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George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury

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GEORGE, SIXTH EARL OF SHREWSBURY,

CUSTODIAN OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.

On the south-eastern angle of Sheffield Cathedral is the Shrewsbury Chapel, with tombs and monuments of several members of the Talbot family, eighteen of whom were buried here. In the centre is an altar tomb bearing the arms of George, the sixth earl, with those of Gertrude Manners his first wife, and their four sons.

Against the south wall is a more imposing monument, erected by the Earl to himself during his lifetime. It bears his effigy in elaborately engraved armour. Behind the figure is a large panel surrounded by coats-of-arms, bearing a long Latin inscription by John Foxe the martyrologist, setting forth the Earl's family descent, dignities, and military services; and referring to his custody of Mary Queen of Scots.

This Earl, the main subject of this chapter, must ever be prominent in history as the custodian of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, during her long captivity in Sheffield. It may be helpful to refer to the five Earls of Shrewsbury who preceded him.

As stated in our second chapter, Maud, daughter and heiress of the Furnivals, at the age of seventeen married John Talbot, who became the first Earl of Shrewsbury. Born about 1388, he married Maud Nevil, his mother's stepdaughter, who brought to him the barony and estates of the Furnivals at Sheffield, by virtue of which he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Furnival, or Lord Talbot of Hallamshire.

Early in the fifteenth century he took an active part in the French wars, spending much of his life in warfare, and performing many brave deeds. In 1453 he and his son Viscount Lisle fell side by side in France, and his body, which was brought over to England, rests at Whitchurch,, near Shrewsbury, where a fine canopied monument enclosing his effigy may be seen. History describes him as a man of great daring - a sort of Hotspur - " who was so renowned in France that no man in that kingdom dare encounter him in single combat." He is immortalised by Shakespeare in "King Henry VI." as

"Valiant Talbot, above human thought,

Enacted wonders with his sword and lance."

He has been described as the great warrior of his age, and is said to have been the greatest historical male character with which Sheffield was ever connected.

He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son John (by Maud Nevil), who became a devoted follower of the House of Lancaster. Killed at the battle of Northampton, he was buried at Worksop Priory. His son John, the third Earl, was more of a student than a soldier. He died at Coventry at the age of 26, and was buried at Worksop. His wife was a sister of the Duke of Buckingham who was beheaded in the reign of Richard III.

He was followed by his son George, who was only about five years old on succeeding to the earldom, of which he remained in possession for nearly seventy years. He took part in several military operations, after which he settled down at Sheffield Castle, where his eldest son was born. Hitherto, the earls had no residence at Sheffield except the strong castle. This fourth Earl built the Manor House in the Park, the ruins of which still remain, and furnished it with much splendour. He also built the Shrewsbury Chapel adjoining the Parish Church as a burial place for his family, in which he was buried in March, 1539, some months after his death, which took place at Wingfield Manor.

He signed the letter to the Pope urging him to grant the divorce of Catherine from Henry and also the articles against Wolsey, whom, shortly afterwards, he received at the Manor House with much respect. Fine effigies of him and his two wives are in the Shrewsbury Chapel of Sheffield Cathedral. The dissolution of the monasteries brought him increased possessions, including Worksop Priory with 2,338 acres, Bufford, Welbeck, Tutbury, Shrewsbury, and Wenlock ; also Fulwood Grange, which had belonged to Beauchief Abbey.

The fifth earl was Francis, eldest surviving son of George the fourth Earl. Born at Sheffield in 1500, he was, until his father's death, known as Lord Talbot. He held several high offices in the State; was summoned to Parliament in 1533; and sat as a peer on the trial of Lord Dacre, who, implicated in a plot to aid Mary Stuart, was a leader in the Northern Rebellion.

In July 1538 he succeeded his father as fifth Earl of Shrewsbury. Much of his life was spent on the Scottish borders; he became a member of the Privy Council, and was appointed president of the Council of the North. He was one of the chief mourners at the funerals of Henry VIII and Edward VI. He signed the letters patent, giving the crown to Lady Jane Grey, whilst, secretly he was aiding projects in favour of Mary. He was twice married, died a widower at Sheffield Manor on 21st September, 1560, and was buried in the Shrewsbury Chapel. His funeral, just a month after his death, conducted in great state and amid much pomp, was very fully described by a contemporary, whose account will be found in the pages of Hunter and other writers.

George, the sixth Earl, born about 1528, was the elder son of Francis the fifth Earl by his first wife Mary, daughter of Lord Thomas Dacre, He was present at the coronation of Edward VI, and took part in the invasion of Scotland under Somerset, and assisted at other military operations. He succeeded to the Earldom in 1560; became Lieutenant of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire; and, after the execution of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England.

He married, first, Lady Gertrude Manners, eldest daughter of the first Earl of Rutland, by whom he had a large family, including four sons. She died in 1566, and was buried in the Shrewsbury Chapel. In 1568 he married Elizabeth, known as " Bess of Hardwick," widow of Sir William Cavendish, who, like other nobles, had been enriched by grants of abbey lands. The Earl, to whom she brought much wealth, was her fourth husband.

Shortly after this marriage Queen Elizabeth, with her usual good judgment, appointed him custodian of Mary Queen of Scots, and allowed him £2,000 a year for maintenance. Elizabeth assured the Earl that " she did so trust him as she did few." In a letter to his wife he said: " Now it is certain that the Scots' Queen comes to Tutbury to my charge." He was very wealthy, and had several mansions and castles, including those of Sheffield, Wingfield, Tutbury, Chatsworth, Hardwick, Rufford, Buxton, and Worksop.

During the sixteen years in which Shrewsbury was Mary's custodian he combined, in a remarkable degree, great consideration to his royal charge and absolute loyalty to his own Queen. The task allotted to him was in every way exacting, and one, as he said in a depressing letter to Burghley, which nearly brought him to his grave. Elizabeth's orders were most strict, and year after year the captive Queen felt the force of Shrewsbury's strict oversight and supervision. On one occasion he wrote to Elizabeth asking her leave to make a fortnight's journey to London, " towards your most royal person having these ten years been secluded from your most gracious sight and happy presence." Another time he was sharply rebuked by her for absenting himself from the guardianship of his charge, even for so short a space as two or three days.

With slight intermissions, during which she stayed at Chatsworth, Worksop Manor, and Buxton, Mary was a captive at Sheffield for nearly fourteen years, namely, from the end of 1569 to 1584. Apparently the Government took every possible precaution to conceal the places of her captivity and the circumstances of her surroundings. Shrewsbury, with the onerous nature of his charge, coupled with an imperious virago as his wife, along with constant family quarrels, must have been a very unhappy man. Indeed, owing to the strict eyes of Queen Elizabeth upon him he was almost as much a prisoner as Mary Stuart herself.

As Lord High Steward he presided at the trial of the Duke of Norfolk, who lost his head owing to his allegiance to the Queen of Scots, and to him fell the sad duty of pronouncing sentence of death on the Duke.

In 1584 he was relieved of the charge of his royal captive. He was present at her trial, and witnessed her execution at Fotheringhay in February 1587, The closing years of his life, during which he was broken in spirit and infirm in health, were spent in Sheffield, apart from his wife, mostly at a small mansion, which he had built on the borders of his park which extended to Handsworth. Hunter tells us that, in the years of him dotage, the Earl had fallen into the hands or a rapacious female domestic, Helena Britton, who had gained a strange ascendancy over him.He died at Sheffield on November 18th 1590, was buried in the Shrewsbury Chapel, and is commemorated by the imposing memorial already described. It is recorded that more than 20,000 persons were present at his sumptuous funeral.

By his second wife, Bess of Hardwick, the Earl had no children, but by his first he had a son, Gilbert, who succeeded him in the Earldom. Gilbert, who at the age of fifteen, had been married to Mary Cavendish, daughter of Sir William Cavendish and "Bess of Hardwick," his stepmother, was excessively fond of field sports, hasty and passionate, constantly at variance with members of his family, quarrelsome with his neighbours, and on ill terms with his tenants. He lived in great style, and was the last male of the family of Talbot who possessed Sheffield Castle and its surrounding dependencies. He died in London in May 1616, and was buried in the family vault of the Shrewsbury Chapel, but there is no memorial there to his memory.

The Charity known as the Shrewsbury Hospital, in Sheffield Park, founded in accordance with directions contained in his will, and endowed by the generosity of his great grandson, Henry Howard, Earl of Norwich, may be regarded as his best memorial. On his death the Earldom devolved on his brother, Edward Talbot, who survived him only about a year, and on whose death the title of Shrewsbury passed to another branch of the Talbot family.

To-day scarcely a trace of the past remains excepting in place-names-its stronghold, the Castle, utterly demolished, and its once noble Manor House a mass of forbidding ruins.

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... he married Mail Nevil, , or Lord Talbot of Hallarnshire.

Fine work, Thank you. Couple of corrections.

More Hunter/Gatty details to follow by Christmas.

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Fine work, Thank you. Couple of corrections.

More Hunter/Gatty details to follow by Christmas.

2nd one's a typo, thanks. 'Mail Nevil' is as the original. Should it be different?

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2nd one's a typo, thanks. 'Mail Nevil' is as the original. Should it be different?

He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son John (by Maud Nevil)

from the same piece just a bit further down.

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He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son John (by Maud Nevil)

from the same piece just a bit further down.

And, on 5th or so reading, a couple of lines above. Seems a tangled way to put it, anyway now corrected thanks Richard.

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And, on 5th or so reading, a couple of lines above. Seems a tangled way to put it, anyway now corrected thanks Richard.

So long as you know someone is reading it; now, Fagey Joe sounds right up your street ... lol

(Hints : Blue Bell, Jolly Bacchus, Social Tavern; dogs - fighting, rats - fighting - infamous boxer - not fighting - stray bear - call Fagey Joe)

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Visited Hardwick Hall last Saturday. And in the guide book it says that some historians say that George might have had some kind of Dementia. Does anyone know who is saying this and in what publication or source?

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