Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameSir Richard C BUTLER Kt
Birth1929
Death2012
MotherSydney Elizabeth COURTAULD (1902-1954)
Notes for Sir Richard C BUTLER Kt
From Daily Telegraph Feb 2012


The son of the former Tory cabinet minister Lord Butler of Saffron Walden and the owner of a 1,500-acre arable farm near Halstead in Essex, Butler had the misfortune to succeed Sir Henry Plumb in 1979, when farmers’ incomes were starting to take a turn for the worse after the early years of Britain’s membership of the EEC. Though urbane and widely liked, he was less flamboyant than his colourful predecessor.

When Butler took over, farmers were bearing the brunt of public anger over the mounting problem of food mountains — the result of the EEC’s open-ended price guarantees. They were also having to get accustomed to a new prime minister who made little secret of her dislike of the EEC; Mrs Thatcher also made it clear that she felt farmers in general were pampered and over-protected. In these circumstances Butler had the difficult task of defending both farmers and the EEC.

Within the NFU, he was criticised for failing to prevent a rift between the union’s grain and livestock sectors — though given the vagaries of the market and the CAP, this was not entirely his fault. Between 1977 and 1986 grain producers’ incomes doubled while dairy farmers saw their incomes fall by as much as a third, despite increased yields. Yet Butler succeeded in preventing the imposition of milk quotas in 1984 from tearing the NFU apart; and his unrivalled mastery of his brief helped to build improved relations with the government and Whitehall.

Richard Clive Butler was born on January 12 1929, the son of RA Butler by his first wife, Sydney, daughter of Samuel Courtauld. The Courtaulds owned extensive estates in north Essex.

After education at Eton and Cambridge, followed by National Service as a second lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards, he returned home to start farming the family estate in the early 1950s.

He joined the NFU in 1953 and became a council member in the 1960s, then chairman of the Peas Committee. In 1970 he became vice-president, and the following year deputy president under Henry Plumb, remaining his right-hand man throughout the 1970s. Farmers tend to look back on the decade as a golden age, when farm output prices reached a peak in the wake of Britain’s entry into the EEC. With John Cossins, who succeeded Butler as vice-president, the NFU had what many consider to be its strongest-ever leadership team.

After his retirement from the NFU, Butler, who listed his recreations as “hunting, shooting, DIY”, continued for a further year as president of COPA, the European farmers’ organisation, and took on a portfolio of business directorships.

He was chairman of the East Essex Hunt for 40 years, served as chairman of the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology Trust from 1995 to 2009, and was a trustee of the Arthritis Research Campaign from 1986 to 2005. He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex in 1972 and knighted in 1981.

He married, in 1952, Susan Walker, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Sir Richard Butler, born January 12 1929, died January 28 2012
Last Modified 14 Mar 2015Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh