TALBOT, William (1658-1730)

TALBOT, William (1658–1730)

cons. 24 Sept. 1699 bp. of OXFORD; transl. 23 Apr. 1715 bp. of SALISBURY; transl. 7 Nov. 1722 bp. of DURHAM

First sat 4 Dec. 1699; last sat 24 Apr. 1730

bap. 22 July 1658, s. of William Talbot esq. (d.1686) of Kinver, Staffs.1 and Mary (d.1661), da. of Thomas Doughty of Whittington, Worcs. educ. Oriel, Oxf. matric. 1674, BA 1677, MA 1680, DD 1699; DD Lambeth 1691. m. (1) 1682, Katherine (d.1702), da. of Richard King of Upham, Wilts., alderman of London, stepda. of John Crispe, att. of Chipping Norton, Oxon. 8s. (5 d.v.p.), 2da.; (2) 3 Sept. 1703, Agnes (d. 24 Nov. 1730), da. of Sir William Hartopp of Rotherby, Leics. s.p. d. 10 Oct. 1730; will 12 Nov. 1723, pr. 6 Mar. 1731.2

Chap. to William III 1694-9; dean, chapel royal 1718-21.

Rect. Burghfield Berks. 1682; dean, Worcester 1691-1715.

Commr. building 50 new churches 1715-d.;3 gov. Charterhouse 1721.4

Ld. lt. co. Dur. 1722, custos rot. 1722.

Founder mbr. Amicable Soc.

Also associated with: Stourton Castle, Staffs.; var. properties in Westminster, incl. Golden Square, Soho, (1715-21).

Likenesses: oil on canvas by G. Kneller, 1718, National Trust, Newton House, Dinefwr Park and Castle; engraving by G. Vertue (aft. Kneller) 1720 NPG D13916.

Whig dean of Worcester

If his Tory detractors are to be believed, Talbot was a young rake and a gambling addict even after taking holy orders.5 Youthful indiscretions aside, Talbot’s Whig churchmanship and family connections alone gave his enemies ample political ammunition. A member of a cadet branch of the family of the earls of Shrewsbury, Talbot was closely linked to his cousin and contemporary Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, favourite and confidant of William III. Shrewsbury was instrumental in Talbot’s early career advancement and secured his promotion into the higher clergy in the aftermath of the Revolution. On 22 Apr. 1691 Talbot was nominated by the king to the Worcester deanery to replace the nonjuring George Hickes.6 The city greeted the arrival of this overtly Whig appointee with horsemen, civic dignitaries, bells and volleys from the militia.7 Two months later John Tillotson, archbishop of Canterbury, awarded him a Lambeth doctorate.8 He preached at court throughout the 1690s on topical ecclesiastical concerns (such as the ‘unreasonableness’ of atheism).9 Loathed by Worcestershire Tories (together with the whole Worcester chapter), as dean of Worcester Talbot proved a stalwart supporter of the Whig bishops of Worcester, especially of William Lloyd, who came to the episcopate after Talbot had himself become a bishop but retained the deanery in commendam.10

Bishop of Oxford, 1699

Talbot’s elevation to the episcopate was linked to his kinsman Shrewsbury’s influence, even though Shrewsbury was by then sick and eager to be relieved of office. With the death in March 1699 of Edward Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester, Shrewsbury, Somers and the king pushed for his replacement by Talbot, only to be blocked by Thomas Tenison, Tillotson’s successor as archbishop of Canterbury, who was anxious that the ecclesiastical commission should avoid blatantly whiggish appointments. Tenison resisted Talbot’s elevation for as long as possible and then capitulated to allow him the impoverished see of Oxford.11 The royal assent of 29 Aug. 1699 was matched by the grant of an Oxford doctorate of divinity.12 The episcopal revenue at Oxford was relatively modest. Elizabeth Burnet (writing in 1707 when Talbot appears to have been agitating for promotion) thought his income an annual £1,000, less than half that of Salisbury and a fifth of the returns expected by the bishop of Durham. Talbot retained the Worcester deanery in commendam until 1715. Even so he appears on occasion to have struggled to remain afloat. When in the summer of 1712 he was pressed to repay money, at least one of those attempting to recover funds from the impoverished prelate found him ‘not over tender of his honour’ and reluctant to discharge the funds. The debt was satisfied later that year.13

Talbot was enthroned in Oxford on 14 Nov. 1699. His elevation as bishop coincided with the death of the dominant local powerbroker, James Bertie, earl of Abingdon; his enthronement then coincided with the ensuing by-election caused by the new earl’s promotion to the Upper House. There is, though, no available evidence to suggest that Talbot was actively involved in the contest that saw the Tory, Sir Robert Dashwood, elected to the vacant seat.14

On 4 Dec. 1699, a fortnight after the start of the autumn parliamentary session, Talbot took his seat in the House. His parliamentary career would span more than 30 years and, in the period up to 1715, bore little discernible pattern. Although he appeared in the House for each of the 17 sessions up to March 1715, his attendance varied widely from nearly 90 per cent (in 1706 and 1707) to less than ten per cent (in 1704-5 and 1713).

