James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde KG, KT (29 April 1665 – 16 November 1745), was an Irish statesman and soldier. He was the third of the Kilcash branch of the family to inherit the earldom of Ormonde. Like his grandfather the 1st Duke, he was raised as a Protestant, unlike his extended family who held to the old religion.
Born the son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Emilia von Nassau, Countess of Ossory, and grandson of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, Butler was born in Dublin and was educated in France and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford. On the death of his father in 1680 he became Earl of Ossory by courtesy and Baron Butler in fact. He obtained command of a cavalry regiment in Ireland in 1683, and having received an appointment at court on the accession of James II, he served against the Duke of Monmouth at the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685).
Having succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Ormonde in 1688, he joined William of Orange, by whom he was made colonel of a regiment of horse-guards, which he commanded at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In 1691 he served on the continent under William, and after the accession of Queen Anne he became commander of the land forces co-operating with Sir George Rooke in Spain, where he fought in the Battle of Cádiz and the Battle of Vigo Bay. Having been made a Privy Councillor, Ormonde succeeded Rochester as Viceroy of Ireland in 1703, a post which he held till 1707.
On the dismissal of the Duke of Marlborough in 1711, Ormonde was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Forces and Captain General in his place, and allowed himself to be made the tool of the Tory ministry, whose policy was to carry on the war in the Netherlands while giving secret orders to Ormonde to take no active part in supporting their allies under Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Ormonde’s position as Captain-General made him a personage of much importance in the crisis brought about by the death of Queen Anne. Though he had supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688, he had traditional Tory sympathies, and politically followed Lord Bolingbroke. During the last years of Queen Anne, Ormonde almost certainly had Jacobite leanings, and corresponded with the Jacobite Court including his cousin, Piers Butler, 3rd Viscount Galmoye, who commanded a Jacobite regiment, and James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick. He joined Bolingbroke and Oxford, however, in signing the proclamation of King George I, by whom he was nevertheless deprived of the captain-generalship.
Parliament met on 17 March 1714. After taking part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, he was impeached for high treason on 21 June 1715, by Mr. Secretary Stanhope. At this point, the Duke was advised to avoid the impending storm of a Parliamentary prosecution, although it is possible that had he waited to stand his trial, he could have cleared himself from the imputed guilt. Nevertheless, he retired 8 August into France. For some time he resided with Bolingbroke. On 20 August he was attainted, his estate forfeited, and honours extinguished. On 26 June 1716, the Irish Parliament passed an act extinguishing the regalities and liberties of the county palatine of Tipperary; for vesting his estate in the crown and for giving a reward of £10000 for his apprehension, should he attempt to land in Ireland. But the same parliament passed an act 24 June 1721, to enable his brother Charles Butler, the Earl of Arran, to purchase his estate, which he accordingly did. Nevertheless, the Earldom was never to recover the rights, privileges and revenues associated with its tenure of the County Palatine of Tipperary. Ormonde settled in Spain, where he was in favour at court and enjoyed a pension from the crown. He later took part in a Spanish plan to invade England and put James Francis Edward Stuart on the British throne in 1719, but his fleet was disbanded by a storm near Galicia. Towards the end of his life he resided much at Avignon, where he was seen in 1733 by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ormonde died on 16 November 1745, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
He served as the eighth Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin between 1688 and 1715. His father was the sixth Chancellor.
In 1682 he married Lady Ann Hyde. Then in 1685 he married to Lady Mary Somerset, Lady of the Bedchamber, daughter of Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort and Mary Capel. There was no legitimate male issue from either marriage.