(4th D. Norfolk)

Born: 10 Mar 1535/6

Died: 2 Jun 1572, Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England

Buried: Tower Chapel, London, Middlesex, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Henry HOWARD (E. Surrey)

Mother: Frances De VERE (C. Surrey)

Married 1: Mary FITZALAN (D. Norfolk) ABT 30 Mar 1555


1. Phillip HOWARD (1° E. Arundel)

2. Anne HOWARD

Married 2: Margaret AUDLEY (D. Norfolk) ABT 10 Dec 1558


3. Thomas HOWARD (1º E. Suffolk)

4. William HOWARD

5. Margaret HOWARD

6. Elizabeth HOWARD

7. Jane HOWARD

8. Henry HOWARD

Married 3: Elizabeth LEYBURNE (B. Dacre/D. Norfolk) (d. 4 Sep. 1567, Kenninghall, Suffolk) (dau. of Sir James Leyburne of Cunswick, Westmorland, and Helen Preston) (w. of Thomas Dacre, 4° B. Gillesland) (See her Biography) 29 Jan 1567

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Second child but first son of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and his wife, lady Frances de Vere. The blow of Surrey's attainder and execution was hardest for Thomas, who was at once separated from his brother, Henry, and his sisters, Jane, Margaret and Catherine. They were taken from their mother's care and placed under the nominal guardianship of Lord Wentworth, though in fact their inmediate custodian was Thomas Gawdy, an old friend of the family. But Thomas Howard was placed with Sir John Williams, Treasurer of the Court of Argumentations. His keeper was kept by busines in London most of the time, while the boy lived quietly at Rycote, the same where Princess Elizabeth spend a similar period of confinement during Mary's reign.

After a difficult year the children were reunited, for the Privy Council decided to place them under the guardianship of their aunt, the Duchess of Richmond, at Reigate Castle. They were joined there by Charles Howard, their cousin, two years older than Thomas, son of Lord William Howard of Effingham. Probably on Lord Wentworth's advice, the Duchess engaged John Foxe as tutor of her charges. Edward VI knew 'no better place for their virtuous education' than with their aunt. At Christmas 1551 the Duchess of Richmond was granted an annuity of £100 towards their maintenance, and the next year was given a further £100.

When Edward died and Mary came to the throne, the Howard fortunes changed. When the Queen rode to London to take up her residence in the Tower until coronation day, the Duchess of Norfolk came with her. Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk was released from his confinement and the Council restored him to the Order of the Garter at their meeting on 10 Aug. Young Thomas soon joined the Duke in London and at the end of the month the Countess of Surrey was ordered by the Council to have the rest of her children brought from Reigate Castle to Mountjoy Place.

Thomas was made Knight of the Bath on Michaelmas Day, the youngest of those created. Next day he rode with his fellows through the city, escorting the Queen to Westminster Abbey for her coronation.

After the Coronation the old Duke decided that his grandosns must be taken in hand, and that the heretic education they had been imbibing for five years must be eradicated. For the moment, Thomas Howard joined the household of Stephen Gardiner as a page. Later, joined with his brother Henry, continued his instruction in the London house of John White, a priest as unbending in his devotion to papal principles as Bonner or Gardiner, and who later become Bishop of Lincoln (Mar 1554) and succeeded Gardiner in the see of Winchester (1556). After a short stay in White's household, Thomas Howard was appointed as one of the seven gentlemen of the Chamber of King Felipe. The earldom of Surrey had been restored to him, and as heir of a dukedom he was senior in rank.

At last on 25 Aug 1554, after six weeks of failing health, his grandfather died at Kenninghall in his eightieth year and Thomas succeeded to the title as fourth Duke of Norfolk and hereditary Earl Marshal of England. In the past few months he had been gradually taking over the administration of the vast estates and now he was busy preparing for the burial at Framlingham and making suitable arrangements for the wardship of his sisters. Bassingbourne Gawdy rode post haste to London with letters for Lord Chancellor Gardiner and returned as speedily as he could to Norwich. The escheator of Norfolk held a formal inquisition to survey the great Howard inheritance, of fifty-six manors, thirty-seven advowsons and 'many other considerable estates', which passed for the present into the hands of the Crown, as Thomas was still a minor. He in due course would inherit the property, but under the terrns of the old Duke's will his brother and sisters were to receive 1,000 marks each on coming of age, or marriage.