During his first parliamentary session, he attended nearly 72 per cent of sittings. On 23 Feb. 1700 Talbot voted in favour of the House adjourning into a committee of the whole to discuss two amendments to the bill to continue the East India Company as a corporation. On 9 and 10 Apr. he was nominated one of the managers of two conferences: on amendments to the land tax in England and forfeited estates in Ireland bill. Given the Talbots’ influence in Ireland, it is possible he had a particular interest in this legislation. He attended the House on the last day of the session, 11 Apr., before leaving London for the provinces. From there he undertook some tasks on his kinsman Shrewsbury’s behalf, writing on 15 July to Thomas Coventry, 2nd earl of Coventry, to enquire whether Coventry and his brother would agree to serve as deputy lieutenants under Shrewsbury in the Worcester lieutenancy. Two days later he wrote again with ‘great satisfaction’ at Coventry’s response.15

Talbot’s name was listed, along with that of Shrewsbury and various other Worcestershire grandees, to a letter of January 1701 seeking support for Sir John Pakington and Sir Thomas Rous in the forthcoming Worcestershire election. This seems to have been wishful thinking, though, because Talbot appears not to have been willing to offer his backing to Pakington.16 Talbot returned to the House 11 days after the opening of the new Parliament. He attended nearly 73 per cent of sittings. On 20 Mar. 1701 he registered his dissent against the resolution not to request the Commons’ agreement to the address relating to the Partition Treaty. On 31 Mar. Talbot was named in the Lords as a referee for the dowager Lady Saye and Sele in her dispute with her stepson, Nathaniel Fiennes, 4th Viscount Saye and Sele. He missed the last week of business before the end of the session on 24 June. Four days later, he assigned the Westminster property of 56 Great Queen Street to Sir John Talbot before travelling to Oxford to conduct his primary visitation.17 In the Worcestershire election of the autumn of 1701 Pakington was returned with William Bromley in spite of efforts made by bishops Lloyd and Talbot to rally the clergy votes against him. Back at Westminster on 30 Dec. 1701 for the start of the new Parliament, he attended 60 per cent of sittings. On 8 Mar. 1702 he was nominated one of the managers of the conference on the death of William III and the accession of Anne. He continued to attend until early May, missing the last three weeks of business.

The Reign of Queen Anne

In advance of the general election in the summer of 1702, Talbot wrote to Coventry on 21 Apr. emphasizing the ‘unfair usage’ William Walsh had met with during the last election in Worcestershire (November 1701). He recommended that this time the electors’ second votes should be reserved ‘to be hereafter disposed of as they shall see occasion’. The result was that each candidate stood singly, with Pakington and Walsh proving the eventual winners.18

Talbot delayed attending the first Parliament of Anne’s reign, missing the first ten weeks of business. Although he did not take his seat until 7 Jan. 1703 (attending the session for only one quarter of all sittings), he was back in London before Christmas. He preached before the queen at St James’s on Christmas Day and attended the St Stephen’s dinner at Lambeth on the 26th. His social and ecclesiastical life in London continued to reflect his politics; he was in the ‘outer’ circle of William Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle and, as might be expected of a stalwart Whig, preached to the societies for the reformation of manners.19 He strengthened ties between Whig churchmen when he married his daughter, Henrietta Maria, to Charles Trimnell, later successively bishop of Norwich and Winchester.20

Talbot’s attendance at the House in early January 1703 was almost certainly linked to the attempt to pass legislation against occasional conformity (framed as amendments to the Corporation Act). In the new year Talbot was estimated by Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, as likely to oppose a new attempt to pass the legislation. On 16 Jan. 1703 Talbot duly voted for the wrecking amendment to the bill. In the subsequent division on the penalty clause, Talbot changed sides, voting with the contents with the excuse that he could not agree ‘to the tempting an informer with so much money as the Commons had baited him with’.21

On 14 Feb. 1703 Talbot again preached before the queen at St James’s.22 He attended the House on the 17th, but missed the last ten days of the session. Talbot appears to have remained more closely involved with Worcestershire affairs than those of his own diocese possibly because of his shared politics with Bishop Lloyd of Worcester. He was in Worcester on 26 June 1703 when he and Lloyd corresponded about New College and diocesan affairs and seems to have remained in the country until well into the summer, where he was observed to be neglecting business on account of his marriage to Agnes Hartopp, ‘one of the wits of Worcester’.23

He arrived at Westminster one month after the start of the next session in November 1703 and subsequently attended 65 per cent of sittings. At the start of the session he was correctly forecast on two occasions by Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, as an opponent of further attempts to pass occasional conformity legislation. In the division of 14 Dec. 1703 Talbot rejected the bill together with Tenison and 12 other bishops. Two days later he was ordered by the House to preach a fast sermon in the Abbey on 19 Jan. 1704. In it he made a heartfelt plea for divine assistance in the ongoing war with France.24 The following day the Lords thanked Talbot and ordered the sermon to be published. On 15 Feb. Talbot was one of the lords ordered to attend the queen with an address on the Scottish conspiracy. He attended the House sporadically for the rest of the session and was present on the last day on 3 April.

