Elizabeth LEYBURNE

(D. Norfolk)

Born: ABT 1536, Cunswick, Westmoreland, England

Died: 4 Sep 1567, Kenninghall, Suffolk, England

Buried: Framlingham, Surrey, England

Father: James LEYBURNE of Cunswick (Sir)

Mother: Helen PRESTON

Married 1: Thomas DACRE ( 4° B. Gillesland / 3° B. Greystoke


1. Anne DACRE (C. Arundel)

2. George DACRE (5º B. Gillesland / 4º B. Greystoke)

3. Francis DACRE

4. Mary DACRE

5. Elizabeth DACRE

Married 2: Thomas HOWARD (4° D. Norfolk) 29 Jan 1567

Elizabeth Leybourne was the daughter of Sir James Leyburne of Cunswick by his wife, Helen Preston. Helen Preston (d. AFT 1567) was the daughter of Sir Thomas Preston of Preston Patrick, Westmorland (d. 1523) and Anne Thornborough. She married first Sir James Leyburne of Cunswick and second, c. 1549, Thomas Stanley, 2nd baron Mounteagle (b. 25 May 1507 - d. 25 Aug 1560). She had two daughters by her first husband, Elizabeth and Anne; and two by her second husband, Margaret and another Anne. She married the first Anne to her second husband’s son, William Stanley, 3rd baron Mounteagle. After the Council of Trent declared (in 1562) that no Catholic could be present at a heretic service and remain a good Catholic, Lady Mounteagle refused to attend services. She does not seem to have been persecuted as a recusant, at least in part because of her family connections.

About 1555 Elizabeth Leyburne married into one of the most important families of north-western England, the Dacres of Gilsland and Greystoke. Her first husband, Thomas, Lord Dacre, died in Jul 1566 after some months of sickness, leaving her with four young children. Even before then, when it was clear that Dacre had not long to live, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was making enquiries about the wardship of George, the heir, and his sisters and in Aug he had discussed the matter with the Queen, who agreed in principie that he should become their guardian, though the matter was not to be settled for many months. 'They say his wardship will be worth 8,000 crowns a year', noted the Spanish Ambassador, for the Dacre estates in Cumberland, Westmorland and Bedfordshire were extensive; but before he committed himself Norfolk took expert legal advice about a supposed deed of entail 'on the most part of the inheritance' and was encouraged by what he was told by the Master of the Rolls. But at that time no-one dreamt of his marrying the Dacre widow.

Their courtship had been kept a close secret and the Queen knew nothing about it until three days before the wedding, when Norfolk told her himself. It was a quiet wedding, at Lady Leyburne's London house on 29 Jan 1567, 'without any rejoicing or demonstration'. After three years Kenninghall again had a mistress. The new Duchess brought with her a Roman Catholic chaplain and her own set of altar cloths and copes, for she was, like her mother, a devout Catholic, heard Mass every day, and might soon convert her husband to the Old Religión, suggested the Spanish Ambassador. Lady Leyburne, her mother, was installed in a suite of rooms as well as her children.

There had been close friendship between the Howard and Dacre families of an earlier generation, for in 1558 the dowager Duchess Elizabeth had left substantial legacies to Elizabeth, Lady Dacre, and her daughters.

There were now nine children to be cared for, Norfolk's own five, and his four step-children, of whom he soon grew very fond. At the time of his mother's re-marriage George, the young Lord Dacre, was five, his elder sister Anne was almost ten, and his younger sisters, Mary three and Elizabeth two; the Duke called the girls Nanne, Mall and Bess. He was anxious to settle the matter of their wardship, for two uncles, Leonard and George Dacre, were scheming to claim their inheritance. Since Norfolk was their stepfather, he could not tolerate an outsider being their guardian. It was not until Nov that he was formally granted their wardship, and even then his position was not absolutely secure for another two years.

Norfolk made remarkable marriage plans whereby Elizabeths three daughters by Dacre became the wives of the sons of his own first two marriages. Thus Anne Dacre married Phillip Earl of Arundel; Mary Dacre married Thomas who was created Earl of Suffolk; and Elizabeth Dacre married William Howard whose descendant was the ancestor of the present Earl of Carlisle.

In summer of 1567 Norfolk became ill. The root of the trouble was some form of rheumatism, which had first troubled him at Berwick in 1560, but it now affected his general health quite seriously. He had to rest, yet he could not shake it off. He looked forward anxiously to the safe arrival of the child which his Duchess was carrying. Childbirth had caused the death of two wives and he would be relieved when the danger was passed for Duchess Elizabeth. In preparation for her lying in new 'cradle clothes of crimson satin, quilted' were purchased and 'a cover for a noble personage lying in childbed, bordered with gold and powdered ermine'. But once more Kenninghall Palace was plunged in despair, for on the evening of 4 Sep 1567 Elizabeth died in childbed and her child died with her. Norfolk was beside himself with grief.

Depression hampered his physical recovery. He somehow forced himself to go to the funeral at Framlingham and then retired to Norwich, too low in spirits and sick of body to return to London at Michaelmas.

After Elizabeth's death, Lady Mounteagle took charge of her grandchildren and provided a Catholic priest to instruct them.


Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. X. Sidney Lee, ed.

Williams, Neville: Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk (Barrie and Rockliff – 1964 - London)

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