1663, Sir Gilbert Talbot, Master of the Jewel House, requests a pension of £500 a year or repayment of outstanding loans

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Sir Gilbert Talbot, master of the king’s jewel house. SP 29/67 f. 17 (1663).

To the Kings most excellent majesty

The humble petition of Sir Gilbert Talbot master of your majestyes jewell house

Sheweth that your petitioner served the King your father 12 yeares at Venice in quality of his resident. That the warrs coming on; and noe money issuing out of the Exchequer, he spent most of his owne fortune in that service; and contracted a debt of 3000 pounds under which he yet suffereth. That there is 6500 pounds due to him for that his service. That he attended your majesty in your exile, with the remainder of his fortune, upon his owne char= =ges. That in consideration of these his services, your majesty gave him the place of master of your jewell=house (heretofore worth 1200 pounds per annum) That your majesty hath visibly cutt off from the profitts of his place 1000 pounds per annum soe that there remaineth to your petitioner but 200 pounds per annum which is in noe degree able to fournish necessaryes to your petitioner, much less to support the dignity of his place.

Your petitioner therefore most humbly prayeth your majesty either to cause suddaine payment to be made of that his arreares or otherwise to graunt him a pension of 500 pounds per annum out of your New=yeare’s=guift money, [illegible] to continue till your majestyes occasions will permitt you to pay him his sayd arreare; that he may in some measure, be able to performe his attendance upon your majesty which otherwise he is noe longer able to doe.

And your petitioner shall for ever pray etc

Report by Roshan Magub

Sir Gilbert Talbot served for 12 years in diplomatic service in Venice representing Charles I, during which time he was due £6,500 and got into debt of £3,000. This was not repaid by Charles II. However, as consolation he was appointed Master of the Jewel House with an income of £1,200 per annum. Unfortunately, only £200 was paid. In this petition, he asked the King for the outstanding amount or £500 per annum pension until it could be paid.


The background to Sir Gilbert Talbot’s petition is the turbulent period of the seventeenth century between 1642 and 1663 that saw the British Civil Wars, the beheading of Charles I and the subsequent restoration of the monarchy with Charles II as King. Sir Gilbert Talbot (1606-95) was a figure of note during this period. He was a staunch royalist during his years of service to Charles I and was knighted in 1645.[1] He served the King in Venice, first as Secretary from 1634-38, then as Chargé affairs from 1638-44, and finally as Resident Ambassador between January and June 1645. He was a Gentleman Usher of the Privy Chamber from 1656-60 and a Member of Parliament for Plymouth during the reign of Charles II. He became one of the founding members of the Royal Society and in July 1660, was appointed Master of the Jewel House by Charles II, a position that he held for the next 30 years.

The story of the petition starts with the 12 years in Venice mentioned by Sir Gilbert Talbot in his petition. Fortunately, there is a detailed account of his final few months in Venice.[2] On 12 April 1645, he arrived in Venice with important letters from Charles I, and an urgent request that he be presented to the Doge (a request that appears not to have been granted). On 19 April he reported to the Collegio on the situation in England, explaining that in response to His Majesty’s peace initiatives, the rebels had made exorbitant demands “for the abandonment of all his servants, his religion and his crown”, demands that His Majesty could not possibly meet. With the rebels growing more insolent than ever, His Majesty, due to lack of money and military necessities, was forced to apply to other princes, his allies and friends for financial help. “He implores you”, said Sir Gilbert Talbot, “for the loan of a million ducats of which he would be glad to receive 250,000 with utmost speed, and the rest at the convenience of the republic”, adding that the debt would be fully repaid with interest. The Doge replied that he understood His Majesty’s difficulties, but because of expenditure due to the Ottoman–Venetian or Cretan War (1645-1669), he had no money to spare.

On 27 April, Sir Gilbert Talbot came again to the Collegio to say that new letters from the King had reached him. His Majesty saw plainly that it would not be possible to receive the assistance from the republic that he had confidently hoped for. He therefore made a new proposal for some moderate financial assistance. The republic had been able to help King Henry IV of France, and Charles I was a prince no less distressed.

On 29 April, Sir Gilbert Talbot was summoned to the Collegio to be told that the republic wished to express its desire for His Majesty’s prosperity and would like to confirm its friendly disposition towards him forever. However, it was reiterated that the republic was in no position to give any financial assistance. Sir Gilbert Talbot left showing his displeasure and spurning a gift of a gold chain with 30 ducats suspended on it, as he felt he had not been received with the dignity that was his due.

