Updated June 27, 2018

Note from June 18: Following four months of fantastic sales, tickets are no longer on sale for this rally. Several events are sold out and the team is now focussed on the event itself.

Thanks to a great team of volunteers in London, we have an amazing 2018 rally that has come together. Highlights include access to venues, guides and speakers not normally available to the general public.

We will hold events at the House of Lords, Hever Castle, the Tower of London, Merchant Taylor’s and Temple Church.

Our guides will include Butler Society members closely connected to the venues, including a Butler Society member who grew up the Tower of London, adjoining the room where Anne Boleyn spent her last days. We will also have an address to the society by Alison Weir, author of more than 20 books on the Tudor era, including highly regarded biographies of all of the six queens of Henry VIII. Our rally will open with the launch of a new book on the Butler family published by the Irish Academic Press.

Should you have any questions, please email info@butlersociety.org

Pricing is listed according to event, so members can choose the events they wish to attend. For accommodation, we recommend a hotel in central London, towards London Bridge. We sought special deals from hotels, but the effort of securing a deal would not bring sufficient discount.

Updates will be shared via email to paid-up members of the Butler Society. To renew your membership, you can go to the website shop.

While we aim to keep timing of the program stable once posted here, changes can occur and this agenda will be updated to reflect those changes. 

A note on children: A key aim of this event has been to make it as child-friendly as possible. Our goal is to engage the next generations of our families to perpetuate the Butler Society. Please bring your children! That said, some events are more child-friendly than others. In considering your plans, keep in mind that the on Thursday the House of Lords event is primarily for adults and there are no special facilities for children. Ideal events for children include: Friday at Hever, Saturday at the Tower of London and Sunday at the Inner Temple Garden party.

London July Rally and Triennial General Meeting

Following quickly on the success of the 50th in Kilkenny, our regular triennial rally will hop across the Irish Sea to London from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 July 2018.

Preparations are well underway for a remarkable and family-friendly weekend in pursuit of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, and his great granddaughter, Queen Anne Boleyn.

We will follow them through the places across Greater London where they lived, loved, fought and died.

Dramatis Personae:

Anne Boleyn: The second of Henry VIII’s six wives, Anne’s grandmother was born in Kilkenny Castle. Anne grew up in Hever Castle, near London. To marry Anne, Henry broke England from the Roman Catholic Church, but her brief reign ended at the Tower of London with her beheading.

Thomas Butler 7th Earl of Ormond, P.C., known by the Irish as ‘The Earl of Wool’ was one of the king’s wealthiest subjects. He owned no fewer than 72 manors in England, in addition to extensive properties in Kilkenny and Tipperary. In 1489 he was created Lord Ormond, a barony in the peerage of England, by Henry VII.  This was in addition to his Irish earldom, but having no son, fell into abeyance between his daughters at his death in 1515.

Lady Margaret Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler. Born in Kilkenny Castle, Margaret married Sir William Boleyn and her descendants included two queens. She was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn and great-grandmother Anne’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

William Marshal, the 1 Earl of Pembroke and William Marshal the 2nd Earl of Pembroke: The first earl, a signatory of the Magna Carta, is buried alongside his son, the second earl, in Temple Church. The second Earl of Pembroke built the first stone castle on the site of today’s Kilkenny Castle in 1213 that was later sold to Ormond Butlers in 1391.

Our Agenda (Still draft and may be subject to change):

Although looking into the legacy of the Butler family, our aim is to attract the next generations and build ties for the future. For that reason, we welcome families with children. That said, the privileged access accorded by our many generous hosts will require appropriate levels of decorum from all ages.

Thursday July 5

For our welcome and opening, we will have rare insider’s access to Westminster Palace, one of England’s architectural gems, immortalised in poetry and painting. Anne Boleyn features in paintings in the palace.

In addition to the official start of the rally, historian and Butler Society Committee Member, Turtle Bunbury, will speak briefly to launch the book The Chief Butlers of Ireland and the House of Ormond.  The book, written by our society’s secretary, John Kirwan, and published by the Irish Academic Press, will be available for sale ahead of time online. Books purchased in advance will be handed out at the House of Lords, but no book sales will take place on the premises.

