Talbot, Charles Chetwynd- (1777–1849), 2nd Earl Talbot of Hensol, lord lieutenant of Ireland , was born 25 April 1777 in London, the eldest son of John Chetwynd Talbot, 1st Earl Talbot (1749–93), and his wife, Lady Charlotte Hill (d. 1804). He succeeded to the title on his father's death (19 May 1793), when he was little more than sixteen. Educated at Oxford between 1794 and 1797, he embarked on a brief diplomatic career when he served under Charles Whitworth (qv), envoy to Russia, in 1797–1800. On his return to England he assisted in the organisation of the Staffordshire volunteer regiments as a local defence force against Napoleonic invasion. Talbot was not a natural administrator; his real strength lay in agriculture and estate management, and he devoted much of his time to improving his Staffordshire estates, and participating in country sports, especially riding and hunting. He married Frances Thomasine Lambert (1782–1819), eldest daughter of Charles Lambert of Beau Parc, Co. Meath, on 28 August 1800; they had eleven children.
Talbot was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland on 17 September 1817. His lack of administrative experience meant that he relied heavily on his chief secretary, Robert Peel (qv), and under-secretary, William Gregory (qv). Peel worked well with the genial Talbot, despite his initial fears that Talbot's Irish family connections through his wife would compromise his position, and he stayed on as chief secretary to guide Talbot through the 1818 general election. Both men also had to deal with a severe shortage in the revenues of the Irish administration, which they responded to by cutting the military garrison in Ireland and by reducing the educational grant to the Kildare Place Society. Talbot and Peel continued the harmonious relationship between lord lieutenant and chief secretary that Peel had cultivated with Whitworth in 1813–17, which was undoubtedly aided by the fact that they both opposed catholic emancipation: Talbot was a moderate tory and supporter of the protestant constitution of the United Kingdom. This consensus changed after Peel left office (3 August 1818) and was replaced by the inexperienced Charles Grant (qv), an advocate of catholic emancipation.
The executive under Talbot and Grant was perhaps one of the most difficult and ineffective of all the post-union administrations, hindered by the incompatibility of the liberal outlook of the chief secretary with the conservative politics of the lord lieutenant and the under-secretary. Talbot believed that Ireland could not be governed effectively without the aid of extraordinary powers such as the Insurrection Act, an approach with which Grant fundamentally disagreed. Talbot's difficulties with his chief secretary were exacerbated by the death of his wife in December 1819, which enforced a temporary departure from Ireland until March 1820. In his absence Grant alienated a large section of the Irish gentry by refusing to enforce the Insurrection Act to deal with growing agrarian violence, particularly in Galway. On his return Talbot supported those who called for the act to be implemented and he clashed with Grant over a number of other issues, notably the appointment of the archbishop of Dublin and the Dublin by-election of 1820. In the latter case the Irish executive was in the ignominious position of supporting two different candidates, Talbot and Gregory supporting Thomas Ellis, described by Grant as an ‘orange partisan’, and Grant supporting the pro-catholic Henry Grattan (qv) junior. Tensions resurfaced in the spring of 1821 when Talbot was visiting his family in England. Grant again opposed the proclamation of a number of baronies under the Insurrection Act and sought the reduction of the military force in Ireland; the embarrassment of the executive was compounded when Grant spoke in favour of the catholic relief bill launched by William Plunket (qv).
Talbot played a prominent role during the visit of George IV to Ireland in August 1821 – he had been nominated KP at George's coronation. The king's visit proved a short-term distraction from the problems of the administration, which faced another autumn of agrarian violence. Talbot took strong measures that included the use of the Insurrection Act and the deployment of the yeomanry. The administration was thrown into disarray when Grant countermanded the lord lieutenant's order to use the yeomanry, an action which outraged Talbot and about which he protested to the government in London. Recognising that a change in the Irish government was required, Lord Liverpool, the prime minister, and Lord Sidmouth, the home secretary, ordered that both Grant and Talbot return to London. This surprised Talbot, who had expected Grant alone to be recalled, though the reason for his replacement as lord lieutenant may have been related to his opposition to removing William Saurin (qv) as Irish attorney general. His tenure as lord lieutenant ended on 10 December 1821.
After leaving Ireland, Talbot concentrated on making agricultural improvements on his estates in Staffordshire, and both Peel and William Gregory were frequent visitors and correspondents. He declined the opportunity to stand for the chancellorship of Oxford University (1833), refusing to oppose the candidacy of the duke of Wellington (qv). Throughout his career he received a number of honours: he was made FRS and FSA in May 1813 and KG in December 1844. Despite being an advocate for the interests of British agriculture, Talbot supported the repeal of the corn laws in 1846, though this decision may have been linked to his friendship with Peel. He died at his seat, Ingestre Hall, on 10 January 1849, aged seventy-two. His correspondence and papers are in the Staffordshire County Record Office.