George, whose mother was Mary Dacre, spent much time in the borders. He was one of the men who invaded Scotland on the orders of Protector Somerset while Edward VI was king. He inherited his earldom in 1560.
In 1568 George married Bess of Hardwick – no doubt she was a very attractive bride not to mention a very wealthy one. His first wife had been Gertrude Manners who was the mother of all his legitimate children. So eager was George to ally himself to Bess and her Cavendish children that he married his eldest surviving son Gilbert to Bess’s daughter Mary Cavendish and his own daughter Grace Talbot to Bess’s eldest son Henry Cavendish even though she was only 8 at the time. It wasn’t a happy marriage and Henry didn’t get on with his mother either (a different post I think). Meanwhile George and Bess didn’t have long to enjoy wedded bliss because the following year Shrewsbury was handed the poisoned chalice of being Mary Queen of Scots’ custodian…er, host.
George moved the queen between Tutbury, Wingfield Manor and Sheffield Castle. In 1570 she went to Chatsworth which was a property belonging to Bess of Hardwick. And on occasion Mary took the waters in Buxton. In part Talbot was selected for the job because he owned extensive properties in the middle of the country where it would be hard to rescue Mary. He was also well off and that meant that Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t have to dip into the royal pockets for the care of Mary as often as they might otherwise have needed to do. The next fifteen years saw Shrewsbury becoming increasingly worn down, not to mention cash strapped, by the burden of his responsibilities.
His marriage with Bess became increasingly difficult. Even Elizabeth I turned her hand to marriage guidance between 1586 and 1589 in a bid to reconcile the couple. It was to no avail, the couple separated and George lived out the rest of his life in Sheffield with his mistress, Eleanor Britton.
The earl died on 18 November 1590. He was buried in the Shrewsbury Chapel of Sheffield Church – now Sheffield Cathedral. The chapel was built in 1520 by the 4th earl whose effigy can also be viewed there as can the effigies of his two wives. George was succeeded by his second son Gilbert, his eldest son having predeceased him. Bess outlived him dying in 1608. She chose to be buried in Derby rather than Sheffield.
The earl’s effigy rests with its feet on a Talbot dog – a white hunting hound and which was one of the Talbot families heraldic supporters.
And because I’m getting ever so slightly obsessed about these things – George’s great grandparents were Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury (executed at Pontefract 1461 after the Battle of Towton) and Alice Montagu or Montacute depending on your frame of mind, suo jure Countess of Salisbury – demonstrating once again that everyone was related one way or another!