Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Ormond House

Ormond House

The most important source of English Country Dance music from 1651 to about 1728 is the Playford books. One of the more complex tunes in John Playford's "The Dancing Master" is "Ormond House", probably named in honor of James Butler (1665 - 1745), the second and last Duke of Ormond. The tune appears in the 11th edition in 1702, thirteen years before James lost his title. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

The word "butler" is derived from French "bouteillier" or "botiller" originally meaning the wine bottler, or later, the king's man in charge of the wine. The "butler" eventually came to mean the person in charge of everything in the household, including being the administrator in charge of all the other servants. The Butler family in question were apparently great administrators for centuries, and have a long history in both England and Ireland.

Long histories have their ups and downs. A James Butler was made the first Earl of Ormond in 1328. Thomas Boleyn, the father of Anne Boleyn, was made Earl of Ormond in 1529. The first Duke of Ormond, the 12th Earl, managed to remain loyal to the House of Stuart during the Cromwellian usurpations, though he was also an able diplomat during the wars and remained exempted from Cromwell's Act for Settlement of Ireland. In 1661 Charles II made him Duke of Ormond of Ireland, and later of England as well. He served six terms as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and among his accomplishments established Dublin's Phoenix Park.

On the First Duke of Ormond's death in 1688 he was succeeded by his son, also named James. Loyalty to the Stuarts ultimately led to this James' downfall. In 1715, the Earl of Mar led a Jacobite rebellion in Scotland to proclaim James Francis Edward Stuart, the "Old Pretender", King of England. James Butler backed James Stuart, and even became the Pretender's secretary. The Jacobite rebellion failed; and the titles of Duke of Ormond were abolished by an act of attainder. James Stuart went on to become the father of Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" whose second Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 ended with his defeat at Culloden. James Butler, the former 2nd Duke of Ormond, died in Avignon, France in the same year.

"Ormond House" is not a tune likely to be sight read on the first glance...or the second. The sheet music and midi are on the music pages. A recording is on the Vintage Virginia album, by The Virgina Company.