Dinner will be not be formally organised choice, but there are many excellent restaurants in Westminster and across the river in Southbank (Trip Advisor reviews here). If there are groups planning to gather at particular restaurants, we are happy to share that information.


For the House of Lords event, please bring your passport or photo ID and ensure that our Treasurer, Mark Reade, has names of all in your party.

Only those named will be admitted past security. Mark will contact attendees by late June as we divide between groups A and B.

House of Lords dress code: Smart casual, with jacket and tie, no jeans. This is primarily an adult event with no special facilities for children. (Though children are welcome)

Despite the great demand for this event and small size of the historic venue, we managed to double our numbers.

In order to accommodate the larger numbers, we will randomly divide attendees into Group A and Group B, both of which will experience the same events, but in opposite order:

Group A: Enter the Palace of Westminster at the Cromwell Green entrance at 5:30pm, where security will have your name. You will take a one hour guided tour of the Palace of Westminster, after which you will go to the River Room for the opening and book launch. The event ends at 8pm.

Group B: Enter the Palace of Westminster via the Black Rod’s Garden entrance at 5:30pm, where security will have your name. You will go to the River Room for the opening and book launch, followed by a one hour guided tour of the Palace of Westminster.  The event ends at 8pm.

Please note that photography is permitted some parts of the House of Lords, but for private use only and strictly not for sharing on the Internet or social media.

In addition to asking a policeman outside Parliament or finding the locations via Google maps, you can also download this map to the entrances of Palace of Westminster.

Friday July 6

Day trip to Hever Castle, the Boleyn family home where Anne grew up. Hever was painstakingly restored and adorned with period antiquities and art by the Astor Family in the early 20th century. The current owners, the Guthrie family, will kindly open the castle and grounds early for the Butler Society.

The Guthrie family has maintained the castle’s intimate feel and filled the grounds with enough activities to justify a day trip from London to entertain all ages, from children to playful adults. These include a giant children’s castle, yew maze, archery training, a water maze (jets of water), rowing lake and other activities. Children are welcome, especially those with an interest in history and historical sports like archery. The Castle itself is not easy for those in wheelchairs. 


Our bus departs at 7:15am sharp for Hever Castle. Meet at No.1 London Bridge, bus stop Y, same side of road as The Shard. The bus will have only a few minutes to stop so those not present on time will need to make their own way to Hever.

Should you miss the bus, the best option is to take the Uckfield Line from London Bridge to Hever. Trains leave roughly every hour. Contact the organisers via the mobile phone number that will be shared later and we will collect you by car from the station.

Hever Castle will open exclusively for our group from 9:30am for a coffee, with small group tours starting from 9:45am. Those arriving on their own should get to the Castle by 9:45am. Following the tours, there will be time to explore the grounds before we have lunch nearby. Departure for London will be about about 3pm. (The journey is roughly two hours)

There is no formal program on Friday evening.

Saturday July 7

Come visit the Tower of London, to which we recommend arriving via boat on a Thames Clipper. Consult the Thames Clipper website for timings, but the boats run quite frequently from piers along the river. The Thames Clippers are reasonably priced transport boats, similar to a bus, not tour boats.

The Tower of London is where Anne was imprisoned by Henry until she was beheaded. We will hear from Sir Richard Butler, who grew up in the Tower and spent time in the room where Anne was held captive.


Timing: Entry from 10:30 am to 11:30am, with no late entry. The Royal Fusiliers mess hall (in the Royal Fusilier’s Museum) will open for light lunch at noon. At about 1:45 we will have brief remarks from Sir Richard Butler, who will speak about his childhood growing up in the Tower or London. The Triennial General Meeting will run from 2pm to 3pm.

Note: We are moving the entry time earlier to accommodate our increased numbers and allow members to attend the free performance of the play “The last days of Anne Boleyn” that starts at 11am. No ticket is necessary for the play, which takes place outside. For more information, please ask the Tower of London, as we are not involved in the play.

