Talbot, Sir William (d. 1634), 1st baronet, recusant lawyer and MP, was the son of Robert Talbot of Carton and grandson of Sir Thomas Talbot of Malahide. The Talbots were one of the most important Old English families of the Pale, and he held extensive lands in Kildare. The Old English families were becoming alienated from the government, and their discontent manifested itself in an increasingly rigid adherence to counter-reformation catholicism. After studying law he became recorder of Dublin in July 1602, being admitted as a citizen soon after. He travelled to London in May 1603 on behalf of the corporation to petition that the city's charter and liberties be maintained. Due to a shortage of competent protestant judges he travelled on the Ulster judicial circuit in the spring of 1605. However, by then he was marked down as a notorious recusant, and in late 1605 he was removed as recorder for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. On 29 June 1609 he was admitted as a member of King's Inns, but his hopes of a successful legal career were undermined by the government's policy of gradual exclusion of catholics from practising law. However, he was much in demand as a legal adviser, and numbered among his clients the earls of Kildare and Sir Hugh Montgomery (qv). He was wealthy enough to buy land in Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.
He came to prominence in the 1613–15 parliament, for which he sat as MP for Kildare county. To the fury of the catholic MPs, the government's creation of a large number of ‘straw’ boroughs had resulted in a protestant majority in parliament. It also appears that a number of county elections were rigged, with sheriffs disregarding catholic victories and returning protestant candidates instead. Talbot was among the leading figures in the opposition to the government, and was consulted by the recusants in Dublin over which candidates they should put forward. When parliament met on 18 May 1613, Talbot moved that before the election of the speaker of the house of commons, MPs from the new, and what he termed illegal, boroughs be purged from the house, giving the catholics a majority. The government disregarded this and the house promptly elected the attorney general, Sir John Davies (qv), as speaker. The recusants responded by attempting to forcibly install their own candidate, Sir John Everard (qv), on the speaker's chair. In one of his speeches Talbot termed both the speaker and the house itself illegitimate. The catholics decided to boycott parliament until their demands were met.
Talbot was sent as the head of the recusant delegation that negotiated before the king in London on 17 July. At one point James asked him about the recently published work of the Portuguese Jesuit Father Suarez, who had argued that the pope could excommunicate kings for both temporal and spiritual offences, and that a monarch so excommunicated could be legitimately deposed and even murdered by his subjects. When Talbot refused to condemn this he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. At first he offered various forms of words that went some way towards satisfying James. Unfortunately James had a keen theological eye and was determined not to lose the point. In late November Talbot declared that the issue was a matter of faith for him and that he would submit to the judgement of the pope. Furious, James initiated full legal proceedings against him and also threatened execution. On 31 January 1614 his case was tried in the court of star chamber. There he reiterated that the issue was a matter of faith for him, but he did acknowledge James as his lawful sovereign and swore allegiance to him for life. This somewhat contradictory claim led to a £10,000 fine.
James, having made his point, became more lenient. No attempt was made to enforce the fine and he was released on 5 July 1614. While he was in prison a Richard Talbot of Malahide, possibly at the government's instigation, had seized certain lands of his in Garristown, Co. Dublin. On 25 July 1614 the English government ordered that he be restored to his lands. Before the delegates returned to Ireland, James gave them a dressing-down on their conduct in parliament. However, he conceded the substance of their demands, abolishing a number of protestant controlled boroughs and leaving protestants with only a six-seat majority. When parliament reconvened in late 1614 the government was effectively dependent on a measure of catholic support.
Talbot would never again cause the government as much trouble as he did in 1613. The fruits of royal favour garnished painful memories of the consequences of too bold a defiance of royal authority. He was created a baronet 4 February 1623 and knighted by 1628. Nonetheless he continued to act as one of the leaders of the Old English of the Pale and was heavily involved in the negotiations for the Graces, being in London in 1628 as a representative of the catholics of Leinster. He died 16 March 1634 and was buried 1 April at Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
He married Alison, daughter of John Netterville of Castletown, Co. Meath. They had eight sons and eight daughters. Despite having a significant career he is remembered primarily as the father of famous sons. His heir, Robert (qv), was expelled from the 1634–5 parliament and was a member of the supreme council of the catholic confederacy in 1642. His second son, Peter (qv), was catholic archbishop of Dublin. Finally his youngest son, Richard (qv), earl of Tyrconnell, was lord deputy of Ireland (1687–9).