Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

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Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk with the Order of the Garter and the baton of the Earl Marshal of England (portrait of Hans Holbein the Younger , 1539/40, tempera on wood; now in the Royal Collection , Windsor Castle )

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk KG PC (* 1473 ; † 25 August 1554 in Kenninghall , Norfolk ) was an English statesman and soldier under the kings Henry VII. And Henry VIII. During the reign of the latter, he played an important one throughout political role, was Earl Marshal of England , served as advisor to the Privy Council and commanded troops, best known in the Battle of Flodden Field - when he was still over 80 years old, he fought for Queen Maria I.

However, after two of his nieces, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard , as the king's second and fifth wives, were charged with adultery and executed, Howard and his family began to arouse the king's suspicions. In 1547 he and his eldest son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey , were arrested for high treason and sentenced to death. His son was executed. Howard escaped execution because the king died, but, now in his 70s, spent the next seven years under King Edward VI. in the tower . He was only released again in 1554 under Maria I and received all of his dignities back.


Early years and advancement

Thomas Howard was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk , and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. When he was twelve, his grandfather John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk , died in the Battle of Bosworth between King Richard III. and Heinrich Tudor . Since Thomas' father for the loser Richard III. had fought, the family was now under the victor and new king, Henry VII, facing ruin. Howards titles and lands were confiscated, but Thomas' father at least escaped execution as a traitor. Loyalty to the new king enabled him to regain his lands piece by piece, and in 1489 he was at least regained the earliest dignity , if not that of Duke of Norfolk . When Thomas Howard married Anne Plantagenet, the Queen's sister, on February 4, 1495, it was an important step in the family's rehabilitation. Thomas Howard served in the battle against the Cornish rebels in 1497 and then against the Scots in September under the command of his father, who knighted him on September 30th.

When the king finally died in 1509, he decreed in his will that all of their lands should be returned to the Howards. Thomas was made Knight of the Order of the Garter by the new King Henry VIII in April 1510 , and in 1512 served as Lieutenant-General in an army that was sent to Spain. On May 4th, 1513 he became Lord High Admiral and on September 9th he and his father defeated the Scottish King James IV at the Battle of Flodden. In the following year, Thomas' father was finally returned to the ducal office and Thomas now carried the courtesy title of Earl of Surrey . When his father died in 1524 and Thomas inherited him as the third Duke of Norfolk , he was the most powerful peer in England, a member of the Privy Council and Lord Treasurer, and was in the king's favor.

Marriage policy

As is customary in aristocratic circles, Howard sought to increase the influence of his family through advantageous marriages of his relatives. His own marriages suggest certain ambitions. His first wife Anne Plantagenet (also known as Anne of York) was a princess by birth from the House of York , and children of hers would have joined the line of succession. His second wife Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham , and thus also of royal descent. But although marrying into the extended royal family could be an advantage, it turned out to be a serious disadvantage when Howard's son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey , years later used a royal coat of arms because of his ancestry and thus aroused the king's suspicion.

Marrying off relatives on an advantageous basis was also a way of avoiding unpleasant tasks. In the spring of 1520, for example, Howard was supposed to conclude an agreement with the Butler family as part of his mission to Ireland, who, like his relatives, the Boleyns, claimed the dignity of Earl of Ormonde . His suggestion to solve the problem was a marriage between his niece Anne Boleyn and the young James Butler in order to reconcile the needs of the families. In addition to gaining the title of Irish Earl, Howard could also have shortened an unpleasant mission in a country he hated. But, although he tried very hard to get the butlers during his time in Ireland, the Boleyns weren't particularly enthusiastic about his idea and negotiations about the marriage came to nothing. James Butler's widow would marry Anne Boleyn's cousin Francis Bryan years later .

Furthermore, Howard went to great lengths to marry his own children into marriage with the royal family. For his daughter Mary he was able to win the illegitimate son of the king, Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset , as a husband, although his wife Elizabeth considered it an insult that their daughter was married to a bastard . He also tried to marry off Princess Maria , who had been declared a bastard, to his son Henry Howard, but this failed. Some historians also suspect that Howard was behind the secret engagement of his half-brother Thomas to Lady Margaret Douglas . After the bastardization of the princesses Maria and Elisabeth , Margaret Douglas was the king's niece, first in line to the throne. When the affair came out, however, Heinrich was so angry that Howard, whatever his real intentions, officially distanced himself from his brother, and thus survived his case lightly.

Queen's uncle

Despite the failure in Ireland, a far better match soon emerged for Anne Boleyn when the King himself began to woo her. Howard supported the king in his quest for a divorce from Catherine of Aragón and in 1529 signed the letter to the Pope in which the English nobility declared their support for the divorce. But although his niece actually married the king, she refused to be used as a tool by her uncle. His conservative, traditionally Catholic views did not fit Anne's reformatory aspirations, and allegedly, given her political activities, he muttered that Anne would be the downfall of the Howards. In the course of the Reformation, Anne was identified more and more with radical ideas, which Howard himself was deeply detested. Added to this was his contempt for Anne's ally Thomas Cromwell , who had outpaced him politically during the divorce struggle, but was of a very simple birth.

