Talbot, Peter (c.1618–1680), churchman, was sixth son of Sir William Talbot (qv), sometime recorder of the city of Dublin, and his wife, Alison Netterville. He entered the Society of Jesus in Portugal in May 1635 and completed his education in Rome, where he was ordained on 6 April 1647 and where he was said (by Oliver Plunkett (qv)) to have proved ‘so troublesome’ that he was sent to Florence for the tertian stage of his probation.
He returned to Portugal before long and went thence to the Spanish Netherlands, where he became involved in the politics, both high and low, of the royalist exiles. His conjoint aims were to secure support from catholic sources for the restoration of Charles II and to persuade Charles to court this support by promising concessions to his catholic subjects. In the early summer of 1653, probably at the prompting of his francophile Franciscan brother Thomas, he submitted proposals to the French ambassador in London and visited Ireland briefly in furtherance of them, but the venture proved fruitless. He returned to London in 1654, this time from Madrid as an agent from Philip IV to the Spanish ambassador, Cardenas. Late in the same year, in Cologne, he acted as an intermediary between the king and the papal nuncio, to whom he hinted that Charles might be prepared to convert to catholicism, and who declined to convey so improbable a message to Rome. In 1656 Talbot exploited his ready access to the Spanish court to advise Charles that a treaty with Spain would be assured if he were secretly to declare his conversion, but the subsequent treaty was concluded on other terms, without Talbot's assistance. From 1655, when his brothers Richard (qv) and Gilbert had been involved in a plot to kill Oliver Cromwell (qv), Talbot had become increasingly committed to promoting the extravagant schemes of the former Leveller Edward Sexby, which ranged from Spanish invasion to the assassination of Cromwell.
After Richard Talbot was admitted to the circle of James (qv), duke of York, Peter came under suspicion of transferring his allegiance to James. In the summer of 1658 he incurred the king's displeasure by making a mysterious visit to Spain on James's behalf, and even greater ambiguity surrounded a visit to England on the fall of the protectorate in April 1659. It appears that Talbot travelled at the instance of ministers of the Spanish government, who were persuaded that he could help to prevent the republicans from gaining control. However, his failure to inform Charles of his mission prompted suspicions that he was either exploring the possibility of a peace between the commonwealth and Spain or intriguing in the interests of York. This episode triggered a final breach with the Society of Jesus. Though Talbot had not yet been professed, a place had been found for him, teaching moral theology in Antwerp, and he had published a number of works of religious controversy, but his political activity had not met with the approval of his superiors. Almost certainly in response to representations from Charles or his advisers, the general instructed him to leave England and ‘dissevered’ him from the order in June when he did not obey. Talbot managed to recover the king's favour in the autumn when he travelled to Fuenterrabia to assist Charles in his efforts to have his interests accommodated in the Franco–Spanish treaty of the Pyrenees. He had returned to the Netherlands and was pursuing further possibilities of securing military backing in May 1660 when Charles was restored.
