The Ormond Lordship in County Kilkenny, 1515-1642
Four Courts Press
During the 16th century Ireland was dominated by a handful of great feudal dynasties controlling entire regions of the country by ancestral descent and military might. It is generally recognised that by the beginning of the 17th century several of these dynasties had collapsed, forced into rebellion and exile by the re-emerging power of the English monarchy. This book tells a contrasting story of the Butlers, earls of Ormond, a dynasty that managed not only to survive but to profit from the growth of English royal power. Preferring to collaborate with the monarchy rather than resist it, the Butler earls reaped great benefits from royal favour, gaining grants of land and office and securing a lasting influence over the implementation of crown policy in Ireland. As their national status grew so they increased their power-base in Co. Kilkenny, establishing patron-client ties with many of the local Old English and Gaelic gentry.
The earls continued to enjoy crown support until the reign of James I. No longer satisfied with political obedience, but demanding religious compliance as well, King James' Protestant government reacted with hostility to the spread of Counter-Reformation Catholicism in the Ormond territories. An effort was made to make the earldom Protestant while simultaneously weakening its feudal relationship with the local gentry. The experiment failed. Under a Protestant earl the Ormond lordship disintegrated. Where once it had been a loyalist stronghold, by 1641 Kilkenny had emerged as a major centre of resistance to the royal government and Catholic community leaders played a significant part in the downfall of the British multiple monarchy of Charles I.