Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Talbot, Richard (1630-1691)
TALBOT, RICHARD, Earl and titular Duke of Tyrconnel (1630–1691), born in 1630, was the youngest son of Sir William Talbot [q. v.], by Alison Netterville, who was alive in 1644. Peter Talbot [q. v.], Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin, was his elder brother. Richard Talbot, then a cornet, was taken prisoner at the rout of Preston's army, 8 Aug. 1647 (Confederation and War, vii. 349). In the confusion which followed he took the side of Ormonde against Rinuccini and Owen Roe O'Neill, as was natural for a native of the Pale to do. During the defence of Drogheda against Cromwell he was wounded and left for dead, but was saved by Commissary Reynolds, and afterwards escaped in woman's clothes.
After the ruin of the royalist cause in Ireland, Talbot made his way to Spain, and was at Madrid in March 1653 with his nephew, Sir Walter Dongan, under whom he had served in Ireland (Cal. of Clarendon State Papers, ii. 184). He then went to Flanders, where his brother Peter introduced him to the Duke of York, to whose fortunes he attached himself. Clarendon says Talbot was recommended by Daniel O'Neill [q. v.] as a person willing to assassinate Cromwell. Talbot knew at the time that this intention was attributed to him, and he did not deny it (Ormonde, Letters, ii. 70). He went to England in the summer of 1655 about royalist plots, and there is abundant evidence that he knew the Protector's murder was intended. In November he was arrested and examined by Cromwell himself at Whitehall. Finding that he would be sent to the Tower, he made the servants drunk and got away to the river, where he hid on shipboard. He reached Brussels on 3 Jan. 1655–6 (Cal. of Clarendon Papers, iii. 82). Hyde accused him of being in Cromwell's pay, but he strenuously denied this, and Ormonde does not appear to have believed it (Ormonde, Letters, ii. 67–73). Talbot's brother Peter says he denied the charge, ‘swearing and damning himself’ (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 161); but another brother, Gilbert, was certainly in correspondence with Thurloe, and the Talbots hung closely together (Cal. of Clarendon Papers, iii. 70). Richard Talbot served with Condé in June 1656 (ib. p. 141). In spite of much opposition he was given the command of the Duke of York's regiment, consisting chiefly of Munster men (Carte, Ormonde, ii. 234). Talbot was a duellist, like his brother Gilbert, and ready to fight on the smallest provocation or on none at all (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 147).
At the Restoration Talbot returned to England and was much at court as a gentleman of the Duke of York's bedchamber, with a salary of 300l. a year (ib. 8th Rep. p. 2792). He was one of the ‘men of honour’ who tried to take away Anne Hyde's character. Partly by looking after his own interests, and partly by successful play, he acquired a considerable property in Ireland. Grants of land were made to him, and he procured the restoration of some estates to their old owners, for which he was well paid (Jacobite Narrative, p. 156; Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. i. 110). In advocating the claims of his less fortunate countrymen he came into collision with Ormonde in 1661, and used language equivalent to a challenge. Ormonde went to the king and asked ‘if it was his pleasure that at this time of day he should put off his doublet to fight duels with Dick Talbot.’ Talbot was sent to the Tower, but was allowed to go to Ireland on making an apology. After this Talbot went to Portugal, and probably returned with the infanta Catherine in April 1662. On 3 June 1665 he fought under the Duke of York in the naval action off Lowestoft.
According to Hamilton, Talbot carried his attachment to James so far as to help him in his amours (cf. Burnet, i. 227). He himself formed a connection with the open-hearted Lady Shrewsbury (mother of Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury [q. v.], but left her to pay attention to Miss Hamilton, who married the Comte de Grammont in or before 1668 (Dalrymple, Memoirs, ii. 26). The Hamiltons were closely connected with Ormonde, and Talbot's advances were not well received by them. Afterwards he made love to the beautiful Fanny Jennings, the Duchess of Marlborough's elder sister. Though virtuous, she carried levity of deportment very far, and the story of her queer adventure as an orange-girl is told both by Anthony Hamilton [q. v.] and Pepys (Diary, 21 Feb. 1664–5). She kept Talbot in suspense for some time, but in the end preferred Anthony Hamilton's brother (Sir) George [see under Hamilton, Anthony], and Talbot married ‘the languishing Miss Boynton.’
