Elizabeth TALBOT

(C. Kent)

Born: ABT 1582

Died: 7 Dec 1651, Friary House, Whitefriars, London, Middlesex, England

Buried: 7 Jan 1651/2, Flitton, Bedfordshire, England

Father: Gilbert TALBOT (7 E. Shrewsbury)

Mother: Mary CAVENDISH (C. Shrewsbury)

Married: Henry GREY (8 E. Kent) 16 Nov 1601, St. Martin-in- the-Fields, London, Middlesex, England


Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Kent

by Paul van Somer

c. 1619


Daughter of Gilbert Talbot, 7th earl of Shrewsbury, and Mary Cavendish, and was thus a granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick. She had two sisters, both of whom also married into the nobility: Alethea, Countess of Arundel, and Mary, Countess of Pembroke.

Highly educated, she was appointed a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth in Jun 1600.

In 1601, Elizabeth married Henry Grey, Lord Ruthin, heir to the earldom of Kent, at St Martin-in-the-Fields. They lived at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, where she managed the large household. They had no children.

In 1602, Elizabeth’s cousin, Arabella Stuart, was committed to her care at Sheriff Hutton. Arabella was still with the Greys when Queen Elizabeth died. Together they moved to Wrest Park, where Arabella remained until Jun 1604.

She was a favourite attendant of Queen Anne of Denmark, and in 1610 danced in the court masque Tethys' Festival as the "Nymph of Medway". In 1616 the Venetian ambassador Antonio Foscarini gave the Queen a necklace but Lady Grey returned it to him. It was said she replaced Jean Drummond as the queen's personal servant in Oct 1617. Her portrait by Paul van Somer includes a jewelled tablet or locket with the Queen's monogram. Christian IV of Denmark wrote to her in 1619, asking her to take care to avert the Queen's melancholy.

Her husband was Baron Grey of Ruthin, and named as "Lady Ruthin" in Anne of Denmark's household, she is sometimes confused with Barbara Ruthven, the queen's favourite in Scotland in the 1590s. Lady Ruthin was a contact at court for Lady Anne Clifford, and took her gifts to Anne of Denmark, including a white satin gown embroidered with pearls and coloured silks.

Grey succeeded to the earldom in 1623, making Elizabeth a Countess. Elizabeth was often at court under James I, performing in masques and participating in state ceremonies. The Greys also spent a great deal of their time, however, at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, which became a mecca for poets, including John Selden (b. 1584 - d. 1654), a poet.

After her death, her collection of medical recipes was published, originally as "A Choice Manual", or "Rare Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery Collected and Practised by the Right Honourable the Countess of Kent", late deceased. Later editions of the book added the subtitle Whereto are added several experiments of the vertue of Gascon powder, and lapis contra yarvam by a professor of physick. As also most exquisite ways of preserving, conserving, candying &c.. The book was popular, going through twenty-two editions, each with a portrait of its author. [13] Some of the recipes reflect the influence of English Paracelsianism. Medical recipes were an interest she shared with her younger sister, Alethea Howard, Countess of Arundel.

A book published in 1653 by W. J. Gent, titled A True Gentlewoman's Delight, is considered to be her personal recipe collection, although there is speculation that the cookbook was written by the countess's chef Robert May, or by the publisher himself.

Elizabeth received a number of dedications, including Selden’s Table Talk. Selden remained in Elizabeth’s household after her husband’s death and was the beneficiary in her will, prompting John Aubrey’s claim in Brief Lives (written between 1669 and 1696) that they were secretly married. There is no confirmation of this, nor of Elizabeth’s supposed liaison with Sir Edward Herbert (b. 1591 - d. 1657), a judge.

Will dated 20 Jun 1649/12 Dec 1651; succeded by her sister Alathea.

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