Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond and 4th Earl of Ossory (1559 – 24 February, 1632/3), was an Irish peer, the son of John Butler of Kilcash (who was the son of the 9th Earl) and Katherine, the daughter of Cormac na Haoine MacCarthy Reagh. He inherited the earldom because his uncle Thomas (Black Tom or Thomás Dubh) had died without legitimate male issue.
He served as a Member of Parliament for Tipperary. Consistently a devout Catholic, he was known as "Walter of the Beads". His claim to the family estates was thwarted by King James I of England. The failure of Henry VIII of England's policy of maintaining a balance of power between the Butlers and Fitzgerald dynasty had been made apparent by the Battle of Affane. King James sought a different solution, by engineering the marriage of Black Tom's daughter and heiress, Elizabeth Butler, with one of his own Scottish favourites, Richard Preston. He made Preston Earl of Desmond and awarded most of the Ormond estates to Elizabeth instead of Walter.
Butler spent much time and money in litigation in opposing the King's scheme. His persistence in refusing to resulted in him being committed to the Fleet prison in 1617. He remained incarcerated for eight years in great want with no rents reaching him from his estate. James meanwhile brought a writ of quo warranto against him for the county palatine of Tipperary, which had been vested in the head of the family for nearly four hundred years, and which could not therefore under any circumstances have belonged to his cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Preston. No answer was made to the writ, if indeed an opportunity was afforded for answer, and James took the county palatine into his own hands.
Earl Walter was set at liberty in 1625 and a large part of his estates restored to him. For some while he lived in a house in Drury Lane, London, with his grandson James, afterwards Duke of Ormonde. In 1629, on the projected marriage of his grandson and Elizabeth Preston, Charles I of England granted her marriage and the wardship of her lands to him by letters patent dated 8 Sept. After the marriage he was recognised, 9 Oct. 1630, as heir to the lands of his uncle, Earl Thomas, as well as of Sir John Butler his father. Walter also suffered problems within his own family. His son Thomas, Viscount Thurles, married the daughter of Sir John Poyntz of Gloucestershire against Walter's wish, and years later, he was accidentally drowned at The Skerries, Isle of Anglesey at the beginning of Walter's long imprisonment in the Fleet Prison. Viscount Thurles was a prominent Catholic and at the time of his death, was being sent to England on charges of having garrisoned Kilkenny.
He died at Carrick-on-Suir on 24 Feb. 1632-3, and was buried in St. Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny on 18 June 1633.
Marriage and Children
He married his second cousin Hon. Helen Butler, (also known as Ellen) daughter of Edmund Butler, 2nd Viscount Mountgarret and Grizel FitzPatrick. Their common great-grandfather was Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond. They had twelve children:
- Ellis Butler (d. 19 February 1625), who married Sir Terence O'Brien-Arragh, 1st Baronet of Arragh
- Ellen Butler (d. 16 June 1663) who married Pierce Butler, 1st Viscount Ikerrin
- Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles (1594–1619), who married Elizabeth Poyntz, daughter of Sir John Poyntz. Kt. and had issue.
- Elizabeth Butler (noble)|Elizabeth Butler (b. 1631), who married firstly Sir Edmond Blanchville and secondly Richard Burke, 6th Earl of Clanricarde
- Margaret Butler, who married Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 5th Baron Upper Ossory
- Catherine Butler, who married Piers Power
- Joan Butler, who married George Bagenal
- Helena Butler, who married James Butler of Dunboyne
- James, John, Mary and Eleanor who all died unmarried.
His eldest son having predeceased him, his title passed to his grandson, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde.