This article previously appeared in the Butler Society Newsletter and was submitted by Craig L. Foster – North American Region



Following are the surnames, and their meanings, of the women who married the men who became the Chief Butlers of Ireland, earls of Ormond or were the direct ancestors of those who became the Chief Butlers and earls of Ormond. Some of the names repeated, like FitzGerald, but their definition is mentioned only once. Sources included Behind the Name: the etymology and history of surnames, House of Names, and other sources.

De Valoignes – Probably having come from Valognes, Normandy. Hervey Walter (ca. 1070-1150) married Maude de Valoignes.

Le Vavasour – The name originated from Le Vavassour, Normandy where the family resided before coming to England in 1066. Theobald FitzWalter, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland, married Maud le Vavasour, granddaughter of William Vavasour, Justiciar of England.

Du Marais – The name comes from Old French “mareis” meaning someone living by a marsh. Theobald le Botillier, 2nd Chief Butler, married first Joan du Marais, daughter of Geoffrey du Marais, Justiciar of Ireland.

De Verdon – The surname Verdon was first found in Buckinghamshire where they were descended from Bertram de Verdun, a Norman baronial name from Verdun, near Avranches in Normandy, where they were descended from the Counts of Verdun, and came to England in 1066. Theobald le Botillier, 2nd Chief Butler, married secondly Rohese de Verdon.

De Burgh – Originated from Middle English burgh meaning “fortress, fortification, castle” and in Ireland was changed to Burke or Bourke. states that “Burke, along with its variants Bourke and de Burgh, is now by far the most common Irish name of Norman origin.” Theobald le Botillier, 3rd Chief Butler of Ireland, married Margery de Burgh, granddaughter of William de Burgh and More O’Brien.

fitzJohn – The name literally means son of John as it originated from “fils de John.” Theobald Butler, 4th Chief Butler of Ireland, married Joan FitzJohn (also known as Joan FitzGeoffrey as her father was John FitzGeoffrey).

FitzGerald – The name means “son of Gerald” and the FitzGeralds were arguably the most powerful Hiberno-Norman family in Ireland given the two main branches of the family were the powerful earls of Desmond and earls of Kildare. Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick, Justiciar and Governor of Ireland, married Joan FitzGerald of Kildare; James Butler, 4th earl of Ormond, married Joan FitzGerald of Desmond; Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, married Margaret FitzGerald of Kildare while James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, married Joan FitzGerald of Desmond.

De Bohun – The name refers to the family’s former place of residence, the town of Bohun, in the French maritime area of La Manche in western Normandy. James Butler, 6th Chief Butler of Ireland and the 1st Earl of Ormond, married Eleanor de Bohun, daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, 4th earl of Hereford, and Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of King Edward I of England.

Darcy – The name refers to the family’s former place of residence, the town of Arcy in La Manche in western Normandy. James Butler, 2nd Earl of Ormond, married Elizabeth Darcy, daughter of John de Darcy and Joan de Burgh.

De Welles – Is said to have originated from the village and mill at Well/Welles in Lincolnshire. James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, married Anne Welles, daughter of John de Welles, 4th Baron Welles, and Maud de Ros.

Beauchamp – From the Old French “beau, bel” meaning “fair” and “lovely” and “champ(s)” meaning “field” or “plain.” James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, married Joan de Beauchamp of Bergavenny.

Hankford – Appears to be a surname based on a locality in England and appears to be of Saxon origin. Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond and younger brother of the 5th and 6th earls, married Anne Hankford. They did not have sons thus the earldom went to a cadet branch of the Butlers, the Butlers of Polestown. Thomas and Anne were the parents of Margaret Butler who married William Boleyn. They were the grandparents of Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I.

O’Reilly – Anglicized version of Ó Raghailligh meaning “descendant of Raghailligh”, an Irish given name of unknown meaning. Richard Butler was the son of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond and Anne Welles. He was known as Richard Butler of Knocktopher and Polestown. He married Caithriona “Catherine” O’Reilly, daughter of Gildas O’Reilly, Lord of East Breifne in County Cavan.

O’Carroll — Originates from the ancient Gaelic name Mac Cearbhaill or O’Cearbhaill, deriving from the word “Cearbh” which means to “Hack”. Making it a possible name for a warrior or blacksmith. Edmund MacRichard Butler of Polestown, son of Richard Butler of Knocktopher and Polestown, married Giles O’Carroll, daughter of Maolruanaidh O’Carroll, Lord of Ely O’Carroll (Éile was located in modern County Offaly).

Cavanagh/Kavanagh — Derived from the Irish Gaelic name Caomhánach, which means “a student of saint Caomhán.” It was the name used by a 12th-century king of Leinster, Domhnall Caomhánach, the eldest son of the historic Irish king Diarmait Mac Murchada. James MacEdmund Butler of Polestown married Sabh Kavanagh, daughter of Donel Reagh McMurrough Kavanagh of the Kings of Leinster.

MacCartie/MacCarthy – From Cárthach which means “loving” in Irish. This was the name of a 6th-century Irish saint. John Butler of Kilcash, son of the 9th earl of Ormond, married Katherine, daughter of Cormac na Haoine MacCarthy Reagh, 10th Prince of Carbery (located on the southwest coast of County Cork). Their son, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond and 4th Earl of Ossory, inherited his titles from his uncle, “Black” Tom Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond. Walter married Helen Butler, daughter of Edmund Butler, 2nd Viscount Montgarret and Grizel FitzPatrick. Both Walter and Helen were great-grandchildren of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.

Poyntz – This surname came from either the personal name Pontius or from a medieval occupational surname. The derivation of the name is from the pre 10th century Old French “Pointe” meaning a sharp or pointed end, and ultimately from the Latin “puncta”, to pierce.

Preston – Originally derived from a place name meaning “priest town” in Old English. Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles and heir apparent of Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond, married Elizabeth Poyntz, daughter of Sir John Poyntz of Iron Acton, Gloucestershire. She married against her father’s wishes and was the mother of James Butler (1610-1688) who inherited his grandfather’s title as 12th Earl of Ormond. He eventually became the 1st Duke of Ormond. His other titles included 1st Marquess of Ormond, 5th Earl of Ossory, 4th Viscount Thurles, 1st Baron Butler of Llanthony, 1st Earl of Brecknock.