Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Talbot, Peter

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TALBOT, PETER (1620–1680), titular archbishop of Dublin, born in 1620, was the second son of Sir William Talbot [q. v.], and elder brother of Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnel [q. v.] He went to Portugal in 1635, joined the Jesuits there, and completed his theological training at Rome. He lectured in moral theology at Antwerp, and then went again to Portugal. He was in Ireland during part of the civil war, his order being opposed to Giovanni Battista Rinuccini [q. v.], and inclined to make terms with Ormonde [see Butler, James, first Duke]. He seems to have left Ireland with his brother Richard, and they were at all events at Madrid together in the spring of 1653. From Spain Talbot went straight to London, where he dined with the French ambassador, and sought help from him between April and July (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 134). He then went to Ireland, ‘undergoing the same danger as others,’ and arranged for the despatch of agents thence, his eldest brother Robert being among them. Later in the summer the ambassador refused even to say a word in favour of the Irish (ib.)

Talbot was at Cologne in November 1654, where he saw Charles II, and was entrusted by him with a message to Nickel, the general of the Jesuits, through whom it was hoped the pope would give help (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. i. 358). He found the king ‘extremely well affected, not only towards catholics, but also towards the catholic religion’ (ib.). Nickel declined active interference, mainly on the ground that it would be too dangerous for the agents of the society in the British Isles (Cal. of Clarendon State Papers, ii. 437), and advised Talbot to sound the internuncio at Brussels. The internuncio said he had good reason to doubt Charles's sincerity (ib.). Later on Talbot attributed his small credit at Rome to the influence of Massari, dean of Fermo, who had become secretary to the propaganda, and was as violently opposed to the Irish royalists as his master Rinuccini had been (ib. iii. 162).

During 1655, 1656, and 1657 Talbot was in Flanders and occupied about Sexby's plot [see Sexby, Edward]. His movements may be traced in the Clarendon papers. His Franciscan brother, Tom, frequently appears, and there is evidence to show that the friar's character was as bad as Clarendon represented it to be in his ‘Life’ (ib. iii. 116). It has often been said that Peter Talbot received Charles into the Roman catholic church during this period, but of this there is no real evidence. Talbot was in England both before and after Oliver Cromwell's death, and is said to have attended his funeral. He was in close communication with the spy, Joseph Bampfield [q. v.], to whom he made proposals for setting up the Duke of York against Charles (Ormonde, Letters, ii. 232). Hyde tells the story very circumstantially, and vouches for its truth; but Talbot denied it (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 178). Scott and Vane distrusted Talbot and had serious thoughts of hanging him, but he was allowed to go to France. Peter Walsh [q. v.] says that Talbot was formally expelled from the Society of Jesus at the instance of Charles II, whose cause he ‘endeavoured to betray and utterly ruin in 1659,’ and that he knew all the circumstances at the time (Remonstrance, p. 529). Talbot, nevertheless, remained on good terms with the society. He was in Spain in July 1659, and until after the negotiations which ended in the treaty of the Pyrenees, 7 Nov. 1659. He seems to have considered himself a kind of king-maker, but there was no visible result from his diplomacy. He was at this time on pretty friendly terms with Ormonde and with Peter Walsh, whom he so strenuously opposed later (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 178). Bennet, much to Hyde's disgust, was inclined to trust Talbot, while the jesuits remonstrated against countenance being given him after his repudiation by the society to please Charles II. Hyde frequently warned Bennet against him, and, as the prospect of a restoration became clearer, he pointed out to Ormonde that the Talbots would certainly advance Irish claims as extreme as they had made ‘when they were almost in full possession of the kingdom’ (ib. p. 278). He thought all the brothers were ‘in the pack of knaves’ (ib. p. 64).

From Spain Talbot went to France. He was at Paris in June 1660, when the restoration had been effected, and told Ormonde that he hoped the mediation of the French and Spanish kings would not be required for Irishmen's estates. He seems to have thought it a matter of course that his elder brother and his nephew, Sir Walter Dongan, should be made viscounts (ib. ii. 185). He was in London in June 1660, and proposed to live there openly, ‘as many more do of my condition who are winked at;’ but Ormonde objected (ib.), and he professed at this time to be entirely guided by him. Talbot kept very quiet in England, and was in Paris again by the beginning of August. ‘All the Irish nation here abroad,’ he wrote thence to Ormonde, ‘confess how that they owe their preservation to your excellency’ (ib. p. 187). Talbot was at this time entirely in the Spanish interest, disliked the marriage of Princess Henrietta to the Duke of Orleans, and was strong against the match with Catherine of Braganza. He wished the king to ‘send away that Portugal ambassador,’ as likely only to embroil him with the house of Austria (ib. p. 187). Talbot, nevertheless, became one of the new queen's almoners, but did not hold the place long, for he made an enemy of Lady Castlemaine, and Clarendon had always been hostile. He wrote from Chester in December 1662, no doubt on his way to Ireland, asking for reinstatement (Russell and Prendergast, Report on Carte Papers, p. 123). In 1664 he was aiming at ecclesiastical promotion, and sought Peter Walsh's intercession with Ormonde, whom he believed hostile (Remonstrance, p. 530). He was in England in 1666, and actively engaged in thwarting Walsh's policy, and in preventing the adoption of the ‘Remonstrance’ by the clergy generally.

