BUTLER, Lord Richard (1639-86), of Alconbury Weston, Hunts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1661 - 27 Aug. 1673

Family and Education

b. 15 June 1639, 5th s. of James, 1st Duke of Ormonde, by Elizabeth, suo jure Baroness Dingwall [S], da. of Richard, 1st Earl of Desmond [I]; bro. of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. educ. privately; travelled abroad (France and Holland) 1648-52, 1657-May 1660; Académie del Campo, Paris 1649-50; G. Inn 1660. m. (1) 13 Sept. 1664 (with £20,000), Mary (d. 4 July 1668), suo jure Baroness Clifton of Leighton Bromswold, da. of James, 1st Duke of Richmond, and h. to her bro. Esmé, 2nd Duke, s.p.; (2) June 1673 (with £12,000), Dorothy (d. 30 Nov. 1716), da. and h. of John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, Warws., 2s. d.v.p. 2da. cr. Earl of Arran [I] 13 May 1662, Baron Butler of Weston 27 Aug. 1673.1

Offices Held

Col. of Gds. [I] 1662-d.; marshal of array [I] 1684-d. PC [I] 1663-d.; alnager [I] 1665-d.; ld. deputy [I] 1682-5.2

Commr. for assessment, Hunts. 1673-4; custos rot. co. Carlow [I] 1682-d.; gov. Charles II’s hospital, Dublin 1683.


Butler was brought up with Ossory, his other brothers having died young, but he shared few of his accomplishments and virtues. Though ‘singularly adroit in all kinds of exercises’, notably tennis and the guitar, his amorous and alcoholic proclivities made him a symbol of ‘the baseness and looseness of the Court’. He was returned for Wells at the general election of 1661 as a compliment to his father, who was lord lieutenant of Somerset, and became the first member of his family to sit in the Lower House at Westminster. But he was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he acted as teller in five divisions but was appointed to only 20 committees. Most of them, including that for the uniformity bill, were in the first session, before he was made Earl of Arran and given Irish appointments worth £5,000 p.a. according to report. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664 and as a government supporter in both lists of 1669-71. His first marriage was to ‘a lady of extraordinary quality ... that might have been made a wife for the King himself’, while his second wife, besides her portion, had prospects of an estate of £3,000 after the death of her father and her sickly young brother.3

Arran’s parliamentary activity suddenly increased in the 1673 session, when he took a strongly Anglican line. He twice acted as teller against abandoning the requirement to abjure the Covenant, and wished the debate on the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters to be indefinitely adjourned. On the other hand, in his only recorded speech, he informed the House that he knew of a great many recusants in the Irish commissions of the peace:

So many Papists in command and trust there, a great grievance to that kingdom! Never a parish of ours but has one or more Popish priests in it; and [he] shall, as occasion serves, farther inform the House. He has been told that they have exercised Popish jurisdiction in an episcopal manner in Ireland.

It is unlikely that many in the House accepted the implication that his father’s successors in the lord lieutenancy of Ireland were solely responsible; but he was appointed to the committee to prepare an address to the King on the state of Ireland and the danger to the English Protestant interest. So energetic was his pursuit of this matter that Arran risked the displeasure of the King who, it was rumoured, was ‘not very well pleased to see his own Privy Councillors bringing in of grievances’. Before the next session he was given an English peerage. He was the last of the family to sit for an English constituency. In the House of Lords he was considered ‘vile’ by Shaftesbury in 1677 and doubtful by Danby in 1679. In the Lords he voted against the exclusion bill, and the condemnation of Lord Stafford, and attempts were made to implicate him in the Popish Plot by the informer Hetherington. When his father’s position was threatened in 1684 he rushed to England to defend him. Arran died on 25 Jan. 1686, appointing the Earl of Longford (Francis Aungier) as his executor. His only surviving daughter married the 4th Lord Cornwallis.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1664-5, pp. 7, 9; 1683-4, p. 293; Carte, Ormond, iv. 220, 487; Evelyn Diary, iii. 2.
  • 2. CSP Ire. 1660-2, p. 531; 1663-5, pp. 205, 604; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 943; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 281; 1685, pp. 144, 148.
  • 3. Carte, iii. 669; iv. 680; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iii. 446; Pepys Diary, 24 July 1665; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 42; Grammont, Mems. i. 175.
  • 4. Grey, ii. 118; CSP Dom. 1673, p. 100; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. viii), 169; PRO 31/3, bdle. 159, f. 76; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 624; PCC 1 Foot.