The castle of Malahide, the residence of the ancient family of Talbot, is scarcely surpassed in interest, arising from various sources, by any building in the county of which it forms a distinguished ornament. This structure, as it stood in the early part of the last century, was of contracted dimensions, and, although surrounded by a moat, was not castellated. The various additions which now render it an object of considerable magnificence, and a capacious residence, suited to the exercise of a dignified hospitality, were chiefly carried into effect by the late Colonel Talbot, father of the present proprietor. The building, thus enlarged, is an extensive pile, of square proportions, flanked on the principal side by circular towers. A fine Gothic porch, or chief entrance, has been constructed under the direction of the present owner of the castle, greatly to the advantage of the building, in regard both to external ornament and the convenience of the interior. The moat is now filled up, and its sloping surface covered with verdant sward. The demesne and gardens are disposed with much correctness of taste, and the former is enriched with some venerable timber and numerous plantations.
The interior of the mansion affords many objects of gratification. The apartment of greatest curiosity is wainscotted throughout with oak, elaborately carved in compartments representing the history of Adam and other scriptural subjects, some of which are executed with much skill ; the chimney piece is carved with peculiar beauty, having in the central division figures of the Virgin and child. This figure of the Virgin is the subject of a marvelous tradition among the rustics of Malahide they assert that during the civil wars, whilst the castle was in possession of Cromwell and his partisans, the statue indignantly disappeared, but resumed its station after the return of the Talbot family. It is fortunate that some friend of the family removed it at the time beyond the reach of the fanatics. The entire wainscoting is highly varnished and has acquired a sombre but striking effect from a blackness of tint which causes the apartment to appear like a vast cabinet of ebony.
The suit of principal rooms comprises several lofty and handsome apartments, in which, among other embellishments, are some very costly specimens of porcelain ; but the most estimable ornaments consist of a collection of portraits and other paintings, which comprises several that are worthy of an attentive examination.
Among these stands unrivalled in altercation an altarpiece by Albert Durer, divided into three compartments, representing the nativity, adoration, and circumcision. The picture was purchased by King Charles the Second for two thousand pounds, and given by him to the Duchess of Portsmouth, who presented it to the grandmother of Colonel Talbot.
The distinguished line of the house of Talbot, long settled at Malahide, is said to be descended from the eldest branch of the family; and with the Talbots of Yorkshire, derives from Sir Geoffrey, who was Governor of Hereford for the Empress Maud, in opposition to King Stephen. St. Lawrence of Howth and Talbot of Malahide are the only families in the county of Dublin who retain the possessions of their ancestors acquired at the English invasion.
Among the memorable circumstances connected with the annals of this castle, may be mentioned a lamentable instance of the ferocity with which party rivalry was conducted, in ages during which the internal
polity of Ireland was injuriously neglected by the supreme head of the government. On Whitsun-eve, in the year 1329, John de Birmingham, Earl of Louth, Richard Talbot, styled Lord Malahide, and many of their kindred, together with sixty of their English followers, were slain in a pitched battle at Balbriggan, by the Anglo-Norman faction of the de Verdons, de Gernons, and Savages; the cause of animosity being the election of the earl to the palatine dignity of Louth, the county of the latter party.
It is believed that Oliver Cromwell took up his abode a short time at Malahide, and it is known that Mylo Corbet, the regicide, resided here for several years, and from this port, when outlawed at the restoration, Corbet took shipping for the continent. The subsequent expiation of his errors by a degrading death is well known, and, shortly after his flight from Malahide, the Talbot family regained possession of their estate.
Malahide is a lordship or manor, having courts leet and baron, and has belonged in fee to the Talbot family from a period very closely approaching to the Anglo-Norman invasion in the time of Henry the Second.