Talbot, Gilbert (1553-1616) (DNB00)

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TALBOT, GILBERT, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury (1553–1616), the second son of George Talbot, sixth earl [q. v.], by his first marriage, was born on 20 Nov. 1553. Before he was fifteen he was on 9 Feb. 1568 married to Mary Cavendish, daughter of Sir William Cavendish of Chatsworth, whose widow, ‘Bess of Hardwick’ [see Talbot, Elizabeth], was on the point of marrying his father. Some two and a half years after his marriage he was sent to the university of Padua, where he announces his arrival and intentions of diligence in a letter to his father, dated 4 Nov. 1570. Upon his return in 1572 he was elected M.P. for Derbyshire. Ten years later, upon the death without issue of his elder brother, Francis, he assumed the style of Lord Talbot, and in 1588, as heir-apparent to the earldom of Shrewsbury, he was summoned to parliament as Baron Talbot. Upon his father's death in 1590 he succeeded to the honours and estates of the family, and on 20 June 1592 he was elected K.G.

During his father's lifetime Gilbert had been in league with his stepmother, the notorious ‘Bess,’ against the peace of the old earl; but no sooner was he dead than the most violent dissensions broke out as to the executorship and administration of the will. Not, however, with the dowager only, but with almost every member of this divided family, was the new earl at variance. His feuds with his second brother Edward, with his youngest brother Henry, with his elder brother's widow Lady Talbot, with his mother's relatives the family of Manners, with his neighbours the Wortleys and Stanhopes, were all so violent as to render it wellnigh impossible for the gentry of the district to preserve neutrality (Lodge, Illustrations, Introd.). Edward Talbot was alleged by Gilbert's partisans to have conspired with Wood, the earl's physician, against the life of his elder brother. On 22 June 1594 Gilbert indited a letter to Edward calling him a liar and a forger, and challenging him to a duel with rapiers and daggers. Edward ‘flatly’ refused to fight, but did not desist from intriguing against his brother (cf. Lodge, ii. 464 sq.; Harl. MS. 4846, ff. 325, &c.). The matter came before the Star-chamber in July 1595, when Edward managed to elude the charge of complicity, but Wood was condemned to imprisonment and the loss of his ears, as ‘a most palpable machiuilian,’ who had compassed the earl's death by means of poisoned gloves (Les Reportes del Cases in Camera Stellata, ed. Baildon, 1894, pp. 13–19).

Shrewsbury was also on ill terms with his tenantry. The matters in dispute came before the queen, and in 1594 the lord-keeper wrote to the earl signifying the queen's displeasure, and advising him ‘to ease his tenants' hardships.’ He appears to have been refractory, and early in 1595 he was put under arrest by Elizabeth's command. On 1 Oct. following Rowland Whyte, in a letter to Sir Robert Sidney, mentions that he was not yet allowed to come to court, in spite of the pitiful appeals of his wife. He must have been soon afterwards restored to favour, as in September 1596 he was sent to convey the Garter to Henri IV of France. The earl met the king at Rouen, and the investiture took place in the church of St. Ouen in that city. Upon his return he sent the French king a present of a horse and hounds. The earl was much addicted to hunting and falconry, and Aubrey tells how his son-in-law, the Earl of Pembroke, had a hawk which he called ‘Shrewsbury’ after its donor. He sat at the trial of Essex in 1600, and was created a privy councillor in 1601. On Elizabeth's death he signed the proclamation naming James I her successor, and he was chief commissioner of claims for the coronation, 7 July 1603. He was continued in his office of privy councillor, but, with the exception of the chief-justiceship in eyre of the forests north of the Trent, he received no honours or employments at the new court. He spent most of his time at Sheffield Castle, which he was the last of his line to occupy. He encouraged by his influence the scheme for erecting a college at Ripon, and he patronised Augustine Vincent, the genealogist, for whom he obtained a place in the college of arms in February 1616 (see Vincent, Brooke). He died at Worksop (some accounts say in his house in Broad Street, London) on 8 May 1616, and was buried in the Talbot vault in Sheffield church. He left directions in his will for the foundation of a hospital at Sheffield for twenty poor persons. His widow, who survived until 1632, was imprisoned during 1611–12 on suspicion of having connived at the flight of her niece Arabella Stuart. She defrayed a large part of the expense of building the second court at St. John's College, Cambridge, between 1595 and 1612 (Willis, Archit. Hist. of Univ. of Cambridge, ii. 248). A statue of her was erected upon one of the buttresses of the new chapel at St. John's in 1864.

The seventh earl had issue two sons, George and John, who both died young, and three daughters. Of these, his coheirs, Mary married William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke [q. v.]; Elizabeth married Henry Grey, eighth earl of Kent; and Alethea married Thomas Howard, second earl of Arundel [q. v.], whose grandson and heir was restored in 1664 to the dukedom of Norfolk, and whose descendant, the present duke, enjoys through this alliance the vast possessions of the Talbot and Furnivall families in South Yorkshire.

Upon the seventh earl's death the three baronies of Talbot, Strange, and Furnivall fell into abeyance among his daughters. The earldom passed to Gilbert's brother, Edward Talbot, eighth earl of Shrewsbury (1561–1618), upon whose death it reverted to George Talbot, ninth earl (1564–1630), the continuator of the line of Sir Gilbert, younger son of John Talbot, the second earl [q. v.]

A portrait of the seventh earl, from a drawing in the Sutherland collection in the Bodleian Library, was engraved for Doyle's ‘Official Baronage’ (iii. 320).

[Lodge's Illustrations of British History, 1838; Hunter's Hallamshire, ed. Gatty, 1869; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Nichols's Progresses of James I, 1828, i. 86, 162 sq.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. ii. 33; Sidney Papers, s.a. 1597; Burke's Extinct Peerage, s.v. ‘Talbot;’ Dugdale's Baronage, 1675, i, 335.]

T. S.