Almoner to the Queen.


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Peter Talbot (1620 – November 1680) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin from 1669 to his death in prison. He was a victim of the mythical Popish Plot.

Early life

Talbot was born at Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, in 1620. He was the second of the eight sons of Sir William Talbot and his wife Alison (née Netterville). At an early age he entered the Society of Jesus in Portugal. He was ordained a priest at Rome, and for some years thereafter held the chair of theology at the College of Antwerp. In the meantime during the Commonwealth period, Charles II and the royal family were compelled to seek refuge in Europe. Throughout the period of the king's exile, Talbot's brothers were attached to the royal court. The eldest brother, Sir Robert Talbot, 2nd Baronet, had held a high commission under James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde in the army in Ireland and was reckoned among the king's most confidential advisers. A younger brother, Richard Talbot, later Earl of Tyrconnel, was also devoted to the cause of the exiled monarch and stood high in royal favour.


Peter Talbot himself was constantly in attendance on Charles II, and his court. On account of his knowledge of the continental languages, he was repeatedly dispatched on private embassies to Lisbon, Madrid, and Paris. On the return of the king to London, Talbot received an appointment as Queen's Almoner, but the Clarendon and Ormond faction, which was then predominant, feared his influence with the king. He was accused of conspiring with the aid of four Jesuits to assassinate the Duke of Ormond, and he was forced to seek safety by resigning his position at Court and retiring to the Continent. The king allowed him a pension of three hundred pounds a year. Before his return to England, Talbot had, with the approval of the General of the Jesuits, severed his connection with the Society. He was appointed Archbishop of Dublin on 11 January 1669, and was consecrated at Antwerp, assisted by the Bishops of Ghent and Ferns.

Catholic persecution

During this period, the English treatment of Catholics in Ireland was more lenient than usual, owing to the known sympathies of the King (who entered the Catholic Church on his deathbed). In August 1670, Talbot held his first Diocesan Synod in Dublin. It was opened with High Mass, which for forty years many of the faithful had not witnessed. In the same year an assembly of the archbishops and bishops and representatives of the clergy was held in Dublin. At this assembly the question of precedence and of the primatial authority gave rise to considerable discussion and led to an embittered controversy between the Archbishop of Dublin and Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh. The subject had been one of great controversy in the Middle Ages, but had been in abeyance for some time. Both prelates considered that they were asserting the rights of their respective sees, and each published a treatise on the subject. Another meeting of the Catholic gentry was convened by Talbot, at which it was resolved to send to the Court at London a representative who would seek redress for some of the grievances to which the Catholics of Ireland were subjected. This alarmed the Protestants in Ireland, who feared that the balance of power might shift to the Catholic majority. They protested to King Charles, and in 1673 some of the repressive measures against Irish Catholics were reinstated, and Talbot was compelled to seek safety in exile.

Exile, arrest and death

During his banishment he resided generally in Paris. In 1675, Talbot, in poor health, obtained permission to return to England, and for two years he resided with a family friend at Poole Hall in Cheshire. Towards the close of 1677, he petitioned the Crown for leave "to come to Ireland to die in his own country", and through the influence of James, Duke of York his request was granted. Shortly after that the Popish Plot was hatched by Titus Oates, and information was forwarded to James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to the effect that a rebellion was being planned in Ireland, that Peter Talbot was one of the accomplices, and that assassins had been hired to murder the Duke himself. Ormonde was in private deeply sceptical about the existence of the Plot, remarking of the alleged assassins that they were such "silly drunken vagabonds" that "no schoolboy would trust them to rob an orchard"; but he thought it politically unwise to show his doubts publicly. Though he was sympathetic to Oliver Plunkett, who was also arrested in connection with the alleged Plot and was later to die on the scaffold, he had always been hostile to Talbot.[1]

On 8 October 1678, Ormonde signed a warrant for the archbishop's arrest.[1] He was arrested near Maynooth at the house of his brother, Colonel Richard Talbot, and was then moved to Dublin. For two years Talbot remained in prison, where he fell ill. Despite their long friendship, Charles II, fearful of the political repercussions, made no effort to save him.[2] He died in prison at the beginning of November 1680.[3]


Talbot is said to have been interred in the churchyard of St. Audoen's Church, close by the tomb of Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester. From his prison cell Talbot had written on 12 April 1679, petitioning that a priest be allowed to visit him, as he was bedridden for months and was now in imminent danger of death. The petition was refused, but Oliver Plunkett was a prisoner in an adjoining cell, and on hearing of Talbot's dying condition forced his way through the warders and administered to the dying prelate the last consolations of the sacraments.


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  1. ^ a b Kenyon 2000, p. 225.
  2. ^ Kenyon 2000, p. 235.
  3. ^ Kenyon 2000, p. 234.


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  • Kenyon, J.P. (2000). The Popish Plot. Phoenix Press Reissue. p. 225.


3 Annotations

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The five Talbot brothers of Carton, Co. Kildare, carried on a tradition of noisy political activism: their father, William, had led a deputation sent to King James to bemoan the packing of the 1613 parliament and was thrown in the Tower for his pains.

