Francis Talbot was born in 1500 to George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Anne Hastings. Francis’ father, George, fought alongside King Henry VII during the uprising of Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke and was godfather to Henry’s eldest daughter, Princess Margaret. In 1538 Francis inherited his father’s title to become 5th Earl of Shrewsbury.
Francis followed his father’s footsteps and was in favour with King Henry VIII during his reign, despite being a staunch Roman Catholic. Francis even received lands, including parts of Worksop Priory and Beauchief Abbey, from the dissolution of the monasteries.
On 30th November 1523 Francis married Mary Dacre, daughter of Thomas Dacre, 2nd Baron Dacre, the couple went on to have three children; George, 6th Earl of Talbot, Anne and Thomas. Mary died in 1538 and Francis went on to marry again to Grace Shakerley but they would not have any children.
Francis took little interest in politics however, in 1545 he was made a Knight of the Garter and Francis was also deemed a powerful figure in the north of England and was part of the troops that invaded Scotland in 1547 that ended in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.
During the reign of King Edward VI the Imperial Ambassador described Francis as ‘one of the most powerful men in the kingdom’ and when plots arose against the Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset he attempted to recruit Francis to his side but instead Francis joined those that opposed his rule. In 1549 Francis replaced Robert Holgate, Bishop of Llandaff, as Lord President of the Council of the North.
When King Edward VI took to the throne Francis converted to the reformed religion but harboured sympathies to the Catholic faith. Francis, although not a politician he was a member of the King’s Council. Despite converting to Protestantism and not opposing the proclamation of Lady Jane Grey as Queen after the death of King Edward VI, it is likely that he would have worked to convince the Council to recognise Mary I as the rightful heir and was one of the first to openly support her claim. Due to his early support Mary rewarded him upon her ascension with a place on her Council.
Francis, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth was Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire alongside his role as President of the Council of the North. In a letter from Francis to Sir William Cecil dated on 17th January 1559 from Ferry Bridge he stated that he was going to take some troops to Newcastle and whilst he was away he was appointing his Vice President, Sir Thomas Gargrave to do his job in his absence.
Francis Talbot died on 28th September 1560 in Sheffield Manor, Sheffield and was buried at St Peter’s in Sheffield.