While his kinsman, Shrewsbury, was abroad battling ill health, Talbot remained an important point of contact with the duke, not least when it was put about that Shrewsbury may have been contemplating reconversion to Rome. At the suggestion of some of Shrewsbury’s associates, it was to Talbot that he wrote assuring the bishop of his steadfast adherence to Protestantism. Throughout his career, Talbot would be instrumental in keeping the Talbots in the Protestant fold, giving instruction to Shrewsbury’s wife before her naturalization, administering the sacrament to Shrewsbury on his deathbed, refusing sanctuary to Shrewsbury’s Catholic brother-in-law and securing a private bill in 1719 to alienate Talbot estates from Catholic family members.25

In the summer months of 1704 Talbot conducted a diocesan visitation; he did not return to Westminster for the start of the session in October 1704.26 On 20 Nov. he registered his proxy in favour of his predecessor at Oxford, John Hough, now bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and at a call of the House on 23 Nov. he was registered as being excused. He missed the first four months of business (together with the reintroduction in December of the occasional conformity bill), arriving only on 17 Feb. 1705 when the House considered legislation on sheriffs’ accounts, the poor bill and recruits for land forces. Thereafter he attended the session on only six days.

Still the focus of Tory hostility in Worcester, Talbot was the butt of a Jacobite lampoon against the cathedral chapter, which suggested that Talbot’s wife was the effective dean.27 The university authorities in Oxford also seem to have been happy ‘to spite the bishop’ and later that year it was reported that they had refused to grant his son a doctorate.28 Talbot spent at least some of the summer in Shropshire, but at the end of October it was reported that he was on his way to London.29 He returned to the House two weeks after the start of the 1705-6 parliamentary session but was present in all on only 16 per cent of sittings. On 15 Nov. Talbot received the proxy of his friend William Lloyd (vacated 27 November). On 21 Nov. he joined William Wake, bishop of Lincoln, and Somers for a meeting at the latter’s lodgings, but on 23 Nov. he registered his own proxy with Hough once more.30 It was vacated four days later when Talbot returned to the House, but he was then absent for the ‘Church in danger’ debate on 6 Dec. and did not reappear in the House until 10 Jan. 1706. At the end of November he had returned to Worcester to deal with diocesan business. Clearly chafing against his isolation in the provinces, he begged Lloyd for news.31 He returned to the House for two days in January 1706 but was then absent for the remainder of the session. At the end of April he was in Shropshire, writing to Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, about ecclesiastical business: Samuel Dunster, an associate of Banastre Maynard, 3rd Baron Maynard, having brought a charge of simony against another incumbent called Pocock.32

Talbot was far more active in the parliamentary session that assembled on 3 Dec. 1706. It is possible that he had been pressed to return to Westminster promptly since the government needed Whig support in the Lords for the debates on the Union.33 His prompt appearance was probably also linked to his attempt to secure a private act for his family settlement. Whatever the reason, he was more visible in attendance, speeches and committee work, taking his seat on the first day of the session and attending 86 per cent of sittings. He was also engaged with a case in Doctors’ Commons in December.34 On 9 Dec. he received Hough’s proxy (vacated at the end of the session). On 8 Jan. 1707 he dined with Wake and Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, at the home of Robert Dormer,a judge in the court of common pleas, chancellor to the diocese of Durham and Burnet’s brother-in-law. Two days later he seconded Burnet’s motion for a removal of the ‘farce’ of benefit of the clergy: it seems reasonable to surmise this may have been discussed at the earlier meeting. On the 25th Talbot dined at Lambeth with Lloyd of Worcester, Burnet, Nicolson and John Evans, bishop of Bangor. Four days later he sat on a Whitehall committee with the attorney general, Sir Edward Northey, John Moore, then bishop of Norwich, John Williams, bishop of Chichester and Nicolson, but the subject matter of their meeting is unclear.35 By this time, it was assumed that Talbot, though dubbed a ‘dreamer’ by Sidney Godolphin, earl of Godolphin, would, in time be translated to a better bishopric and that some consideration should be given to his replacement.36 Early in February 1707 it was rumoured that he would be go to Exeter, but the queen’s ecclesiastical preferences ensured the promotion of Tory prelates, leaving Talbot at Oxford for another eight years.37

