TALBOT (FAMILY). Apart from its achievements, this is one of the few families in the English aristocracy which traces alike its descent and its surname from the Norman conquerors of England; and it may be said that there has hardly been a time during more than seven centuries in which the Talbots have not been of considerable account in public life. Yet in some periods they appear rather as a potential influence, while at certain marked epochs they stand out among the most prominent actors in English history. The name of Richard Talbot occurs in Domesday Book as the holder of nine hides of land ill Bedfordshire under Walter Giffard. There is no evidence that he came over to England with the Conqueror himself; and, as he did not hold of the king in capite, it is clear that he was not a leader. Talbot being a personal nickname and not derived from a place, those who bore it were not of necessity connected, and the early pedigree is obscure. But a Geoffrey Talbot took part with the empress Maud against King Stephen; and a Hugh Talbot held the castle of Plessis against Henry I. for Hugh de Gournay, and afterwards became a monk at Beaube,c in Normandy. Richard Talbot, with whom the proved pedigree begins, obtained from Henry II. on his accession the lordship of Linton in Herefordshire, and from Richard I. the custody of Ludlow Castle; and his descendants for some generations appear to have been wardens of various castles on the borders of Wales, and intermarried with the great families of this region. Under Edward II. a Gilbert Talbot was head of the house, and invaded Scotland in the king's company, but afterwards took part with Thomas of Lancaster against the king. He, however, was pardoned, and obtained from Edward III. a confirmation of the grant of the manor of Linton and other lands, being also summoned to parliament as a baron (1331).
His son Richard, who had married a daughter and co-heiress of John Comyn of Badenoch, laid claim to certain lands in Scotland in her right, and, when restrained from entering that country by land (Edward III. having then made an alliance with King David), he joined in a successful expedition which invaded it by sea in the interests of Edward Baliol. Three years later he was taken prisoner in Scotland, and redeemed for 2000 marks, after which the king made him governor of Berwick. He took part also in Edward's wars against France, as did likewise his son Gilbert, who succeeded him. His wife had brought him the noble seat of Goodrich Castle on the Wye, and at this time the family possessed lands in the counties of Oxford, Gloucester, Hereford and Kent. Gilbert's son Richard added to this inheritance by marrying the heiress of Lord Strange of Blackmere, and himself became under Richard II. one of the heirs of the earl of Pembroke, thus adding to his estates, lands in Berkshire, Wilts, Salop and Essex. Another Gilbert Talbot, grandson of the last, claimed to carry the great spurs at the coronation of Henry V., and had a commission to receive the submission of Owen Glendower and his adherents. He also distinguished himself in the invasion of Normandy. He was twice married, his second wife being a Portuguese lady, but he left no male issue, and was succeeded by his brother John.
Hitherto the head of the house had borne the name of Lord Talbot; but this John, after obtaining by marriage the title of Lord Furnival, was for his distinguished actions created earl of Shrewsbury (see SHREWSBURY, JOHN TALBOT, 1st earl of).
Besides his martial exploits, this John claims some attention for his family alliances. His first wife Maud, a granddaughter of Thomas, Lord Furnival, brought him the castle of Sheffield as part of her inheritance, and he was accordingly summoned to parliament in the days of Henry IV. as John Talbot of Hallamshire, otherwise Lord Furnival, more than thirty years before he was made earl of Shrewsbury. The property became a favourite residence of the family during the Tudor era; and, but for the death in 1616 of Gilbert, 7th earl of Shrewsbury, without male issue, Sheffield might have remained much longer a centre of feudal magnificence rather than of commerce and manufactures. The second wife of John, earl of Shrewsbury, was Margaret, the eldest of three daughters of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, by that earl's second wife, a daughter of Thomas, Lord Berkeley. By her he obtained a third part of the Berkeley property; and, though she did not become the mother of a line of earls, her eldest son, John Talbot, was created Viscount Lisle, and it was he who fell along with his father at the disastrous battle of Chatillon in Gascony. His son Thomas, who inherited the title of Viscount Lisle, was slain at the early age of twenty-two in a feudal contest with Lord Berkeley, arising out of a dispute as to the possession of Berkeley castle, on the 20th of March 1470; and the title was afterwards conferred on Edward Grey, the husband of one of his two sisters.
