Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury

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His Grace
The Duke of Shrewsbury
KG PC
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg
The Duke of Shrewsbury by Sir Godfrey Kneller.
Lord High Treasurer
In office
30 July 1714 – 13 October 1714
Monarch Anne
George I
Preceded by The Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
Succeeded by The Earl of Halifax
as First Lord of the Treasury in Commission
Lord Chamberlain
In office
1710–1715
Monarch Anne
George I
Preceded by The Marquess of Kent
Succeeded by The Duke of Bolton
In office
1699–1700
Monarch Anne
Preceded by The Earl of Sunderland
de jure
Vacant
de facto
Succeeded by The Earl of Jersey
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
22 September 1713 – 21 September 1714
Monarch Anne
George I
Preceded by The Duke of Ormonde
Succeeded by The Earl of Sunderland
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
In office
27 April 1695 – 12 December 1698
Monarch William III
Preceded by John Trenchard
Succeeded by James Vernon
In office
14 February 1689 – 2 June 1690
Monarch William III
Preceded by The Earl of Middleton
Succeeded by The Earl of Nottingham
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
In office
2 March 1694 – 3 May 1695
Monarch William III
Preceded by John Trenchard
Succeeded by William Trumbull
Personal details
Born Charles Talbot
24 July 1660
Died 1 February 1718(1718-02-01) (aged 57)
Spouse(s) Adelhida Paleotti
Religion Roman Catholic (1660–1679)
Anglican (1679–1718)

Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury, KG, PC (24 July 1660 – 1 February 1718) was an English statesman. Born to Roman Catholic parents, he remained in that faith until 1679 when—during the time of the Popish Plot and following the advice of the divine John Tillotson—he converted to the Church of England.[1] Shrewsbury took his seat in the House of Lords in 1680 and three years later was appointed Gentleman-Extraordinary of the Bedchamber, suggesting he was in favour at the court of Charles II.[1]

With the accession in 1685 of James II Shrewsbury was appointed a captain in order to defeat the Monmouth rebellion, although he resigned his commission in 1687 after refusing to bow to pressure from James to convert back to the Catholic faith.[1] Making contact with William of Orange, Shrewsbury's home became a meeting place for the opposition to James II and Shrewsbury was one of seven English statesmen to sign the invitation to William to invade England in June 1688. In September he fled England for Holland and returned with William to England in November. Shrewsbury was influential in the making of the Revolution Settlement, arguing strongly in favour of recognising William and Mary as sovereigns.[1]

However in 1690 Shrewsbury resigned from William's government due to ill-health and opposition to the dissolution of Parliament and the dropping of the Bill that would have required an oath abjuring James as king. In opposition, Shrewsbury contacted the exiled Stuart court in France as a prelude to a Stuart restoration. However in 1694 Shrewsbury returned to government and was prominent in persuading the House of Commons to vote for the funds needed for William's war against France. Ill-health led to his resignation in 1698 but he returned to the government in 1699 until resigning again in 1700.[1]

From 1700 until 1705, Shrewsbury was in self-imposed exile abroad, visiting France, Switzerland, Italy, and marrying Countess Adelhida Paleotti. Upon his return to England, Shrewsbury concentrated on the construction of Heythrop Park. In April 1710 Shrewsbury return to government and was an early supporter of the Tory efforts to negotiate peace with France to end the War of the Spanish Succession, concerned at the negative financial impact it was having on landowners. However he was uncomfortable with peace negotiations that left out Britain's ally, the Dutch. In November 1712 he was appointed ambassador to France and then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, returning to England in June 1714.[1]

In July Shrewsbury was appointed Lord Treasurer but in August Queen Anne died and George I succeeded her. The new Whig regime opposed Shrewsbury remaining in government and by 1715 he had lost all his governmental offices, although until his death he remained George's Groom of the Stole. Shrewsbury opposed the Whigs' attack on the previous Tory ministers and opposed their other policies in the Lords, making contact with the Stuart Pretender and sending him money. He died of inflammation of the lungs in 1718.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was the only son of the 11th Earl of Shrewsbury and his second wife, formerly Anna Maria Brudenell, a daughter of 2nd Earl of Cardigan (she became the notorious mistress of the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who killed her husband in a duel in 1668). Talbot was a godson of King Charles II, after whom he was named, and he was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but in 1679 under the influence of John Tillotson he became a member of the Church of England.