Talbot went to Ireland in July 1665, and was at Bath in September 1668. In 1670 he became the agent and chief spokesman of the Irish Roman catholics who had suffered under the acts of settlement and explanation. This brought him again into collision with Ormonde, whom he tried to intimidate by threats and by publicly stating that his life was in danger. The result was another short imprisonment in the Tower. The grievances of those whom Talbot represented were very real, but there was not land enough in Ireland to satisfy all (Sir H. Finch's Report in Carte's Ormonde, ii. App. p. 91). Talbot was taken prisoner in the naval battle at Southwold Bay on 29 May 1672 (Rawdon Papers, p. 253). After this there is for some time but little notice of him, and he probably made a long stay in Ireland, where he was arrested in the autumn of 1678 upon a warrant from England for supposed complicity in the ‘popish plot.’ As his health suffered, he was allowed to go abroad. His wife died in Dublin in 1679, and before the year was out he married at Paris his old love Lady Hamilton, whose husband had been killed in 1676, leaving her with six children.
Talbot was allowed to return to England not long before Charles II's death, and he thanked Ormonde for helping to procure him this indulgence. On his way to Ireland he openly boasted that the catholics would soon be in power and would then pay off old scores (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, i. 198). Charles, who now no longer feared parliament, contemplated a remodelling of the Irish army. As a preliminary step Ormonde was recalled, and one of the first acts of James was to give his regiment of horse to Talbot. Talbot took command of the army in Ireland, the civil government being entrusted to lords justices. Three months after the accession of James, Talbot was created Earl of Tyrconnel, and was at once engaged in military reorganisation. His object was the same as Strafford's—to make the king independent in England by means of an Irish army, but the plan of operations was different. The protestant militia created by Ormonde was disbanded, and even private arms were taken from protestant householders. The gist of this long-laid plan was contained in a paper seized in Talbot's house as far back as 1671, and supposed to have been written by his brother Peter. The writer showed how the act of settlement might be neutralised, and the land restored to those who held it before October 1641, and he proposed ‘that the army should be gradually reformed, and opportunity taken to displace men not ill-affected to this settlement, and to put into the army or garrison in Ireland some fit persons to begin this work and likewise judges on the benches’ (King, App. p. 41). Tyrconnel went to England towards the end of 1685, and remained there in possession of the king's ear, so that Clarendon found his position undermined when he came over as viceroy in January 1685–6. Changes in the army and judiciary were made without consulting the lord-lieutenant. Early in June 1686 Tyrconnel returned to Dublin with a commission as lord-general and a salary of 1,410l. He was made independent of Clarendon, who was thus reduced to a cipher. Tyrconnel, dining with Clarendon the day after his arrival, exclaimed: ‘By God, my lord, these Acts of Settlement and this new interest are damned things; we do know all those arts and damned roguish contrivances which procured those acts,’ and he continued to rant in this style for an hour and a half (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, i. 432). Yet he fully admitted that the act of settlement could not be repealed on account of the confusion which would follow. His conduct during the next few weeks was so violent that Clarendon thought it hardly consistent with sanity (ib. pp. 451, 464). Lady Tyrconnel was in Ireland at this time, and Clarendon did not like her. The oath of supremacy in corporations was dispensed with, thus making the Roman catholics almost everywhere predominant. Whole battalions of protestant soldiers were discharged, without even leaving them the clothes which they had paid for themselves (ib. p. 470). For horses bought in the same way compensation was nominally given, but only on condition of the owners coming to Dublin to seek it, so that many were out of pocket in the end (ib. p. 501). The ranks of Ormonde's old regiment were filled with Roman catholics, Tyrconnel charging the lieutenant-colonel, Lord Roscommon, upon his allegiance to admit no others (ib. pp. 502, 505), and the like was done in other regiments. Tyrconnel was at Kilkenny with Clarendon in July receiving the troops. A few days later he went to Ulster, and completed his inspection of the army. At the end of August he returned to England, where preparations for repealing the act of settlement were being made. It was soon known that the king intended to make him viceroy. On 8 Oct. he was made a privy councillor in England (Luttrell, Diary), and on the 26th Sir Richard Nagle [q. v.] addressed to him his famous Coventry letter (Jacobite Narrative, p. 193). A letter dated 30 Nov. (Ellis, Original Letters, 2nd ser.) says visible preparations were being made—‘the Jesuit, Jack Peters, is very great, and Tyrconnel works by him.’
