TALBOT, Sir Gilbert (c.1606-95), of Whitehall and Lacock Abbey, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



28 Sept. 1666

Family and Education

b. c.1606, 5th s. of Sharington Talbot (d.1642) of Rudge, Pattingham, Salop and Lacock by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Leighton of Feckenham, Worcs. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 30 Apr. 1624, aged 17, BA 1626, MA (Lincoln) 1628. unm. Kntd. 4 Jan. 1645.1

Offices Held

Fellow of All Souls 1629-?34; commr. for assessment, Mdx. and Westminster 1673-80, Plymouth 1677-9; freeman, Bath 1677; j.p. Wilts. 1682-?90, dep. lt. June 1688-9.2

Sec. of embassy, Venice 1634-7, resident 1637-44, envoy 1645; gent. usher of the privy chamber by 1656-July 1660; master of the jewel house July 1660-90; envoy extraordinary, Denmark 1664-6.3

FRS 1663-85.


‘A discreet gentleman of good parts and well disposed to all virtuous courses’, Talbot served for eleven years at the English legation in Venice, accumulating debts of £13,000. Returning shortly before the end of the Civil War, he obtained a letter from Charles I to his son recommending him for reward. He was included in the Oxford articles and not required to compound, though in 1648, when he was living at Dartmouth, information was offered that he was a delinquent and that his property should be sequestrated. In the following year he proposed the formation of a royalist committee in England, the germ of the Sealed Knot. Denounced as a conspirator in 1650, he was imprisoned at Gloucester. On his release he joined the exiled Court, helped to arrange remittances from England, and was made gentleman usher of the privy chamber.4

Talbot returned to England at the Restoration impoverished by his many years of unpaid service and still expectant of ‘fortune and favour’. With the assistance of the Duke of Ormonde and, perhaps, ‘his adopted father’, Sir Edward Nicholas, he was granted the office of master of the jewel house, forfeited by Sir Henry Mildmay, although ‘not without strong opposition from Lord Chancellor Hyde who had showed himself his enemy upon other occasions’. However, this did not provide Talbot with the remuneration he expected, the profits being reduced from £1,200 p.a. £200, and he spent the rest of his life petitioning for the money owed him by Charles I and his son. One of the founding members of the Royal Society, he briefly resumed his diplomatic career as envoy to Denmark during the second Dutch war, though without conspicuous success. Indeed, he was accused of responsibility for the misunderstanding that caused the fiasco at Bergen.5

Shortly after his return from Copenhagen Talbot was returned unopposed at a by-election for Plymouth on the Earl of Bath’s interest. Though professing, rather prematurely, that ‘it is time for me to look out my grave’, he was an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 165 committees, acted as teller in seventeen divisions, and made five recorded speeches. On 4 Jan. 1667 he was teller against describing Irish cattle imports as a nuisance, and was listed among Ormonde’s friends. He took no known part in the proceedings against Clarendon, though doubtless welcoming the chancellor’s dismissal. He was against engrossing the bill to reform the hearth-tax (with his nephew (Sir) John Talbot) on 27 Mar. 1668, and against the suspension of Sir George Carteret (10 Dec. 1669). After reading to the House on 2 Mar. 1670 a letter from Hampshire denouncing nonconformist insolence, he was appointed to the committee for renewing the Conventicles Act. He was teller on third reading against the bill to prevent transportation and for the sale of fee-farm rents. In the same session he reported an estate bill and a petition from a servant of Sir John Pretyman, but these were the only occasions on which he assumed the chair. He was on both lists of government supporters at this time as a court dependant, and described as ‘a great cheat at bowls and cards, not born to a farthing’. He refused a baronetcy because of the cost.6

When Sir Thomas Meres described misrepresentation of the terms of the test bill as throwing dirt at it, Talbot rose abruptly to his feet to protest that ‘dirt is thrown somewhere else than on the bill; it is said a great many did turn upon design of preferment’. But he got no further in what may have been intended for a defence of Lord Arlington. In the debate on the bill of ease he acted as teller for the unsuccessful motion to instruct the committee to include a clause incapacitating dissenters from sitting in the Commons. He was named on the Paston list of court supporters, and before the 1674 session he wrote to (Sir) Joseph Williamson at Köln that he feared ‘a factious Parliament is to meet, which is apt to question and carp at all things beyond their sphere’. As for the court party,

some few well meaning people of us do cabal as formerly to try if we can find a way to divert the storm that threateneth, but there are so many cabals of the malicious to countermine our counsels that my fears far exceed my hopes. ... Yet neither would our condition possibly be so desperate did not some of his Majesty’s own intimates help to blow the coal.

He offered to assist Williamson in the House as one who could ‘with less suspicion than those of the Council communicate the matters to some useful Members, which if it came from the Council might look like design’. On 23 Jan. he wrote triumphantly:

Great endeavour was made in the House four days together to have my Lord Arlington included in the address for the removal of him from all employment, from the King’s counsels, and from his presence for ever, ... but we carried it in the negative by 39 votes.

In the spring session of 1675 he acted as teller for adjourning the debate on Lauderdale, and in committee against an address for recalling British subjects from the French service, which occasioned a turbulent scene with William, Lord Cavendish. He was listed among the King’s servants in the House, but Sir Richard Wiseman left his name without a comment. In 1677, however, he was granted a pension of £400 p.a. during pleasure out of the new year gifts to the King, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’. He was teller for the bill for the better repair of churches on 10 Apr. 1677, and on 12 June 1678 was appointed to the committee on the bill for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament. Nevertheless he was omitted from the government list of the court party. In the final session he was named to the committees to inquire into the Popish Plot and to draw up an address for the removal of Papists from the London area. He remained in touch with the world of diplomacy, telling the House on 7 Nov. that the Florentine envoy Salvetti was at the door, prepared to waive his immunity to give evidence about the Plot.7

As one of the ‘unanimous club’, Talbot is unlikely to have stood again. To the lord lieutenant’s questions in 1688 he replied:

If I am chosen a Member of Parliament when his Majesty shall call one I will, as I have ever done in former Parliaments, be entirely governed and directed by his Majesty in my votes. I shall give my best assistance to have such Members elected as shall be for abolishing the Penal Laws and Tests.

A non-juror after the Revolution, he was obliged to lay down his office, despite his life patent. He took up residence with his nephew at Lacock. He was buried at Salwarp on 23 July 1695.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. Shrewsbury Peerage Case, 30, 326.
  • 2. Bath council bk. 2, p. 740; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 85.
  • 3. PC2/44/225; SP99/41/122; CSP Ven. 1636-9, p. 382; 1643-7, pp. 101, 180, 185; Archaeologia, xxxv. 338; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 138; 1667-8, p. 260; 1689-90, p. 531.
  • 4. SP99/41/24; Cal. Treas. Pprs. i. 177; Cal. Treas. Pprs. i. 177; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 843; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 19, 73; Thurloe, ii. 511; CSP Dom. 1657-8, p. 201.
  • 5. Harl. 1843, ff. 3-7; CSP Dom. 1657-8, p. 314; 1663-4, p. 2; K. H. D. Haley, Wm. III and the Opposition 15-17.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 165; 1670, p. 171; Haley, 16; CJ, ix. 142, 147, 155; Grey, i. 222-3; Harl. 7020, f. 42v.
  • 7. Grey, ii. 85; vi. 165; CJ, ix. 266, 330; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. ix), 105, 126; Dering Pprs. 81-82; Harl. 1843, f. 11.
  • 8. PCC 122 Irby; Luttrell, iii. 519; Shrewsbury Peerage Case, 30.