The Talbots

Talbot Coat of Arms

More properly called an armorial achievement or an armorial bearing, historically, they were used by knights so that they could be identified especially in battle or jousting when fully clothed in armour. Brightly coloured patterns and colours made their appearance on shields, horse trappings and great coats, hence the term ‘coat of arms’. The Talbot coat or crest features a lion and a dog. The lion stems from the family’s Welsh origins and an early Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was referred to by the king as ‘Talbott our Goode Dogge’. The family motto was ‘Forte et Fidele’ which translates as ‘Brave and Faithful’ and these qualities relate to the two animals. Apart from the example depicted here there are many more or less ornate versions of the crest but most incorporate the above basics and the predominant colours are yellow, red and black.


A Brief Talbot Family History

The Normans arrived from England in 1171. With their superior armour and weapons they quickly captured Dublin, forcing the Danish king, Hamund MacTurkill, to retire to his lands in Kinsaley. From here he endeavoured to mobilise a fleet to recapture Dublin but failed and was subsequently beheaded. 
Among the invading Normans was Sir Richard de Talbot, a young knight from Shrewsbury but of French descent. He served his master, King Henry II, well in the invasion of Ireland and was rewarded with a grant of lands around Malahide about 1185. In 1475, his descendant had his standing further enhanced when King Edward IV conferred the title ‘Lord High Admiral of Malahide and the Seas Adjoining’ with an entitlement to customs dues. Beginning with a ‘motte and bailey’, a fortified enclosure, at Wheatfield opposite the Community School, the Talbots later built a fortified stone castle beside the nearby ancient church of St. Fenweis. Talbots occupied their castle continuously for eight hundred years except for the period from 1653 to 1660 when John Talbot and his family were sent to Connaught under the notorious ‘To Hell or to Connaught’ edict in Cromwellian times. The widowed Lady Margaret Talbot was created a baroness in 1831, the title ‘baron’ passing to her son on her death and continuing until the death of Lord Milo Talbot in 1973. His sister, Rose, sold the castle and the remaining 268 acres of the estate to Dublin County Council in 1976 following which it was opened to the public. 

The Titled Talbots

1st Baroness Talbot

Margaret O’Reilly (died 1834) of Ballinlough Castle near Athboy, Co. Meath married Richard Talbot (died 1788). She was related by marriage to the influential George Temple Grenville, later to become the Marquis of Buckingham and twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His patronage would be of considerable benefit to Margaret and her offspring.

Margaret bore Richard eight sons and seven daughters, most of whom went on to be prominent in their own right. Among these offspring were Richard Wogan who succeeded to the Malahide estate and title;  William who established the vast Talbot sheep station in Tasmania; Thomas who settled a large estate on the shores of Lake Erie in Canada; Sir John, a British navy admiral; Neil, a lieutenant colonel in the 14th Light Dragoons; Robert, who married Arabella, sister of Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, Bart.; a daughter who became a countess of the Austrian empire; Barbara, wife of Sir William Young, Bart., MP, Governor of Tobago and Catherine, wife of Lieut. General Sir George Airey, K.C.H., Colonel of the 39th Regiment. 

Margaret was a stong, ambitious woman and had an eventful life as family fortunes waxed, waned and waxed again. No doubt helped by her own family connections she was created Baroness Talbot of Malahide in 1831 at the age of 86. She then attended the coronation of William IV in London and went to a concert hosted by the new queen at Brighton Pavilion. Lady Malahide died three years later.

2nd Baron - Richard Wogan Talbot 

Richard Wogan Talbot, son of Richard and Margaret Talbot (later Baroness), was born in 1766. After he attended Manchester Grammar School he enlisted in the army and was created captain at age seventeen. After a spell on the staff at Dublin Castle, where the young Lieutenant Arthur Wellesley, future Duke of Wellington, was also an ADC at this time though his quarters were in Eustace Street, Talbot left the army, went to London and moved in Court circles  He returned to Dublin, secured election to the Irish parliament at age 22 but was disqualified on age grounds. England was again at war and he re-joined the army as a lieutenant-colonel in command of a new regiment of militia, the 118th (Fingal) Regiment. They also became mutinous and were disbanded. Talbot then took command of the 23rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and saw extensive war service on the Continent. Meantime, following his father’s sudden demise he lost no time in tackling the family debts including letting the family's Malahide Castle

He carried out extensive repairs and improvements to Malahide Castle and let it again for the summer of 1825 to the Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis of Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington’s eldest brother Richard).  