The principal business before the House that session was the Act of Union; during the debates Talbot argued strongly for the Union, disputing with Anglican hardliners who feared it would give a de facto sanction to the validity of Presbyterianism.38 Talbot maintained that Union no more legitimized the Scottish church than a treaty with the French monarch legitimized Catholicism.39 One of his speeches in the House during debates on the Union was said to have ‘brought him into great credit amongst the party, chiefly … for the flattery passed upon the bench of bishops’.40 On 11 Feb. Talbot reported from the committee considering the publishing of libels with a progress report on the committee’s findings to date. On the same day he petitioned the House to bring in a private bill for the sale of Kemsey rectory and other lands (held on lease from the dean and chapter of Worcester) for the benefit of his children.41 The petition, which referred to the settlement on his daughter (the wife of Charles Trimnell) was referred for investigation. Subsequently, the Worcester Member, Thomas Wylde, was named as a trustee in the settlement.42 On 17 Feb. the justices’ report was delivered to the House and three days later his private bill was read for the first time. It had its second reading on the 21st; the committee included Talbot himself.

Meanwhile, on 12 Feb. 1707 Talbot again reported from the committee on libels with a recommendation to take into custody three suspects. The following day, he reported from the committee for the bill on compounding Benjamin Nichol’s debts. On 19 Feb. he was petitioned by John Creagh (one of the suspects in the libels case), in the custody of Black Rod; Creagh (or Cree) was discharged after being reprimanded at the bar of the House.43 On 8 Mar. Jonathan Trelawny, bishop of Exeter reported from the committee for Talbot’s bill as fit to pass with only one amendment. The bill was duly engrossed and on 10 Mar. 1707 passed its final reading in the Lords. On 8 Mar. Talbot reported from the committee for William Hide’s bill, on the 15th he reported from the committee on a trust for lands in Leicestershire and on the 18th from the committee on a compounding case involving Nathaniel Rich. On 24 Mar. Henry Ireton returned Talbot’s estate bill from the Commons without amendment. Two days later Talbot twice reported from committees of the House: on the parish of Tettenhall in his native Staffordshire and on the private estate bill for John Weedon. On 28 Mar. he again reported from the committee on the publishers of libels. He was present on the last day of the session on 8 April. The following session opened six days later and Talbot was present on the first day. He attended eight days of the nine-day session.

In April 1707 Talbot was pressed by Sir Richard Cocks for preferment for his brother Robert (Robin), who had been promised advancement by William III, as well as by Burnet and Somers, but had nevertheless been overlooked for some five or six years. Cocks, who looked to Talbot ‘for a good friend’, hoped that he would intervene with Somers on behalf of the family.44 On 1 May Talbot preached a thanksgiving sermon for the Union before the queen at St Paul’s (deemed ‘very fine’ by Godolphin).45 Talbot almost certainly went into the country for the summer months. Although he was linked to the Junto, it is not clear whether he was one of the bishops present at the August 1707 Junto conference at Althorp to discuss the war in Europe, Scotland and ecclesiastical affairs, and his name rarely appears in connection with high-level Junto meetings.46

Talbot missed the first six weeks of the October 1707 session. In all, he was present for 35 per cent of sittings. On 6 Nov. he preached at a further thanksgiving service for the Union in St Paul’s.47 Early the following year Talbot was one of only two bishops (the other being Trelawny) to vote with the court in a division held in a committee of the whole over the extension of the life of the Scots privy council to October 1708.48 Two days later Talbot wrote to Coventry about his preoccupations with parliamentary business and a chancery case (of some three to four years’ duration) that had now entered its most busy phase; he ‘scarce had time for eating and drinking and sleeping’.49 He missed the last three weeks of the session.

In May 1708 Talbot was listed as being a ‘probable’ Whig in advance of the June election, and he was more concerned in early summer with family matters and with Convocation than electoral politics. On 5 June Tenison asked Compton to inform Talbot, John Williams, John Evans, and William Beveridge, bishop of St Asaph, of his concerns over the revised wording in the Convocation writ as a consequence of the Union. Since the Act of Union, the bishops, as lords of Parliament, ‘had power with relation to all Britain’, a situation that required clarification.50 In the same month Talbot’s son, Charles, later Baron Talbot of Hensol, was reported as having been ‘stolen’ by the daughter (not yet 16 years old) of Charles Matthews of Castley-Menich, Glamorganshire. She was worth some £10,000 and, on that account, Talbot settled on him (in a settlement of dubious legality) a church estate worth an annual £600.51