James II and the Glorious Revolution[edit]

On his father's death he succeeded to the Earldom of Shrewsbury, received an appointment in the household of Charles II, and served in the army under James II. Nonetheless, in 1687 he was in correspondence with the Prince of Orange, and he was one of the seven signatories of the letter of invitation to William in the following year. He contributed towards defraying the expenses of the projected invasion, and having crossed to Holland to join William, he landed with him in England in November 1688 during the Glorious Revolution.

William III[edit]

Shrewsbury became Secretary of State for the Southern Department in the first administration of William and Mary, but he resigned office in 1690 when the Tories gained the upper hand in parliament. While in opposition he brought forward the Triennial Bill, to which the King refused assent. In 1694 he again became Secretary of State; but there is some evidence that as early as 1690, when he resigned, he had gone over to the Jacobites and was in correspondence with James at his court in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, though it has been stated on the other hand that these relations were entered upon with William's connivance for reasons of policy.

However this may be, William appears to have had no suspicion of Shrewsbury's loyalty, for on 30 April 1694 the latter was created Marquess of Alton and Duke of Shrewsbury, and he acted as one of the regents during the King's absence from England in the two following years. In 1696 definite accusations of treason were brought against him by Sir John Fenwick, which William himself communicated to Shrewsbury; and about this time the Secretary of State took but a small part in public business, again professing his anxiety to resign. His plea of ill-health was a genuine one, and in 1700 the king reluctantly consented to his retirement into private life.

Exile[edit]

For the next seven years Shrewsbury lived abroad, chiefly at Rome, whence in 1701 he wrote a celebrated letter to Lord Somers expressing his abhorrence of public life and declaring that if he had a son he "would sooner bind him to a cobbler than a courtier, and a hangman than a statesman."

Lord Chamberlain and Lord Treasurer[edit]

Charles Talbot accepted the post of Lord Chamberlain in 1710.

On the accession of Queen Anne the Whig leaders made an ineffectual attempt to persuade Shrewsbury to return to office. When he returned at last to England on 30 December 1705, he gradually became alienated from his old political associates, and in 1710 he accepted the post of Lord Chamberlain in the Tory administration, to which the queen appointed him without the knowledge of Godolphin and Marlborough; his wife was at the same time made a Lady of the Bedchamber.

After a diplomatic mission to France for the purpose of negotiating preliminaries of peace, Shrewsbury became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1713; but he was in London in July 1714 during the memorable crisis occasioned by the impending death of Queen Anne. On 29 July, when the queen was dying, the Earl of Oxford received his long-delayed dismissal from the office of Lord Treasurer. On 30 July, Shrewsbury and other ministers assembled at Kensington Palace and, being admitted to the queen's bedchamber, Bolingbroke recommended the appointment of Shrewsbury to the vacant treasurership; Anne at once placed the staff of that high office in the duke's hands. He was to be the very last person to hold that position.

Accession of George I[edit]

Thus, when the queen died on 1 August, Shrewsbury was in a position of supreme power with reference to the momentous question of the succession to the crown. He threw his influence into the scale in favour of the Elector of Hanover, and was powerfully influential in bringing about the peaceful accession of George I, and in defeating the design of the Jacobites to place the son of James II on the throne. His disinclination for the highest political offices remained, however, as great as before; and having resigned the lord-treasurership and the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, he was appointed Lord Chamberlain. This place he resigned in July 1715. He died at his London home, Warwick House, Charing Cross,[2] on 1 February 1718, from inflammation of the lungs, aged fifty-seven. He was buried in the family tomb at the parish church of Albrighton (near Wolverhampton), Shropshire.[2]