At the beginning of January 1686–7 Tyrconnel was appointed viceroy. He left London on the 11th, accompanied by his wife, and on the 17th they stayed the night with Bishop Cartwright at Chester (Bishop Cartwright, Diary), but were detained at Holyhead by bad weather. In Wharton's famous song are the lines:
Arra! but why does he stay behind?
O by my sowl! 'tis a Protestant wind;
But see de Tyrconnel is now come ashore,
And we shall have commissions galore;
Tyrconnel was sworn in as lord deputy on 12 Feb. Clarendon had been kept in the dark as much as possible. Tyrconnel's instructions (partly printed in D'Alton, i. 53) gave him almost unlimited discretion, but he was particularly directed to admit Roman catholics to all corporations and to offices generally. A simple oath of allegiance was prescribed for all officers and soldiers, and no other oath was to be required of them. With packed corporations, subservient sheriffs, a judicial bench and commission of the peace to his liking, and an army carefully raised for a particular purpose, Tyrconnel had everything his own way. The disarmed protestants were at the mercy of marauders and undisciplined recruits, and were soon reduced to despair. Great numbers left Ireland, and even sold their land for what it would fetch under the circumstances (Reresby, Memoirs; Luttrell, Diary, October 1686). Tyrconnel was at Chester with the king from 20 to 30 Aug. 1687, Nagle, Rice, and Churchill being there at the same time (Bishop Cartwright, Diary).
A letter from Dublin in 1688 says that Tyrconnel had in eighteen months reduced Ireland ‘from a place of briskest trade and best paid rents in Christendom to ruin and desolation’ (State Tracts, 1660–89, p. 316). It is known from French sources that Tyrconnel arranged with James for making Ireland a French protectorate in case the English crown should again be on a protestant head (Macaulay, chap. viii.). In the meantime it was decided to send over Irish troops to England, but the attempt to fill the ranks of English regiments with Irishmen was in great measure defeated by the firmness of the officers. The Irish soldiers were very unwilling to leave their own country, but Tyrconnel is said to have promised that they should be the king's bodyguard and have lands given them. Lady Tyrconnel was present at the birth of the Pretender on 10 June 1688 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. ii. 53), but rejoined her husband in Ireland later.
Shortly before James's flight from England Tyrconnel began to raise a large new force. Suitable officers could not be obtained in sufficient numbers, and commissions were given to many who had nothing to recommend them but their religion and their Irish names. As these troops were seldom paid, they could not be prevented from plundering. Trinity College was invaded and all horses and arms taken away (Stubbs, p. 131). ‘It pleased God,’ said George Walker (True Account), ‘so to infatuate the counsels of my lord Tyrconnel that when the 3,000 men were sent to England to assist his master against the invasion of the prince of Orange, he took particular care to send away the whole regiment quartered in and about Londonderry.’ Tyrconnel told an envoy from Enniskillen that he could not restrain the rabble, and that if they persisted in resistance they must be prepared to see a general massacre of protestants in the northern counties (McCormick, Actions of the Enniskillen Men). This was just the way to make brave men resist. Tyrconnel sent Lord Antrim to occupy Londonderry, but the citizens refused to receive him and his disorderly followers. In the negotiations which followed with Mountjoy [see Stewart, William, first Viscount Mountjoy], Tyrconnel did everything in his power to earn the name of ‘lying Dick Talbot’ which has been so freely given him by whig writers. For a moment William thought it possible to make terms with Tyrconnel, and perhaps the latter wavered. Richard Hamilton [q. v.] was sent over to sound him in January 1688–9, but it came to nothing, and Hamilton himself joined the jacobite ranks.
