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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Margaret of Desmond

b. circa 1460, Kildare, Ireland; d. 1542, Kilkenny, Ireland

The correct name of this person is MARGARET BUTLER.

The formidable Margaret, daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald, lord deputy of Ireland, married Piers Butler around 1485, thus uniting two of the most powerful of the Anglo-Irish dynasties. The Butlers, as the earls of Ormond based in County Kilkenny, greatly benefited from their collaboration with the English monarchy against rebel Irish lords. Piers became earl of Ormond in 1515 and lord deputy of Ireland in 1522. Margaret effectively managed his estates—she is credited with restoring the Butler fortune—and exercised significant influence in Kilkenny and surrounding counties, earning the moniker “The Great Countess.” She and her husband were long remembered for importing Flemish artisans to establish tapestry and carpet industries in Kilkenny, and for founding a Renaissance-style grammar school there.