Sir Thomas Butler

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Thomas Butler

Death: circa 1459
Immediate Family:

Son of Ralph Butler, Sudeley and Elizabeth Hende Butler
Husband of Eleanor Butler
Half brother of Alice Lainham

Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About Sir Thomas Butler

From The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom Volume 12, part 1, page 422:

Thomas Boteler, son and heir apparent of Ralph (Boteler), Lord Sudeley (Ralph d. 1473):

His wife Eleanor was the daughter of John (Talbot), Earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1453) by his second wife Margaret, daughter of Richard (Beauchamp), Earl of Warwick; she was married to Thomas by 10 May 1453 (when both were living), but Thomas was dead by 15 January 1459/60.


  • Sir Thomas Boteler, Master of Sudeley1,2,3,4,5,6
  • M, #90643, b. circa 1422, d. before 15 January 1460
  • Father Sir Ralph Boteler, 7th Lord Sudeley, Lord High Treasurer, Chief Butler of the Royal Household, Captain of Arques & Crotoy1,7,4,8 d. 2 May 1473
  • Mother Elizabeth Norbury1,7,4,8 b. c 1393, d. 28 Aug 1462
  • Sir Thomas Boteler, Master of Sudeley was born circa 1422 at of Sudeley & Toddington, Gloucestershire, England.1 A settlement for the marriage Sir Thomas Boteler, Master of Sudeley and Eleanor Talbot was made on 10 May 1453; They had no issue.9,2,3,4,5,6 Sir Thomas Boteler, Master of Sudeley died before 15 January 1460; d.v.p.s.p.1,2,4,5
  • Family Eleanor Talbot b. c 1428, d. 30 Jun 1468
  • Citations
  • 1.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 704.
  • 2.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 140.
  • 3.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 172.
  • 4.[S6] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry: 2nd Edition, Vol. I, p. 231.
  • 5.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 88-89.
  • 6.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 124.
  • 7.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 139-140.
  • 8.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 88.
  • 9.[S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. XII/1, p. 421.
  • From:


  • Thomas Botiler1
  • M, #588455, d. 1450
  • Last Edited=28 Oct 2012
  • Thomas Botiler was the son of Ralph le Botiler, 7th Lord Sudeley and Elizabeth (?).2 He married Eleanor Talbot, daughter of Richard Talbot, 4th Lord Talbot.1 He died in 1450, without issue & vp between and 1468.1
  • Citations
  • 1.[S37] BP2003 volume 3, page 3810. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • 2.[S37] BP2003. [S37]
  • From:


  • Eleanor TALBOT (B. Sudeley)
  • Died: 30 Jun 1468
  • Notes: Most historians are today skeptical of the Eleanor Butler story, chiefly because it was Richard III's SECOND attempt to establish the illegitimacy of Edward IV or his descendants. The first attempt, incredibly enough, was a claim that Edward himself had been illegitimate. This story probably rested ultimately upon the fact that Edward had been born outside England, in Rouen. There could, then, have been some doubts as to the circumstances of his conception and birth, as there had been with Richard II who had been born in Bordeaux, and who had against whom there had also been charges that his real father had not been the Black Prince but a "certain lady-faced priest" who was a member of Richard's mother's household. In Richard's case, his lack of close resemblance to the magnificent and warlike Black Prince made it easier for people to give some credit to these rumors. What defeated this first claim by Richard was, of course, that in order to establish Edward's illegitimate, Richard perforce had to claim or imply that his own mother, Cecily duchess of York, had committed adultery--and she was still alive in 1483. By some cosmic coincidence, moreover, Richard dined with Cecily in her London residence at Baynard's Castle on the evening of the day Richard's partisans had first advanced the claim of Edward's illegitimacy. Many historians have expressed the wish they had been a fly on the wall in the dining room that night. Whatever happened, the story was withdrawn the next day and the Eleanor Butler claim was then substituted for it. It is odd that given the clandestine circumstances of Edward IV's real marriage, to Elizabeth Woodville, Richard never tried to establish that it was unlawful, except to claim that it was doubtful because Edward had not consulted his barons about it, as a King should do. The only attempt to undermine the Woodville marriage was made through the claim that Edward had previously agreed to marry Lady Eleanor Butler, a daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Nor has the text of such a marriage contract ever been discovered. When, in 1483, people began to ask if she couldn't be questioned about the matter, Richard's partisans explained that she had taken the veil after Edward abandoned her, and had subsequently died--very convenient, one must say. It's significant that no members of the Butler family were ever interrogated on the matter, nor did the Church ever issue any declaration that the Woodville marriage was invalid.
  • Cokayne says Eleanor was a sister of Sir John Talbot, but the pro-Richard III camp has her as a daughter of an Earl of Shrewsbury. Exactly which Earl is not made clear, unfortunately.
  • In 1449 or 1450, Eleanor married Sir Thomas Butler (son of Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley), who died some time before Mar 1461. In the political turmoil surrounding the change of monarchs then, the widowed Eleanor's father-in-law took back one of the two manors he had settled on her and her husband when they married, but he did not complete the required paperwork by obtaining a licence for the transfer of title, and the new King, Edward IV, seized both the properties.
  • The exact course of events is uncertain, but it seems that Eleanor went directly to King Edward to ask him to return her property. Edward (who, though barely out of his teens, already had a reputation for womanizing) was more interested in her than in her property. It is said that Edward made a legally binding contract to marry her. According to the French political analyst, Phillippe De Commines, the priest who later came forward and testified to having performed the ceremony was Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, and it was later suggested that one reason the marriage was not announced publicly was the danger that Eleanor would come forward with the news of her earlier marriage to the King. Stillington rose to be Chancellor of England, along with other lucrative posts.
  • Lady Eleanor Butler died in a convent, and was buried in the Church of the White Carmelites, Norwich, England. Some years later, the priest in question (Commynes is the only source who identifies him as Stillington) is said to have told King Edward's unstable and untrustworthy brother, George, Duke of Clarence, about the pre-contract. Clarence was already on the verge of rebellion against his elder brother; Edward now threw both his brother and Stillington into the Tower of London. Clarence was tried before Parliament (with Edward himself as his accuser) in Jan 1478, convicted of treason, and sentenced to be executed.
  • There has been speculation that the reason Clarence was killed privately in the Tower (whether he was really drowned in a "butt of Malmsey" wine or not) may have been that Edward wanted to ensure that he did not have an opportunity to disclose in public the secret that would make his brother's children illegitimate and himself the next in line for the throne. Stillington's imprisonment was to be a warning. Only after Edward's death did he come forward publicly with that evidence, this time offering it to the future Richard III of England, to prevent Edward IV's son from being crowned as Edward V. Richard then took the throne.
  • No records survive of the meeting of the Parliamentary lords on 9 Jun 1483, where Stillington is said to have presented the evidence of the pre-contract, including documents and other witnesses. The Duke of Buckingham is supposed to have told Morton afterwards that he had believed that evidence when he saw it but had later changed his mind. When Henry VII came to the throne, he ordered all documents relating to the case to be destroyed, as well as the act of parliament by which Richard was enabled to claim the throne; so efficiently were his orders carried out that only one copy of Titulus Regius has ever been found.
  • After Richard's death, Tudor "historians" - including Sir Thomas More in his History of Richard III - named Elizabeth Lucy as the woman Stillington testified he had married to Edward. Elizabeth Lucy (who may also have been called Elizabeth Wayte) was probably the mother of Edward IV's bastard son Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle. An autopsy has revealed that a corpse most likely to be Eleanor Butler had borne no children. Thus his two daughters must have been from a different mother.
  • Father: John TALBOT (2° E. Shrewsbury)
  • Mother: Elizabeth BUTLER (C. Shrewsbury)
  • Married: Thomas BUTLER (B. Sudeley)
  • Associated with: EDWARD IV PLANTAGENET (King of England)
  • Children:
    • 1. Dau. PLANTAGENET
    • 2. Dau. PLANTAGENET
  • From: TALBOT (B. Sudeley)


