TALBOT, John (1630-1714), of Lacock Abbey, Wilts., Long Acre, Westminster and Salwarp, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 7 June 1630, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sharington Talbot of Salwarp by Jane, da. of John Lyttelton† of Frankley, Worcs. m. (1) 11 Dec. 1653, Elizabeth (d.1656), da. of Sir John Keyte, 1st Bt., of Ebrington, Glos., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 2 Aug. 1660, Barbara, da. of Sir Henry Slingsby, 1st Bt. of Scriven, Yorks., 2s. d.v.p. 3da. Kntd. 6 June 1660; suc. fa. 1677.1
J.p. Worcs. Mar, 1660-89, Wilts. 1661-89, Mdx. 1670-89, Westminster by 1680-9; commr. for oyer and terminer, Oxford circuit July 1660, dep. lt. Worcs, c. Aug. 1660-Mar. 1688, Wilts. 1683-June 1688; commr. for assessment, Wilts. and Worcs. Aug. 1660-80, Westminster 1663-80, Mdx. 1673-80, Wilts. 1689, corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, Mdx., Westminster and Worcs. 1662; sub-commr. for prizes, London 1665-7; farmer of excise, Worcs. 1665-74; commr. for inquiry, Richmond Park 1671, recusants, Mdx. and Yorks. (W. Riding) 1675; freeman, Worcester 1683; recorder, Devizes 1685-Oct. 1688.2
Gent. of privy chamber by June 1660-85; asst. R. Fishing Co. 1664, R. Adventurers into Africa 1671; trustee for country excise 1668-74, fee-farm rents 1670-3; member, R. Africa Co. 1672.3
Capt. Duke of York’s Horse Gds. July 1660-1, R. Ft. Gds. (later Grenadier Gds.) 1661-72; lt.-col. Barbados Dgns. 1672-4; col. of dgns. 1678-9; lt.-col. Earl of Peterborough’s Horse (later 2 Dgn. Gds.) 1685-7; col. Queen Dowager’s Horse (later 6 Dgn. Gds.) 1687-Dec. 1688.4
Talbot’s ancestors had held land on the Welsh marches since at least the reign of Henry III. The head of the family was raised to the peerage in 1352, and their record of service in the Lower House began in 1386. Talbot was descended from a grandson of the 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury who acquired Salwarp and Lacock in Elizabethan times. His father, the elder brother of Sir Gilbert Talbot was among the most active royalist commissioners of array in the Civil War, and after a year in prison compounded for his delinquency on a fine of £2,011. Talbot himself, though he had been secretly commissioned as captain of horse by the exiled Court, stood unsuccessfully for Worcestershire in 1659. Later in the year he was arrested for complicity in Booth’s rising. Although under the Long Parliament ordinance his eligibility was doubtful, he stood again for the county in 1660 with Henry Bromley. ‘Arrant Cavaliers by generation and education’, they defeated the Presbyterian candidate, Thomas Foley I. A moderately active Member of the Convention, Talbot made two recorded speeches, acted as teller in five divisions, and was named to eight committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and that to draft the preamble to the assessment bill. He paraded his troop on Blackheath for the arrival of the King, and was knighted. On 6 July he supported, both in debate and division, a proviso to the indemnity bill to exclude lawyers who had acted for the prosecution in state trials under the Protectorate. A strong Anglican, he expressed surprise on 16 July that ‘those that formerly desired to hasten the settlement of religion most obstruct the question’. He was appointed to the committee to settle ministers in their livings, and acted as teller for agreeing to one of the Lords’ amendments to the bill. After the recess he was added to the committees for the militia bill and the revenue. He twice acted as teller for a proviso to the post office bill on behalf of the Cavalier officer George Porter, and supported the second reading of a bill to compensate two Nottinghamshire Cavaliers out of the estate of John Hutchinson.5
Talbot made way for two senior Royalists in Worcestershire at the general election of 1661, but was returned for Knaresborough on the interest of his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Slingsby. Although he was given a regular commission in the guards and served in the army for most of the reign, he was a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. The marshalling of votes perhaps appealed particularly to his military mind, for he was teller in no fewer than 60 divisions. He was named to more than 400 committees, in nine of which he took the chair, and made 26 recorded speeches, though he was never confident on his feet in the House. In the opening session he was appointed to the committees for the corporations and uniformity bills and the bill of pains and penalties. He carried the corporations bill to the Lords on 5 July, and during the debate when it returned to the Lower House acted as teller against the adjournment. He took the chair for the bill to enable the lands of his wife’s uncle, Sir Robert Slingsby, to be sold. After the Christmas recess he was teller against a proviso to the militia bill. He served on the deputation sent to ask the King on 8 Apr. 1662 for the suspension of the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly for the rest of the year. He was teller for putting the question on a proviso to the allowance proposed for nonconformist ministers in the uniformity bill. On 7 May he was sent to the Lords to hear the announcement of the imminent arrival of Catherine of Braganza. A zealous friend to Ormonde, Talbot was ordered on 12 May to obtain an undertaking from his son Lord Ossory ( Thomas Butler not to fight a duel with the Hon. Philip Howard. On 17 May he requested a conference on the highways bill, which he helped to manage.6