Talbot was one of a number of bishops present for the interment of Prince George, of Denmark, duke of Cumberland on 13 Nov. 1708. Along with several of his colleagues he returned to Wake’s lodgings after the proceedings until his carriage was ready.52 He returned to Westminster for the first day of the next parliamentary session three days later, but thereafter attended only 11 per cent of sittings. He appeared for the last time that session on 14 Dec. and missed the ensuing four months of business, taken up instead with affairs in Worcester. Absorbed with local business in Worcester for much of the year (especially a capital case in which he sought the assistance of Sunderland to secure a royal pardon and another involving Sir Edmund Denton and Wake over the parish of Middleton Stoney), he missed the first two months of the next parliamentary session, arriving at Westminster in the new year of 1710 (almost certainly for the trial of Dr Sacheverell).53 He attended 40 per cent of sittings. On 18 Feb. he wrote to William Lloyd from London about new cathedral statutes at Worcester and offered to mediate in a diocesan address to the queen by securing signatures from local clergy.54 On 11 Mar. he reported from the committee for the Tremayne estate bill.

The focus of the session was Sacheverell’s trial and Talbot was present on 27 Feb. for the opening of proceedings in Westminster Hall. Talbot was one of four bishops to speak for the guilt of Sacheverell during the long debate held on 16 March.55 According to one observer, Talbot acquitted himself well on the occasion, making ‘one of the finest discourses … ever heard’.56 Together with Burnet he challenged the hallowed Anglican doctrine of passive obedience, complaining that its choice as a theme in numerous high-flying sermons was a ‘distemper’ to be stopped. 57 Talbot’s speech, which like Burnet’s lasted an hour, was in two parts: the first, an assault on resistance theory; the second, ‘a panegyrick on the queen’. He maintained that scripture might guide, but not dictate, political behaviour: a bad king could lay no claim to the loyalty of his subjects. His speech, which was published later that summer, evoked a swift and hostile response from the following speaker, George Hooper, bishop of Bath and Wells. Nottingham was also said to have made comments about Talbot’s ‘excessive and unwelcome flattery of the queen’.58 On 20 Mar. Talbot voted for Sacheverell’s guilt. The following day he was present for the discussions about the sentence to be imposed.

While some clearly found the Sacheverell trial a strain, Talbot seems to have relished the activity. As one correspondent of Wake’s put it, ‘he is always the better for an hurry of business’.59 In April Thomas Wylde, Member for Worcester, presented a ‘whiggish’ address which was promoted by Talbot amongst the Worcestershire gentry.60 Talbot expressed concern, though, about the partisanship of the press: Wylde’s address, he claimed, was given insufficient media coverage, being omitted by the Post Man and the Courant, whereas addresses by ‘the other side’ were published in their numbers.61 Over the summer he was the subject of further bitter attacks in the press for his speech in the Lords, Tenison reporting to Wake that Talbot had ‘been rudely treated in two pamphlets already’.62

It is unclear whether Talbot had been involved in the Oxfordshire by-election campaign of February 1710, which was fiercely contested by the staunch Whig Sir Thomas Reade. Reade enjoyed some clerical support as well as that of John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, but was unsuccessful.63 Talbot paid greater attention to the general election that autumn. In September he wrote to the duchess of Marlborough in scathing terms about the Tories: it was ‘a melancholic reflection that after a twenty year war abroad to secure our religious and civil rights, we must now have a struggle for both at home’. Finance, he claimed was being procured abroad for the election of ‘fools and beggars’ who were mere party lackeys.64

Although his movements in the country were hampered by a smallpox scare in the same month, Talbot was back at Westminster for the first day of the new parliamentary session on 25 Nov. 1710.65 Harley, in his estimate of support for the new ministry, reckoned Talbot (in spite of his kinship with Shrewsbury) a certain opponent. Talbot attended the session for only 17 per cent of sittings. He registered his proxy with his son-in-law Charles Trimnell on 4 Dec. perhaps to allow him to concentrate on other business, such as Convocation.66 The proxy was vacated on the 14th. Present on 1 Mar. 1711 for the debate on the appeal of Scottish episcopalian James Greenshields (whose petition he supported), Talbot did not attend the session after mid March.67 He registered his proxy with Trimnell again on 28 Apr. (vacated at the end of the session).

