Into the Lion’s Den
Author: Stephen E. Talbot
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The Talbot family held a unique position in Ireland, occupying the same property for over 800 years from the English invasion in the 12th Century until the latter half of the 20th Century. From this vantage point the family were either witness to, or played a key part in, all aspects of Anglo-Irish history. It is then hardly surprising to find the Talbots frequently mentioned in not only factual works of history but also works of fiction such as James Joyces’ Ulysses.
Starting with the Talbots’ origin in Normandy the book goes on to look at the subsequent conquest of England, the family’s settlement in the de Lacy lands in the Welsh Marches and their role in the Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign. Leaving the Talbots of Shrewsbury, Bashall, Thornton, Lacock and Margam behind, the book focusses on the line that joined Henry II on his expedition to Ireland in 1172 and established itself at Malahide. It then proceeds to form a narrative of Anglo-Irish history in the Pale and beyond, including John de Courcy’s invasion of Ulster and the Norman settlement there - the Talbots having established themselves at Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsula.
By the 17th Century various younger sons had founded dynasties of their own, each playing an important role in their locality, so the book goes on to study the families settled at Feltrim, Belgard, Mount Talbot, Templeoge, Castle Talbot, Dardistown, Robertstown and Carton and their roles in the 1641 Insurrection and subsequent war against Cromwell and the Parliamentarian forces. After the Interregnum, while some members of the family went off to the new American Colonies, two brothers of the Carton scion returned to Ireland from exile and came to the fore: Peter Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin and Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel. It was under Tyrconnel, as the Catholic Viceroy, that the Jacobite forces fought in the War of the Irish Succession and it was his death that prompted the Treaty of Limerick and subsequent flight of the “Wild Geese”, including many Talbots, to the Continent at the end of that century.
In the 18th Century Ireland was ravaged by the penal laws and the Talbots found themselves unable to protect either their tenants or themselves from the Protestant Ascendancy. With opportunities diminishing the family conformed in 1779 and were able to rejoin the political and military scene. While fighting for Catholic Emancipation in Parliament, they fought the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon in Flanders, the Peninsula, West Indies and at sea. Sir John Talbot started his naval career as one of Lord Nelson’s favourite midshipmen and ended up an admiral. One of his brothers led the 14th Light Dragoons to his death in Portugal, another two worked in the forerunner of MI6 to bring down the French Government, another went off to establish the largest British colony in North America - The Talbot Settlement in Upper Canada, and yet another became one of the early settlers in Australia.
As colonial wars gave way to clashes of empires and ideologies in the 19th and 20th Centuries, the Talbots were not found wanting and as Ireland achieved its Independence the family adjusted to the new regime.
The last lord to live at the castle was linked to the Cambridge Spy Ring and with his death Malahide Castle passed out of the Talbots’ hands but is now open to the public under the management of Shannon Heritage, along with its magnificent gardens and the National Portrait Gallery collection.
Reviewed by the Irish Independent, 2nd September 2012
Product dimensions: 163mm (W) x 239mm (H) x 64mm (D). Weight: 1.90kg.