Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond

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Piers Butler
Earl of Ormond
House Butler Armorial Bearings.jpg
PredecessorThomas, 7th Earl of Ormond
SuccessorJames, 9th Earl of Ormond
Died26 August 1539
Spouse(s)Margaret FitzGerald
James, Richard, & others. Edmund (illegitimate)
FatherSir James Butler
MotherSabh Kavanaugh

Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, 1st Earl of Ossory (c. 1467 – 1539) also known as Red Piers (Irish Piers Ruadh), was from the Polestown branch of the Butler family of Ireland. In the succession crisis at the death of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond he succeeded to the earldom as heir male, but lost the title in 1528 to Thomas Boleyn. He regained it after Boleyn's death in 1538.

Birth and origins[edit]

Family tree
Piers Butler with wife, parents, and other selected relatives, among which the Boleyns.[a]
3rd Earl

c. 1395 – 1405

d. 1397
4th Earl

c. 1393 – 1452



5th Earl

6th Earl

d. 1476
7th Earl



d. 1506

1451 – 1505

c. 1454 –
c. 1539

d. 1487
of Polestown

c. 1477 – 1536
8th Earl

c. 1473 – 1542
10th Earl

d. 1529

1501 or 1507
– 1536
9th Earl


d. 1565
10th Earl

c. 1531 – 1614
Black Tom
John of

d. 1570
XXXSubject of
the article
XXXEarls of
XXXEarls of

Piers was born c. 1467,[5][6] the third son of James Butler and Sabh Kavanagh. His father was Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord of the Manor of Advowson of Callan (1438–1487). His father's family was the Polestown cadet branch of the Butler dynasty that had started with Sir Richard Butler of Polestown, second son of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.

His mother, whose first name is variously given as Sabh, Sadhbh,[7] Saiv,[8] or Sabina, was a Princess of Leinster, eldest daughter of Donal Reagh Kavanagh, MacMurrough (1396–1476), King of Leinster.[9]

Marriage and children[edit]

In 1485, Butler married Lady Margaret FitzGerald, daughter of Gerald fitz Maurice FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and Alison FitzEustace. The marriage was political; arranged with the purpose of healing the breach between the two families.[10] In the early years of their marriage, Margaret and her husband were reduced to penury by James Dubh Butler, a nephew, heir to the earldom and agent of the absentee 7th Earl, who resided in England. Piers Butler retaliated by murdering James Dubh in an ambush in 1497. He was pardoned for his crime on 22 February 1498.

Piers and Margaret had three sons:[11]

  1. James (1496–1546), also called "the Lame",[12] who succeeded him as the 9th Earl and married Lady Joan FitzGerald, daughter and heiress of James FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Desmond
  2. Richard (1500–1571), who became the 1st Viscount Mountgarret and married his first cousin Eleanor Butler, daughter of his uncle Theobald Butler[13]
  3. Thomas, who was slain by Dermoid Mac Shane, MacGillaPatrick of Upper Ossory,[14] and left an only daughter Margaret, who was first married to Rory O'Moore of Laois and secondly to Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Lackagh

–and six daughters:[11]

  1. Margaret, married firstly to Thomas, second son of the Earl of Desmond, and secondly to Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 1st Baron Upper Ossory and had issue.[15]
  2. Catherine (1506–1553) married 1stly Richard Power, 1st Baron Power, of Curraghmore (died 1535) and 2ndly James FitzGerald, 13th Earl of Desmond.[16]
  3. Joan (born 1528), married James Butler, 10th Baron Dunboyne[17]
  4. Ellice (1481–1530). Married firstly to MacMorrish; and secondly in 1503 to Gerald Fitzgerald, 3rd Lord Decies (1482–1533), grandson of James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond.[18]
  5. Eleanor, married Thomas Butler, 1st Baron Cahir[19]
  6. Helen, also called Ellen (1523–1597), married Donough_O'Brien,_2nd_Earl_of_Thomond, son of Conor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, and Annabell de Burgh[20]

The Earl had an illegitimate son, Edmund Butler, who became Archbishop of Cashel and conformed to the established religion in 1539.[21]

Claims to the title[edit]

During the prolonged absence from Ireland of the earls, his father Sir James Butler (died 1487)[22] had laid claim to the Ormond land and titles. This had precipitated a crisis in the Ormond succession when the seventh earl later died without a male heir. On 20 March 1489, King Henry VII appointed him High Sheriff of County Kilkenny. He was knighted before September 1497. The following year (1498) he seized Kilkenny Castle and with his wife, Margaret FitzGerald (died 1542), the dynamic daughter of the earl of Kildare, probably improved the living accommodation there. On 28 February 1498 he received a pardon for crimes committed in Ireland, including the murder of James Ormonde, heir to the 7th Earl. He was also made Seneschal of the Liberty of Tipperary on 21 June 1505, succeeding his distant relation, James Butler, 9th Baron Dunboyne. On the death of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde on 3 August 1515, Piers Butler became the 8th Earl of Ormond. On 6 March 1522, the King appointed him Chief Governor of Ireland as Lord Deputy; he held this office until 13 May 1524 when he became Lord Treasurer.

