Talbot, James (1805–83), 4th Baron Talbot, antiquarian , and MP, was born 22 November 1805 at Tiverton, Devon, eldest son of James (qv), 3rd Baron Talbot of Malahide in the Irish peerage, and his wife Anne Sarah (d. March 1857), second daughter of Samuel Rodbard of Somerset. Educated privately, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1823, graduating BA (1827) and MA (1830).
Deciding on a career in politics, he unsuccessfully contested the seat for Athlone in 1830 and 1831, but in the general election of 1832 was finally returned as the liberal MP for the constituency. He held the seat until the general election of 1835, when he was defeated by the conservative candidate, Capt. G. B. Matthew, ending his short career in the commons. Profoundly interested in antiquarian studies, he was elected a member of the Royal Archaeological Institute in 1845, later serving as the institute's president (1863–83). Elected a member of the RIA in June 1845, he lobbied the government for a grant so that the academy could make payments to those individuals who presented it with antiquities. In 1850, he succeeded his father as 4th Baron Talbot of Malahide and was elected FSA (January 1854) and FRS (February 1858). Due to the influence of Lord Palmerston, he was created 1st Baron Talbot de Malahide in the English peerage in November 1856. In the lords he campaigned for the preservation of field antiquities and artefacts and introduced a treasure-trove bill (1858), but this was blocked by the treasury. In the course of his antiquarian studies he acquired a fine collection of Irish and Roman antiquities, later presenting a collection of artefacts to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He also encouraged other scholars in their work, notably John O'Donovan (qv), the renowned Celtic scholar.
He served as a lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria (1863–6), and in 1866 was elected president of the RIA, an office he held until his death. In 1869 he wrote to W. E. Gladstone, when plans were being made to disestablish the Church of Ireland, and reminded him of the importance of preserving historic buildings. Gladstone wrote back to assure Talbot that clause 25 of the bill of disestablishment provided for the preservation of ancient church buildings, passing the responsibility for the upkeep of these buildings to the commissioner of public works. Associated with numerous learned societies, he also served as president of the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland and the Anthropological Society. He died 14 April 1883 at Funchal, Madeira.
He married (9 August 1842) Maria Margaretta (d. 9 August 1873), youngest daughter of Patrick Murray of Simprim, Forfar, Scotland; they had four sons and three daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son Richard Wogan Talbot (1846–1921).