was eventually published in 1720 as The history of the rebellion and civil wars in Ireland. Other catholic writers, such as Richard Bellings (History of the Irish confederation and war in Ireland, written a.1677 but not published until 1882–91), who was related to Ormond by marriage, and James Tuchet, earl of Castlehaven (The memoirs of James Lord Audley earl of Castlehaven . . . (1680) and The earl of Castlehaven's review . . . (1684)), an Englishman, took a much more sympathetic approach towards the duke, an attitude that aroused protestant criticism towards the end of the restoration period. Edmund Borlase (qv) (The history of the execrable Irish rebellion . . . (1680)) and Arthur Annesley, earl of Anglesey (A letter from a person of honour in the countrey written to the earl of Castlehaven . . . (1681)), for instance, accused Ormond of betraying the protestant and English cause in Ireland during the 1640s.
There are three biographies of Ormond. Thomas Carte (qv), a Jacobite, published his monumental, three-volume An history of the life of James duke of Ormonde . . . in 1735–6 (republished, 6 vols, 1851). Carte vindicates his subject against both catholic and protestant critics while also defending the Stuart cause. Winifred Gardner (Lady Burghclere), A life of James first duke of Ormonde (2 vols, 1912) emphasises Butler's private life and mirrors Carte's assessment of his political career, though she is much more critical of the Stuarts than Carte. J. C. Beckett's (qv) brief The cavalier duke . . . (1990), which is based on printed material, also depicts the duke as a loyal servant of the crown and church, if also as a poor general and a politician whose judgement was sometimes questionable.
Historians have recently been more critical of Ormond than his biographers. Donal Cregan (qv), in ‘The confederation of Kilkenny’, B. Farrell (ed.), The Irish parliamentary tradition (1973), 102–15, described him as self-interested. This verdict has been repeated in W. P. Kelly, ‘The early career of James Butler, twelfth earl and first duke of Ormond . . ., 1610–1643’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1997), and more vigorously by David Edwards in his study of Ormond's alliance with Thomas Wentworth during the 1630s (D. Edwards, ‘The poisoned chalice: the Ormond inheritance, sectarian division and the emergence of James Butler, 1614–1642’, T. C. Barnard and J. Fenlon (ed.), The dukes of Ormonde 1610–1745 (2000), 54–82). Similarly, Micheál Ó Siochrú's detailed study of the negotiations between Ormond and the confederates during the 1640s in his Confederate Ireland 1642–1649 (1999) describes Ormond as duplicitous, inflexible, and incapable of placing the king's long-term interests in Ireland above those of protestant landlords like himself. Ormond's extremely difficult position during those negotiations is, however, underlined by Patrick Little (‘The marquess of Ormond and the English parliament, 1645–1647’, Barnard & Fenlon, Dukes of Ormonde, 83–9). J. E. Aydelotte's ‘The duke of Ormonde and the English government of Ireland’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Iowa, 1975) and Sean Egan's ‘Finance and the government of Ireland, 1660–1685’ (Ph.D. thesis, TCD, 1983) are critical of Ormond's handling of the government of Ireland during his second and third viceregal terms, the latter more than the former. Other works that pertain to particular aspects of Ormond's life include R. M. Armstrong, ‘Protestant Ireland and the English parliament, 1641–1647’ (Ph.D. thesis, TCD, 1995); M. A. Brennan, ‘The making of the protestant ascendancy in County Kilkenny’ (Ph.D. thesis, State University of New York, 1985); James McGuire, ‘Why was Ormond dismissed in 1669?’, IHS, xviii (1972–3), 295–312; N. A. C. Reynolds, ‘The Stuart court and courtiers in exile 1644–1654’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1996); and articles by G. E. Aylmer, T. C. Barnard, J. Fenlon, R. Gillespie, and E. O Ciardha in Barnard & Fenlon, Dukes of Ormonde. Barnard's introduction to this work (1–53), although covering the careers of both dukes, is a particularly valuable overview of James Butler's career. This book also provides numerous illustrations of the first duke and his family.