Divisions within Worcester were made apparent that spring after Talbot intervened to prevent a Dr Philips, selected by the high sheriff, from preaching the assize sermon. Talbot objected to Philips for having ‘entertained the criminal Dr Sacheverell in his progress’ but the high sheriff and 50 of his retainers responded by boycotting the sermon preached by Talbot’s replacement.68 By 12 Nov. 1711 Talbot was back in London where, together with Hough, Trimnell and Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough, he waited on Tenison at Lambeth before visiting Wake and arranging to meet up at the House the following day.69

The next session did not open until 7 Dec. 1711, but preparations for the session, which it was expected would be stormy, were in hand. Talbot took his seat at the opening of the session and attended nearly 77 per cent of sittings. On 8 Dec. he was seen as a supporter for presenting the Address complete with the amendment in favour of a policy of ‘No Peace without Spain’, and Oxford confirmed in a list of 10 Dec. that he had voted against the ministry over the issue. Talbot’s name subsequently appeared on a list of those who had voted against the ministry with a view to their replacement. On 19 Dec. he was reckoned likely to oppose James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], in his effort to secure his place in the House as duke of Brandon, and the following day he voted, as expected, against permitting Scots peers with post-Union titles from sitting. In the 2 Jan. 1712 division on the adjournment and the queen’s request for two weeks’ recess, Talbot voted with the Whigs to oppose the adjournment as a breach of parliamentary privilege.70

He continued to socialize with bishops of similar political persuasion. On 5 Jan. 1712 he dined at the Chelsea home of Trelawny; on the 14th he went from Marlborough’s residence to Whitehall in the company of Nicolson, Evans and Trimnell before going on to the House; and on the 26th he dined at Lambeth. On 7 Feb. he met up again with Nicolson and on 1 Mar. dined at Lambeth with Nicolson, Evans, Trimnell and Richard Willis, later bishop of Gloucester.71 On 26 Feb. he voted with the minority against the Commons’ amendments to the episcopal communion (Scotland) bill.72 The bill (effectively toleration for Scottish episcopalians) passed the Lords without amendment; Talbot was one of nine bishops to oppose it.73 On 12 Apr. Talbot (with Burnet, Trimnell and William Fleetwood, bishop of St Asaph – all zealous Whigs) voted against the committal of the ecclesiastical patronage (Scotland) bill as being an infringement of the rights of the Scottish Kirk.74

Foreign policy absorbed much of the business of that session. On 28 May 1712 Talbot voted and registered his protest at the resolution not to address the queen requesting an offensive war against France. On 7 June he again registered his protest against the resolution not to amend the address on the queen’s speech concerning the peace. During the session, he exchanged proxies on several occasions: on 12 Mar. he registered his proxy with Trimnell (vacated eight days later). On 22 Apr. he reciprocated by taking Trimnell’s proxy (vacated on 19 June). On both 22 Mar. and 20 May he received the proxy of William Wake (vacated 12 May and at the end of the session respectively). The session also saw concerted partisan activity in Convocation; on 15 May Talbot was visited by Wake and Fleetwood before meeting up with Evans and going on to Sunderland’s house for a meeting on Convocation business. There they joined Somers, Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend, and Charles Montagu, Baron (later earl of) Halifax.75

Following the close of the session, Talbot conducted a diocesan visitation.76 The charge to his clergy proved controversial since it affirmed the validity of lay baptism; to assert that it was unlawful, Talbot claimed, would be to ‘unchristian’ the Protestant churches abroad.77 He may have been present at the Lambeth meeting in April 1712 when a positive declaration was drawn up on the issue.78 In about mid-March 1713, on another list composed for Oxford (as Harley had since become) Talbot was forecast as likely to oppose the ministry. The next parliamentary session opened on 9 Apr. but Talbot was still in Worcester.79 He did not take his seat until 15 May. He attended for only six per cent of the three-month session and did not attend after 28 May. Nevertheless, on 13 June Oxford predicted that Talbot would oppose the bill confirming the eighth and ninth articles of the French commercial treaty.

After the summer recess, it was rumoured that Talbot was in the running to become primate of Ireland (a post for which he had been considered more than three years previously). His candidature was warmly espoused by his kinsman, Shrewsbury (now lord lieutenant of Ireland) but White Kennett, the future bishop of Peterborough, learned that the promotion was ‘contrary to other inclinations and measures’ and was unlikely to take place.80 Talbot was at Westminster for the first day of the session beginning in February 1714. He attended only 21 per cent of sittings, registering his proxy with Trimnell on the third day of the session. His proxy was vacated on 16 April. He attended the session for the last time on 12 May and on 20 May registered his proxy with John Evans, bishop of Bangor. In late May or early June Nottingham forecast that Talbot would oppose the schism bill. In the division of 11 June 1714, on extending the bill to Ireland, Talbot’s proxy was used by Evans to vote against the clause.81 His proxy was again used on 15 June to vote against the passage of the legislation.

Career after the death of Queen Anne

Talbot attended nearly half of the sittings of the session that met in the wake of the queen’s death in the first three weeks of August 1714. The accession of George I reinvigorated his fortunes, though he was not translated to Ely as had been expected early in August. The promotion went to William Fleetwood instead.82 On 20 Oct. Talbot preached a coronation sermon that was said by Hearne to prove Talbot a ‘republican’.83 In fact, Talbot reiterated the traditional Whig argument that divine providence had directed English Protestant history in their favour since the Revolution.