He returned to England impoverished by his many years of unpaid service. When Charles II was restored to power in 1660, like many royalists who had suffered financially for their loyalty, he found it impossible to get any compensation for his financial losses. This was in spite of the fact that he had kept the royalist cause alive during the Commonwealth by helping to set up a secret society, the Sealed Knot, that plotted the return of Charles II.[3] When his involvement in the conspiracy was revealed, he was thrown into Gloucester jail. On his release he fled to France to join the exiled court of Charles II. It was ‘in consideration of these his services’ that Charles II appointed him Master of the Jewel House in July 1660.[4] 

The Master of the Jewel House took rank as the first Knight Bachelor of England. Sir Gilbert Talbot remained aware of ‘the dignity of his place’ throughout his life.[5] Not only was he custodian of all the regalia and jewels in the Tower, but he also ‘had Precedence in Courts and Kingdome’, a place before all judges in Procession, and he had no superior officer.[6]

Coronation and Restoration

The coronation of Charles II scheduled for 7 February 1660 had to be deferred to 27 April of the same year. One of the many reasons for the postponement was probably the lack of regalia for the occasion. An MS entitled, “The Preparations for His Majesty’s Coronation” that was collected by Sir Edward Walker and first published in 1820 states that “because of the unhappy times (i.e. the civil war) all the ornaments and regalia preserved in the treasury of the Church of Westminster, had been taken away, sold and destroyed.”[7] All the royal ornaments and regalia therefore had to be newly made. Sir Gilbert Talbot was ordered to provide two imperial crowns set with precious stones, one to be called St. Edward’s crown (still in use at each coronation today) and the other (it being less heavy) to be put on after the coronation. Also, an orb of gold with a cross set with precious stones, three sceptres also set with precious stones, an ampule for the oil and spoon and two ingots of gold. The sum of £31,978 9s. 11d. was acknowledged under the hand of Sir Gilbert Talbot for the regalia, all in gold, provided by him for His Majesty’s coronation.

However, Charles II came to the throne having inherited a serious financial deficit from his father. Sir Gilbert Talbot was anxious that his new appointment as Master of the Jewel House should help to remedy his fortunes. However, this was not to be the case. The post, hitherto worth £1,200 per annum had been reduced now to a mere £200 per annum. He found himself, therefore, very dependent on the perquisites of the office. He obtained a list of these perquisites (the ancient rights and privileges of his office) from his predecessor, Sir Henry Mildmay, when he took office in 1660 and history is indebted to him for recording an exact list of these perquisites, 25 in number. These were indeed very valuable. He had free lodgings in all the King’s palaces as well as at the Tower of London, for it was his duty to travel with the King wherever he went, and to take with him such articles of the regalia and royal plate as the King might have occasion to need. He not only lodged free of charge, but received a plentiful supply of food and wine from the King’s kitchen and cellar. He also received £300 each year out of money presented by the Nobility to the King as New Year’s gift money, and other small presents at the time of the New Year. Other items in the list included a covered wagon for his own goods when the Court moved, robes at the coronation, and a servant in the Tower.

Having listed his rights and privileges, all 25 of them, he pointed out in another long petition to Charles II how these had been encroached upon through the machinations of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Edward Hyde.[8] Thus, for example, although he lodged free, his lodgings in Whitehall were “rude and dark”, the dining room was a “wild barn” and he had “but two chambers, above stairs, and the passage to them dark at noon-day”. We may assume that these complaints were not addressed as Sir Gilbert Talbot spent the rest of his life petitioning for improvements to his living conditions and for the money owed him by Charles I and his son.[9] He briefly resumed his diplomatic career as envoy to Denmark during the second Dutch war. As an MP, he remained an active member of parliament, was appointed to 165 committees and made five recorded speeches. In spite of his many petitions to the King, he died by no means a pauper. His portrait hangs in Lacock Abbey and the Fox Talbot Museum (part of the National Trust) in Wiltshire.


[1] TALBOT, Sir Gilbert (c.1606-95), of Whitehall and Lacock Abbey, Wilts., in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1660-1690/member/talbot-sir-gilbert-1606-95.

[2] ‘Venice: April 1645’, in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 27, 1643-1647, ed. Allen B Hinds (London, 1926), pp. 178-184. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/venice/vol27/pp178-184.

[3] Portrait of Sir Gilbert Talbot (c.1606-1695) http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/996282.

[4] Sir Gilbert Talbot’s own words in his petition: SP 29/67 f. 17 (1663).

[5] SP 29/67 f. 17 (1663).

[6] G. Younghusband, The Jewel House, pp. 232-249. From the rights and perquisites handed over by Sir H. Mildmay, Sir Gilbert Talbot’s predecessor. Younghusband himself was Keeper of the Jewel House from 1917 to 1944.

[7] Sir E. Walker, The Coronation of Charles II / Sir Edward Walker (1820).

[8] G. Younghusband, The Jewel House, pp. 232-249.

[9] TALBOT, Sir Gilbert (c.1606-95): https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/talbot-sir-gilbert-1606-95.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.