James landed at Kinsale on 12 March. Tyrconnel went to him at Cork on the 14th, and carried the sword of state before him when he entered Dublin on the 24th. He had hoisted over the castle a flag with the inscription, ‘Now or never, now and for ever.’ It was announced by proclamation that parliament would meet on 7 May, and James set out a few days later for Londonderry, leaving Tyrconnel in charge at Dublin. Writing to Louvois on 29 March 1689, Avaux observed that Tyrconnel was much less sanguine than James about the fall of Londonderry, and about the prevalence of Jacobite feeling in England. Avaux and Tyrconnel had advised James not to leave the capital, where they had him at their disposal, and could overrule Melfort [see Drummond, John, titular Duke of Melfort, (1649–1714)]. When James returned to Dublin he proposed to send Tyrconnel to the siege of Londonderry ‘to make the more noise’ (D'Alton, i. 58), but he did not go, probably on account of his health. Just before the meeting of parliament Tyrconnel sat for a day with Avaux, Melfort, Fitton, Nugent, and Nagle to decide upon the measures to be passed. All Avaux's suggestions were adopted, and James approved of everything (Avaux, p. 63). Among the measures so hatched were the repeal of the act of settlement and the attainder of 2,455 protestant landowners. A few days later Tyrconnel was ill again, Avaux attributing this to his vexation at Melfort's ascendency over the king. Avaux got on very well with Tyrconnel, who, he said, was as zealous for King Louis as any French viceroy could be, being convinced that nothing could be done without his help. In July James made Tyrconnel a duke. In September the fellows of Trinity College were turned out to make room for a garrison of foot, and a Roman catholic priest was, by Tyrconnel's advice, made provost (Stubbs, p. 134). Though still ill, Tyrconnel went to Drogheda, where he assembled twenty thousand men to keep Schomberg in check (Story, p. 17). The English army was much reduced by sickness, and made no progress, but the Irish officers spent the winter feasting in Dublin instead of making their ground good. The result was that Schomberg took Charlemont as soon as he could move in the early spring of 1690 (Macariæ Excidium, p. 41). Tyrconnel succeeded in getting rid of Justin Maccarthy [q. v.], who was his most powerful opponent, and who was chosen to take six thousand Irishmen to France in exchange for the French troops brought by Lauzun. Writing to Avaux on 22 March 1689–90, Tyrconnel remarked that Lauzun would be a long time getting to the front if he waited at Cork for everything needful.
Avaux's great object had been to get rid of Melfort, and Lauzun was not much better pleased with Dover [see Jermyn, Henry, first Baron Dover]. Acting on instructions from Louvois, Lauzun told James that he could not attend his council because he spoke no English. To meet the difficulty, James agreed to see him and Tyrconnel every day at four o'clock. Finding Tyrconnel apathetic, Lauzun exerted himself to cheer him, and on 20 May reported that he was in better heart (Ranke, vi. 107). Dover received a passport for Flanders before the end of June, ‘but I think,’ Lauzun wrote, ‘Lady Tyrconnel will keep him in Dublin while we are away’ (ib. vi. 111). Tyrconnel was with the rearguard of James's army during the retreat from Dundalk, and the defence of the passes over the Boyne was entrusted to him. On the day before the passage of the river the historian George Warter Story [q. v.] saw him riding along the opposite bank with Sarsfield, Berwick, and others. In the fight next day French officers noticed that he was lethargic from illness and unable to decide anything, but Lauzun expressly says that he fought bravely at the head of his regiment of horse (ib. vi. 119). When James had quitted the field, Tyrconnel retreated in good order along with the unbroken French troops. It is said that when the fugitive king reached Dublin, he complimented Lady Tyrconnel on the running powers of her husband's countrymen, and that she retorted ‘that his Majesty had the advantage of them.’ In consequence of urgent letters from Mary of Modena, Tyrconnel strongly advised James to return to France, which he did with the utmost precipitation (Clarke, ii. 406).
