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Sir John Talbot: military commander

John Talbot was born in 1384 at Blakemere, a fortified manor house on the outskirts of Whitchurch. In 1407 he married his stepfather’s daughter, Maud Neville, who was a baroness. This entitled him to be known as 6th Baron Furnivall

Talbot became a noted military commander and was awarded the title 1st Earl of Shrewsbury by King Henry VI in 1442 for his role in fighting the French during the Hundred Years War. He was famous for his rapid and aggressive attacks and feared by the local population who used the name Talbot to frighten their children.

Talbot’s tomb can be found in St Alkmund’s Church in Whitchurch, on the south side of the main aisle. His heart was embalmed and buried in a silver urn under the church porch. Fifty years later his bones were retrieved from France and returned to Whitchurch for burial. In 1874 the full-size sculpture had to be moved out of the church for renovation work. Underneath were the remains of a wooden coffin containing bones. These were carefully laid out in the vestry and photographs taken. At the back of the skull there was a hole, presumed to have been caused by a battle-axe which resulted in the death of Sir John Talbot.

Sir John Talbot was appointed Constable of France in 1452 by Henry VI and was killed at the Battle of Castillon in south-west France eight years later. This decisive defeat of the English army signified the end of the Hundred Years War between the two countries.

During his lifetime he married twice, the second time to Lady Margaret Beauchamp, eldest daughter of the Earl of Warwick. John Talbot is known to have had eleven legitimate children and at least one illegitimate son.

The name of Sir John Talbot occurs in Shakespeare’s play Henry VI part 1 when he is referred to as ‘The Scourge of France’. The play is largely based on the deeds of John Talbot whilst serving in France.