(6th E. Shrewsbury)

Born: ABT 1522

Died: 18 Nov 1590

Buried: 13 Jan 1590, St. Peter, Sheffield, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Francis TALBOT (5º E. Shrewsbury)

Mother: Mary DACRE (C. Shrewsbury)

Married: Gertrude MANNERS (C. Shrewsbury) 28 Apr 1539, London


1. Francis TALBOT (B. Talbot)

2. Gilbert TALBOT (7° E. Shrewsbury)

3. Grace TALBOT

4. Edward TALBOT (8° E. Shrewsbury)

5. Anne TALBOT

6. Catherine TALBOT (C. Pembroke)

7. Henry TALBOT

8. Mary TALBOT

Married 2: Elizabeth De HARDWICK (C. Shrewsbury) (See her Biography) 9 Feb 1567/8

Associated with: Eleanor BRITTON

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George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury

by Rowland Lockey

George Talbot was the only surviving son of Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, and Mary Dacre. After the death of Edward VI, Francis Talbot, fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, both Shrewsbury and his son signed the device for the succession to the crown.

At his father death in 1560, George became one of the wealthiest peers in England, possesing vast estates in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The enormous income from the lead mines, forests and farms in these counties enabled him to maintain large houses: Sheffield Manor, Sheffield Castle, South Wingfield Manor, Rufford Abbey, Welbeck Abbey, Worksop Manor, Buxton Hall and Tutbury Castle. He also owned two properties in London.

He had married Gertrude Manners, dau. of Thomas Manners 1st Earl of Rutland, 28 Apr 1539 in London. Rutland paid the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury 3.000 marks for this marriage. Gertrude gave George four sons and four daughters before she died in 1566/7: Francis; Gilbert; Grace; Edward; Anne; Catherine; Henry and Mary.

Soon he married a rich widow, Elizabeth Hardwick, fourth dau. and coheir of John Hardwick of Hardwick, Derbys Esquire.

In 1568, Shrewsbury was summoned by the Queen of England regarding his Bolsover tenants. They had been causing trouble in the area and written a petition to the Queen.

Bess was delighted when she heard her husband was to be the Guardian of Queen of Scots; it was a gesture from the Queen of England that they were in favour.

In 1569, Mary, Queen of Scots, arrived at Tutbury Castle, a dull dwelling which was originally a hunting box. It was damp, cold and half ruined. Mary Queen of Scots remained in the Earl of Shrewsbury's custody until 1584.

In Jun 1569 Sir John Zouche was appointed to assist George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, who was ill, in his custody of Mary Queen of Scots at South Wingfield.

In 1574, Bess and the her Countess Lennox arranged the wedding of Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox. The Countess Lennox wished her son happiness and Bess wanted her family wedded into the Royal Family with or without Queen Elizabeth's consent.

The Earl of Shrewsbury, innocent and grossly deceived by his wife, almost fainted dead away when the news was brought to him. He could not put pen to paper fast enough in an attempt to avert at least some of the royal fury he knew would break over his head. To Lord Burghley he put the blame squarely on his wife:

'...[Lennox] fell into liking with my wife's daughter, before intended, and such liking was between them, as my wife tells me, she makes no doubt of a match, and hath so tied themselves upon their own liking as can not part. The young man is so far in love that belike he is sick without her.'

To the Queen also he hastened to assure her of his ignorance of the affair, but made a feeble attempt to justify his wife's action:

'...I must confess to your Majesty, as true it is, it was dealt in suddenly and without my knowledge, but as I daré undertake and answer to your Majesty for my wife, I finding her daughter dis-appointed of young Bartie [a previous suitor]... the other young gentleman was inclined to love, who after a few days acquaintance, did her best to further her daughter to that match, without having therein any other intent. . . than with reverend duty to your Majesty...'