He brought partners into the cotton business established by his father but despite his best efforts the enterprise at Yellow Walls failed. It seems probable that he dismantled some of the mill buildings and re-used the stone to construct the military barracks that survived as farm buildings until demolished to make way for the entrance to the Milford housing estate in recent times and from which the area takes its name.  When there was a dire shortage of coin in 1803, he set up a bank in Malahide with authority to issue small denomination notes.  He was elected to Westminster in 1806 and continued there until he retired in 1830. He was a supporter of Catholic Emancipation. He sought to improve the farmland on Lambay and retired there for extended periods on several occasions. Talbot became Baron Talbot on the death of his mother in 1834 and a Privy Councillor in 1836. He became an early director of the Provincial Bank of Ireland which many years later amalgamated with the Munster & Leinster Bank and the Royal Bank of Ireland to form AIB. He was created Baron Furnival of Malahide in 1839 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He married firstly Catherine Malpas (d. c.1800) of Chapelizod and Rochestown, Co. Dublin, by whom he had two children. In 1806 he married Margaret Sayers daughter of Andrew Sayers, of Drogheda. He lived beyond his limited means throughout most of his life and was supported by his mother, Margaret.  He died in 1849 and was succeeded by his brother.

3rd Baron - James Talbot 

He was born about 1767 and entered Manchester Grammar school in 1780 and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a B.A. in 1788, a month after the death of his father. After a short spell on the Lord Lieutenant’s staff he moved to London to study law. He did not complete his studies but joined the diplomatic service. From 1796 until he retired in 1803 he engaged in highly sensitive and covert activities mainly in France and Switzerland. In 1804 he married Anne Sarah Rodbard of Somerset with whom he had seven sons and five daughters. The family lived in France and Italy for about thirteen years before returning to his wife’s family home in Somerset. On the death of his brother Richard in October 1849 he became 3rd Baron Talbot. However, he was too infirm to travel to Malahide and he died in December 1850, aged 83. He was succeeded by his first born son, also James.

4th Baron - James Talbot 

James Talbot was an Anglo-Irish Liberal politician and amateur archaeologist. He was born on 22 November 1805, the son of James Talbot, 3rd Baron Talbot of Malahide, and Anne Sarah, daughter of Samuel Rodbard. His early childhood and education was in France and Italy. A studious young man he obtained a B.A. and later an M.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge where he was financed by his grandmother Margaret Talbot of Eccles Street in Dublin. In 1832 he was elected to the House of Commons for Athlone, but did not contest the 1835 general election, believing he could not win against Daniel O’Connell’s favoured candidate. In 1838 he set off with his aunt Eliza from Ballinclea House in Killiney on an extended tour of Europe and the near east. They spent over two years abroad during which he conducted much research while in Egypt and developed a keen interest in Roman antiquities. He succeeded his father as fourth Baron Talbot of Malahide in 1850 having already been in residence in Malahide and in 1856 he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Talbot de Malahide, in the County of Dublin. This gave him a seat in the House of Lords where he contributed regularly and from 1863 to 1866 he served as a Lord-in-Waiting (government whip) in the Liberal administrations of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell. He was also a magistrate for Co. Dublin.James Talbot was also a noted amateur archaeologist and an active member of the Royal Archaeological Institute, serving as president for 30 years. Moreover, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London and served as president of the Royal Irish Academy. He was president also of the Geological and Zoological Societies of Ireland and vice-president of the Royal Dublin Society where he was a regular exhibitor of cattle at it’s shows. In that society’s autumn show he won a prize for seventeen varieties of farm produce from Lambay. He was instrumental in the revival of the Fingal Farming Society. Lord Talbot of Malahide married a well-to-do Scottish heiress, Maria Margaretta, daughter of Patrick Murray, of Simprim, Forfarshire, in 1842 but was left a widower in August, 1873. She was the last to be buried in the crypt in Malahide Abbey under the altar tomb associated with Maud Plunkett. He had a family of seven children. He died in Madeira in April 1883, aged 77, and was succeeded in his titles and estates by his eldest son.