The eldest brother, Sir Robert Talbot, had been briefly imprisoned in the summer of 1646 by his fellow Confederate Catholics as a wrecker.

Later in 1646, at the behest of the lord lieutenant, James Butler, Earl of Ormonde, Sir Robert Talbot helped suborn the general of the Leinster army and break up the Irish siege of Dublin, their biggest ever operation.
Four brothers fled the country after the Cromwellian conquest.

Thomas Talbot, a Franciscan and ‘a disgrace to his function, name and nation’ (per his own cousin), operated as an envoy for the household at the Louvre of Charles II’s mother, Queen Henrietta Maria.

‘Colonel’ Gilbert Talbot was a ‘half-witted fellow’ whose taste for fine clothes and gaming left him even more down at heel than his fellow exiles, and he kept in contact with Charles II’s court as it migrated from Paris to Spa, Aachen, Cologne and Bruges.

But Fr. Peter Talbot, a Jesuit, was a man of substance.

As Mazarin wooed Cromwell into an anti-Habsburg alliance, Charles II fixed on the Spanish as his likeliest sponsors. An occasional envoy of the Spanish court, Fr. Peter Talbot was asked in 1654 by James Butler, Earl of Ormonde (one of Charles II’s two top courtiers), to request Spanish support. Whereas Queen Mother Henrietta Maria’s ‘Louvrians’ favored concessions to Catholics and English Presbyterians, the ‘Old Royalist’ faction typified by Ormonde and Charles II’s chancellor, Edward Hyde, wanted an Anglican religious monopoly restored, and neither could bear the religious aspirations of a Jesuit whose disdain for Anglicanism is amply proclaimed by the title of his Reflexion upon the Nullitie of the English Protestant Church and Clergy (Rouen, 1657).

But Charles and Hyde needed Peter Talbot’s linguistic skills (he was conversant in Spanish, French and Italian) and diplomatic contacts, especially given Hyde’s ‘little Englander’ distrust of popery and his rudimentary language skills (he could not even speak French). For the moment Peter was useful, and this grudging entrée to Old Royalist circles gave Peter’s younger brother, Richard, a chance to make a name for himself at court.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A Catholic history sheds [probable] light on one of the mysteries about Charles II:

Peter Talbot was young when he entered the Society of Jesus in Portugal. He was ordained priest at Rome, and subsequently for held the chair of theology at the College of Antwerp.

A younger brother, Col. Richard "Dick" Talbot, was also devoted to the royalist cause and the Duke of York. (Under James II "Dick" became Duke of Tyronnell and Lord-Lt. of Ireland -- in the Diary he married Katherine Baynton in 1669 -- later he married Frances Jennings, sister of Sarah Jennings (Duchess of Marlborough). They were both nieces of the awful Capt. Jennens Pepys deals with.

Fr. Peter Talbot was constantly in attendance on Charles II in exile because of his fluency in continental languages. He was sent on missions to Lisbon, Madrid, and Paris, and always proved to be loyal to the royal cause.

During Charles II's exile in Cologne, he received instruction in the Catholic faith, and was privately received into the Church by Fr. Peter Talbot.

Charles II's friends said that when he was in a serious mood he was a Catholic, but when he was in a merry mood he bade adieu to all religion. After the Restoration, the second mood prevailed, so he needed to be received again into the Church on his death-bed by Fr. Huddlestone.

In 1662, Fr. Peter Talbot was appointed as Queen's Almoner, but the Clarendon-Ormonde faction feared his influence. A plot was devised: He was accused of conspiring with 4 Jesuits to assassinate Ormonde. The anger stirred up forced Talbot to resign and retire to the Continent.

Charles II gave Fr. Talbot a pension of 300 pounds a year.

With the approval of the General of the Jesuits, Fr. Talbot resigned from the Society. In 1669 he was appointed Archbishop of Dublin, and was consecrated at Antwerp on January 19 by the Bishops of Ghent and Ferns.

Ormonde was now out of favor and soon removed from the Viceroyalty. His successors were supposed not to be so hostile to the religious interests of Ireland; Charles II is said to have asked them to be lenient with his Irish Catholic subjects, and to show special favor to Archbishop Talbot.

In August, 1670 Talbot held his first diocesan synod in Dublin. It was a memorable Catholic event. It opened with High Mass (not seen in 40 years by many). Rich embroidery and other ornaments were sent from the viceregal castle to adorn the altar.

The assembly rejected a proposed form of allegiance, but, to prove this was not done through lack of loyalty, they drew up another Declaration, omitting some phrases offensive to Catholics.

A fierce discussion was raised by the Ormondists that distracted everyone for several years, and takes us well beyond the Diary.

As you can guess, things did not work out well for Archbishop Talbot. He died in a dungeon of Dublin Castle in November, 1680.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I found an error in the above:
Col. Dick Talbot becomes the 1st Earl of Tyrconnell PC (1630–1691) under James II.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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