From Kinsale James wrote to Tyrconnel, leaving Ireland in his hands with power either to make terms or to carry on the war. Tyrconnel and Lauzun rode to Dublin together with the bulk of the defeated army, and from thence by Kilkenny to Limerick, where they arrived a few days later. Tyrconnel issued a proclamation ordering all troops to rendezvous at Limerick on pain of death (Luttrell, Diary). The Irish party accusing him of treachery, Sarsfield and Henry Luttrell proposed to arrest him; but this plan was frustrated by Berwick, who was to have had the supreme command in his place. On the other hand, Tyrconnel suspected the Irish leaders of wishing to make separate terms for themselves (Ranke, vi. 124). He had sent his wife to France with all the money he could scrape together. Agreeing with Lauzun that Limerick was untenable, he withdrew to Galway with the French troops, while Boisseleau and Sarsfield remained to reap the glory of successful resistance. The siege of Limerick was raised on the last day of August, and Tyrconnel then returned to settle the command of the town upon Brigadier Dorington, and to make preparations for a future campaign. On 12 Sept. he sailed from Galway with Lauzun, Boisseleau, and their men, leaving Berwick in command of the troops. The Irish party, who were now at open war with Tyrconnel, sent agents to counteract his influence with James and with the French government.
Tyrconnel got first to France, and succeeded in gaining the confidence both of James and of Louis XIV, in spite of Justin Maccarthy and other Irishmen. He had heard on the road that Sarsfield and his friends were in good repute at Versailles, and that it would be therefore vain to attribute the late disasters to them, as he and Lauzun had agreed to do. He accordingly feigned illness, and allowed Lauzun to go on alone and tell the preconcerted story. The latter added that Tyrconnel had been the life of the cause, and the only support of French interests in Ireland. Having thus gained a certificate to character, Tyrconnel proceeded to attribute the loss of Ireland to the desertion of the French troops and by implication to Lauzun, who narrowly escaped imprisonment (Macariæ Excidium, p. 78). Tyrconnel was afterwards said to have declared that an Irish captain could live on bread and water (ib. p. 111). It was believed by some that Tyrconnel used French money, originally given for the Irish service, to administer judicious bribes at the French court. To James's English advisers he represented that he was of English extraction, that he had an English wife, and that he alone was fitted to keep Ireland in connection with the English crown. In the end he was appointed lord lieutenant, and returned to Ireland with about 8,000l., some arms and stores, and a promise of French officers to follow. He landed at Galway in the middle of January 1690–1, and went thence to Limerick. He had brought an earl's patent for Sarsfield, and the two men were on rather better terms after this. He took steps to prevent news arriving from France, lest he should be undermined by the Irish agents who arrived there after his departure (ib. p. 110). In March he cried down and suppressed the brass money which had done so much to make the government of James odious. Certificates were given to those who brought in the base coin, in order that they might be paid when the king should enjoy his own again. About the same time St. Ruth arrived to take the supreme military command, but his commission did not render him independent of Tyrconnel in his capacity of viceroy. Making the most of this, Tyrconnel appeared in the field as commander-in-chief, to the intense disgust of Sarsfield and the other Irish officers. It was he, however, who advised the dismantling of the works on the Connaught side of Athlone, and St. Ruth's reputation would stand higher if he had done this (Jacobite Narrative, p. 131). On the other hand, Tyrconnel was accused of not making sufficient efforts to stave off the attack on Athlone (Macariæ Excidium, p. 125). The jealousy between the Anglo-Irish of the Pale, of whom Tyrconnel was the leader, and the native Irish was much increased by the appearance of Hugh Balldearg O'Donnell [q. v.]