5th Baron - Richard Wogan Talbot 

He was born in London in 1846 and educated at Eton. After leaving Oxford University he joined the 9th Lancers, attaining the rank of lieutenant but he did not remain long in the army, from which he resigned in order to join an exploration party making researches in the interior of Africa. After a long sojourn in these regions he returned to Europe, but set out a second time on his explorations, and later he published an interesting account of the many adventures which the party encountered.When Lord Talbot succeeded to the title in 1883, he found the estate much let down, but had little money to put things to rights. For some years he lived in a house in Malahide, and saved all he could, so as to spend it on putting the castle and estate into order. He married, first, Emily Harriet, daughter of Sir James Boswell, who died in 1898 leaving one son. He and his son then spent much time in travelling and the castle was again left empty for long periods. He married again in 1901, the wealthy Isabel Charlotte, widow of the late Mr. John Gurney, Sprouston Hall, Norfolk, by whom he had no issue. Her father had served under Wellington in the Peninsular War and lost a leg. On their return to Malahide in 1902, after a honeymoon in Italy, they were met at the station by their tenantry who unhitched the horses from their carriage and pulled it themselves up to the castle whilst the band played “Come Back to Erin”. An illuminated address was presented. Lady Isabel became president of the Mother’ Union for the Dublin diocese in 1909 and vice-president of the Alexandra College Guild. She became head of the Dublin branch of the Red Cross during World War I and was awarded an O.B.E. in 1920. She was also a talented artist. See her watercolour of the Malahide Martello tower on page 29. Lord Talbot became a Deputy-Lieutenant for the County of Dublin. He made efforts to develop the district, but the attempts to make it a popular watering-place were not as successful as had been hoped. Well acquainted with the needs of the men engaged in Irish sea-fishing, he helped in every movement for the development of this greatly neglected industry. He was fond of cricket, and established a club in the grounds of his demesne. He took little part in politics. With his second wife, he travelled extensively, visiting Europe, Egypt, China, Japan, the USA, Canada and Argentina. The sale of a painting by Franz Hals reputedly financed much of this travel.He died at Malahide Castle on 4 March 1921, aged 75, and was succeeded by his only son, the Hon. James Boswell Talbot. His widow moved to London and lived to the age of 80.

6th Baron - James Boswell Talbot 

On the death of Lord Talbot in 1921, James Boswell Talbot succeeded to his father's estates and title. He was born in 1874, the only son and heir of Richard Wogan, the 5th Baron. At age 50 he married Miss Joyce Gunning Kerr, the eighteen year old daughter of an actor and London theatre manager. As was the case with his brother before him James and his new bride were met at the rail station by an enthusiastic crowd of locals who unhitched the horses from the carriage and hauled it up the decorated avenue led by the Yellow Walls band. He did not enjoy good health. His main interests were in horse racing, Irish wolfhounds and fishing at Mountshannon where they maintained a lodge and boat. Having inherited about 3,000 acres he had, by 1946, sold all but the 300 acres around the castle. He was of a retiring disposition but popular locally. His new wife assumed much of the day-to-day management of the castle. Lady Joyce took a keen interest in the Boswell Papers and was closely involved in their sale but not before she attempted to censor some of Boswell’s more explicit descriptions of his sexual encounters. She appears to have been well liked by the estate staff and took a personal interest in their lives. She was very active in the Irish Red Cross during World War II both locally and nationally. She had part of the castle prepared for an emergency during World War II with iron beds, dressings, etc.The sixth Lord Talbot died on 22 August 1948, without issue, and the title and property passed to his first cousin, Milo Talbot. His wife moved down to their fishing lodge at Mountshannon for a few years before retuning to England and marrying again but her second husband pre-deceased her. She died in 1980, aged 83, and is buried in St. Andrew’s Churchyard, Malahide.

