The first structure on this strategic site overlooking the River Nore was a wooden tower built in 1172 by the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland, Richard de Clare, also known as Strongbow. Twenty years later his son in law William Marshall erected a stone castle with four towers, three of which are part of the current structure.
The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family in 1391, and their descendents continued to live there until 1935. Maintaining the castle became such an enormous expense and most of the furnishings were sold at an auction. The city bought the castle in 1967 for the huge sum of 65 Euro (now about $80 US).
The grounds are well kept and very beautiful. You’ll see a rose garden, a fountain, a park, and a well kept children’s playground in the court yard.
Inside the castle, many of the rooms have only been recently opened to the public. The Long Gallery is remarkable because of its vividly painted ceilings and extensive portrait collection of the Butler family members over the centuries. The castle also has art exhibitions in the Butler Gallery. In the basement, the castle kitchen now houses a popular restaurant.
Events Connected with Kilkenny Castle
1192 – 1207: Castle Built by Earl Marshall
1219: Castle passes to William Marshal the Younger
1245: Castle passes to de Clare Family
1307: Castle passes to Le Despencer Family
1324: Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, imprisoned in Castle
1391: Castle sold to Third Earl of Ormond
1395: Visit of Richard the Second, King of England
1399: Visit of Richard the Second with the future Henry IV
1645: Visit of Archbishop Rinuccini, Papal Nuncio
1650: Besieged by Oliver Cromwell
1689: Visit of King James the Second
1690: Visit of William the Third
1704: Great Gate built by 2nd Duke
1854 – 1862: Improvements made by 2nd Marquis
1899: Visit of Duke of York, later George V
1904: Visit of Edward VII, last King to visit Kilkenny
1923: Occupied by Anti-Treaty Forces
1935: End of Butler residence
1942 – 1945: Occupied by Irish Forces
1967: Castle presented to Kilkenny People by 6th. Marquis
1970: Grounds re-opened to the Public, after renovaions.
Butlers of Ormond
The Butlers were a Norman family named Fitzwalter who had been in Munster for about 200 years. In 1380, the O’ Briens and the O’ Kennedys cleared them out of Munster. They ended up in Gowran, Carrick-on-Suir and Kilkenny (surprise).
Theobald Fitzwalter, who was the first of the Irish Butlers, came to Ireland with Prince John in 1185 where he was given large quantities of land. Theobald became Chief Butler of Ireland and the duty attached to this office was to attend the coronation of the King of England and present him with the first cup of wine. This is where the name Butler comes from. When Theobald died he was buried in Abingdon Abbey, Co. Limerick.
The Butlers and King Henry the Second were close ‘friends’ because they were both near relations of Saint Thomas a Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Butlers recieved vast amounts of wealth and lands in Carlow, Tipperary, Waterford, Wicklow and Kilkenny. They were also given semi royal power. The reason for this power was due to the fact that James the Second, Earl of Ormond was great grandson of Edward the first, King of England.