Dress: Casual

Buy your ticket only via the Butler Society. Do not buy a separate tourist entry ticket to the Tower of London. To enter our event, pass the normal ticket counters along the river and go directly to the Middle Bridge entrance.

You will be checked in by a member of the Royal Fusiliers team during the one hour entry time and pointed towards their tower, The Royal Fuslier’s Museum.

Please take a brief look around the 

The Officer’s Mess inside the Royal Fusilier’s Museum will open at noon for a light lunch. At about 1:45 from a member of the Butler Society who grew up in the Tower of London and hold our Triennial General Meeting. Following lunch, all are invited to enjoy the afternoon visiting the Tower of London independently.

Our numbers exceed the normal size for the venue, so it will be a little tight.

Merchant Taylor’s Hall and dinner

On the Saturday evening, we will be gathering at the fabulous Merchant Taylor’s Hall, which has occupied its site in the heart of the City of London since mediaeval times. The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London surviving from Medieval times. Acclaimed historian, Alison Weir, will be presenting her new publication, The Grandmother’s Tale, Margaret Butler’s memories of her granddaughter Anne Boleyn and life at Hever Castle. Alison Weir is the author of more than 20 books on the Tudor era, including highly regarded biographies of all of the six queens of Henry VIII. Following the presentation, there will be drinks in the Courtyard Garden followed by dinner in the 14th century Great Hall. 


Dress: Dinner jacket or lounge suit

Proceed to the Merchant Taylors’ Hall at 30 Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8JB where the event begins at 6pm and Alison Weir’s talk starts at 6:15pm. Drinks from 7pm with dinner served from 7:45. The cash bar closes at 11pm and we will leave the hall by midnight.

Sunday July 8

Note: Update below on Temple Church regarding special elements for children

Service in the historic Temple Church, a landmark that has featured in literature ranging from Shakespeare (Henry IV, part 1) to Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code). The church has an effigy of William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, who built the first stone version of Kilkenny Castle. His father, the first Earl of Pembroke was a signatory to the Magna Carta and is also buried there. The church is a late 12th-century church in the City of London located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters.

The traditional-style service starts at 11:15am and will last about an hour. The choir for the service will include two members of the Butler family.

There is a special Sunday School for children up to 10 years old. During the service, the Sunday School will be in the Temple Church private garden (rain: in Inner Temple) re-enacting (in very abbreviated form!) the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan. The children will come back into the Church in time for a very informal “sermon-slot” in which I will ask them about the wedding and so on. It will, we hope, be rather like the Coronation re-enactment we have done before; it will be aimed chiefly at children aged 4-11, and older children will be most welcome helpers. 

Immediately following the service we will be invited into the round part of the church for a brief account of William Marshal Robin Griffith-Jones, The Reverend and Valiant Master of the Temple.

Following his talk we will officially closing of the rally, since the next event will be a garden party that will disperse the gathered family and friends.

We will join the highly exclusive Inner Temple Garden Party for lunch and enjoyment of the very child-friendly amusements, including bouncy castles and games for children.

At 1:45pm we will gather in the Peony Garden (small inner garden towards the left) for a brief talk by Ben Murtagh, an archaeologist who excavated William Marshal’s castle in Kilkenny. In case of rain, we may gather beneath the arches near the Temple Church.

Updates will be emailed to paid up members registered on the butlersociety.org website.

Please note: 

Health and Safety

Please follow all travel advice about your stay in London and how to stay safe in a bustling capital city.

The Butler Society does not take any responsibility for any injury, loss or damage to any member, their family or possessions during the Rally. Please make sure you have appropriate travel insurance to cover all eventualities.

Parents are at all times responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their children.

Ticket refunds

Up until 5 pm on Wednesday 6 June, refunds on tickets that cannot be used may be available if there is a waiting list for the ticketed event.

No refunds are available from Thursday 7 June except in exceptional circumstances as determined by the Committee in their absolute discretion.