Talbot was translated to the prestigious see of Salisbury on 23 Apr. 1715, although it had widely been expected that Salisbury would go Wake. Talbot benefited from the friendship of William Cowper, Baron (later Earl) Cowper, who was successful in securing the see for Talbot in preference to Nottingham’s nominee.84 Cowper wrote apologetically to Wake explaining that he intervened in the matter since Talbot had recently ‘been under some disappointment’ (presumably his failure to obtain Ely).85

Talbot made the security of the new regime his highest priority. He ensured that his new parish clergy prayed for the new king and used public occasions such as the assizes to preach against Rome.86 Within a month of translation, though, he suffered a serious illness and at the end of the year he was passed over for further promotion to Canterbury being thought ‘inferior’ to Wake in both ‘ability and experience’.87

Talbot maintained his frequent contacts with Nicolson, Evans and the circle surrounding Cowper. Talbot and Trimnell continued to be a parliamentary double act, and were in such good standing with the Hanoverian regime that both were translated in the early 1720s. Talbot was said to have paid somewhere between £5,000 and £6,000 for the bishopric of Durham as a bribe. In Durham (where he was also lord lieutenant and custos) he made enemies, pushing through private legislation on episcopal mining leases and enriching himself with the profits.88 He continued to sit in the House and registered his proxy with staunch Whigs such as John Evans, Richard Willis, Benjamin Hoadly, John Tyler, bishop of Llandaff, and, naturally, Trimnell. His parliamentary career after 1715 will be examined at length in the next phase of this work.

Talbot died in Hanover Square London on 10 Oct. 1730. His estate had already been settled in financial agreements and private legislation; his will directed that all residual funds after the payment of debts and expenses were to be invested in public or private securities for the maintenance of his wife (who outlived him by only six weeks). Talbot’s executors were his son Charles and his son-in-law, Exton Sayer, his son Edward (archdeacon of Berkshire) having died in 1720. Charles Talbot became lord chancellor in 1733. He inherited his father’s patronage of low Church clerics and continued in the ‘old Whig’ political tradition.89 Talbot’s younger son Sherrington was a career soldier, rising to the rank of major general; his granddaughter, Catherine Talbot, who lived in the household of one of Talbot’s protégés, Thomas Secker, archbishop of Canterbury, became a poet and essayist. Talbot was buried in St James’s, Piccadilly on 14 Oct. 1730 having left instructions in his will that none should attend the interment apart from close family.


