Shropshire History

John Talbot

Earl of Shrewsbury


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1383 - John Talbot was born at Black Mere Castle near Whitchurch as the second son of Richard 4th Baron Talbot and Ankaret 7th Baroness Strange of Blackmere. The castle would actually have only been a fortified manor house and only the moat now remains.  It is a scheduled monument listed as Blakemere Moat.


1396 - His father died when Talbot was just nine years old, so it was Ankaret's second husband, Thomas Neville, 5th Baron Furnivall, who became the major influence in his early life. The marriage also gave the opportunity of a title for her second son as Neville had no sons, with his title going through his eldest daughter Maud who would become John's first wife.


1404 – Talbot was married to Maud Neville, 6th Baroness Furnivall, daughter of Thomas Neville. They had 4 children, ie Thomas (1416 – died at birth), John (1417), Christopher (1419) and Joan (1422). Talbot became deputy constable of Montgomery Castle under his father-in-law Baron Furnivall and served with his elder brother Gilbert fighting the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndwr.


1407 - He became constable of Montgomery Castle when his father-in-law died and took part in the siege of Aberystwith.


1409 - He helped his elder brother Gilbert to capture Harlech Castle. Talbot attended Parliament as 6th Baron Furnivall in Maud’s right.


1413 - During the Lollard panic, shortly after the accession of King Henry V, Talbot was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London but was soon released.


1414 – King Henry V made him Lieutenant of Ireland. Landing at Dalkey in November, Talbot captured Leix and fortified the bridge of Athenry. He then captured Donat Macmurrogh. Complaints were made against him both for harsh government in Ireland and for violence in Herefordshire.


1417 – Although initially popular with the Anglo-Irish, complaints of the misgovernment of his officers were made to the King and Talbot ran heavily into debt. He was accused of withholding certain Irish revenues from the King.


1420 - Talbot was back in France and present at the siege of Melun.


1421 - Talbot was present at the siege of Meaux.


1421 - His niece Ankaret, 6th Baroness Talbot and 9th Baroness Strange of Blackmere, died with no heir. Talbot thus also inherited the Baronies of Talbot and Strange to become John Talbot, 7th Baron Talbot, 10th Baron Strange of Blackmere, 6th Baron Furnivall. In August he took part in the Battle of Verneuil earning him the Order of the Garter.



Arms of Barons Talbot, Strange and Furnivall

1422 - His first wife, Maud died.


1424 – He again became a royal Lieutenant in Ireland. He surprised and held to ransom a number of northern chiefs who had come to Trim for an interview and obtained a promise from the O'Connors and O'Byrnes not to prey on the Anglo-Irish any longer.


1425 - He married Lady Margaret Beauchamp, eldest daughter of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick. They had five children, ie John (1426), Louis (1429), Humphrey (1434), Eleanor (1436) and Elizabeth (1442). Talbot is known to have also had at least one illegitimate child called Henry. He became a lieutenant again for a short time in Ireland


1427 - Talbot went to France and in May helped the Earl of Warwick to take Pontorson on the Breton border. In September, he joined the force which laid siege to Montargis but was driven off by the French. He fought alongside the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Warwick with distinction in Maine and at the Siege of Orleans.


1428 – In May, he captured Laval in Maine and soon after recovered Le Mans. In December, he was made Governor of Anjou and Maine and Captain of Falaise.


1429 -  In May, he was at the siege of Orleans and was posted in the Bastille Sainte Loup east of the town. His fame was already so widely spread that Joan of Arc seems to have thought at first that he commanded the besiegers. When they abandoned the siege and retired to Meung and Beaugency, Talbot proceeded to Janville to meet Sir John Fastolf, who was bringing reinforcements from Paris. Fastolf, on hearing of the fall of Jargeau and the siege of Beaugency, proposed to retreat but Talbot swore that he would attempt to save the latter town if he had to go alone. Finding the French on the alert, they fell back to Meung. The news which reached them next morning of the evacuation of Beaugency and advance of the French caused them to retreat northwards towards Patay and Janville. The enemy caught them up 2-3 miles south of Patay and a charge threw the English into hopeless confusion before they could be drawn up in battle array. Talbot made a stand but was surrounded and captured by French archers. In the English Parliament of the following September there was talk of Talbot's great services and the unreasonable ransom demanded. The king expressed the intention of contributing if an exchange could not be effected.


