James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond

James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond (23 May 1393  23 August 1452) was the son of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond. He was called 'The White Earl' and was esteemed for his learning. He was the patron of the Irish literary work, 'The Book of the White Earl'. His career was marked by his long and bitter feud with the Talbot family.

James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond
BornMay 23, 1393
Kilkenny, Ireland
DiedAugust 23, 1452
Dublin, Ireland
BuriedSt. Mary's Abbey, Dublin
Spouse(s)Joan de Beauchamp
Elizabeth FitzGerald
FatherJames Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond
MotherAnne Welles


James Butler was the second but eldest surviving son of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, and his first wife Anne Welles, daughter of John de Welles, 4th Baron Welles by Maude de Ros, daughter of William de Ros, 2nd Baron de Ros of Helmsley.[1]


He prevailed upon Henry V to create a King of Arms in Ireland, with the title of Ireland King of Arms (altered by Edward VI to Ulster King of Arms), and he gave lands in perpetuity to the College of Heralds, London. He was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1405, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1420, 1425, and 1442. He appointed James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond as Seneschal of Imokilly in 1420.

The Butler–Talbot feud

His term as Lord Lieutenant was marked by his bitter feud with the Talbot family, headed by John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and his brother Richard, Archbishop of Dublin. The dispute reached its height in 1442 when Archbishop Talbot, supposedly acting on behalf of the Irish Parliament, presented the Privy Council with a long list of grievances against Ormonde, who was accused of being old and feeble (in fact he was only fifty, which was not considered a great age even in the fifteenth century), and of having lost most of his Irish estates through negligence; there were also vague references to treason and "other crimes which could not be named".[2] The Council summoned Ormonde to account for his actions: he defended himself vigorously, and made detailed counter-charges against the Archbishop. The Council took no action against him. Instead it rebuked both sides to the dispute severely for disrupting the good governance of Ireland. The feud gradually cooled off, and friendly relations between the two families were finally established by the marriage of Ormonde's daughter Elizabeth to Shrewsbury's son and heir John.[3]

Later years

Ormonde remained an influential figure in Irish politics, although his later years were troubled by fresh quarrels with the Earl of Desmond, with Giles Thorndon, the Treasurer of Ireland, with Thomas Fitzgerald, Prior of the Knights Hospitaller at Kilmainham, and with Richard Wogan, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Wogan in particular complained that he was no longer able to endure the burden of Ormonde's "heavy lordship" and asked to be allowed to deputise his duties.[4] Relations between Ormonde and Prior Fitzgerald became so bad that in 1444 it was seriously suggested that they settle the matter through trial by combat, but King Henry VI intervened personally to persuade them to make peace.[5]

In 1440 Ormonde had a grant of the temporalities of the See of Cashel for ten years, following the death of the Archbishop of Cashel, Richard O'Hedian. He built the castles of Nenagh, Roscrea and Templemore in north County Tipperary and Tulleophelim (or Tullowphelim) in County Carlow. He gave the manor and advowson of Hickcote in Buckinghamshire to the Hospital of St Thomas of Acre in London, which was confirmed by the Parliament of England (in the third year of Henry VI) at the suit of his son.[6]

Since his father-in-law had no surviving son, Ormond, in right of his second wife Elizabeth, claimed possession of the Earldom of Kildare, and for some years was able to keep the legitimate heir out of his inheritance.

He died in Dublin on 23 August 1452 on his return from an expedition against Connor O'Mulrian, and was buried in St. Mary's Abbey near Dublin.

Marriage and Children

He married firstly, in 1413, Joan Beauchamp (1396–1430), the daughter of William de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Bergavenny and Joan Arundel, by whom he had three sons and two daughters:[7]

He married secondly, by licence dated 18 July 1432, Elizabeth FitzGerald (c. 1398  6 August 1452), widow of John Grey, 2nd Baron Grey of Codnor (died 14 September 1430), and daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 5th Earl of Kildare and his second wife Agnes Darcy, by whom he had no children.

See also


  1. Richardson I 2011, pp. 379-80.
  2. O'Flanagan, J. Roderick Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland London 1870
  3. Otway-Ruthven, J.A. History of Mediaeval Ireland Barnes and Noble 1993
  4. Otway-Ruthven
  5. Burton, Rev. Nathaniel History of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, from the Original Foundation to the Present Time William Curry and Co. Dublin 1843 pp.92-93
  6. Lodge, John The Peerage of Ireland or, A Genealogical History Of The Present Nobility Of That Kingdom, 1789, Vol IV, p 11.
  7. Richardson I 2011, p. 380.


  • Ellis, Steven G. (2004). "Butler, John, sixth earl of Ormond (d. 1476/7)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4195.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. p. 382. ISBN 1449966373.
  • Butler family Accessed 16 December 2007, re-accessed 8 Jul 2015.
  • Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 2, page 2298.
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
James Butler
Earl of Ormond
Succeeded by
James Butler
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