Butler, Richard (1639–86), 1st earl of Arran , lord deputy of Ireland, was born on 15 June 1639, the fifth, but second surviving, son of the eight sons and two daughters of James Butler (qv), 12th earl and 1st duke of Ormond, and his wife, Elizabeth (qv), Baroness Dingwall, only daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Preston (qv), earl and countess of Desmond. He lived in France and the Low Countries in 1648–52 and 1657–60, with members of his exiled family, and in England in 1652–7; he briefly attended a Paris academy in 1649–50. The restoration of Charles II brought honours, offices and commands, as it did for his father and elder brother Thomas Butler (qv), later earl of Ossory. All three secured admission to Gray's Inn on 14 November 1660, and in April 1662 Richard was appointed colonel of the new regiment of guards in Ireland, a command he would retain for life. From 22 April 1662 he acted as seneschal of his father's restored palatine liberty of Tipperary.
Butler was created earl of Arran, Viscount Tullogh and Baron Butler of Cloghgrennan on 13 May 1662. From 26 August 1663 he served as a member of the Irish privy council and received a patent as alnager of cloth for Ireland for sixty-one years on 1 September 1666. On 13 September 1664 he married Mary Stuart, Baroness Clifton, daughter of James Stuart, duke of Richmond and Lennox, and his wife, Mary, daughter of George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham. In the 1660s land settlement, he secured title to extensive properties, particularly in counties Meath, Tipperary and Galway, including the Aran islands, which he purchased, of which he was appointed governor on 12 March 1666. He had been appointed military governor of Dublin on 29 January 1666, and was called upon to demonstrate his military qualities in suppressing a potentially serious mutiny at Carrickfergus on 27–8 May 1666.
In 1661 Butler had been elected to the English parliament as an MP for Wells in Somerset, a county of which his father was lord lieutenant, but he was not particularly active in the commons between the first session and 1673, when he participated in attacks on the then lord lieutenant, Arthur Capel, earl of Essex (qv). In the same year he served at sea, with distinction, in the third Dutch war, as did his brother Ossory. Apparently as a result, he was granted an English peerage as Baron Butler of Weston in Huntingdonshire, a county in which he had purchased property and where he acted as a commissioner for assessment in 1673–4. His first wife having died in 1668, by 7 June 1673 he had married Dorothy, daughter of John Ferrers and his wife, Anne, née Carleton, of Tamworth castle, Warwickshire. He was named custos rotulorum for Co. Carlow on 28 October 1675 and was awarded the degree of DCL from Oxford University, where his father was chancellor, on 6 August 1677. He defended his father's interests in the English house of lords, more especially after Ossory's death in 1680, and opposed the bill to exclude James, duke of York, from the succession and the efforts of the Whig leader, the earl of Shaftesbury, to identify a ‘popish plot’ in Ireland in January 1681.
On 13 April 1682 Arran was appointed lord deputy, to act in the absence of his father, the lord lieutenant. He was sworn in on 2 May 1682 and so served until 19 August 1684 and Ormond's return to Dublin. His time in office was quiet, though he took action against protestant nonconformists in the aftermath of the 1683 Rye House plot in England, if not with excessive rigour. The years 1682–4 have been seen as a period in which he and his father were overshadowed by the activity of revenue commissioners appointed by, and responsible to, the treasury in London, a development that he recognised but disliked. He and Ormond did, however, succeed in their attempt to reorganise the Irish army, with the introduction of regimental structures, and without reductions in numbers, a task completed in 1684. He was named governor of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, in 1683 and appointed marshal of the Irish army on 10 September 1684, but his command of a cavalry regiment was to end with the accession of James II (qv), when it was transferred to the command of Richard Talbot (qv), earl of Tyrconnell. Considered by contemporaries more apt for soldiering than politics, and more inclined to pleasure than business, Arran died of pleurisy on 25 January 1686 in London and was buried in Westminster abbey. He seems to have had three sons and two daughters, all from his second marriage, but only one daughter, Charlotte, survived him.