Legacy[edit]

The Duke of Shrewsbury was one of the greatest noblemen of the reign of Queen Anne. Though blind in one eye, he was strikingly handsome in person, his demeanour was dignified and his manners full of grace and courtesy. Swift described him as "the finest gentleman we have", and as "the favourite of the nation", while William III spoke of him as "the king of hearts". Like most of his contemporaries he endeavoured to keep himself in favour both with the exiled house of Stuart and with the reigning sovereign in England; but at the two critical junctures of 1688 and 1714 he acted decisively in favour of the Protestant succession. At other times he appeared weak and vacillating, and he never wholeheartedly supported either Whigs or Tories, though he co-operated with each in turn. His magnanimous disposition saved him from the vindictiveness of the party politician of the period; and the weak health from which he suffered through life probably combined with a congenital lack of ambition to prevent his grasping the power which his personality and talents might have placed in his hands.

Marriage[edit]

Adelhida Paleotti became Charles Talbot's wife in 1705.

In 1705 Shrewsbury married, at Augsburg, Bavaria,[2] Adelhida Paleotti, daughter of the Marquis Andrea Paleotti by his second wife Maria Cristina Dudley, fifth daughter of Carlo Dudley, titular Duke of Northumberland (himself son of Sir Robert Dudley (1574–1649), an Englishman turned member of the Tuscan nobility.[3] This lady, who is said to have had "a great many engaging qualities" besides many accomplishments, was the subject of much malicious gossip. She was the widow, or as some declared, the mistress of a Count Brachiano; and Lady Cowper reported that the lady's brother had forced Shrewsbury to marry her "after an intrigue together". After Shrewsbury's return to England the duchess became conspicuous in London society, where the caustic wit of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was exercised at her expense. During the Paris embassy she became extremely popular, due to her hospitality and lively conversation. The Duc de Saint-Simon thought that her eccentricity bordered on madness, but did praise the simple, practical hairstyle which she made fashionable. On the accession of George I the duchess of Shrewsbury became a lady of the bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, a position which she retained till her death on 29 June 1726. Shrewsbury left no children, and at his death the dukedom became extinct, the earldom of Shrewsbury passing to his cousin Gilbert Talbot.

Cultural references[edit]

The Duke is the central character in the historical novel, Shrewsbury (1897), by Stanley Weyman.[2] As a minor but pivotal character, he is portrayed by Job Stewart in six episodes of the sprawling ensemble BBC serial The First Churchills (1969).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stuart Handley, ‘Talbot, Charles, duke of Shrewsbury (1660–1718)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 30 Jan 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d The Complete Peerage, Volume XI. St Catherine's Press, London. 1949. p. 723. 
  3. ^ Robert Dudley was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, by his high-born mistress Douglas Sheffield nee Howard. Both Lady Sheffield and Leicester married other parties by 1679, which damaged Robert Dudley's efforts to have his legitimacy recognized. He was recognized by Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor as Duke of Northumberland in 1620, but was debarred by illegitimacy from all the Dudley family titles. He was thrice married, secondly circa 1595/6 Alice Leigh, whom he deserted by 1605, and lastly (bigamously) 1606 by Catholic rites to his mistress and first cousin twice removed Elizabeth Southwell (d. 1631 in childbirth), daughter of Sir Robert Southwell and Lady Elizabeth Howard, granddaughter of Robert Dudley's maternal uncle Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham. His deserted wife was created Duchess of Dudley in 1644 for life by Charles I, who also made Robert Dudley legitimate. However, the Dudley titles (Leicester and Warwick) and estates had passed elsewhere in the reign of James I. His children were 1. Alice Dudley, 2. Douglas Dudley, 3. Catherine Leveson, nee Dudley, 4. Frances Kniveton nee Dudley, 5. Anne Dudley (all probably by his 2nd wife Alice Leigh), and then by his 3rd "wife" Elizabeth Southwell (married 1606 by Catholic rites) 6. Maria, Princess of Piombino; 7. Carlo, Duke of Northumbria (maternal grandfather of Adelhida Paleotti, Duchess of Shrewsbury), 8. Ambrogio Dudley (named for Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick, 9. Ferdinando Dudley, 10. Teresa, Duchess of Cornia, 11. Cosimo Dudley, 12. Maria Christina, Marchesa Clivola, 13. Maria Maddalena, Marchesa Malaspina, 14. Antonio Dudley, 15. Enrico Dudley, 16. Anna Dudley, 17. Giovanni Dudley, and 18. daughter (b. 1631), who became Duchess de Castillion del Lago

