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Coat of Arms


Heraldry Database: Butler


Surname:  Butler
Branch:  Butler
Origins:  Irish
More Info:  Ireland

Arms:  1st and 4th or, a chief indented azure; 2nd and 3rd gules three covered cups or.
Crest:  Out of a ducal coronet or a plume of five ostrich feathers argent, therefrom issuant a falcon rising of the last.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

Butler is a name to be found in every walk of life in Ireland. The name is true of England. In the absence of a reliable pedigree, or at least a well established tradition, the origin of individual Butlers in Ireland to-day cannot be suggested with confidence. The history of the Ormond Butlers, however, is very well authenticated - indeed for more than seven centuries their history is the history of Anglo-Irish relations - from 1171 when Theobald Fitzwalter accompanied Henry II to Ireland, till our own time when the ancestral castle of Kilkenny was abandoned as the seat of the family and the voluminous Ormond manuscript collection was taken over by the National Library of Ireland, where it forms an invaluable source for Irish as well as for Butler family history.

The surname Butler, as far as Ireland is concerned, dates from about the year 1220: it arose from the fact that in 1177 the Theobald Fitzwalter, mentioned above, was created Chief Butler of Ireland. The seventh in descent from him was created Earl of Ormond in 1328. In 1391 the head-quarters of the Ormonds was removed from Gowran to Kilkenny Castle.

For centuries a rivalry existed between the Butlers and the Geraldines (see Fitzgerald), and it may be said that up to the death of the Great Duke of Ormond in 1688, the effective government of the country (or, at least, as much of it as for the time being acknowledged allegiance to the King of England) was in the hands of one or the other of these great Norman houses. The Butlers have generally been regarded as more consistently loyal to the sovereign than their rivals, but as Standish O'Grady in his edition of Pacata Hibernia points out, being weaker than the Gerlaldines they were forced to lean on the State, and on the only occasion in which they were wronged they were just as ready to rebel as any other sept. In this connexion it may be mentioned that a branch of the Butlers for a while in the fifteenth century took MacRichard as their surname and had an important chief somewhat in the Gaelic fashion eventually, however, they reverted to the name Butler. Among the numerous Catholic Butlers who were loyal Jacobites perhaps the most noteworthy were the Abbe James Butler of Nantes, who was chaplain to Prince Charles Edward (the "Young Pretender") in the 1745 expedition; and Pierce Butler (1652-1740), third Viscount Galmoy, who fought with Sarsfield in all his Irish and French campaigns.

A branch of the Butler family has long been established in Co. Clare: a very full account of them is to be found in The Butlers of Co. Clare by Sir Henry Butler Blackall.

Professor Edmund Curtis in his History of Medieval Ireland, shows that the MacRichard Butlers were actually the ancestors of the later Earls of Ormond, and that at least two branches of the Butlers were patrons of Gaelic-Irish learning and great collectors of Irish Manuscripts.

To the list of distinguished persons of the name that of Sir Theobald, commonly called Sir Toby Butler, should be added. He was attorney-general in the reign of James II and the framer of the Treaty of Limerick on the Irish side; he made a memorable speech in 1703 against the Anti-Popery Act.

Name Variations:  Butler, Ormond, Buticularius, Pincerna, Boteler, Boutillier, Botiller, Butiller, Botyller, Boutler, Buttlar, Buteler.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Irish Families, Their Names, Arms & Origins; Edward MacLysaght - 1957.
The Surnames of Ireland; Edward MacLynsaght - 1957.


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