In 1668 Talbot was strongly recommended by Nicholas French [q. v.], bishop of Ferns, and by the primate, Edmund O'Reilly [q. v.], for the archbishopric of Dublin, especially on the ground of his opposition to Walsh. He was in London early in 1669, and jubilant at Ormonde's recall from the government of Ireland (Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 470–73). On 9 May he was consecrated archbishop of Dublin at Antwerp by the bishop of Antwerp, assisted by the bishops of Ghent and Ferns. He was in London again in July, and in 1670 was in Ireland, where he was at once engaged in a contest with the new primate, Oliver Plunket [q. v.], about the old question of precedency as between Armagh and Dublin (ib. i. 504). Books were written by both prelates, but the primacy of Armagh has long ceased to be a matter of dispute. Talbot and Plunket were never on very good terms. When Richard Talbot was chosen agent for the dispossessed Irish proprietors, his brother, the archbishop, subscribed 10l., but the Ulster clergy refused to raise a like sum. When Plunket established a jesuit school in Dublin, Talbot denounced the enterprise as rash and vainglorious (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. v. 361). Talbot held provincial synods in 1670 and 1671. He used his position to persecute Peter Walsh and all who had adhered to the ‘Remonstrance’ (Carte, Ormonde, ii. 214). He was perhaps already planning the repeal of the act of settlement (King, App. p. 41).

When the bishops and regular clergy of the Roman catholic church were ordered to leave Ireland in 1673, Plunket held his ground; but Talbot went to Paris, where he was in close communication with Coleman and other conspirators. Sir W. Throckmorton thought him the ‘lyingest rogue in the world,’ and the ‘most desperate villain’ ever born (Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. vi. 58, 70). W. Leybourn called him a ‘foolish impertinent busybody’ (ib. p. 100). He was, however, on good terms with the Duke and Duchess of York, and had a pension of 200l. from Charles, who was favourable to his selection for the archbishopric of Dublin. He was back in England early in 1676 (ib. 7th Rep. p. 439 a), and, being protected by James, was allowed to live unmolested for two years at Poole Hall in Cheshire. Talbot returned to Ireland in May 1678, and was arrested in October for supposed complicity in the ‘popish plot.’ No evidence was found to implicate him. He had for a long time been afflicted with the stone, to which he succumbed in Newgate prison, Dublin, about 1 June 1680. Shortly before his death he received absolution from his old antagonist, Plunket, who was confined in the same building, and who, according to Bishop Forstall, burst through the reluctant gaolers to reach his side (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 256). A portrait of Talbot by John Riley belongs to Lord Talbot de Malahide (Cat. Third Loan Exhib. No. 707).

Harris gives a long list of Talbot's writings, most of which he had not seen. None of them are in the Bodleian Library. The following are in Trinity College, Dublin, or the British Museum: 1. ‘Erastus Senior, demonstrating that those called bishops in England are no bishops,’ London, 1662, 16mo; reprinted London, 1844, 1850, and Sydney, 1848 [see also under Lewgar, John]. 2. ‘Primatus Dubliniensis,’ Lille, 1674, 8vo. 3. ‘The Duty and Comfort of Suffering Subjects represented in a letter to the Roman Catholics of Ireland,’ Paris, May 1674, 4to (a copy in the British Museum). 4. ‘Blakloanæ hæresis … confutatio,’ Ghent, 1675, 4to. 5. ‘Scutum inexpugnabile fidei adversus hæresin Blakloanam,’ Lyons, 1678, 4to.

The British Museum Catalogue also ascribes to him ‘The Polititian's Catechisme … written by N. N.,’ Antwerp, 1658, 8vo.

[Ware's Writers of Ireland, ed. Harris; Brenan's Ecclesiastical Hist. of Ireland; Brady's Episcopal Succession; De Burgo's Hibernia Dominicana; Cardinal Moran's Spicilegium Ossoriense and Life of Oliver Plunket; Carte's Ormonde Letters, and his Life of Ormonde, esp. bk. vii.; Peter Walsh's Hist. of the Remonstrance; Clarendon's Life.]

R. B-l.