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Butler [Walter], Theobaldlocked

(d. 1205)
  • M. T. Flanagan

Butler [Walter], Theobald (d. 1205), administrator and magnate, was the son of Sir Hervey Walter of Weeton, Lancashire, and of Matilda, daughter and coheir, along with her sister Bertha, of Theobald de Valognes, lord of Parham, Suffolk. Theobald and his brother, Hubert Walter, who was to become archbishop of Canterbury and justiciar of England, were raised in the household of their aunt Bertha and her husband, Ranulf de Glanville, justiciar of England.

From about 1180 John, son of Henry II, was also attached to Glanville's household and Theobald was to accompany John on his expedition to assume the lordship of Ireland in 1185, the freight of Theobald's equipment being paid for by the royal exchequer. Theobald's men, along with an Anglo-Norman party from Cork, were responsible for the assassination of Diarmait Mac Carthaig, king of Desmond, during a parley in 1185. Theobald and Ranulf de Glanville were named by John as joint beneficiaries in a charter granting them 5½ cantreds in north Munster for the service of twenty-two knights' fees, the nucleus of the later holdings of the Butler earls of Ormond. An entry in the annals of Loch Cé, recording the killing in 1185 by Domnall Ó Briain, king of Thomond, of a foster brother of Prince John, suggests that a son of Ranulf de Glanville was included among John's entourage in Ireland. Theobald, who subsequently became the sole beneficiary of the Munster land grant, was to divide this extensive area into four manorial units centred on Nenagh, Thurles, Caherconlish, and Dunkerrin. Additionally, John, as lord of Ireland, granted Theobald two separate landholdings in the lordship of Leinster, the castle and vill of Arklow for the service of one knight between 1185 and 1189, and the manor of Tullach Ua Felmeda, in Carlow, some time between 1189 and 1192. These two grants were made in derogation of the rights of William (I) Marshal as lord of Leinster from 1189 in right of his wife, Isabel, daughter of Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare (Strongbow) and heir of Leinster. It was probably also John, as lord of Ireland, who granted to Theobald Tullach Chiaráin in Osraige (centred on Gowran, Kilkenny). According to the near contemporary Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal the Marshal had to invoke the aid of King Richard against John in order to obtain seisin of all his wife's lands in Leinster; following Richard's intervention, John negotiated that Theobald (styled ‘boteillier Tiebaut’) might retain the lands in Leinster, to be held of the Marshal and not John.

Between 1185 and 1193 Theobald was in continuous attendance on John, witnessing his charters. He is styled (pincerna'butler') when witnessing John's charter to Alard fitz William, chamberlain, issued on the eve of John's departure at Wexford in 1185, the original of which is extant (NL Ire., MS D.8). This reference to Theobald as pincerna appears to be an isolated occurrence, however, and Theobald is next so described in John's charter in favour of the city of Dublin (11 May 1192), witnessing alongside John's chancellor and seneschal, suggesting that Theobald may have been pincerna of John's personal household rather than holder of an office with any specifically Irish connotations. A charter dating from c.1194–9 of John Cumin, archbishop of Dublin, in favour of Theobald refers to him as 'pincerna domini comitis Moretoniae in Hibernia' (Curtis, Ormond Deeds, no. 11), indicating that by that stage the office was deemed to be attached to John's lordship of Ireland. In 1194 during the rebellion of John against his brother, King Richard, when John was stripped of the honour of Lancaster, Theobald appears to have been instrumental in securing the submission to King Richard of John's Lancastrian supporters. In February 1194 Theobald delivered the castle of Lancaster, of which he was custodian for John, to Archbishop Hubert, his own brother, acting on behalf of King Richard. King Richard appointed Theobald sheriff of Lancaster, probably at the council held at Nottingham on 30 March, an office for which he accounted until 1198–9, and on 22 April 1194 the king granted him the whole of Amounderness (in which his hereditary fee of Weeton was situated). In August 1194 Theobald was also appointed collector of the revenue raised by licences to hold tournaments, and in 1197–8 he acted as a justice itinerant.

In the financial year 1196/7 Robert le Vavasour, Theobald's father-in-law, accounted as deputy sheriff on his behalf and in 1197/8 and 1198/9 (excepting the Easter quarter) Nicholas Pincerna deputized for him. The identity of this Nicholas is uncertain; he may have been a younger son of the Pincerna family of Warrington, but more probably belonged to that of Warton in Amounderness, to which Theobald may have been related. A number of individuals may be traced in the Amounderness area named Pincerna or le Boteler, which was developing into a surname during the late twelfth century, and this complicates the issue of the origins and significance of Theobald's title. In charters relating to Ireland issued between 1201 and 1205 he himself used the style 'pincerna Hiberniae'.

On John's accession in May 1199 Theobald initially continued as sheriff of Lancaster, but by Michaelmas 1199 he had been removed from office and disseised of Amounderness, as was subsequently claimed, 'because of his many transgressions and … other injuries' (CIPM, 1, no. 264). A number of Lancashire complainants against Theobald had travelled to King John at Le Mans. The impact of their advent at court is evidenced by the negotiation of more than twenty fines for the recovery of lands and liberties; some were bold enough to incorporate in their petitions a statement of the wrongs that they had suffered under Theobald's shrievalty. On 12 January 1201 Theobald's Munster lands were included in the grant that King John made to William de Briouze of the kingdom of Limerick, but on the same day Theobald reached an accommodation with Briouze whereby he received a regrant of those lands, which were now to be held of Briouze. The agreement was witnessed by a great number of notables, headed by Archbishop Hubert, whom Roger of Howden claims was instrumental in securing the arrangement and for which Theobald proffered 500 marks to Briouze. On 2 January 1202 Amounderness was restored to Theobald by the king. In the financial year 1203/4 Theobald was granted a licence to go to Ireland. On 3 April 1205 Meiler fitz Henry, justiciar in Ireland, was ordered to take into the hands of the king the lands which were Theobald Walter's 'on the day when he left Ireland' (Rotuli litterarum patentium, 60b), suggesting that Theobald was in difficulties with the king, possibly over non-payment of debts.