1433 - Talbot was released in exchange for the French leader Jean Poton de Saintrailles and returned to England. He stayed until July when he returned to France under the Earl of Somerset. Talbot was a daring and aggressive soldier, perhaps the most audacious captain of the age. He and his forces were ever ready to retake a town and to meet a French advance. His trademark was rapid aggressive attacks. He was rewarded by being appointed Governor and Lieutenant General in France and Normandy. 


1434 – Talbot accepted 1,000 livres in full settlement of his claims on the government, describing himself as “in great necessity”.  He brought a new army to France in the summer and took Joigny on his way to Paris. Penetrating up the Oise, he captured Beaumont, Creil, Pont Sainte-Maxence, Crepy, and Clermont. The Duke of Bedford made him Count of Clermont. Talbot reorganised the army with captains and lieutenants, trained the men for sieges and equipped them accordingly. In September, he became Captain of Gisors.


1435 - He helped to recover Saint Denis. When the Duke of Bedford died, the Burgundian government in Paris defected to the French. This left Talbot, known as “Le Roi Talbot” as the main English general in the field.


1436 - His re-conquest of the Pays de Caux did much to save Normandy for the English. Talbot was now Captain of Rouen, Lieutenant of the King between the Seine and the Somme and Marshal of France. With Lord Scales, he dislodged the French from Gisors, which had been lost shortly after Paris.


1437 - In January, Talbot, Salisbury, and Fauconberg captured Ivry and in February effected a skillful night surprise of Pontoise, after which they menaced Beauvais. Talbot ensured communications between Pontoise and Normandy by taking several places in the Vexin and threatening Paris itself. He and Scales foiled an attempted diversion against Rouen. Later in the year he helped to recover Tancarville and, by a dash across the Somme, saved Crotoy from the Burgundians.


1438 - He retook some posts in Caux but failed to relieve Montargis.


1439 - Talbot fought with the Earl of Somerset against Santerre and Meaux. In December, following a surprise flank attack on their camp, he dispersed the 6,000 strong army of the Constable Richemont.


1440 - The capture of Harfleur in October was largely his work and he was appointed a Captain of that town.


1441 - He pursued the French army four times over the Seine and Oise rivers in an unavailing attempt to bring it to battle. In the summer he carried supplies to Pontoise, which Charles VII was besieging, five times. The French offered battle but Talbot thought it prudent to give them the slip on this occasion by a night march.


1442 - In February, Talbot returned to England to request urgent reinforcements for the Duke of York in Normandy. In March, under king's orders, ships were requisitioned for this purpose with Talbot himself responsible for assembling ships from the Port of London and from Sandwich. In May, Henry VI created him Earl of Shrewsbury. Just five days later, with the requested reinforcements, Talbot returned to France where in June they mustered at Harfleur.


1443 – He recovered Conches and in November laid siege to Dieppe. In June, Talbot again returned to England on behalf of the Duke of York to plead for reinforcements but this time the English Council refused, instead sending a separate force under Talbot's brother-in-law, Edmund Beaufort. His son, Sir Christopher stayed in England where shortly afterwards he was murdered with a lance by one of his own men at Caus Castle. John’s illegitimate son Henry was fighting in France and was captured by the Dauphin. Talbot returned to Normandy but both sides were now weary of the war.


1444 - A truce was concluded at Tours.


1445 – He was appointed by Henry VI as Constable of France. Talbot presented a very large richly-illuminated manuscript made in Rouen to the French princess, Margaret of Anjou, in honour of her betrothal to King Henry VI. It contained a unique collection of fifteen texts in French, including songs, stories, treatises on warfare and chivalry and the Statues of the Order of the Garter (it became known as the Talbot Shrewsbury Book and is now in the British Library). He was also sent to govern Ireland.

