1st Earl of Shrewsbury (1442-1453)
John Talbot was the second son of Richard, 5th Baron Talbot, by Ankaret, heiress of the last Lord Strange of Blackmere. He was married before 1404 to Maud Neville, heiress of the barons Furnivall, and in her right summoned to parliament from 1409. In 1421 by the death of his niece he acquired the baronies of Talbot and Strange. From 1404 to 1413 he served with his elder brother Gilbert in the Welsh war. Then for five years from February 1414 he was lieutenant of Ireland, where he held the honour of Wexford. He did some fighting, and had a sharp quarrel with the Earl of Ormonde. Complaints were made against him both for harsh government in Ireland and for violence in Herefordshire. From 1420 to 1424 he served in France. In 1425 he was again for a short time lieutenant in Ireland. So far his career was that of a turbulent lord of the Marches, employed in posts where a rough hand was useful. In 1427 he went again to France, where he fought with distinction in Maine and at the siege of Orleans; but his exploits were those of a good fighter rather than of general, and it was his stubborn rashness that was chiefly to blame for the English defeat at Patay in June 1429. After Patay Talbot was four years a prisoner. On his release he became one of the foremost of the English captains.
In 1434 he recovered the county of Clermont, next year took part in the siege of St Denys, and in 1436 by reducing and harrying the revolted Pays de Caux saved Normandy. He was rewarded with the offices of captain of Rouen and marshal of France. During five years as a dashing fighter he was the mainstay of the English cause. His chief exploits were the defeat of the Burgundians before Crotoy in 1437 and the recovery of Harfleur in 1440. In 1442 during a visit to England he was created Earl of Shrewsbury. In November he was back in France besieging Dieppe; but "fared so foul with his men that they would no longer abide with him" and was forced to break the siege (Chronicles of London, p. 150). In March 1445 he was once more sent to Ireland, where he used his old methods, so that the Irish said "there came not from the time of Herod any one so wicked in evil deeds".
In 1449 he served for a short time in Normandy. When in 1452 the Gascons appealed for English help, Shrewsbury was the natural leader of the expedition. He landed in Aquitaine on the 17th of October. Bordeaux and the surrounding district returned quickly to their old allegiance, and in the following summer Shrewsbury captured Fronsac. In July the French besieged Castillon. Shrewsbury hurried to its relief, and with foolhardy valour attacked the enemy in their entrenched camp without waiting for his artillery. The English and Gascon footmen charged in vain in face of the French cannon, until Shrewsbury and the flower of his troops had fallen. This happened in July 1453 and was the end of the English rule in Gascony.
Shrewsbury's fighting qualities made him something of a popular hero, and in the doggerel of the day he was "Talbot our good dog", whose valour was brought to nought by the treason of Suffolk. But in truth though a brave soldier he was no general. He was twice married, his second wife being Margaret, eldest daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. He was alleged to be eighty years old at his death; probably he was about sixty-five.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. For Shrewsbury's French campaigns see especially the Chronique of E. de Monstrelet, Jehan de Waurin and Matthieu d'Escouchy (all these are published by the Societe de l'Histoire de France), and the Chronicles of London (ed. C. L. Kingsford, London, 1905). Also H. Ribadieu, Conquete de Guyenne (1866); J. T. Gilbert, Viceroys of Ireland (1865); and J. H. Wylie's Henry the Fourth (1884-1898) for his early career. (C.L.K.)
Being the entry for SHREWSBURY, JOHN TALBOT, 1ST EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.