James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Butler, James, 2nd Duke of Ormond, son of preceding, born in Dublin Castle, 29th April 1665, was, with his brother and sisters, brought up by his grandfather, the great Duke. He was educated in France and at Oxford. When but seventeen, he married a daughter of Lord Hyde, and was left a widower at twenty. He served at the siege of Luxembourg, and in suppressing the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion. Shortly afterwards he took as his second wife a daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. Upon his grand-father's death he succeeded to the title of Duke, and was by the University of Oxford appointed Chancellor. He went over to William of Orange upon his arrival in England, was made a Privy-Councillor, and had other honours heaped upon him. At the battle of the Boyne he commanded the Life Guards; and a few weeks afterwards entertained William at a grand banquet at Kilkenny Castle, which had been protected from plunder by General Lauzun. He afterwards attended William to Flanders. At Landen he was severely wounded, and taken prisoner, but was soon exchanged. He served again on the Continent, among other commands leading the land forces in the attack on Cadiz in 1702.

He was twice Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and was present in the English Council Chamber at the time of Guiscard's attack on Harley. After Marlborough's disgrace, he was appointed Commander-in-chief, and met but a cool reception from the Dutch and Prince Eugene when he landed in Flanders in 1712; nor did the subsequent separate negotiations with the French, in which he was the instrument employed by the English Ministry, raise him in the estimation of the allies. On his return to England, he was warmly received and made Warden of the Cinque Ports and Governor of Dover, and his Duchess a Lady of the Bedchamber. Through his interest, Swift was appointed Dean of St. Patrick's. Upon George I.'s accession he was deprived of his offices, and fled to France. Before leaving he is said to have visited Lord Oxford in the Tower, and upon parting with him to have exclaimed,"Farewell! Oxford without a head:" to which Oxford rejoined, "Farewell! Duke without a duchy." He was immediately impeached for: (1) corresponding with Marshal Villars in the late war; (2) having engaged not to attack the French army; (3) having endeavoured to persuade the confederate generals to raise the siege of Quesnoy, These charges being proved, he was attainted of high treason, and his name was erased from the list of Peers and from the order of the Garter; while the Irish Houses set £10,000 upon his head, and his estate was vested in the Crown. He thenceforth lived upon an allowance of,£1,500 a year from the court of Spain, and devoted the remainder of his life to the cause of the Pretender, his house at Avignon being the head-quarters of Jacobite intrigue. Though of an amiable disposition, his married life was unhappy. In 1721 he is described as "short and fat in person, but yet of most graceful demeanour, and most noble aspect; remarkable for his attachment to the Church of England, and refusing large demesnes which were offered to him as the price of his conversion. . . He loves and is beloved by the ladies; is of low stature, but well shaped, of a good mien and address, a fair complexion, and very beautiful face."

He died, after thirty years exile, 16th November 1745, aged 80. His body was conveyed secretly to England as a bale of goods, and buried in Henry VII.'s chapel, with some of his ancestors. [His brother Charles, the Earl of Arran, repurchased his escheated estates from Government, and was in truth 3rd Duke of Ormond, but he never assumed or was aware of possessing the title, as it had not then been decided that an attainder in the English Parliament did not affect Irish titles. On his death in December 1758, the titles of the house became dormant, until revived in 1791, by John Butler, a descendant of Walter, 11th Earl, being created 17th Earl of Ormond. James, 19th Earl, was in 1825 created a Marquis, the title now borne by the Butlers.] Sir Bernard Burke adopts the modern spelling, Ormonde.


54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

97. Cyclopaedia, Penny, with Supplement. 29 vols. London, 1833.
D'Alton, John, see Nos. 12, 117a, 197b.

196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

271. Ormond, Duke of, Life 1610-'88: Thomas A. Carte, M.A. 6 vols. Oxford, 1851.

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