In 1663 Talbot acted as teller for adjourning the debate on the Declaration of Indulgence and for committing the bill for the maintenance of the urban clergy. He was named to the committee to consider the first bill in this Parliament intended to prevent the growth of Popery, though Andrew Marvell professed to believe him the leader of the unacknowledged Papists in the House, perhaps because the head of his family, the 11th Earl of Shrewsbury, was of that persuasion. He was also among those appointed to the inquiry into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple. He opposed both the clause in the bill against meetings of sectaries to reserve a servant’s duty to his master, and the bill itself on its third reading. He favoured the bill for improving the revenue from the Forest of Dean, and served on the delegation to ask the King to preserve the timber. Presumably he had taken over his father’s estates in Wiltshire, valued at £1,500 p.a., because he entertained the King at Lacock in the autumn. Listed as a court dependant in 1664, he opposed an amendment designed to strengthen the triennial bill and the commitment of an additional corporations bill, and he desired to delete the reference to courts of equity from the conventicles bill. He was teller for committing a bill for regulating the ‘mystery of making tobacco pipes’ (18 Jan. 1665), and reported bills ‘for the true making of brick and tile’ and for regulating the hallage duty on cloth. As one of Ormonde’s firmest supporters in the House he opposed the prohibition of Irish cattle imports both in debate and division in the Oxford session. In October 1666 he was second to Lord Fauconberg in a duel with Sir Thomas Osborne, then one of Buckingham’s followers. His principal was severely wounded, and a few days later Talbot was named to the committee on a bill to prevent duelling. He acted as teller for supply in several divisions in this session, and was regarded by Marvell as a leading court supporter in the excise debate. When a petition was presented to the House on behalf of the merchants trading to France on 22 Jan. 1667 he opposed hearing it, but a week later he was among those ordered to attend the King with an address on their behalf. On the same day he was teller for the motion to allow Lord Mordaunt counsel during his impeachment.7
As an opponent of Buckingham Talbot cannot have welcomed the fall of Clarendon, though in the ensuing session he was appointed to the committees to inquire into the miscarriages of the second Dutch war, to consider the charges against Mordaunt, and to consult the Duke of Albemarle ( George Monck) about measures against highwaymen. When John Wildman I was proposed for the commission of public accounts, ‘Sir John Talbot did fly out ... and took notice how [he] was entertained in the bosom of the Duke of Buckingham’. On 16 Dec. 1667 he acted as teller for the second reading of the Lords’ bill to banish and disable Clarendon, and was appointed to the committee. He spoke against the amendment to the preamble offered by Sir Robert Howard, and was teller for the motion to agree with the Lords on the bill. Shortly after the Christmas recess he was involved in a yet more notorious duel, this time as second to Shrewsbury, who was mortally wounded by his wife’s paramour, Buckingham. Talbot himself was injured in the arm, but he had returned to the House by 27 Mar. 1668, when he was teller for recommitting the bill to reform the collection of hearth-tax, and a few days later he was given leave to attend Shrewsbury’s funeral. He served on the deputation which presented a joint address for wearing English manufactures, and was named to the committee for the bill to prevent the refusal of writs of habeas corpus. As one of the trustees for the country excise he was chiefly responsible with Sir James Smyth for allocating the new leases. During the short 1669 session he was appointed to the committees on the bills for extending the Conventicles Act and preventing abuses in elections, and he acted as teller in favour of the narrower franchise at Evesham. Still a zealous friend of Ormonde, on whose behalf he talked ‘mighty high’, he was noted as a court supporter at this period both by Government and Opposition. On 17 Feb. 1670 he was teller for a motion to debate supply, and he continued regularly to assist in divisions on this subject. When a complaint was made that a cousin of his wife’s had appealed to the House of Lords against a judicial decision in favour of William Hale, he asserted that in a similar case in the Long Parliament privilege had not been insisted on, and moved to examine precedents. He was naturally anxious in view of his interest in the country excise that distilling should not be confined to London and the ports, as he urged in the debate on brandy. He was appointed to the committees to consider authorizing commissioners to negotiate for union with Scotland and to prepare reasons on the bill for the repair of highways. He helped to draft a proviso to the bill for preventing the delivery of English ships to pirates, and reported reasons for a conference on the day Parliament was adjourned. In the following year he again took the chair in the committee to prepare reasons, and on 11 Mar. 1671 he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference. He was appointed to the committee on the bill to prevent the growth of Popery, though he wished to exempt from its provisions Cavaliers who had fought for Charles I or had been obliged to sell their lands. An opposition writer during the long recess which followed described him as ‘captain in the guards, a great huff and excise-farmer. Commissioner of the prizes and a great cheat therein.One of the monitors in the Commons House. One of the commissioners for selling the fee farms.’8