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Detail of a portrait showing Gilbert Talbot, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury 

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Portrait of Grace Talbot

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Portrait of Alathea Howard, Countess of Arundel, née Talbot (detail). 

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Portrait of a Lady of the Talbot Family

Elizabeth and Charles were in line to succession to the Throne and had a daughter Arabella Stuart. Anger, at what he considered his wife's criminal folly in arranging the marriage of Arabella's parents, still rankled. To the pessimistic Earl the union presaged nothing but trouble. Shrewsbury still shuddered when he remembered the trouble that had risen over the affair. Due to Bess's resolve to further the interests of her own children— Shrewsbury called them his wife's impsshe had, by means of a cunning trick, drawn the Earl himself perilously near to imprisonment and, worse, possible confiscation of his estates. With the Stuart marriage his former affection for his 'dear none' was replaced by detestation as irremediable as it was relentless. And from that time he had never spoken to his wife again except on business matters; and then only through a third person.

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Shrewsbury was preoccupied as he was with the problem of Mary Stuart, now confined a close prisoner in the Turret House of Sheffield Castle. He was worried, too, about money. Bitterly he complained to Lord Burghley that, besides the responsibility of ensuring that Mary had no communication with France - which involved paying soldiers to guard the Turret House - he was put to the extra expense of bribing his own servants to the tune of some £400 a year. If he did not, foreign agents certainly would. Mary and her household he found to be woefully wasteful and careless of his property. He wrote: 'The wine,... spice, and the fuel that is spent in my house yearly... cometh not under one thousand pounds. Also the loss of piate, and buying of pewter, and all manner of household stuff, which by them is exceedingly spoiled and wilfully wasted'. He considered the £52 a week allowed him by the Crown totally inadequate. The harassed man was stunned when, in response to his lamentations that he was being ruined, the weekly allowance was cut from £52 to £30 a week. Francis Walsingham warned the Queen that she might push the Earl too far if she made such drastic cuts. The Secretary need not have been apprehensive of Shrewsbury's loyalty; he would never have failed to have carried out his duty to his sovereign - instead he showed his indignation by cutting down the allowance of food to Mary's household. Only the cheapest meat and the barest provisions were supplied to Mary's cook. Shrewsbury was well aware that, despite his vigilance, Mary was in contact with the French Ambassador and that that gentleman would soonhear the Queen of Scots' compaints of neglect. Elizabeth would not want tales of ill-treatment of her cousin to circuiate the Courts of Europe. The Earl hoped, because of this, she would, at least, give back the original allowance. This mild blackmail was stepped on sharply. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was instructed to reprimand Shrewsbury.

'Your Lordship doth of late keep the Scotch Queen there very barely of her diet, insomuch as ... that she finding fault thereat, your Lordship should answer that you were cut off of your allowance and therefore could yield her no better.'

A canard had erupted of an improper relationship between Lord Shrewsbury and Mary Stuart. Rumour was abroad that Mary had even had a child by the doddering Earl. Mary, beside herself with fury at these scurrilous stories, and eager now to destroy Bess wrote to Elizabeth accusing the Countess of being the instigator of the scandal. Lord Shrewsbury, in his turn, publicly put it at Bess's door. And, incredibly, the accusations were true. The Countess and her sons, William and Charles, had deliberately spread the improbable story.

The Countess of Shrewsbury's reason for this seemingly terrible act was simple. It had come to her ears that her husband's name appeared on a list, in the possession of Walsingham, of disloyal peers. In her desperation to avert possible disaster she felt the only thing to do was to bring about the removal of Mary, Queen of Scots from Shrewsbury's care - although Bess knew Shrewsbury to be incapable of treachery. Years earlier Leicester had told her:

'If they could ever bring the Queen to believe that there were jars betwixt them (Shrewsbury and Mary), she would be in such a fear as it would sooner be the cause of removing of my Lordship's charge than any other thing'

But it was selfish motives that moved Bess to her daring resolution. Should Shrewsbury be arraigned for plotting against the State, guilty or inno-cent, the family might well lose everything. The Countess was successful in her aim. Mary was removed from Sheffield and placed in the care of Sir Ralph Sadler. Shrewsbury had devoted fifteen and a half years of his life guarding Mary. The scandal died down but it alienated Shrewsbury from Bess for ever.

