Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Butler, James (1420-1461)

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BUTLER, JAMES, fifth Earl of Ormonde and Earl of Wiltshire (1420–1461), was the eldest son of James Butler, the fourth earl [q. v.], by Johan, daughter of Gerald, fifth earl of Kildare, and was born on 24 Nov. 1420. He was knighted when very young by Henry VI, and he attended Richard, duke of York, regent of France, in his expedition into that kingdom. On account of his zealous support of the Lancastrian interest, he was on 8 July 1449, during the lifetime of his father, created a peer of England by the title of earl of Wiltshire. In the following year he was constituted a commissioner, to whom the town and castle of Calais, with other French fortresses, were committed for five years. In 1451 he was appointed lord-deputy of Ireland in the absence of the Duke of York, and on the death of his father he was in 1453 appointed viceroy for ten years. In the same year, along with the Earl of Salisbury and other great lords, he undertook the guarding of the seas for three years, receiving the tonnage and poundage to support the charge thereof. On 13 March 1455 he was appointed lord high treasurer of England, and shortly afterwards fought for the king at the battle of St. Albans, when, the Yorkists prevailing, he fled, casting his armour into a ditch. He was superseded as lord-lieutenant of Ireland by the Duke of York, but in 37 Henry VI was restored to the post of lord-treasurer, and next year made a knight of the Garter. Soon afterwards he fitted out a fleet of five ships at Genoa, with which he sailed to the Netherlands against the Earl of Warwick, but returned before the battle of Wakefield on 31 Dec. 1460, in which he commanded a wing of the army which enclosed and slew the Duke of York. On 2 Feb. 1461, along with the Earl of Pembroke, he suffered a disastrous defeat from Edward, earl of March, at Mortimer's Cross, and on 29 March was taken prisoner at the battle of Towton, Yorkshire. He is said to have been beheaded at Newcastle on 1 May following. In the first parliament of Edward IV he was attainted, along with his brothers John and Thomas, and his estates forfeited and resumed. As he left no issue, the earldom of Wiltshire lapsed with him, but he was succeeded in the earldom of Ormonde by his brother, Sir John de Ormonde.

[Stow's Annals; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 235; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, iv. 14-16; Carte's Life of the Duke of Ormonde (Oxford ed. 1851), i. lxxix-lxxxi; The Ormonde Attainders, by Hubert Hall, in the Genealogist, new ser. i. 76-9; The Barony of Arklow, by J. H. Round, in vol. i. of Foster's Collectanea Genealogica.]

T. F. H.