Theobald died some time after 4 August 1205, when the sheriff of Lancaster was directed to distrain him for a debt of 5 marks, and before Michaelmas 1205 when Gilbert fitz Reinfred, sheriff of Lancaster, answered for the receipts of Theobald's lands in Amounderness, which yielded £10 1s. 3d. for the king's use for the portion of the year that remained before the Michaelmas audit. On 4 April 1206 the king instructed Meiler fitz Henry, notwithstanding previous directions that he had been given, to allow William Marshal's bailiffs to take charge, along with royal bailiffs, of the lands that Theobald had held of the Marshal, and on 25 May 1206 the king confirmed the reversion of those lands to the Marshal, notwithstanding any contrary mandates he had issued. On or before 20 July 1207 Robert le Vavasour offered the king 1200 marks and two palfreys to have the marriage of his daughter, Matilda, widow of Theobald Walter, and her dower in her late husband's English and Irish estates. On 1 October King John gave Matilda le Vavasour in marriage to Fulk (III) Fitzwarine, with seisin of one-third of Theobald's demesne tenements in dower, Theobald's son and heir, Theobald, being a minor. On 4 February 1214 Gilbert fitz Reinfred was ordered to release Theobald, heir of Theobald Walter, into the care of Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. On 24 August 1214 the king ordered Henry, archbishop of Dublin, justiciar in Ireland, to cause Reginald de Pontibus to have seisin of the castles of Theobald Walter in Ireland at Thurles, Roscrea, Lusk, Dublin (originally granted by John as lord of Ireland to Hubert Walter), Ardmullen, and Caherconlish; a mandate was directed on 6 September to Geoffrey de Marisco ordering him to deliver up the castles of Thurles and Roscrea which were in his custody. The younger Theobald had come of age by July 1221 when the king ordered the justiciar of Ireland to give him seisin of those lands of his father which were in the justiciar's custody. In January 1226 arrangements were made with Theobald the younger at the Dublin exchequer about payment of his father's outstanding debts amounting to over £190. The elder Theobald had a daughter, Beatrice, from another union, who married first Thomas of Hereford, who received a marriage grant from Theobald of fifteen knights' fees in Éile; she later (c.1220) married Hugh Purcell. About 1196 Theobald established Cistercian monks from Furness at Wryesdale, Lancashire, who some time before 1204 transferred first to Arklow, in Wicklow, and then to Owney (Abington or Wotheney) in Limerick, where Theobald was probably buried. Theobald also founded a priory for Crutched friars at Nenagh, Tipperary, and endowed the Premonstratensian abbey of Cockersand, Lancashire. But his most important monuments were undoubtedly the enduring lordships that he established in large parts of Munster and south Leinster.


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  • A. J. Otway-Ruthven, A history of medieval Ireland (1968)
  • E. Curtis, ed., Calendar of Ormond deeds, 6 vols., IMC (1932–43), vol. 1, nos. 7, 10, 11, 17, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 31, 33, 34; vol. 2, no. 426
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica / The conquest of Ireland, ed. and trans. A. B. Scott and F. X. Martin (1978), 235
  • P. Meyer, ed., L'histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, 3 vols. (Paris, 1891–1901), lines 9581–618
  • Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, ed. W. Stubbs, 4 vols., Rolls Series, 51 (1868–71), vol. 3, pp. 237, 268; vol. 4, pp. 152–3
  • J. T. Gilbert, ed., Facsimiles of national manuscripts of Ireland, 4 vols. in 5 (1874–84), vol. 2, nos. lxvii, lxviii
  • N. B. White, ed., Episcopal and monastic deeds, 1200–1600, IMC (1956), 99–102
  • E. Curtis, ed., Red Book of Ormond, IMC (1932), 9, 83–7
  • W. Farrer, ed., The Lancashire pipe rolls … also early Lancashire charters (1902), 81–3, 115, 206, 212, 336–7, 340, 434–6, 438–10, and passim
  • Dugdale, Monasticon, new edn, 6/2.1128, 1137, 1145
  • CIPM, 1, no. 264, 67
  • J. T. Gilbert, ed., Historic and municipal documents of Ireland, ad 1172–1320, from the archives of the city of Dublin, Rolls Series, 53 (1870), 55
  • T. D. Hardy, ed., Rotuli litterarum patentium, RC (1835)
W. Dugdale & R. Dodsworth, eds., , 3 vols. (1655–72); 2nd edn, 3 vols. (1661–82); new edn, ed. J. Caley, J. Ellis, & B. Bandinel, 6 vols. in 8 pts (1817–30); repr. (1846) and (1970)
Irish Manuscripts Commission
, PRSoc. (1884–) [pipe rolls]
Chancery records (Record Commission)
Record Commission
, [20 vols.], PRO (1904–); also , 3 vols. (1898–1955)