On the break-up of the Cabal Talbot twice acted as teller for the adjournment with the object of preventing awkward debates on the Declaration of Indulgence and the printing of grievances. He was named to the committees which produced the test bill and considered a bill of ease for dissenters, though he tried to obstruct the latter measure by opposing a motion for candles. In 1674 he similarly sought to curtail the debate on Lord Arlington, and was added to the committee to consider the charges against the minister. He was also appointed to the committee of inquiry into the condition of Ireland. He had accepted a commission as second-in-command of a new regiment raised by Prince Rupert for the third Dutch war, but this was disbanded on the conclusion of peace, and he found himself a civilian. Moreover he had lost his excise post in Clifford’s reorganization of the farms, and Danby reduced by one-third the pension of £750 p.a. which he had been granted in compensation. Nevertheless his name appeared on the Paston list. Although Talbot was involved in an intrigue against Danby’s crony Lord Ranelagh ( Richard Jones), his loyalty in the House was unshakable. In the spring of 1675 he acted as teller for omitting the third paragraph of the address against Lauderdale, against committing a place bill, and against demanding the recall of all British subjects from the French service. He spoke against an opposition motion to bar any further legislation during the session. He was listed among the government speakers and the officials in the House at this time, though he made little contribution to the autumn session, except for two brief interjections in supply debates. He was also teller against two more motions for candles, in order to smother discussion on limiting further grants and on an appropriation clause. When Parliament reconvened in 1677 after the long prorogation, Shaftesbury marked Talbot ‘thrice vile’, and he once more acted as teller for supply. He was named to the committees to draw up an address on the danger from France, to consider a bill for preventing the growth of Popery, and to provide for the Protestant education of the royal children. He was teller in the unlikely company of John Birch for the successful motion to repeal the prohibition on Irish cattle on 5 Apr., and took the chair for a tithe bill.9
‘Talbot was given a regiment of dragoons in 1678, and in the debate of 14 Mar. he complained of some remarks by William Leveson Gower on the new-raised forces:’
We are unhappy to be under the thought of being the occasion of bringing in Popery and setting up a standing army. I have a family and an estate that my ancestors have subsisted on. But this is a great discouragement, if, whilst we are making levies of our men, we shall have such aspersions, fears and jealousies upon us. I am under some astonishment at it. Whilst I have been under military command I have acted according to law. Instead of getting men raised, under these apprehensions, at this rate, people will rather knock us on the head when we shall beat up our drums.
In reply Leveson Gower assured Talbot that he had meant no reflection on him. ‘I would never have given my vote with that gentleman so often if I thought he intended Popery or a standing army’. He was appointed to the committee to summarize foreign commitments (30 Apr.), and acted as teller for accepting the agreement with the Dutch as in accordance with the addresses of the House. On 8 May he defended Lauderdale in debate, and acted successfully as teller for the motion to delete the first paragraph of the address for his removal. ‘You will give too much approbation and countenance to the disorders in Scotland by not specifying particulars.’ In a debate on disbandment he said:
I hope you will consider their clothing and some charges which the officers stand engaged for. The officers had but levy-money only, which in my command did not any considerable part. I hope you will direct all the colonels to bring you the accounts of what they have laid out.
Talbot’s known courage stood him in good stead as tempers rose. Accused of ‘insolence’ in raising men in Ireland, he compelled Edward Vaughan to substitute the word ‘oversight’, and there were even rumours that he was to succeed Sir Robert Carr as chancellor of the duchy. He helped to manage conferences on disbandment and burial in woollen, and acted as teller against adjourning the supply debate of 25 June. Although his regiment was ordered to Flanders in August he was back in the House for the opening of what proved to be the last session of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to the committees to inquire into the Popish Plot and to consider the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament. On 28 Oct. he urged that Humphrey Weld, denounced by Oates as a Papist, should not be allowed to remain in the House. He was among those appointed to draw up the instructions for disbanding the army and the address on the dangers to the kingdom, though he had been a teller for omitting the reference to ‘private advices’. On 21 Dec. he was sent to desire the Lords to continue sitting in order that they might receive Danby’s impeachment, but during the ensuing debate he attacked the conduct of the committee which had drawn up the articles.