The passing years intensified rather than diminished the Earl's hostility towards his wife. All pretence was dropped and the couple's mutual abuse became an open scandal. The Countess removed herself from her husband's house and went to live in her own home, Hardwick Hall. With her she took her grand-daughter, Arabella.

Later, when Lord and Lady Shrewsbury were summoned before the Lord Chancellor Hatton, about some property disagreement, the Earl requested to be granted a legal separation from his wife. The Queen turned down the application without a second thought. She would not give her consent to any such thing at her Court; and she was getting weary of Shrewsbury's constant complaints about his spouse. Of the financial aspect of the proposed separation, Shrewsbury wrote to his friend, John Manners:

'My wife, with the help of her purse, has many friends and I do not know how the matter will turn out. All may be for the best; though I get little, I shall be rid of my mortal enemy.

February 7th at Chelsea.'

Eventually Shrewsbury managed to get his case heard before the courts at York and a separation was granted. This was too much for the Queen, she lost her temper and ordered the Earl to visit Bess from time to time. A letter from Roger Manners to his brother, describing the hearing at York, tells of the Queen's exasperation at her 'good old man'. He wrote:

'The peace betwixt your great Earl and his wife is made by her Majesty, as greatly to the honour of the Countess as may be. And if it not be to his honour and liking there is no one to blame but himself'

When Shrewsbury at length came to the Court in 1584 in his own defense, Roger Manners, the Queen, the Cecils, and others worked to absolve him from the charges of treason concerning Queen Mary, to reconcile him with his wife, and to urge him to pay the extravagant debts of Lord Gilbert and Lady Mary Talbot. Shrewsbury himself had come to the Court at Oatlands accompanied by his retainers, 'only myself excepted'; he had behaved discreetly in the matter of the charges of treason and had been graciously used by the Queen, but had utterly refused to be reconciled to his wife.

By Shrewsbury’s own wish, a truce was finally arranged between him and his wife by the Queen. Manners then twice mentioned that the Countess was very desirous of his friendship, which, as she wanted it for the Earl’s sake, he said he knew 'not while I should be strange'. The truce, however, was short-lived. The next year the Queen made another effort to end the wrangle, and Lord Talbot again made attempts to have his uncles intervene for him. But another mediator finally succeeded— Sir Henry Lee, who went for interviews to Worksop, Sheffield, etc.— and so for two years thing were quiet. But just before the death of Shrewsbury, John and Roger Manners were again trying to act as peacemakers.

Meanwhile, Bess settled at Hardwick Hall and withdrew into a life of semi-retirement, but she had not given up hope of some sign of royal favour for her grand-daughter.

Eleanor Britton was a servant of in the household of the Earl of Shrewsbury. She came there from Norfolk in 1579 and by 1586 was housekeeper at Hardwick Hall and became Shrewsbury’s mistress. Some accounts say she was a widow, which would mean her maiden name is unknown. In 1587 the Earl was living openly with Eleanor at Hanworth or Handsworth Manor. She was with him when he died at Sheffield on 18 Nov 1590. He was interred 13 Jan 1590/1, at St. Peter, Sheffield. Eleanor and her nephew, Thomas, left immediately afterward, taking with them everything they could find of value. When Shrewsbury’s son and heir arrived, he discovered thousands of pounds worth of property missing. Gilbert raided Eleanor Britton’s house and confiscated everything he could get his hands on. Then he sued, accusing her of embezzlement during the last year of his father’s life. Eleanor countersued, demanding the return of the confiscated goods. The matter was still ongoing five years later.

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