References[edit]

  • [Anon.] (1800). "Observations upon the Political Character of Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, &c". The European Magazine, and London Review 37: 120–124. 
  • Stuart Handley, ‘Talbot, Charles, duke of Shrewsbury (1660–1718)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 30 Jan 2011.
  • Dorothy H. Somerville, The King of Hearts. Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1962).

Further reading[edit]

  • W. Coxe (ed.), Private and Original Correspondence of Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury (1821).
  • Edward Gregg, Queen Anne (1980).
  • Henry Horwitz, Parliament, Policy and Politics in the Reign of William III (1977).
  • G. P. R. James, Letters Illustrative of the Reign of William III from 1696 to 1708 addressed to the Duke of Shrewsbury by James Vernon, 3 vols. (1841).
  • T. C. Nicholson and A. S. Turberville, Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury (1930).
  • Daniel Szechi, ‘The Duke of Shrewsbury's contacts with the Jacobites in 1713’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 56 (1983), pp. 229–32.
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Middleton
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
1689–1690
Succeeded by
The Earl of Nottingham
Preceded by
Sir John Trenchard
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
1694–1695
Succeeded by
Sir William Trumbull
Preceded by
Sir John Trenchard
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
1695–1698
Succeeded by
James Vernon
Preceded by
The Earl of Sunderland
Lord Chamberlain
1699–1700
Succeeded by
The Earl of Jersey
Preceded by
The Duke of Ormonde
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
1713–1714
Succeeded by
The Earl of Sunderland
Preceded by
The Earl of Oxford and Mortimer
Lord High Treasurer
1714
Succeeded by
In Commission
(First Lord: The Earl of Halifax)
Preceded by
The Duke of Kent
Lord Chamberlain
1714–1715
Succeeded by
The Duke of Bolton
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Duke of Hamilton
British Ambassador to France
1712–1713
Succeeded by
Matthew Prior
Military offices
New regiment Colonel of The Earl of Shewsbury's Regiment of Horse
1685–1687
Succeeded by
The Lord Langdale
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Francis Talbot, 11th Earl of Shrewsbury
Lord High Steward of Ireland
1667–1718
Succeeded by
Gilbert Talbot, 13th Earl of Shrewsbury
Preceded by
The Earl of Sunderland
Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire
1681–1687
Succeeded by
The Earl Ferrers
Custos Rotulorum of Staffordshire
1681–1688
Succeeded by
The Lord Aston of Forfar
Preceded by
The Earl of Rochester
Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire
1689–1691
Succeeded by
The Earl of Essex
Preceded by
The Viscount Carrington
Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire
1689–1718
Vacant
Title next held by
The Earl of Coventry
Preceded by
The 1st Earl of Macclesfield
Lord Lieutenant of North Wales
(Anglesey, Caernarvonshire,
Denbighshire, Flintshire,
Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire)

1694–1696
Succeeded by
The 2nd Earl of Macclesfield
Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire
1694–1704
Succeeded by
The Earl of Kent
Preceded by
The Earl of Bradford
Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire
1712–1714
Succeeded by
The Earl of Bradford
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Shrewsbury
1694–1718
Extinct
Preceded by
Francis Talbot
Earl of Shrewsbury
1667–1718
Succeeded by
Gilbert Talbot
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Francis Talbot
Earl of Waterford
1667–1718
Succeeded by
Gilbert Talbot