TALBOT, Gilbert (1552-1616), of Chatsworth, Derbys., Worksop, Notts. and Sheffield, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Nov. 1552, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, by his 1st w. and bro. of Edward and Henry. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. c.1566; travelled abroad 1568, Hamburg, Padua, Venice. m. 9 Feb. 1568, Mary, da. of Sir William Cavendish† of Chatsworth, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. styled Lord Talbot 1582; summ. to Lords in his fa.’s. barony as Lord Talbot 1589; suc. fa. as 7th Earl of Shrewsbury 1590. KG 1592.
Steward of Pontefract and Tutbury, constable of Pontefract, Radnor, Tutbury and Wigmore castles 1589; j.p. Cumb., Derbys. (1573), Herefs. (1577), Notts., Salop and Yorks. 1590 or earlier; on embassy to Henri IV of France 1596; PC 1601; eccles. commr. province of York 1605; c.j. forests beyond Trent 1603; ld. lt. Derbys. 1605; constable and steward, Newark, forester of Sherwood 1607.1
Talbot was elected for Derbyshire with Henry Cavendish, to whom he had become brother-in-law in a double marriage following the match between the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and Bess of Hardwick. Both knights of the shire were under 21. Talbot was appointed to the subsidy committee, 25 Jan. 1581, and perhaps to two others (unlawful weapons, 2 Mar. 1576, and wharves and quays, 13 Mar.) unless the Mr. Talbot in question was the Worcestershire knight of the shire. Called up to the Lords in 1589, Gilbert Talbot reported to his father ‘Divers pure fellows are very hot and earnest’ about religious matters in the Commons, and ‘Mr. Beale hath made a very sharp speech, which is nothing well liked by the bishops’. During the 1593 election, the first after he succeeded to the earldom, he took advantage of the minority of the Earl of Rutland to intervene in Nottinghamshire, where Charles Cavendish and Philip Strelley were standing against Talbot’s enemy Sir Thomas Stanhope.2
Until he succeeded to the earldom, Talbot’s life was circumscribed by the quarrel between his father and his stepmother, Bess of Hardwick; by his father’s custody of Mary Stuart, which frequently involved his being turned out of his father’s house, for the Queen would not allow even the family to remain where Mary was kept; and by his own acute shortage of money. The Talbot and Lansdowne manuscripts contain many of his requests to Michael Hickes and others to borrow on bonds for him or otherwise help him out financially, and he also raised money from London merchants. His persistent litigation in Star Chamber and elsewhere, perhaps itself the result of so much personal insecurity, worsened his financial position. During the estrangement between his father and the Countess he remained on good terms with his stepmother, but his relations with his father suffered from the frequent efforts he made to prevent things going too far in the early stages, and, later, from his attempts to effect a reconciliation. When, finally, the Privy Council came into the picture, Talbot withdrew, and it was his wife Mary in partnership with the Queen herself who brought about a settlement, whereupon Shrewsbury retired to Sheffield to pass his last few years with one Mrs. Britton. Upon his death Talbot, now 7th Earl, entered upon a long dispute over the will with his mother-in-law, his next brother Edward and his youngest brother Henry. He also quarrelled violently with his mother’s relatives the Manners family, and with many of his neighbours in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, including the Wortleys and the Stanhopes, with whom he had a particularly unwise dispute about a weir at Shelford. His challenging his brother Edward to a duel in 1594 and the mention of poison being used between them caused Talbot to be banished from court. In the upshot Bess of Hardwick won the legal contest over the will by pre-empting the services of all the available lawyers during her final visit to London in 1591-2, but the matter was still in dispute between them as late as July 1606. The dowager countess made peace with his daughter Mary in January 1608, a month before her death, but Gilbert Talbot received nothing under her will.3
In 1596 (it can have been because of his rank only) Talbot was included in an embassy to France, and he was a cupbearer at Elizabeth’s funeral in 1603. He entertained James I at Worksop and was a commissioner for claims at the coronation. He was at first high in James’s favour, being granted a lucrative office in the royal forests, but he was implicated in the so-called main and bye plots, and possibly in the Gunpowder Plot. His enemies, by now numerous, raked up old accusations that he was a secret Catholic. These dated back to at least 1592, and were given substance when Mary Talbot openly avowed her own Catholicism and advanced the claims of her niece Arbella Stuart. In 1611 Mary Talbot was put in the Tower, and all Shrewsbury’s efforts failed to secure her release. The letter writer, John Chamberlain, reported in 1613 that although she had previously had the liberty of the Tower, ‘and sometimes leave to attend her lord in his sickness’ (gout), she had recently been confined more strictly. Shrewsbury voluntarily absented himself from Privy Council meetings, and continued to press for her pardon. She was released in December 1615, five months before her husband’s death on 8 May 1616 at his London house in Broad Street. He was buried that August at St. Peter’s, Sheffield, ‘with the greatest pomp ever seen in the kingdom’.