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acquired the castle from another branch, which had sprung from Theobald Fitz Walter.
The Ormondes were a true race of noblemen, as history tells, although their story is too elaborate to chronicle completely here.
The fourth earl, it is said, by tradition, of course, and in this case quite unsupported, was favoured by the sun's having remained stationary in its course long enough for him. to have achieved a victory over a hereditary enemy.
The fifth earl became Lord High Treasurer of England, but was unfortunately beheaded, so his career did not end exactly gloriously. The sixth earl was smitten by the fervour of the Crusades and died in Jerusalem, and one of the daughters of the seventh earl married. Sir William Boleyn and became the mother of the unfortunate Queen Anne, and grandmother of Elizabeth.
One of the most famous men of the line was James, the twelfth earl, who, for services to Charles I., was created a marquis and raised to a dukedom by Charles II. Bishop Burnett states that" He was of graceful appearance, a lively wit, and a cheerful temper; a man of
great expense, but decent even in his vices, for he always kept up the forms of religion; too faithful not to give always good advice, but, when bad ones were followed, too complaisant to be any great complainer." For thirty years he was Chief Governor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when he incurred the hatred of a bold rascal, Thomas Blood, the son of a blacksmith, and a staunch supporter of Cromwell. After the Restoration even, Blood plotted against royalty, one of his schemes being to surprise Dublin Castle and to seize the lord lieutenant. This plot was discovered, and Blood managed to escape, though his accomplices were hanged. Blood swore that he who ordered their execution should share their fate. A price was set upon the scoundrel's head, but he came to London, and set about his vengeance on the Duke of Ormonde.
The Earl of Ossory, the duke's son, joined the invading forces of William of Orange, fought for him at the Battle of the Boyne, and entertained him sumptuously at Kilkenny Castle. Later, he became a favourite of Queen Anne, and succeeded Marlborough as commander-in-chief of the land forces of Great
Britain. Suspected of plotting for the Stuarts, he was attainted, his estates confiscated, his honours extinguished, and a price set upon his head by the Parliament of George I.
The titles being extinguished, the earl's brother was allowed to purchase Kilkenny Castle; but neither he nor his heirs and successors assumed the titles until 1791, when the Irish Parliament decided that the Irish Act of Attainder affected estates only, and not Irish titles, though the English attainder included the loss of both. The Earldom of Ormonde, a purely Irish title, was therefore restored to John Butler, who became seventeenth in the line. The rank due to earls' daughters was allowed to his sisters, of whom Lady Eleanor became famous as one of the eccentric recluses known as the Ladies of Llangollen. The eighteenth earl was created a marquis in 1816.
A writer in a recent review recounts a visit to Kilkenny Castle which presents a wealth of detail that makes interesting reading for the inquisitive. Among other things, she says, -assuredly it was a person of the feminine persuasion who wrote:
"In the evening there was a great recep
tion at the castle of the county gentry, about four hundred ladies and gentlemen being included. If the castle was picturesque in the day, it was doubly so at night. The town itself was illuminated by countless fairy lamps, which marked the lines of the streets with points of light, and outlined the old stone bridges which cross the little river Nore, and as it should the full moon rose in a sapphire sky behind the castle, whose shadow fell softly upon the placid mirror of the water below, and the pale moonlight gleamed upon the white houses and walls of the lower town. Every hotel and inn- and there are many from some unexplained reason — was crowded with guests invited to the castle, while in the doorways one caught glimpses of officers in uniform and levee dress, and women in white gowns with jewels that flashed in the lamplight, waiting for their carriages and coaches to convey them to the castle entrance. Many of their vehicles were of strange archaic shape, and might have done service in Kilkenny when William the Silent was the guest of another Lord Ormonde in the days of long ago. The streets were crowded with Kilkenny folk in
quaint old-world garments, men in broadbrimmed, low-crowned hats, gray breeches, and stockings, and others with leaden buckles; women with shawls over their heads; here and there a monk in brown habit with rope girdle, and groups of soldiers.
"Meanwhile, at the castle a brilliant scene was taking place in the long picture-gallery, with its priceless paintings by old masters, where the guests were being received. In the adjoining dining-room, glowing in the candlelight, gleamed the wonderful and historic gold plate of Kilkenny Castle, estimated to be worth a million and a quarter sterling.
"It was much after midnight before the guests left the castle, and far into the early hours the city of Kilkenny was noisy with the merriment of its citizens, who were loath to end a day that will be long remembered in their history."
The above account is quoted here because it seems, to the writer, to present in a few words the conventionalities of the occasion in a frame of picturesqueness and environment which similar functions "in town" lack in almost every way.