James was born on 5 October 1844. He was the son of John Butler, 2nd Marquess of Ormonde and Frances Jane Paget.
Census 1851: Living with his parents and three younger siblings in Hampton, Surrey, England. Aged 6.
James was educated at Harrow School, Harrow on the Hill, London, England.
His father died on 25 September 1854 at age 46 and James succeeded to the title of 13th Viscount Thurles [I., 1536]; the title of 15th Earl of Ossory [I., 1528]; the title of 3rd Marquess of Ormonde [U.K., 1825]; the title of 3rd Baron Butler of Llanthony, co. Monmouth [U.K., 1821] and the title of 21st Earl of Ormonde [I., 1328].
He gained the rank of officer between 1863 and 1873 in the service of the 1st Life Guards and was invested as a Knight, Order of St. Patrick (K.P.) in 1868. He held the office of Vice-Admiral of Leinster.
James gained the rank of Colonel in the service of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles, was Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron and was decorated with the award of the Order of the Crown of Prussia (1st class).
He married Lady Elizabeth Harriet Grosvenor (daughter of Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster and Lady Constance Gertrude Sutherland-Leveson-Gower) on 2 February 1876 at Aldford, Cheshire, England.
James and Elizabeth had 2 daughters; Beatrice and Constance.
He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of County Kilkenny, Ireland between 1878 and 1919.
He passed away on 26 October 1919 at age 75.
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