This committee being clandestine, it may be they have not done their duty, for they have stamped the crime already upon the articles, which they had no authority to do.
Although his opinion was seconded by so eminent a legal authority as John Maynard I, his motion for recommittal was defeated by 179 votes to 135. His name figures on both lists of the court party in 1678, and in A Seasonable Argument he was described as ‘valiant Sir John Talbot’ and credited with ‘£800 per annum out of the Wiltshire excise’, and a grant of the jewel office in reversion to his uncle Sir Gilbert Talbot.10
At the first general election of 1679 Talbot was returned for Chippenham, a borough three miles from Lacock, apparently without a contest. A moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and appointed to eight committees, including those for the better conviction of recusants, security against Popery, and the removal of Papists from the London area. He was teller for the Court in four divisions, three of which concerned election petitions, and he also spoke in the committee of privileges on behalf of Sir John Reresby at Aldborough. He was teller for depositing the revenue voted for disbandment in the Exchequer, and voted against exclusion. Although named to the committee of inquiry into the state of the navy, he was unable to find out where it was meeting. When (Sir) Stephen Fox named him to the House as an excise pensioner, he pointed out that his pension represented compensation for loss of office under Clifford:
I confess to you I am afraid what I shall say always, but more now I am in confusion, and shall speak my thoughts very indigestedly. ... I say with great assurance that, directly or indirectly, I never took one shilling as a gift or begging from the time the King came in. I do disown anything by way of secret service to influence my vote here. I will submit myself to the censure of the law to be tried by that law.
Talbot’s evident sincerity and the consistency of his political conduct clearly outweighed any defects in his eloquence, and his standing in the House was unaffected by Fox’s ‘revelations’. When business resumed after the week-end he attacked the provocative report prepared by William Sacheverell on the differences between the Houses over the trials of the lords in the Tower, and moved unsuccessfully that it should not be entered in the Journal. On the dissolution he canvassed Droitwich, where he owned several salt-works, but on 19 July Henry Coventry was informed by a correspondent that he could not procure one vote, and as a member of the ‘unanimous club’ he is unlikely to have persisted. He stood for Ludgershall in 1681, doubtless on the Bruce interest, but the double return was not resolved before the Oxford Parliament was dissolved, and he never took his seat.11
Talbot was instrumental in procuring the surrender of the Devizes charter in 1684, and on 21 Mar. 1685 his servant brought down the replacement, in which he was named recorder. A week later he was returned for the borough, and became a very active Member of James II’s Parliament. On the first day of the session he was sent to the Lords to ask for concurrence in a vote of thanks for the speech from the throne. He was named to 16 committees, in three of which he took the chair, and twice acted as teller. He was among those ordered to recommend expunctions from the Journals, and presented two lengthy reports from the committee for expiring laws. He also chaired the committees to consider the bill to provide carriages for the royal progresses and to bring in a bill to regulate hackney coaches. On the landing of Monmouth he helped to draft an address promising to assist the King, and himself rejoined the colours as second-in-command of Lord Peterborough’s regiment. The last reference to him in the Journals is appropriate, for on 13 Nov. he was teller for the motion, which failed by one vote, to instruct the committee of the whole House to ‘proceed first upon his Majesty’s supply’ before the grievance of the employment of Roman Catholic officers, and it was probably Talbot rather than (Sir) Joseph Tredenham who moved that John Coke II should be reprimanded for his offensive description of the King’s reply on this subject.12
Talbot must have given satisfaction on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act, for the French ambassador described him as ‘Protestant, but very royalist’. He took over the regiment of Lord Lumley, who had refused to comply, and was approved as court candidate for Chippenham in 1688. During the Revolution he made his way to Rochester to surrender his commission into the King’s own hands. A non-juror, he seems to have retired into private life. A warrant was issued for his arrest on 1 Mar. 1689 and again in May 1692, but it is not clear whether either was executed. Though still ‘a very strong, fine old gentleman’ in his middle sixties, he took no known part in Jacobite plots. He ran into financial difficulties, being obliged to mortgage Salwarp for £5,000 in 1705, and in his will he calculated that his estate had lost two-thirds of its value. He died on 13 Mar. 1714 and was buried at Lacock, where his memorial describes him as ‘a most faithful champion both of the monarchy and the Church of England’. He was the last of this branch of the Talbot family, but his property was inherited by his grandson, John Ivory, who took the name of Talbot, and was returned as a Tory for Ludgershall in 1715 and for Wiltshire in 1727 and 1734.13