Tyrconnel was at Limerick on 12 July, when the fatal battle of Aughrim was fought. Galway immediately fell and Tyrconnel was again for treating, it being evident that the defence of Limerick was hopeless. But he did not live to receive orders from James. On 10 Aug. he dined with D'Usson, and was in unusually good spirits, but was struck by apoplexy later in the day. Poison was talked of, but he was a worn-out man, and had long been ailing. He died on the 14th, and was buried in Limerick Cathedral, but there is no monument and the grave is not known. After his death a paper was circulated purporting to be his will, and advising the Irish to make no further resistance. The French king, said the writer, had given them no effectual aid while they were still strong, and would give them still less now, though he might make empty promises in order to prolong the struggle for his own ends. This was pretty much the truth, and the paper had perhaps some effect in inducing D'Usson and Sarsfield to capitulate (Ranke, v. 30). A year later, on 22 Aug. 1692, a funeral service was held in the English convent in the Faubourg St.-Antoine. Lady Tyrconnel had collected most of the English then in Paris, and a still extant sermon was preached which contains some biographical details.
Tyrconnel was a man of commanding stature, and very handsome when young. In his later days he became corpulent and unwieldy. There are three portraits of him at Malahide, of which one is reproduced, with a poor memoir, in the fifth volume of the ‘Ulster Journal of Archæology.’ Berwick says Tyrconnel had no genius for arms, and Clarendon had observed that he could not draw up a regiment (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, i. 436). Berwick, however, gives him a good character for valour and common-sense, and does not think him covetous, but ‘infiniment vain et fort rusé.’ He left no legitimate male issue.
Lady Tyrconnel had a French pension for a time, and afterwards made good her claim to a jointure, and she does not appear to have fallen into great poverty, though she may have been temporarily straitened. She seems to have been on pretty good terms with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, while Melfort and the English Jacobites abroad disliked her. She lived generally in France or Flanders until 1708 or 1709, when she returned to Dublin, and founded a nunnery for Poor Clares. She fell out of bed on a cold night in the early spring of 1730–1731, and died of exposure, being too weak to rise or call. She must have been ninety years old or very near it. Lady Tyrconnel was buried on 9 March in the Jones family vault in St. Patrick's Cathedral (Mason, Hist. of St. Patrick's, note a). By Tyrconnel she had two daughters, of whom Lady Charlotte was married to the Prince of Vintimiglia. Of her six children by Hamilton, three daughters, Elizabeth, Frances, and Mary, married respectively Viscounts Ross, Dillon, and Kingsland, and were well known in Ireland as the ‘three viscountesses.’
[Of the two chief contemporary Irish authorities, O'Kelly's Macariæ Excidium, ed. O'Callaghan, is hostile to Tyrconnel; while the Jacobite Narrative, ed. Gilbert, known to Macaulay as ‘Light to the Blind,’ is very favourable. Of little value is The Popish Champion, or a complete History of the Life and Military Transactions of Richard, Earl of Tyrconnel,’ 1689. Carte's Ormonde Letters and Life of Ormonde; Négociations de M. le Comte d'Avaux en Irlande; Mémoires du Maréchal de Berwick; Hamilton's Mémoires de Grammont; Story's Impartial Hist. and Continuation; Luttrell's Diary; Clark's Life of James II; King's State of the Protestants under James II; Walker's True Account; Oraison funèbre de … Tyrconnel … par Messire A. Anselm, 1692; Lord Talbot de Malahide's Papers, Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep.; D'Alton's King James's Army List; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Macaulay's Hist. of England; Ranke's Hist. of England (Oxford transl.); Stubbs's Hist. of the University of Dublin; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage. A collection of Tyrconnel's proclamations is in the British Museum.]