John, the second earl of Shrewsbury, was the 1st earl's son by his first wife. He had been knighted at Leicester in 1426 along with the infant king Henry VI., had served in the wars of France, and been made chancellor of Ireland during his father's lifetime, when he was only Lord Talbot. Afterwards he was made lord high treasurer of England, and in 1459 was rewarded for his services to the house of Lancaster with a grant of 100 marks a year out of the lordship of Wakefield, forfeited by Richard, duke of York. But next year he and his brother Christopher were slain at the battle of Northampton, fighting in the cause of Henry VI. His son John succeeded him, and then his grandson George, who fought for Henry VII. at Stoke, and whom King Henry VIII. sent as his lieutenant against the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. But perhaps the thing which most redounds to his credit is the humanity with which he received the fallen Cardinal Wolsey into his house at Sheffield when he was on his way up to London as a state prisoner.
Francis, the sth earl, took a leading part in the invasions of Scotland under Henry VIII. and Edward VI., and was one of the two peers who alone opposed the bill for abolishing the pope's jurisdiction under Elizabeth. His son George, who succeeded, was the earl to whom the custody of Mary Stuart was committed, his task being rendered all the more difficult for him by the intrigues of his second wife, Bess of Hardwick, the builder of Chatsworth, who had married three husbands before her union with him. Two sons of this last earl succeeded one another, and the title then devolved, for want of male issue, on the lineal descendants of Sir Gilbert Talbot of Grafton in Worcestershire, third son of John, the 2nd earl. But the old baronies of Talbot, Strange of Blackmere, and Furnival had passed away in 1616 to the daughters of the 7th earl, of whom the youngest married Thomas (Howard) earl of Arundel, whose descendant, the duke of Norfolk, has the valuable Furnival estates. The above Sir Gilbert had fought for Henry VII. at Bosworth, where he was severely wounded, was knighted on the field, and was throughout one of the first Tudor's most trusted councillors. He fought also at Stoke against the insurgents with Lambert Simnel, was made a knight banneret, governor of Calais, and lord chamberlain.
The gth earl, George, descended from this Gilbert, died unmarried, and his nephew, who followed, was succeeded by his grandson Francis, chiefly memorable for his unhappy fate. His second wife, the " wanton Shrewsbury " of Pope, a daughter of the earl of Cardigan, was seduced by the duke of Buckingham, whom the outraged husband challenged to a duel. The countess, it is said, was present at the scene, and held Buckingham's horse in the disguise of a page, saw her husband killed, and then clasped her lover in her arms, receiving blood-stains .upon her dress from the embrace. Charles, the 12th earl, son of this unfortunate nobleman, was raised by William III. to the dignity of a duke, but as he left no son this title died along with him in 1718, and the earldom of Shrewsbury devolved on his cousin Gilbert, a Roman Catholic priest.
From this time the direct line of Sir Gilbert Talbot of Grafton began to fail. A nephew three times succeeded to an uncle, and then the title devolved upon a cousin, who died unmarried in 1856. On the death of this cousin the descent of the title was for a short time in dispute, and the lands were claimed for Lord Edmund Howard (now Talbot), an infant son of the duke of Norfolk, under the will of the last earl; but the courts decided that, under a private act obtained by the duke of Shrewsbury shortly before his death, the title and bulk of the estates must go together, and the true successor to the earldom was found in Earl Talbot, the head of another line of the descendants of Sir Gilbert Talbot of Grafton, sprung from a second marriage of Sir Gilbert's son, Sir John Talbot of Albrighton. The head of this family in the beginning of the 18th century was a divine of some mark, William Talbot, who died bishop of Durham in 1730. His son Charles, who filled the office of lord chancellor, was created Baron Talbot of Hensol in Glamorganshire in 1733; and his son William was advanced to the dignity of Earl Talbot in 1761, to which was added Ingestre, the barony of Dynevor, with special remainder to his daughter, Lady Cecil Rice, in 1780. Then succeeded a nephew, who was created Viscount and Earl Talbot, and assumed by royal licence the surname of Chetwynd before Talbot, from his mother.
All the titles just mentioned have been united in the line of the Earl Talbot who successfully claimed the Shrewsbury title as the 18th earl, the earldom of Shrewsbury (1442) being now the oldest existing that is not merged in a higher title. The family seats (Alton Towers and Ingestre Hall) and the chief estates are in Staffordshire. The old badge of the family was a " talbot " or running hound. (J. GA.; J. H. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)