James Butler, Duke of Ormond & family

James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, and several members of his family, are buried in a large vault (22 feet long) at the east end of Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey. The vault was formerly the burial place of Oliver Cromwell and members of his family and officers until their bodies were ejected in 1661. None of the Butler family has a monument and their names were only inscribed on a stone over the vault in the late 19th century when Dean Stanley viewed the coffins there. The chapel above the vault is now dedicated to the RAF and a carpet permanently covers the vault stone with the names inscribed on it.

James was the eldest son of Thomas, Viscount Thurles and his wife Elizabeth (Poyntz) and was born in London on 19th October 1610. He succeeded his grandfather as 12th Earl of Ormond in the Irish peerage. At the Restoration of Charles II he was made Lord Steward of the Household and held the crown in the coronation procession. Created Duke of Ormond in 1661 he was also a Knight of the Order of the Garter and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He concluded peace with the Roman Catholic Irish on behalf of the King and left Ireland and served as a colonel under the Duke of York in Spain. He was buried on 4th August 1688.

His wife Elizabeth, Duchess of Ormond was buried on 24th July 1684 (the date inscribed on the vault stone is incorrect). She was the daughter of Sir Richard Preston (Baron Dingwall in Scotland and Earl of Desmond in Ireland) and his wife Lady Elizabeth (daughter of Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond). She was born on 25th July 1615 and James was her cousin. In 1642 she had to flee with her children from Kilkenny Castle to Dublin during the Catholic uprising. They had sons Thomas, Richard and John, Earl of Gowran. Their daughter Mary, Duchess of Devonshire was buried with them on 6th August 1710.

Richard, Earl of Arran,  son of James and Elizabeth, was born on 15th June 1639 and was created Earl of Arran in the Irish peerage and Baron Butler of Weston in the English peerage. His first wife was Lady Mary Stuart but they had no children. His second was Dorothy Ferrars. A son was baptised in the Abbey and buried in 1676 and a daughter was buried in 1687.

Thomas, Earl of Ossory was another son of James and Elizabeth. He was born on 8th July 1634 and educated in France. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Cromwell but received a pass to leave England. At the Restoration he was made a Privy Councillor and was a Member of Parliament, Lt. General of the Horse, and Deputy Governor of Ireland. He died of a fever and was buried in the vault on 31st July 1680.  On 17th November 1659 he married Emilia van Nassau (daughter of Henry de Nassau, Lord of Auverquerque and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Count de Horn). She was buried in the vault on 12th December 1688. A daughter Elizabeth, Countess of Derby was buried with them in 1717. Emilia's sister Charlotte (who died unmarried) was buried on 25th November 1702 in the vault.

James, son of Thomas and Emilia, succeeded his grandfather as 2nd Duke of Ormond. He was impeached for high treason in 1715 and passed the rest of his life abroad, mainly at Avignon in France. He died on 5th November 1745 (according to his coffin plate) and was buried in the vault on 22nd May 1746. His first wife was Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Two young children by her were buried in the vault (Elisabeth and Mary). His second wife was Mary Somerset, daughter of Henry, Duke of Beaufort. She is said never to have seen her husband during his exile and she was buried on 25th November 1733. Their son Thomas was buried 1689, daughter Henrietta in 1701 and Elizabeth (who died unmarried) in 1750.

Further reading

The Dukes of Ormond 1610-1745 edited by T. Barnard and J. Fenlon, 2000.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 for James (1st Duke of Ormond), Elizabeth, Richard, Thomas and James (2nd Duke of Ormond)

Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey by A.P. Stanley, 3rd edn. 1869 (short report on examination of the vault and plan)

See also the website of Kilkenny Castle


19th October 1610


4th August 1688




Lady Chapel

Memorial Type


James Butler, Duke of Ormond & family
Henry VII chapel

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