Butler, James, fourth Earl of Ormonde d. 1452, commonly called the white earl, son of the third earl of Ormonde [see under Butler, James, second earl], and Anne, daughter of John, Lord Welles, succeeded his father in September 1405, not being at that time of full age. Owing to the care his father had taken in his education, he excelled in learning most of the noblemen of his time. While still under age, he was in 1407 appointed deputy during the absence of Sir Stephen Scrope in England. After the arrival soon afterwards of Thomas of Lancaster, the lord-lieutenant, he contracted with him an intimate friendship, and in 1412 accompanied him on his travels in France. Having attended Henry V in his French wars, he was on his return appointed in 1420 lord-lieutenant. In 1422 he invaded the territory of the O'Mores, and pursued his army through the red bog of Athy, when, according to the chroniclers, the sun favoured him by miraculously standing still for three hours. Violent feuds had long existed between the Butlers and the Talbots, and in 1422 Sir John Talbot arraigned the Earl of Ormonde for treason, but the crown and council in 1423 ordered the annulment of all proceedings connected with the dispute. After the death of Henry V, the Earl of Ormonde was replaced in the government of Ireland by Edmund Mortimer, but on several occasions he acted as deputy before he was again appointed viceroy in 1440. Attempts were again made by the Talbots to overthrow his influence, and Richard Talbot, archbishop of Dublin, having been delegated in November 1441 to lay various requests before the king, took the opportunity of representing the advantages that would accrue to Ireland by his removal from office; but notwithstanding this he was appointed lord-lieutenant in 1443. Owing, however, to representations that he was old and feeble, he was dismissed in 1446. In 1447 John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, who had succeeded him as lord-lieutenant, accused him of high treason, but the king dismissed the complaint, and by patent, 20 Sept. 1448, declared that no one should dare, on pain of his indignation, to revive the accusation or reproach of his conduct. He died at Atherdee in the county of Louth, on 23 Aug. 1452. He specially interested himself in history and antiquities, and bequeathed lands to the College of Heralds. By his first wife, Johan, daughter of Gerald, fifth earl of Kildare, he had three sons—successively earls of Ormonde—and two daughters; but by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Bergavenny and widow of Lord Grey, he had no issue.
Carte's Life of the Duke of Ormonde (Oxford ed. 1851), i. lxxiv-viii
Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, iv. 11-14
Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland.
Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]