- Richest of the Rich position: 110
- Birth/Death: c 1420-1461
- Origin of wealth: Land
- Wealth: £20,000
- Net National Income: £3.5m
- Net National Income Percent: 0.57%
- In Today’s Money: £6.326 billion
In a short life of 41 years, James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, the most unattractive of Henry VI’s favourites, amassed a fortune that outshone his contemporaries but which, like his earldom, did not survive him.
He started out as heir to the Earl of Ormond, a huge landowner in Ireland. He even became Lieutenant of Ireland. But he hardly ever visited his estates there, preferring the court in England and the acquisition of further land in the West Country. Apart from his own lands, he was appointed steward of his lands in Dorset and Somerset by the Duke of York. He married a sister of the Duke of Beaufort, a great Welsh and West Country landowner.
Wiltshire was granted many fee-paying favours by the king, but his war record was dreadful, and eventually fatal. In 1451, he fled the Earl of Devon’s private army, which burnt his manor to the ground. In 1455, he escaped from the Battle of St Albans in disguise. In 1460, he fled abroad to escape the Yorkists. He did the same after defeat at both the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and at Towton in 1461. At Cockermouth in Cumbria his luck ran out. He was captured and executed at Newcastle in 1461.
At his peak he was worth £20,000 when net national income was just £3.5m. This would make him worth £6.3bn in today’s money.