BUTLER, Sir James (c.1642-1704), of Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1642, 2nd s. of Richard Butler of Ballykene, co. Waterford [I]. educ. L. Inn 1660, called 1667. m. (1) 15 Feb. 1669, Elizabeth, da. of Anthony Morgan of Colesbrook, Northants., wid. of Nicholas Moore of Crick, Mon., s.p.; (2) lic. 21 Dec. 1690, Mary Lewis of Westminster, s.p. Kntd. 29 Feb. 1672.1

Offices Held

Steward of the palace court 1671-1700; solicitor-gen. to Queen Catherine of Braganza 1673-6, attorney-gen. 1676-?94; KC 1673-89; dep. justice in eyre 1680; asst. corp. of the poor 1691.2

J.p. Surr. and Mdx. 1672-95, Westminster by 1680-at least 1682, Devon June 1688-9, Essex and Kent by 1690-5; bencher, L. Inn 1673, treas. 1674-5, June-Nov. 1703, reader 1676, dean 1693; commr. for assessment, Surr. and Mdx. 1673-80, 1689-90; dep. lt. Southwark and Mdx. by 1680-at least Jan. 1688; recorder, Tavistock 1682-Oct. 1688; master, St. Katharine’s hospital 1684-98.3


Butler came from an obscure branch of the great Anglo-Irish clan, and was maintained at Lincoln’s Inn, largely at the Duke of Ormonde’s expense, in the hope that ‘he may attend your grace, and undertake some of your affairs to manifest that your exhibition to him hath not been misspent’. As lord steward, Ormonde was able to grant him the office of steward of the palace court, in reversion to Henry Wynn, and he became chief legal adviser to the Queen. In 1680 he was among the suspected promoters of the Meal-Tub Plot. He was instrumental in obtaining a new charter for Tavistock in 1682, where his wife had inherited considerable property from her first husband, and was nominated recorder, despite the Earl of Bedford’s objections. He presented the corporation’s loyal address to the new King in February 1685, and was returned to Parliament in the next month. A very active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to 18 committees, including those to inspect expiring laws and to recommend erasures from the Journals. But his principal concern was with the bill to enable his patron’s grandson to make a jointure, which he introduced, chaired and carried to the Lords. In 1688 James’s agents reported that ‘the mayor and corporation are entirely at the devotion of Sir James Butler, their recorder’, and that he would be reelected with another candidate ‘that favours the dissenting interest’ to be recommended by himself.4

Nevertheless, Butler apparently did not stand again, and in 1698 he lost his position of master of St. Katharine’s hospital, worth £700 per year, for mismanagement. He died shortly after making his will in January 1704. He left most of his property in St. Clement Danes, Richmond and Tavistock to his nephews, but no later member of the family entered Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. xlvi. 177-8; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 228; PCC 22 Fane.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 430; 1671, p. 461; 1673-5, p. 28; 1690-1, p. 422; 1699-1700, p. 401.
  • 3. Luttrell, iii. 558; Trans. Devon Assoc. xlvi. I780; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 428.
  • 4. Bodl. Carte 217, f. 419; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 615; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 108; HMC 7th Rep. 744; CJ, ix. 732, 735; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xv. 322.
  • 5. Luttrell, iv. 400, 444; PCC 32 Ash.