During Anne's time as Queen, Howard by no means enjoyed the benefits he had hoped for as the Queen's uncle. While Anne's influence enabled his daughter Mary to marry Henry Fitzroy, others seemed to benefit from Anne's rise. Anne was pursuing her own goals instead, and reportedly Howard complained to Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, that she treated any dog ​​better than him. As Anne in January 1536 a miscarriage suffered, she accused her uncle that he with the news of a Tjostunfalls have shocked the king and thus caused the miscarriage. Soon after, Anne fell out of favor, and Howard was among the nobles she found guilty of adultery, most likely so as not to fall from grace as well. Howard lost some influence at court after her execution, but was given a second chance when another niece, Catherine Howard , married the king. Despite the initial great infatuation with the king and the newly strengthened influence of the conservative forces at court, this marriage also ended in a fiasco. Catherine Howard, like her cousin Anne Boleyn, was charged with adultery and executed. In the course of the investigation into her, Howard managed to save his skin, but he had lost the king's trust.

The later years

During the Pilgrimage of Grace , Howard was sent north to quell the uprising. In 1540 he brought down the Lord Seal Keeper Thomas Cromwell, who had fallen from grace.

When his son Henry Howard began to carry a royal coat of arms and openly declared that his father would be the best possible lord protector for the young Crown Prince Edward after Henry's death , the enemies of the Howards struck. The father and son were both imprisoned and Henry Howard was executed for treason. Howard escaped this fate, however, allegedly because Heinrich was already too weak on his deathbed to sign the execution order. Perhaps Howard's petition also played a major role in giving Edward all of his lands that Heinrich accepted. During the reign of Edward VI. Thomas Howard remained in custody. When Queen Maria I took office in 1553, the 80-year-old received title, dignity and property back after his release.


from his first marriage to Anne Plantagenet , daughter of Edward IV , ⚭ February 4, 1495:

  • Thomas Howard (* around 1496, † August 3, 1508), buried in Lambeth with the inscription: "Lord Howard, son of Thomas Lord Howard and his wife, daughter of Edward IV."

Three other children were stillborn.

from second marriage to Elizabeth Stafford, ⚭ 1513:

  • Katherine Howard (* probably around 1514/1515; † March 15, 1530) firstborn of the marriage, died unexpectedly of the plague
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/1517 - January 19, 1547), married to Lady Frances de Vere, with whom he had five children: Thomas, Jane, Henry, Catherine and Margaret
  • Mary Howard (* around 1519, † around December 1555), married Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset , the illegitimate son of the king, but the marriage was never consummated and she did not remarry after his untimely death
  • Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon (* around 1520, † 1582)
  • Charles Howard († 1520)

After the execution of Henry Howard, his eldest son Thomas became the heir of his grandfather and was the fourth Duke of Norfolk to inherit him. This, however, was in the Ridolfi Plot against Queen Elizabeth I. involved. Thereupon he was also executed in 1572 and the title of the Howards dynasty - as it later turned out - was revoked for almost 90 years. Only his great-grandson Thomas Howard was reinstated as the 5th Duke of Norfolk by King Charles II .



  • Michael AR Graves: Howard, Thomas, third duke of Norfolk. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press 2004, Volume 28.
  • Joanna Denny: Katherine Howard - A Tudor Conspiracy. portrait, London 2005, ISBN 0-7499-5120-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b David Starkey (ed.): Rivals in Power: Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties. Macmillan, London 1990, p. 26.
  2. David Starkey: Henry: Virtuous Prince. Harper Perennial, London 2009, p. 105.
  3. ^ A b Michael AR Graves: Howard, Thomas, third duke of Norfolk In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press 2004, Volume 28.
  4. ^ The Life of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.
  5. Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. 'The Most Happy'. Blackwell Publishing, Malden 2004, ISBN 0-631-23479-9 , p. 34.
  6. Michael Riordan: Howard, Lord Thomas . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Volume 28: Hooppell - Hutcheson. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861411-X .
  7. a b England under the Tudors - Biography of Thomas Howard
  8. Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. 'The Most Happy'. Blackwell Publishing, Malden 2004, ISBN 0-631-23479-9 , p. 143.
  9. Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. 'The Most Happy'. Blackwell Publishing, Malden 2004, ISBN 0-631-23479-9 , p. 202.
  10. Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. 'The Most Happy'. Blackwell Publishing, Malden 2004, ISBN 0-631-23479-9 , p. 299.
  11. David Starkey: Henry. Virtuous Prince. Harper Perennial, London 2009, p. 107.
  12. a b Howards family tree in: Jessie Childs: Henry VIII's Last Victim. The Life and times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Vintage Books, London 2008
  13. “The duke of Norfolk… his eldest daughter, the wife of the Seigneur d'Alby (Derby), died yesterday of the plague at a house near here, belonging to her husband; it will be one of the greatest blows the Duke has ever received. " Letter from Eustace Chapuy to Emperor Charles V of March 16, 1530 In: Henry VIII: September 1533, 1–10. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, Part 1: 1529-1530 (1879)
  14. Susan Brigden: Howard, Henry, earl of Surrey. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press 2004, Volume 28.
  15. ^ Beverley A. Murphy: Fitzroy, Mary. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press 2004, Volume 19.
  16. Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon on , accessed July 26, 2015.
predecessor Office successor
Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk
Earl of Surrey
1524-1547; 1553-1554
Thomas Howard
Thomas Howard Earl Marshal
Edward Seymour
John Dudley Earl Marshal
Thomas Howard