  • Lady Eleanor Talbot (c. 1436 - 30 June 1468), also known by her married name Eleanor Butler, was a daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. After the death of king Edward IV of England it was claimed by his brother Richard, the future Richard III, that she had had a legal precontract of marriage to Edward, which invalidated the king's later marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. According to Richard, this meant that he, rather than Edward's sons, was the true heir to the throne. Richard took the crown and imprisoned Edward's sons, who subsequently disappeared.
  • After the overthrow and death of Richard at the hands of Henry Tudor, the precontract alleged by Richard was presented as a fiction to justify Richard's usurpation of power and to cover his murder of the princes. Most subsequent historians have agreed with this view.[1] Supporters of Richard, however, have argued that the precontract was real and that it legitimated his ascent to the throne.[2]
  • In 1449, 13-year-old Eleanor married Sir Thomas Butler (or Boteler), son of Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley. When Thomas died at an unknown date before Edward IV of England's overthrow of the House of Lancaster on 4 March 1461, Lord Sudeley took back one of the two manors he had settled on her and her husband when they married. In any event he did not have a licence for the transfer of title. Edward IV soon after becoming King seized both properties.
  • Eleanor died before the age of 34, in 1468 during the first half of Edward IV's briefly interrupted 22-year reign, to be buried in the monastic church of the white Carmelites, (also simply known as the White Friars) whose benefactress she was,[3] at Norwich, England.[4] This was the senior house of a Carmelite region (distinctio) which included Burnham Norton, Blakeney, Kings Lynn and Yarmouth.[5]
  • After King Edward's death in 1483, his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was appointed protector to the as-yet-uncrowned king Edward V. Richard placed Edward and his younger brother in the Tower of London. He then proclaimed that they were illegitimate. According to the French chronicler Philippe de Commines he acted with the support of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Stillington had been briefly imprisoned and fined for speaking out against Edward IV in 1478. Commines later wrote,
  • The bishop discovered to the Duke of Gloucester that his brother king Edward had been formerly in love with a beautiful young lady and had promised her marriage upon condition that he might lie with her; the lady consented, and, as the bishop affirmed, he married them when nobody was present but they two and himself. His fortune depending on the court, he did not discover it, and persuaded the lady likewise to conceal it, which she did, and the matter remained a secret.[6]
  • Richard then persuaded Parliament to pass an act, Titulus Regius, which debarred Edward V from the throne and proclaimed himself as King Richard III. At a meeting held on 23 January 1484 the former king's marriage was declared illegal. The document states:
  • And howe also, that at the tyme of contract of the same pretensed Mariage, and bifore and longe tyme after, the seid King Edward was and stode maryed and trouth plight to oone Dame Elianor Butteler, Doughter of the old Earl of Shrewesbury, with whom the same King Edward had made a precontracte of Matrimonie, longe tyyme bifore he made the said pretensed Mariage with the said Elizabeth Grey, in maner and fourme abovesaid.[7]
  • Opponents of Richard declared that the precontract was fiction. Richard's leading enemy, Henry Tudor, allied himself with Elizabeth Woodville, promising to re-legitimate her children if Richard was overthrown. After Henry's army defeated and killed Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485, he came to the throne as Henry VII. He ordered the copy of Titulus Regius in parliamentary records to be destroyed, along with all others (one copy was later found to have survived).
  • Stillington later joined the rebellion of Lambert Simnel against Henry in 1487. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower until his death in 1491.
  • It was suggested that Eleanor had given birth to a child, possibly fathered by King Edward IV, shortly before her death.[8]
  • Because Commines does not name the "beautiful young lady", and the official copy of Titulus Regius in parliament had been destroyed, Tudor historians confused Talbot with Edward's long-standing mistress Elizabeth Lucy (also known as Elizabeth Wayte). Elizabeth Lucy was probably the mother of Edward IV's bastard son, Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle. Thomas More in his life of Richard III states that Lucy was interrogated at the time of Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, because Edward's mother was strongly opposed to the marriage and had suggested that Edward was pre-contracted to Lucy. But Lucy denied that any contract had been made. He says that Richard revived the claim after Edward's death.[9]
  • This threw further doubt on the case, but later historians correctly identified her. George Buck, who found the only surviving copy of Titulus Regius, was the first to identify Eleanor Talbot as the woman in question. Buck, a defender of Richard, accepted the validity of the precontract. His view has been followed by many defenders of Richard since, including Horace Walpole[10] and Clements Markham.[11] Later Ricardians have also either accepted it as fact, or argued that Richard sincerely believed it to be true. It is also commonly argued by Ricardians that Stillington was imprisoned by Edward IV in 1478 because he incautiously spoke of the precontract to George, Duke of Clarence.[1][12]
  • Other historians have been more sceptical. John A. Wagner states that "most modern historians believe the precontract to be a fabrication devised to give Richard III's usurpation a veneer of legitimacy. The betrothal cannot be documented beyond the account rehearsed in Titulus Regius, and Richard never attempted to have the precontract authenticated by a church court, the proper venue for such a case".[1] Anne Crawford takes the view that any actual precontract with Eleanor Talbot is unlikely. If it had occurred before her marriage to Thomas Butler it would have been invalidated by the marriage. She suggests that the story may have originated with discussions between Edward's father Richard, Duke of York and Elizabeth's father John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury of a possible marriage, while both men were serving in France. But even that "seems hardly likely".[13] Any valid precontract would most likely have been made in the early phase of Edward's reign, but the fact that Eleanor did not come forward when Edward married his queen militates against it. She also considers it odd that Eleanor's family did not support Richard's claims about the precontract. Since Edward was "not stupid enough" to have been unaware that any precontact would threaten his children's claim to the throne, if it had existed he could easily have applied to the Pope to free himself of it, which would have been the action of "any prudent king and his advisors".[13] Michael Alexander argues that a precontract of marriage to Eleanor Talbot would not have affected the legitimacy of Edward's sons, since they were born after she died, her death negating any marriage.[14]
  • However, according to Helmholz (1986),[15] canon law in this situation would not mitigate the illegitimacy of Edward's sons as, if the pre-contract existed, it would have meant that adultery had taken place on the part of Edward with Elizabeth. As such the illegitimacy could not be overcome by the death of Eleanor before the birth of Elizabeth's sons, even if Edward and Elizabeth married 'again' after Eleanor's death. Their position would therefore have been similar to that of the Beaufort descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, later legitimized by King Henry VI of England.[16]
  • Even if there was no formal precontract it is possible that Eleanor Talbot's name was used because she was known to have been one of the king's lovers. According to Thomas More, Edward had three "concubines" who he referred to as the "merriest", the "wiliest" and "the holiest harlot in the realm" (who was always in church when she wasn't in bed with the king).[17] More names the "merriest" as Jane Shore, but does not name the others because they were of higher social status ("somewhat greater personages"). It has been speculated that Elizabeth Lucy and Eleanor Talbot were the other two.[18][19] Her loss of property after the death of her husband may have initiated the affair. Michael Hicks suggests that King Edward was liable to give "benefits" in exchange for sex: "Three young widows, Eleanor Butler, Elizabeth Lucy and Elizabeth Wydeville [Woodville], may have bought concrete benefits from Edward IV with their sexual favours.[20]
  • From:


  • Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley and 6th Baron Sudeley KG (c. 1394 – 2 May 1473) was an English baron and aristocrat. He was the Captain of Calais and Treasurer of England (from 7 July 1443).
  • Ralph Boteler was the youngest surviving son of Thomas Boteler of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire and Alice Beauchamp (d. 1443), daughter of Sir John Beauchamp of Powick, Worcestershire.
  • Sudeley married twice. About 1418 he married commercial wealth, in the person of Elizabeth, widow of John Hende (d. 1418), late Mayor of London. She died in 1462, and in the following year he married Alice (d. 1474), daughter of John, Baron Deyncourt, and widow of William, Baron Lovel of Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire, who survived him.
  • The Boteler's elevation to the aristocracy arose from the marriage of Ralph's grandfather, William le Botiler of Wem to heiress Joan de Sudeley which led to his father succeeding to the title of Lord of Sudeley. The Barony of Sudeley was conferred upon him by Letters Patent. The title passed to both his elder brothers, John who died unmarried and childless in 1410 and William, who despite being married, also died childless seven years later. William's widow, Alice, was appointed governess of Henry VI in 1424.[1]
  • He is thought to have served with King Henry V of England in France as he was awarded grants of land there in 1420-21. He was captain of Arques and Crotoy in 1423 and took muster in Calais in 1425.[2] He served as Lord High Treasurer of England from 1443 to 1446.
  • Along with the title, Ralph inherited Sudeley Castle, which he rebuilt in the 1440s.[3] Unfortunately he failed to gain royal permission to crenellate it and has to seek Henry VI's pardon.[4] He lost it in 1469 due to his support for the Lancastrian cause.
  • Sudeley left no surviving male heir from either marriage, for his son Thomas predeceased him, also without a male heir. Thomas' widow Eleanor was the Lady Eleanor Butler (known as the Holy Harlot) whose alleged precontract of marriage to Edward IV of England was claimed to have invalidated Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and so legitimized the usurpation of Richard III of England. The Sodrés, Portuguese corruption of 'Sudley', were a well-connected Portuguese family of English origin, said to have been descended from Frederick Sudley, of Gloucestershire, who accompanied the Earl of Cambridge to Portugal in 1381, and subsequently settled down there.[5]
  • From:,_1st_Baron_Sudeley


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