In September 1660 Talbot took up residence in London, where his involvement in the politics of court faction continued. The king's chief minister, Clarendon, was implacably hostile to him but he enjoyed the patronage of Ormond (qv) and supported the loyal remonstrance promoted by Peter Walsh (qv), with whom he had worked closely in 1659. Appointed queen's almoner shortly after the royal marriage in May 1662, he was dismissed and barred from court less than six months later at the behest of the king's mistress, Lady Castlemaine. As Richard Talbot became increasingly identified with catholic opposition to Ormond in Ireland, Peter became critical of both Ormond and Walsh: he opposed the adoption of the remonstrance in Ireland and associated himself with Clarendon's opponents in England, particularly Buckingham and Arlington, both of whom he had known well on the Continent. Clarendon's fall in August 1667 and Ormond's dismissal from the lord lieutenancy, announced by Charles in February 1669, prepared the way for Talbot's appointment to the archbishopric of Dublin, which coincided with the appointment of Lord Robartes (qv) in place of Ormond. Talbot was consecrated in Antwerp on 9 May and took up his position in Dublin in the autumn, having spent the intervening months in London arguing for an end to the established policy of favouring those clergy who supported the remonstrance. The expectation of a close working relationship with the new lord lieutenant was disappointed when Robartes resigned within six months of his arrival (September 1669) and was replaced by Lord Berkeley (qv). Berkeley, who had known and distrusted Talbot in exile, treated him with the wariness required by his influential connections and dealt so far as possible with Archbishop Plunkett instead. When a general synod of bishops convened in Dublin on 17 June 1670, Talbot pursued his advantage over Walsh and the remonstrants by proposing the adoption of an alternative declaration of temporal allegiance, closely resembling the address that had been rejected by Ormond in 1666; this initiative was accepted by the meeting and formally welcomed by Berkeley (who had approved the declaration in advance at the prompting of Richard Talbot). During the synod Peter Talbot openly challenged the authority of Plunkett, partly by denying the historic primacy of the see of Armagh but also by claiming a royal mandate to oversee the conduct of the Irish clergy. The practical difficulty was resolved by having the decisions issued in the name of the bishop of Ossory, as secretary of the meeting, rather than that of the primate. The jurisdictional dispute was considered by the congregation of Propaganda Fide on 2 August 1672, when judgement was reserved and the protagonists were bound to silence. Later in the year, Bishop John O'Molony (qv) of Killaloe brokered an uneasy reconciliation between the rivals.
For some years, Talbot exercised his pastoral charge openly, holding provincial synods in 1670 and 1671, conducting a visitation in the latter year, and convening a number of meetings of clergy after Berkeley's replacement in August 1672 by the earl of Essex (qv). In February 1671 he presided at a meeting of nobles convened to arrange financial support for Richard Talbot's representation of catholic interests in London and took the opportunity to propose that the clergy should be required to contribute. His struggle with the remonstrants continued: he was charged with exercising foreign jurisdiction by a number of Franciscans in January 1671 and successfully defended before the council by Sir Nicholas Plunkett (qv). In the late summer of 1672 he excommunicated the Dominican prior of Kilcock, John Byrne, placed the parish under interdict, and prevailed on his nephew, a justice of the peace, to have Byrne committed to jail. On 26 March 1673 the English commons, as part of its response to Charles's declaration of indulgence, demanded that Talbot should be banished ‘for his notorious disloyalty and disobedience and contempt of the laws’ and in the following month, with the encouragement of the administration, Fr Byrne charged him with exercising a foreign jurisdiction and with raising money contrary to law. A committee appointed by Essex took evidence of Talbot's conduct in May 1673. The charges were found to have been proven and his claim to have authority from England ‘for punishing and correcting the popish clergy’ was judged untrue on the testimony of Oliver Plunkett, who had been so assured by Talbot's successor as queen's almoner, Lord Philip Howard. Talbot had applied for and received a pass to travel to France in April; he left Ireland in June, secured letters of recommendation to Louis XIV from both Charles and the duke of York, and arrived in France by September.
Supported by a royal pension of £200, he wrote a number of works of religious controversy, published his statement of the case for Dublin's right to the primacy, and addressed a pastoral letter to his diocese in May 1674. By March 1676 he had moved to England, where he lived in declining health as a guest of Sir James Pool in Cheshire for two years before receiving permission from Ormond (again lord lieutenant) to return to Ireland in May 1678 on condition that he did not interfere in temporal matters. He lived privately in his brother Richard's house at Luttrellstown till 11 October, when he was arrested on foot of an accusation that he was implicated in the ‘popish plot’, with particular responsibility for the murder of the duke of Ormond. The charge was without foundation but there was an irony, not lost on Ormond, in the fact that Peter had been suspected of complicity in a threat to take Ormond's life for which Richard had been imprisoned in 1664. Peter remained in prison in Dublin without trial till his death (25 October × 22 November 1680), some weeks after he had received sacramental absolution from his erstwhile rival and fellow prisoner, Oliver Plunkett.