Howard, Edmund Bernard Fitzalan - (1855–1947), 1st Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent , politician and last lord lieutenant of Ireland, was born 1 June 1855 in London, the third son (the second to survive infancy) of Henry Granville Fitzalan Howard, earl of Arundel and fourteenth duke of Norfolk (d. 1860), and his wife, Augusta Minna Catherine (d. 1886), the second daughter of Admiral Lord Lyons. His elder brother, Henry Fitzalan Howard, became the fifteenth duke of Norfolk and a Conservative cabinet minister, and during the late 1880s was heavily involved in attempts to persuade the Vatican to condemn the Plan of Campaign and appoint bishops hostile to the Parnell movement.
Howard was educated at the Oratory School, Edgbaston, where he came under the influence of John Henry Newman (qv). In November 1875 he received a commission in the 11th Hussars and in July 1876 he assumed the name Talbot under the terms of the will of the seventeenth earl of Shrewsbury; he was known as Lord Edmund Talbot until he was raised to the peerage in 1921. On 5 August 1879 he married Mary Caroline (d. 1938), the daughter of Montagu Arthur, later seventh earl of Abingdon, with whom he had one son and one daughter. In 1880 he was an unsuccessful Conservative parliamentary candidate for Burnley, then in 1885 and 1886 contested the Brightside division of Sheffield before being elected, in a by-election in 1894, MP for Chichester, which he represented until 1921. Between 1896 and 1900 Talbot was private secretary to St John Brodrick (qv), who was under-secretary of state for war and, later, for foreign affairs. During the Boer War he was attached to the staff of General J. D. French (qv), later his predecessor as lord lieutenant (their relationship was cordial), and was among the first British troops to lift the siege of Kimberley. He was mentioned in dispatches, awarded a DSO, and promoted lieutenant colonel in June 1900; in 1902 he was knighted (as a member of the Victorian Order). The following September he went on half pay, and in September 1905 he retired from the army. After returning to Britain he became assistant private secretary to Brodrick, then secretary of state for war, before being appointed a junior lord of the Treasury and member of the Conservative whips’ office.
In opposition Talbot became more prominent, and his skill as a whip was recognised when he was appointed chief whip in 1913. He was assisted in his duties by his gregarious personality and fondness for conversation; he cared little for books or the arts. His prominence in the campaign against home rule (he was one of the catholic unionists who subscribed for a golden presentation sword given to Edward Carson (qv)) attracted comment from both sides; ultra-protestant groups, including the vestigial Independent Orange Order, which hoped to use the issue to abandon its mainstream rivals, presented the appointment of a catholic to such a position as another Conservative betrayal of the protestant constitution, while Irish nationalists enquired how he reconciled his beliefs with the widely repeated claim by Ulster unionists that a catholic-dominated government would inevitably persecute Irish protestants. He was involved in subterranean efforts to reach a compromise between the main British parties on the issue.
Talbot combined the position of Conservative chief whip with that of joint parliamentary secretary to the Treasury from June 1915 until April 1921, worked closely with Bonar Law during the Asquith coalition cabinet of 1915–16, and despite intermittent health problems played a crucial role in containing Conservative discontent with Lloyd George in 1916–20. His abilities as chief whip obstructed his promotion (though he turned down offers of the War Office and the Air Ministry). He was sworn of the British privy council in 1918 and received the Grand Cross of the Victorian Order in 1919.
The 1920 Government of Ireland Act abolished the prohibition on a catholic being lord lieutenant of Ireland, and on 2 April 1921 Talbot became the first catholic to hold the post since Richard Talbot (qv) under James II (qv). Although he was unenthusiastic about the post and aware of the physical danger involved, he accepted from a sense of duty; he was sworn in on 2 May, having been created Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent on 2 April (at this time he reverted to the surname of Fitzalan-Howard). His appointment was presented as promising a fresh start, with the departure of French, whose weak leadership and association with hard-line views had left him isolated and discredited even within Dublin Castle.
FitzAlan had been privately critical of the repressive policy pursued in Ireland, and it was hoped that his contacts with catholic church leaders – the Dublin Castle official Mark Sturgis (qv) described him as ‘a big noise at the Vatican’ (Sturgis, 151) – with Sir James Craig (qv) (whom he had known since his entry to the commons in 1906), and with King George V might help to broker a settlement. However, his appointment was widely dismissed by nationalists as a worthless piece of tokenism; a much-repeated saying that the government might as well have appointed a catholic hangman has been attributed to Cardinal Michael Logue (qv) (Tierney, 288). FitzAlan believed that a compromise with Sinn Féin was preferable to the massive military repression which would have been required to defeat the IRA; he therefore helped to bring about the truce of June 1921 and supported the Anglo–Irish treaty. He was largely a figurehead; policy decisions were taken in London, but he gave shrewd advice to Lloyd George's government during the treaty negotiations.
FitzAlan formally handed over power to the provisional government led by Michael Collins (qv) in January 1922; he was somewhat suspicious of Collins but thought highly of Arthur Griffith (qv). In December 1922 the office of lord lieutenant ceased to exist, with FitzAlan giving way to T. M. Healy (qv) (as governor general) in the Irish Free State and the duke of Abercorn (qv) (as governor) in Northern Ireland. He never held office again, though he was an active participant in house of lords debates. He continued to enjoy the personal favour of King George V, who appointed him knight of the garter in 1925 and gave him a grace and favour residence at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Park after his Derbyshire mansion was destroyed by the construction of a reservoir.
Between the death of his elder brother in 1917 and the coming of age of his nephew Bernard, the sixteenth duke, FitzAlan performed the duties of the family's hereditary office (earl marshal of England) and was regarded as the leading catholic layman in the country. Since his nephew had no son, he remained heir-presumptive to the dukedom from 1917 until his death. A devout catholic, he shared with his wife a strong interest in social work in city slums through urban ‘settlements’. He was president of the Catholic Record Society, the Catholic Union of Great Britain, and the British Association of the Knights of Malta. He died 18 May 1947 at Cumberland Lodge and was buried at Arundel Castle, seat of the dukes of Norfolk, which is also the location of his family correspondence and a portrait by Sir Oswald Birley. Other correspondence may be found in the collections of various contemporaries.