7th Baron - Milo John Reginald Talbot 

In 1948 the last lord, 7th Baron (Irl.) and 4th Baron (U.K.) C.M.G., F.L.S., succeeded to the title. Milo was born on 1 December 1912, the son of the Hon. Lt.-Col. Milo George Talbot C.B. who served in the Jowaki Expedition 1877-78, in the Afghan War 1879-80, in the Nile Expedition 1897-99 and in World War I 1914-18  He was a brother of the 5th Baron and married Eva Joicey. Their son, also Milo, was educated at Winchester and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was described as having “a first class brain which he applied  with ruthless practicality to any subject that appealed to him”. He entered the British diplomatic service in 1937 and later transferred to the foreign service where he had a distinguished career. He held important positions such as Chief of the Foreign Office Security Department, British Envoy to Laos and British Ambassador to Vietnam. He resigned in 1956.
Much of Milo’s career during the 1940s and early 50s is shrouded in mystery and rumour. At Cambridge, Guy Burgess had been his history tutor and Anthony Blount had also tutored him . Kim Philby and Donald Maclean were also at Cambridge around this time. Milo is thought to have worked in the Secret Service for some years during World War II and to have encountered some of these men in the Foreign Office  and in diplomatic postings abroad especially at Ankara in Turkey. In the course of Milo’s time at the Foreign Office during the Cold War Burgess and Maclean defected to the Russians after Philby alerted them to the fact that they were under suspicion. Milo retired in 1956 aged 45. Philby subsequently defected to be followed by Blount who was exposed as a double agent and who had been a regular guest of Milo at Malahide Castle. When Milo died suddenly in Greece when apparently in good health rumours and innuendos again circulated. No post mortem was carried out. Milo’s sister Rose burned his papers immediately on his death and many of the Foreign Office papers relating to him have disappeared.
 He attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Apart from periods of leave, he did not take up residence at Malahide until 1956. He found the castle mantled in ivy with lots of laurel, brambles and elder round about and the kitchen garden needing much attention. He cleared the ivy, re-stuccoed and re-pointed the walls and cleaned up the grounds. An enthusiastic gardener and botanist and a plant specimen collector of international renown, he developed the gardens at Malahide keeping an exact and detailed series of Garden Books of all his collection of seeds and plants. In all, he introduced over 4,500 different species and cultivars. His Garden Books will form the basis of the botanical exhibition being developed in the newly opened gardens at Malahide Castle. Milo also organized and financed the compilation Endemic Flora of Tasmania which ran to six volumes. He was an avid and expert stamp collector but sold his collection for a large sum. He did not marry and did not have an easy manner with women including his sister Rose who choose to live elsewhere in Dublin. Conscious that he had no closely related heir who might be interested in inheriting the castle and estate he entered negotiations with the government of the day to take over the castle as a state residence for the Taoiseac. It appears the offer was receiving serious consideration when he died suddenly in a hotel in Greece on 14th April, 1973 after a Mediterranean cruise. He is buried in St. Andrew’s Churchyard in Malahide. With his demise without a direct heir the baronetsy in the peerage of the United Kingdom became extinct. However, in the Irish peerage the title of Baron Talbot de Malahide passed to his third cousin Reginald Stanislaus Victor Talbot who resided in England. Faced with very substantial death dutes, his sister Rose then reopened negotiations to offset these against handing the castle over to the state. However, there had been a change of government in the meantime and the offer no longer found favour. Rose decided to sell and move to the family estate in Tasmanian. The castle and demesne were purchased by Dublin County Council and opened as a public amenity in 1978.