BUTLER, Hon. James Wandesford (1774-1838), of Kilkenny Castle, co. Kilkenny.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1801 - 10 Aug. 1820

Family and Education

b. 15 July 1774, 3rd s. of John, 17th Earl of Ormonde [I] and bro. of Charles Harward Butler*. educ. Eton 1783-90. m. 12 Oct. 1807, Grace Louisa, da. of John Staples*, 5s. 5da. suc. bro. Walter as 19th Earl of Ormonde [I] 10 Aug. 1820, cr. Baron Ormonde [UK] 17 July 1821; Mq. of Ormonde [I] 5 Oct. 1825, KP 19 July 1821; kntd. 16 July 1826.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1796-1800.

Capt. 14 Drag. 1793, maj. 1799, ret. 1802; lt.-col. Kilkenny militia 1806, col. 1820-d.

Hered. chief butler of Ireland 1820-d.; custos rot. co. Kilkenny 1825, ld. lt. 1831-d., v.-adm. Leinster 1831-d.; militia a.d.c. to William IV 1832-7, to Queen Victoria 1837-d.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1802.


Butler’s eldest brother, the 18th Earl of Ormonde, possessed estates worth £22,000 p.a. in 1799,1 controlled one seat for county Kilkenny and, in conjunction with Lord Desart, one for Kilkenny city. He himself was returned for the city seat early in 1796 and for the county later that year, retaining the seat until he succeeded to the title in 1820. He voted for the Union, 16 Feb. 1799, but opposed it the following year. At Westminster he was expected to support ministers, but he and his brothers were friends of the Prince of Wales, and government was not surprised when he voted for Calcraft’s motion on the Prince’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803.2 He was subsequently preoccupied by his militia duties. In 1804 he was listed an Irish friend of the Prince and summoned over as such in February. Either he or his brother Charles voted for Pitt’s navy motion, 15 Mar. 1804, and in December Pitt’s administration thought he would support them. In July 1805 they were doubtful of him, though the only evidence of his activity was his vote for the Catholic claims on 14 May. On this occasion he lamented privately that the Prince and his brother the Duke of Clarence were ‘not over anxious’ for the success of the motion.3

The Grenville ministry were prepared to support his re-election in 1806 and he is reported to have voted against the pledge given by their successors,9 Apr. 1807 (though another source stated that he did not vote).4 He certainly joined opposition on the address, 26 June, and Whitbread’s motion, 6 July 1807. He was reckoned in opposition in 1808, when he again voted for the Catholic claims, 25 May: but was not otherwise in the minority lists. The viceroy’s view, 21 Oct. 1809, was that Butler’s brother the earl was ‘in opposition decidedly’, while Butler ‘who is independent of him, supports but not warmly’. If proof of this were needed, the viceroy could point out soon afterwards that Butler voted with the opposition majority on Lord Chatham’s conduct, 23 Feb. 1810, and then went out of town, though he appears to have voted with government against the discharge of the radical Gale Jones on 16 Apr. and he voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, but for the Catholic claims on I June. If the Whigs chose to regard him as one of their supporters that year, it was doubtless owing to Butler’s friendship with the Prince. It was on this ground that Butler defended his votes with opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. His only subsequent votes with the minority that Parliament were for the Catholic claims, 31 May 1811 and 24 Apr. 1812, but the Irish government was uncertain of him and reluctant to supply him with patronage, though his brother the earl had recently received massive compensation for loss of a sinecure. After Morpeth’s motion on Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812, the viceroy wrote, ‘J. Butler has, I believe, voted against us—certainly not for us’ (though Butler was absent) and believed that Butler’s lack of concern about his lukewarm support was due to his counting on the Prince’s friendship, which gained his eldest brother a Household place under the Regency, on the advent of which the viceroy was confident Butler would ‘come over’ to government. If he did not, he would forfeit his claims to a share of his eldest brother’s offices if the latter died, as then seemed likely.5

In February 1813 Butler’s brother requested the exclusive nomination to the shrievalty of the county from the viceroy, supposing that the family’s support of Catholic relief should not be regarded as an objection. Richmond concurred in the supposition, but refused the application on the grounds that Butler had attended a meeting at which the proceedings were ‘particularly violent against every branch of the present administration’. Butler, on learning this, professed to have been shocked at the proceedings in question but, lacking the firmness to ‘stem the tide’, had decided to avoid such occasions in future: ‘he was strenuous in the Catholic cause, but on other subjects, though he would not bind himself to any administration, he should generally support government’. Before Butler voted for the Catholic bill on 13 and 24 May 1813, the viceroy prophesied: ‘James Butler will I suppose go against us and so he would most likely have done had he been made sheriff. If their votes depend upon the nomination of a sheriff they are not worth having.’6 There is no evidence that Butler voted again with opposition until 14 Apr. 1815, on the civil list, in which he was joined by his younger brother Charles, now in Parliament again. He also voted for Catholic relief, 30 May 1815. Meanwhile his brother the earl ‘professed his readiness to support the government with his two brothers, if he could come to a satisfactory agreement with it respecting the patronage of the county of Kilkenny’.7 Having done so (he obtained a marquessate in 1816), he bestowed his brothers’ votes on government and Butler, who like his brother changed sides on the civil list, 8 May 1815, subsequently appeared in the minority only on Catholic relief, 21 May 1816, 9 May 1817, 3 May 1819 and against the Irish window tax, 5 May 1819. In his first known speech, 13 May 1818, he had deplored the effects of that tax and the tax on carriages in Ireland and defended the record of the resident gentry there. He died 18 May 1838.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. H. Macdougal, Sketches of Irish Political Character (1799), 299-300.
  • 2. PRO 30/9/13, pt. 2; Add. 35766, f. 321.
  • 3. PRO NI, McPeake mss T3048/15, Butler to Pack, Mon. night [13 May 1805].
  • 4. Morning Chron. 22 June 1807.
  • 5. NLI, Richmond mss 60/282, 66/938, 67/988, 994, 1009; 70/1364, 73/1650, 1714; Add. 40186, ff. 13-17; 40221, f. 29.
  • 6. Add. 40185, ff. 147, 149; 40186, ff. 19, 21, 25, 29, 31; 40226, f. 157; Richmond mss 74/1861.
  • 7. Add. 40216, f. 251; 40262, f. 103; 40289, ff. 38, 207.