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Ossory, Thomas Butler

OSSORY, THOMAS BUTLER, Earl of (1634-1680), eldest son of James Butler, 1st duke of Ormonde, was born at Kilkenny on the 8th or 9th of July 1634. His early years were spent in Ireland and France, and he became an accomplished athlete and by no means an indifferent scholar. Having come to London in 1652 he was rightly suspected of sympathizing with the exiled royalists, and in 1655 was put into prison by Cromwell; after his release about a year later he went to Holland and married a Dutch lady of good family, accompanying Charles II. to England in 1660. In 1661 Butler became a member of both the English and the Irish Houses of Commons, representing Bristol in the former and Dublin University in the latter House; and in 1662 was made an Irish peer as earl of Ossory. He held several military appointments, in 1665 was made lieutenantgeneral of the army in Ireland, and in 1666 was created an English peer as Lord Butler; but almost as soon as he appeared in the House of Lords he was imprisoned for two days for challenging the duke of Buckingham. In 1665 a fortunate accident had allowed Ossory to take part in a big naval fight with the Dutch, and in May 1672, being now in command of a ship, he fought against the same enemies in Southwold Bay, serving with great distinction on both occasions. The earl was partly responsible for this latter struggle, as in March 1672 before war was declared he had attacked the Dutch Smyrna fleet, an action which he is said to have greatly regretted later in life. Whilst visiting France in 1672 he rejected the hberal offers made by Louis XIV. to induce him to enter the service of France, and returning to England he added to his high reputation by his conduct during a sea-fight in August 1673. The earl was intimate with William, prince of Orange, and in 1677 he joined the allied army in the Netherlands, commanding the British section and winning great fame at the siege of Mons in 1678. He acted as deputy for his father, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and in parliament he defended Ormonde's Irish administration with great vigour. In 1680 he was appointed governor of Tangier, but his death on the 30th of July 1680 prevented him from taking up his new duties. One of his most intimate friends was John Evelyn, who eulogizes him in his Diary. Ossory had eleven children, and his eldest son James became duke of Ormonde in 1688.

See T. Carte, Life of James, duke of Ormonde (1851); and J. Evelyn, Diary, edited by W. Bray (1890).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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