Loss of title[edit]

One of the heirs general to the Ormond inheritance was Thomas Boleyn, whose mother was Margaret Butler, second daughter of the 7th earl. Thomas Boleyn was the father of Anne, whose star was rising at the court of King Henry VIII of England. As the king wanted the titles of Ormond and Wiltshire for Thomas Boleyn, he induced Butler and his coheirs to resign their claims on 18 February 1528.[23] Aided by the king's Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Butler was created Earl of Ossory instead.

Restoration of title[edit]

On 22 February 1538, the earldom of Ormond was restored to him.

Death and timeline[edit]

He died on 26 August 1539 and was buried in St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny.[24]

As his birth date is uncertain, so are all his ages.
Age Date Event
0 1467, about Born[5]
18 1485, 22 Aug Accession of Henry VII, succeeding Richard III of England[25]
18 1485 Married Lady Margaret FitzGerald
29 1496 Eldest son born
42 1509, 22 Apr Accession of Henry VIII, succeeding Henry VII of England[26]
61 1528, 18 Feb Resigned the earldom of Ormond[23]
63 1530 Eldest son married Lady Joan Fitzgerald[27]
71 1538, Feb Regained the earldom of Ormond.
72 1539, 26 Aug Died[24]


See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ This family tree is based on two family trees: the condensed Butler family tree in Dunboyne[1] and the one illustrating the succession of the 7th Earl of Ormond;[2] and on genealogies of the earls of Desmond[3] and Ormond.[4]


  1. ^ Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  2. ^ Cokayne 1895, p. 146pedigree
  3. ^ Burke 1883, pp. 204–206Genealogy of the earls of Desmond
  4. ^ Burke & Burke 1915, pp. 1548–1552Genealogy of the earls of Ormond
  5. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 145. "He was b. [born] in or before 1467 ..."
  6. ^ Beresford 2009, 1st paragraph, beginning. "Butler, Piers (‘Piers Ruadh’) (c.1467–1539)"
  7. ^ Beresford 2009, 1st paragraph, 1st sentence. ... his wife Sadhbh, daughter of Domhnall Riabhach Kavanagh."
  8. ^ Edwards 1998, p. 51. "... as regards the Kavanaghs, Piers had made some allies among them in 1525 (partly through the influence of his mother, Saiv Kavanagh) ..."
  9. ^ Hull 1926, p. 234. "Sir James Butler, who became Deputy under Edward IV, was married to an Irish wife, Sabh (or Sabina) Kavanagh, daughter of Donal MacMorrogh of Leinster ..."
  10. ^ Hull 1926, p. 274. "Lady margaret in the vain hope of healing the breach between the two families, wedded Sir Piers (or Pierce) Butler, who later became the eighth Earl of Ormonde ..."
  11. ^ a b Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 15. "... leaving issue three sons and six daughters ..."
  12. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 16. "James his successor, commonly called the Lame."
  13. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 17. "Richard, created Viscount of Mountgarret."
  14. ^ Graves 1857, p. 239. "Toward the end of the year Ossory lost his third son, Thomas Butler, in a petty fray with the Tanist of Macgillapatrick."
  15. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 22. "Daughter, Lady Margaret, first married to Thomas, second son of the Earl of Desmond, and secondly, to Barnaby the first Lord of Upper-Ossory."
  16. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 25. "Lady Catherine, first married to Richard, Lord Poer, and secondly to James, Earl of Desmond."
  17. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 27. "Lady Joan, to James Butler Lord Dunboyne."
  18. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 28. "Lady Ellice, flrst to Mac Morrish; and secondly to Geraid Fitz-John Fitzgerald, of Dromana, Lord of Decies."
  19. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 30. "Lady Eleanor to Thomas Butler Lord Cahier."
  20. ^ Lodge 1789, p. 21, line 31. "Lady Ellen to Donogh O'Brien, Earl of Thormond."
  21. ^ Bagwell 1885, p. 305. "When the four Protestant members of Council Browne, Conformity Brabazon, Alen, and Aylmer visited Clonmel early in 1539, two archbishops and eight bishops took the oath of supremacy before them. The archbishops were Butler of Cashel and Bodkin of Tuam ..."
  22. ^ Royal Descents and Pedigrees of Founders' Kin, Pedigree CXXI, by Sir Bernard Burke (1864)
  23. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 146, line 8. "By agreement 17 Feb. 1527/8, above mentioned, he (as heir male) and his cousins, the daughters and co-heirs of the 7th Earl (as heirs general), resigned any rights to the Earldom of Ormond ..."
  24. ^ a b Cokayne 1895, p. 147. "He d. 26 Aug 1539, and was bur. in the church of St. Canice, Kilkenny."
  25. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 42, line 25. "Henry VII … acc. 22 Aug 1485;"
  26. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 42, line 39. "Henry VIII … acc. 22 April 1509;"
  27. ^ Wright 2004, p. 151, right column, line 28. "... in 1530 he married Joan (d. [died] 1565), sole daughter and heir of James Fitzgerald, the late earl of Desmond (d. 1529)."


Further reading[edit]

Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Ormond
Succeeded by
New creation Earl of Ossory