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Decline of the Ormondes

The Butlers, earls and dukes of Ormonde

In 1177 King Henry II deemed Theobald Fitzwalter the chief butler of Ireland.

This hereditary title conferred the honor of serving the first cup of wine at royal coronations, and allowed the family to charge a levy on all wine imported to the island.

And from this title (rooted in the French word for "bottle") comes the name of the Butlers of Ormonde, descendants of Fitzwalter, and a major ruling family for six centuries in the area centered on the ancient Ossory — modern-day County Kilkenny and part of County Laois.

The Butler family purchased the Kilkenny castle in 1391, and owned it until 1967 when they sold it to the city of Kilkenny for a symbolic fifty pounds.