Picture from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book showing Talbot, with

his dog, presenting the book to Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI


1446 – Talbot was created Earl of Waterford, Lord of Dungarvan and Steward of Ireland. He rebuilt Castle Carberry to protect his lands in Meath, captured several chieftains and enacted that those who would be taken for Englishmen should not use a beard upon the upper lip alone and should shave it at least once a fortnight. The Irish declared that “there came not from the time of Herod any one so wicked in evil deeds”. There was a long-running feud between Talbot and the Butler family and their allies the Berkeleys. Both sides were reprimanded by the Privy Council for weakening English rule in Ireland. Friendly relations were finally achieved by the marriage of Talbot's son and heir to Ormond's daughter, Lady Elizabeth Butler.


1447 - Talbot handed over the reins of Ireland to his brother Richard and returned home.


1448 – In July, he was sent as Lieutenant of Lower Normandy and Captain of Falaise to assist Somerset in France.


1449 - He made an unsuccessful attempt to recover Verneuil. When Rouen capitulated in October, he was handed over to Charles VII as one of the hostages for the surrender of Honfleur and other towns. He was sent to Dreux and kept a prisoner for nine months. He was made to promise never to wear armour against the French King again and he was true to his word. However, though he did not personally fight, he continued to command English forces against the French. In England he was widely renowned as the best general King Henry VI had.


1450 – In July, his release was made a condition of the surrender of Falaise. He was released and returned to England, where he helped to suppress Cade's Revolt, a rebellion by Kent peasants and landowners.


1451 – In November, he was made Governor of Portsmouth.


1452 -  In January, he was made Constable of Porchester and he supported King Henry VI at Dartford against the rebellion by Richard Duke of York. The French were threatening Calais so in March he was appointed Captain of the Fleet and engaged to serve at sea for three months with 3,000 fighting men. The abandonment of the expedition against Calais, and the arrival of envoys from Gascony to solicit intervention, decided Henry VI to make a great effort to recover that province. Talbot was sent out as Lieutenant of Aquitaine. His powers were very wide, extending to the right of pardoning all offences and of coining money. Sailing with a considerable army, he landed in October near Soulac and at once marched upon Bordeaux. The Seneschal of Guienne wanted to resist but the city rose against him and a gate was opened for the English.


1453 - In March, he was reinforced by troops brought out by his son John and Lords Camoys and Moleyns. He opened the campaign with the capture of Fronsac but his progress was stopped by the approach of three converging French armies. One marched from the south into the Medoc, the king commanded a northern army on the Charente, while another army delivered a central attack down the Dordogne valley. Talbot marched out to Martignas with a view of giving battle but retired before their superior forces to Bordeaux. Meanwhile the army of the Dordogne captured Chalais and Gensac. In July, they laid siege to Castillon so Talbot hurried to its assistance with his cavalry, leaving his infantry and artillery to follow. Reaching Castillon in the early morning, he at once drove out the French archers from the abbey above the town. They retreated with some loss to a large entrenched camp to the east, where their main body was stationed. After refreshing his men in the abbey, Talbot led them out against this position. Arriving there, he ordered them to dismount but retained his own horse in consideration of his age. He had no artillery of his own at that point in time and his plan to attack a moated and palisaded camp defended by 300 pieces of ordnance was foolhardy. Despite this, he led an impetuous charge of the English and Gascons shouting “‘Talbot, Talbot, St George” and ordered his men to protect themselves against the enemy's fire by interlocking their bucklers.

The Death of Talbot at the Battle of Castillon, by Charles-Philippe Larivière


He managed to reach the entrance of the camp but a body of Breton lancers threw themselves on the flank of the wearied English. Talbot, already wounded in the face, was struck in the leg by a shot from a culverin and dismounted. His men began to run away and the French surrounded him. One of them thrust a sword through his body without recognising his victim. His son, whom he had vainly entreated to save himself, fell by his side. Trampled underfoot, Talbot's body was so disfigured that his own herald could only recognise it next day by the absence of a tooth. The body was taken to England and interred in the old burial-place of the Stranges in the parish church of Whitchurch. Over his remains was erected a fine canopied monument enclosing his effigy in full armour, with the mantle of the Order of the Garter and his feet resting on a Talbot dog. During the rebuilding of the church, an urn containing his embalmed heart was discovered. The victorious French generals raised a monument to Talbot on the field called Notre Dame de Talbot and a French chronicler paid him a handsome tribute: "Such was the end of this famous and renowned English leader who for so long had been one of the most formidable thorns in the side of the French, who regarded him with terror and dismay".