Lady Eleanor Butler
The year is 1795. . . and we have two pencil portraits by Anna Seward
(age: about 56)
Lady Eleanor is of middle height, and somewhat beyond the embonpoint as to plumpness; her face round and fair, with the glow of luxuriant health. She has not fine features, but they are agreeable; –enthusiasm in her eye, hilarity and benevolence in her smile. Exhaustless is her fund of historic and traditionary knowledge, and of every thing passing in the present eventful period. She has uncommon strength and fidelity of memory; and her taste for works of imagination, particularly for poetry, is very awakened, and she expresses all she feels with an ingenuous ardour, at which the cold-spirited beings stare. I am informed that both these ladies read and speak most of the modern languages. Of the Italian poets, especially of Dante, they are warm admirers.
parents: Walter Butler (1703-1783; married 1732)
Eleanor de Montmorency Morres († 1794)
lived at: Kilkenny Castle
siblings: 2 older sisters (Susan & Frances), 1 younger brother (John)
“The first Butler in Ireland performed for Henry I the very office his name suggests.” [Mavor bio, p. 6]
Eleanor’s father was a lineal relation of James, 2nd Duke of Ormonde [portraits] (Lord of the Bedchamber to King James II, the Duke changed sides at the Battle of the Boyne) — “a minor branch of the great family”; George I, in 1715, stripped the Duke of his titles for his Jacobite sympathies.
Like most of the Catholic gentry of Ireland (a grand-uncle was Archbishop of Cashel), the Butlers evaded the Penal Laws by spending periods abroad; this may, in part, account for Eleanor’s education in France. [Ormonde genealogy: website; website (includes the marriage of Mary Butler to the 1st Duke of Devonshire)]
Annual Register, 1829
2. At Plasneywydd Cottage, Llangollen, the hon. lady Eleanor Butler, aunt to the marquis of Ormond, K.P. It was about the year 1779, that Miss Butler and her companion, Miss Ponsonby (a cousin of the earl of Besborough) first associated themselves to live in retirement. It was thought desirable by their families to separate two individuals who appeared to encourage each other’s eccentricities; and, after their first departure together, they were brought back to their respective relations. Lady Eleanor resolutely declined marriage, of which she was said to have had five offers; and the ladies soon after contrived to elope a second time, taking a small sum of money with them. The place of their retreat in the Vale of Llangollen was only confided to a female servant; and they lived for many years unknown to their neighbours by any other appellation, except ‘the ladies of the vale.’ The one was tall and masculine, always wore a riding habit, and hung up her hat with the air of a sportsman. The other was fair and ladylike. In 1796, the poetess Anna Seward celebrated the charms of ‘Llangollen Vale,’ with large eulogiums on the secluded pair.”
Gentleman’s Magazine, 1829
“Lady Eleanor Butler.
June 2. At Plasnewydd Cottage, Llangollen, the Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler, aunt to the Marquess of Ormonde, K.P.
This celebrated lady was the third and youngest daughter of Walter Butler, Esq. by Eleanor, eldest daughter of Nicholas Morris, of the Court, co. Dublin, Esq. Her only brother John claimed and obtained his ancestral Earldom of Ormonde in 1791. Her eldest sister Lady Susan was married to Thomas Kavanagh, of Borris, co. Carlow, Esq. and was mother to Thomas Kavanagh, Esq. who married his cousin the late Lady Elizabeth Butler, sister to the present Marquess. Her second sister Lady Frances was married to another gentleman of the Kavanagh family. The three sisters all assumed the title of Lady, probably by Royal authority, on their brother’s recovery of the Earldom.
It was about the year 1779 that Miss Butler and her companion Miss Ponsonby (a cousin of the Earl of Besborough, and half-sister to the present Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby-Barker, Esq. who married Lady Henrietta Taylour, sister to the present Marquess of Headfort,) first associated themselves to live in retirement. It was thought desirable by their families to separate two individuals who appeared to cherish each other’s eccentricities; and after their first departure together, they were brought back to their respective relations. Miss Butler resolutely declined marriage, of which she was said to have had five offers; and the ladies soon after contrived to elope a second time, taking a small sum of money with them. The place of their retreat in the Vale of Llangollen was only confided to a female servant; and they lived for many years unknown to their neighbours by any other appellation but ‘the ladies of the vale.’ Miss Butler was tall and masculine, always wore a riding habit, and hung up her hat with the air of a sportsman. Miss Ponsonby was fair and beautiful, and ladylike. In 1796 the poetess Anna Seward celebrated the charms of ‘Llangollen Vale,’ with large eulogiums on the secluded pair. It appears that the disposition of Lady Eleanor was the most lively of the two, as we find ‘gay Eleonora’s smile’ contrasted with ‘Zara’s look serene.’ Views of their residence have been frequently published.”