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Irish Surname - Butler

Butler (Irish: de Buitléir) is a famous aristocratic surname of Norman-French origins. It derives from the Olde French 'bouteillier' meaning 'one who supplies the bottles', but more specifically the wine.

Several branches of the Butler sept had their origins in the Cambro-Norman family that participated in the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. Theobald Fitzwalter (d. 1205) landed in Waterford in 1185 with Prince John (later to be King). Theobald was a popular family name. A later Theobald (d. 1285) was awarded generous grants of land in counties Limerick, Tipperary and Wicklow and was also given an important fief, on which Walter both founded an abbey and established his Irish seat.

On returning to England Henry II gave him the hereditary title of Le Boitiler - the king's chief butler, a title of function - and he subsequently adopted 'Butler' as his surname. Walter's grandson was James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. Kilkenny Castle was the main seat of the Butler family and the branches of the house of Ormond - the main Butler designation - included titles such as Dunboyne, Cahir, Mountgarrett, Galmoy, Ossory.

The 7th Earl of Ormond, Thomas Butler, (d. 1515), was grandfather to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, who, although she lost her head, provided him with the daughter who was to become Queen Elizabeth I. This fearsome queen features in numerous Butler records. Her cousin, the 10th Earl of Ormond, Thomas Butler (d. 1614), who had been reared at the English court, built a magnificent Tudor manor at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, expecting her to visit him, which she failed to do.

Reinforcing their position in Ireland, the Butlers married noble Irish ladies, ringed the country with castles, built churches and abbeys and went on the Crusades. The Butlers and the FitzGeralds, the mighty Earls of Kildare, despite intermarrying, were constantly feuding. Between them they alternated the administration of Ireland. The Butlers were strong military men, who took part in all the main battles from Agincourt in France to the Boyne and Aughrim. The Butlers fell victim to the Cromwellians, who feared their power in Ireland.

The Butler surname is now very numerous in all the provinces except Ulster.

Coat of Arms

This original and ancient arms has the blazon of a red field, a bend between three goblets, all gold.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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