Butcher was born in Danesfort, County Kilkenny, the son of Samuel Butcher, a distinguished naval commander, and Elizabeth Anne Herbert. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1829 and joined the clergy of the Church of Ireland.
Between 1837 and 1852 he was a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin and in 1849 and became a Doctor of Divinity. He was Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Trinity College in 1850, before working as Professor of Divinity from 1852 to 1866. He was the Rector of Ballymoney, County Antrim between 1854 and 1866. In 1866 Butcher became Bishop of Meath, and was subsequently made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland.
Butcher married Mary Leahy, daughter of John Leahy, on 23 November 1847. Together they had six children. His second son was John Butcher, 1st Baron Danesfort and his eldest daughter married Thomas Spring Rice, 2nd Baron Monteagle of Brandon. Butcher caused controversy in Anglo-Irish society when he committed suicide on 29 July 1876. The inquest into his death decided that this was the result of a temporary insanity brought on by fever.
The Ecclesiastical Calendar: Its theory and construction, Dublin: 1877. Edited and published posthumously by his sons Samuel Henry Butcher and John George Butcher.
- “A New History of Ireland”, Moody, T.M; Martin, F.X; Byrne, F.J; Cosgrove, F: Oxford Oxford University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-19-821745-5
- Joseph Jackson Howard, Fred Arthur Crisp, Visitation of Ireland vol. 2 (1898) 69.
- “History of the Diocese of Meath”, Healy, J., Dublin, Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1908
- Suicide of the Bishop of Meath. The Daily Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), Friday, 31 July 1876; pg. 3; Issue 2575. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
- Suicide of the Bishop of Meath. Nelson Evening Mail vol. 11, issue 244, 5 October 1876, page 4. Paperspast.
- THE LATE DR. BUTCHER—THE INQUEST.IQUEST. I. Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland), Tuesday, 1 August 1876; Issue N/A.
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