  • 1 Staffs. RO, D1197/1/8, 13, 17.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/643.
  • 3 Commissions for Building Fifty New Churches ed. M.H. Port (London Rec. Soc. xxiii), pp. xxxv-xxxvi.
  • 4 Eg. 7843, 7844, 7875; G.S. Davies, Charterhouse in London.
  • 5 Hearne’s Colls. i. (Oxford Hist. Soc. ii) 106.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1690-1, pp. 343, 350.
  • 7 W. Gibson, Church of England, 51.
  • 8 Oxford DNB.
  • 9 W. Talbot, Sermon preached before the Queen, at Whitehall ... 26 Febr. 1691/2 (1692); W. Talbot, Unreasonableness and Mischief of Atheism (1694).
  • 10 A. Tindal Hart, William Lloyd 1627-1717, p. 196.
  • 11 Essays in Mod. Church Hist. ed. G.V. Bennett and J.D. Walsh, 127-8.
  • 12 CSP Dom. 1699-1700, pp. 248, 251, 253-4, 261; Christ Church Lib. Oxf. Wake mss 8, f. 37.
  • 13 Add. 61458, ff. 71-73; 72500, ff. 85, 95-96, 100-1; 72492, ff. 18-19, 28, 41.
  • 14 HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 469.
  • 15 Cornw. RO, Antony ms CVC/Y/2/4, 5.
  • 16 Badminton House, Coventry pprs. FMT/A3/3.
  • 17 Lib. and Museum of Freemasonry, London, FMH D/3; Oxf. Hist. Centre, DIOC/3/B.
  • 18 Badminton House, Coventry FMT/A4/3/19.
  • 19 W. Talbot, Divinity of Christ asserted. A sermon preach’d before the Queen, at St James’s on Christmas Day, 1702, (1702); Nicolson, London Diaries, 18, 153; W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d ... before the Societies for Reformation of Manners (1702).
  • 20 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/O2/82.
  • 21 Nicolson, London Diaries, 175.
  • 22 W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d before the Queen, at St James’s Feb. 14 1702/3, (1703).
  • 23 Glos. Archives D3549/2/1/25, p. 91; Add. 72509, ff. 55-56, 57.
  • 24 W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d before the Lords Spiritual and Temporal … on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 1703/4, (1704).
  • 25 Somerville, King of Hearts, 215, 230, 356, 357, 358; PA, HL/PO/PB/1/1719/6G1n59, 6 George I, c. 29.
  • 26 F. Sayer, Sermon preached … in the year 1704 before William Lord Bishop of Oxford, at a Visitation, (1705).
  • 27 Tindal Hart, 196.
  • 28 KSRL, Simpson-Methuen Corresp. ms c. 163, Sir W. Simpson to P. Methuen, 6 Nov. 1705.
  • 29 Add. 72509, ff. 101, 106.
  • 30 LPL, ms 1770, f. 7.
  • 31 Glos. Archives D3549/3/1/30.
  • 32 Add. 70023, ff. 119-20.
  • 33 EHR, l. 449.
  • 34 LPL, ms 1770, f. 32.
  • 35 Ibid. f. 34; Nicolson, London Diaries, 407-8, 411, 413.
  • 36 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 605, 622.
  • 37 NLW, Bodewryd letters, 292.
  • 38 W. Talbot, Bishop of Oxford’s Speech in the House of Lords, March 1706/7, (1710); Burnet, v. 287.
  • 39 Carpenter, Tenison, 393.
  • 40 Add. 72494, ff. 21-22.
  • 41 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/6/111/2328.
  • 42 Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) 77/80.
  • 43 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/6/116/2343.
  • 44 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/O/1/14.
  • 45 W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d before the Queen at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, on May the First, 1707, (1707); Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 765.
  • 46 PH, xxii. 183-4.
  • 47 Carpenter, Tenison, 394.
  • 48 Nicolson, London Diaries, 448; Pols. in Age of Anne, 399; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss fc 37, vol. 37, no. xix.
  • 49 Badminton House, Coventry FMT/A4/3/19.
  • 50 Bodl. Tanner 282, f. 148.
  • 51 Verney ms mic. M636/53, R. Palmer to R. Verney, 15 June 1708.
  • 52 LPL, ms 1770, f. 69.
  • 53 Add. 61608, ff. 128, 138, 153, 196-201, 216; 61609, f. 40; 61652, ff. 155, 181; Wake mss 2, ff. 78-79.
  • 54 Glos. Archives D3549/2/1/25, p. 187.
  • 55 Timberland, ii. 272-4; Bishop of Oxford his Speech in the House of Lords on the First Article off Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell (1710).
  • 56 Clavering Corresp. ed. Dickinson (Surtees Soc. clxxviii), 71.
  • 57 Carpenter, Protestant Bishop, 198.
  • 58 State Trial of Dr Henry Sacheverell ed. B. Cowan, 40, 139; HJ, xix, 769.
  • 59 Wake mss 17, f. 242.
  • 60 HP Commons 1690-1715, v. 934.
  • 61 Surr. Hist. Cent., 371/14/O/2/76.
  • 62 Wake mss 17, f. 253.
  • 63 HP Commons 1690-1715, v. 261.
  • 64 Add. 61475, ff. 21, 27, 29, 31.
  • 65 Surr. Hist. Cent., 371/14/O/2/75.
  • 66 LPL, ms 1770, f. 101.
  • 67 NLS, Advocates mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto V, f. 148r.
  • 68 Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 47, ff. 193-4.
  • 69 LPL, ms 1770, f. 113v.
  • 70 Pols. in Age of Anne, 517 n.62.
  • 71 Nicolson, London Diaries, 576, 578, 581, 584, 591.
  • 72 Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 122.
  • 73 Nicolson, London Diaries, 574.
  • 74 BLJ, xix. 161-2.
  • 75 LPL, ms 1770, f. 120v.
  • 76 W. Talbot, Bishop of Oxford’s Charge to the Clergy of his Diocese, at his Visitation (1712).
  • 77 Bishop of Oxford’s Charge Consider’d … by the Author of Lay-Baptism Invalid (1712), 46.
  • 78 N. Sykes, William Wake, i. 180.
  • 79 Add. 41843, f. 28.
  • 80 Ballard 7, f. 128; Wake mss 1, f. 234, Wake mss 23, f. 267.
  • 81 Nicolson, London Diaries, 612-13.
  • 82 Ballard 31, f. 128.
  • 83 W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d at the Coronation of King George (1714).
  • 84 Sykes, ii. 100-1.
  • 85 Wake mss 20, misc. iv. f. 1.
  • 86 Ibid. Wake 7, f. 142; W. Talbot, Sermon preach’d in the Cathedral Church of Sarum, on Sunday, July 22 1716 (1716).
  • 87 Ballard 31, f. 145; CHJ, vii, no. 2, 97.
  • 88 W. Hutchinson, Hist. and Antiqs. of the County Palatine of Durham (1785), i. 566-74; Add. 40836, f. 48.
  • 89 HJ, xi. 426.