A month after her grandfather's death Catherine Howard married Henry, Lord Berkeley, at Kenninghall. Six months later Norfolk married Mary Fitzalan, daughter of Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. This alliance had been planned in the lifetime of the old Duke. The bride was fifteen years old, the bridegroom seventeen and as a ward of the Queen he had to obtain her permission to marry. Theirs was the great social event of the spring of 1555, all the Council being busy' over Norfolk's wedding. The wedding probably took place in St. Clement Dane's, the parish church of Arundel Place, the Lord Steward's town house. Mary continued to reside with her family for a further year, until Norfolk brought her to his own mansion.

Duchess Mary chose Arundel Place for her lying-in, where all was prepared for the arrival of an heir in Jun 1557. At this anxious time Norfolk had the misfortune to cause the death of a trusted servant, when he was out riding his black gelding from Newington to Tottenham. One of his retainers, Thomas Baynes, 'a man well liked by and in good repute with him, sported with him in a friendly and joking manner'. Suddenly, as the party was riding up Stamford Hill, the Duke's horse foundered and as he went down Norfolk knocked his pistol on his saddle. The gun was loaded and Baynes was shot through the head at point-blank range. Norfolk's horse, thoroughly frightened, knocked its brains out. The coroner's inquest was held later the same day and in due course the Duke was pardoned for manslaughter.

Within a fortnight, on 28 Jun, his son Phillip was born and four days later was christened at Whitehall Palace, by Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor. The two god-fathers, Felipe of Spain, after whom the boy was named, and the Earl of Arundel, his grandfather, were present in person for the ceremony. The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, as his godmother, held her great-grandson over a font of gold, made of purpose and kept in the Treasury only for the christening of the princes of the realm.

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Mary Fitzalan (D. Norfolk)

by Hans Eworth  c. 1555
Private Collection

The Duchess never recovered from his birth. On the anniversary of the day on which Norfolk had succeeded to the dukedom three years back, Duchess Mary died. She was buried in St Clement Dane's church with full funeral pomp.

Norfolk remained a widower until the end of Queen Mary's reign. It was not a simple matter for the premier peer of England to find a suitable wife and when he made his choice there seemed endless legal difficulties.

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Thomas Howard (D. Norfolk)

by Hans Eworth, 1562.

Oil on panel.

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Margaret Audley (D. Norfolk)

by Hans Eworth, 1562.

Oil on panel.

As is often the case of young widowers, he chose a young widow, Margaret Audley, Lady Dudley, aged eighteen. She was the sole surviving child of Lord Thomas Audley, and consequently the heir to a rich inheritance. Her first husband, Henry Dudley, son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, had been killed at the Battle of St Quentin. They were obliged to wait for a papal dispensation to wed since his first wife had been Margaret’s first cousin. They were still waiting when Queen Mary died and Queen Elizabeth succeeded, restoring Protestantism to England. They wed quietly, without the dispensation, during the first days of the new reign and Parliament ratified the marriage in Mar 1559. 

He had had no time for a honeymoon after his marriage to Margaret, for he commanded all the pomp and pageantry which heralds brought to state occasions. But first he had to attend to Mary's obsequies. Her body lay in state in the Chapel Royal until 13 Dec when it was brought to Westminster Abbey.

The festivities following the Coronation, with banquets, masques, dancing and other entertainments arranged at court by the Master of the Revels, provided the Duke and Duchess with a honeymoon. After the gloomy months of the end of Mary's reign life at court seemed one long party - so much so that a Mantuan visitor lifted a reproving finger at 'the levities and moral licentiousness practised at the court in dances and banquets'. One night, he reported, a double mummery was played, when 'one set of mummers rifled the Queen's ladies and the other set, with wooden swords and bucklers, recovered the spoil'. In the dance which followed Elizabeth chose Norfolk, clad in 'superb array' as her partner. Now that the Coronation was over he could relax, for he was not as yet a member of the Privy Council, and he attended the opening of Parliament on 25 Jan to discharge his duties as Earl Marshal rather than to take an active part in the discussions in the Lords while the Elizabethan settlement in Church and State was being forged.

He had wanted to take his bride to Kenninghall, but his attendance was still needed at court, sometimes to accompany the Queen to hear a sermon at Paul’s Cross, sometimes to entertain a foreign envoy. On 23 May, for instance, Norfolk had welcomed the French embassy, led by Montmorency, which had come to settle the terms of peace. The Frenchmen had come to the Tower from Gravesend by barge and here Norfolk escorted them to Whitehall, where there was a banquet in their honour in a temporary banquetting hall under the long gallery, 'closed in with wreaths of flowers'. The Duchess of Norfolk was also in attendance and enjoyed the dancing which lasted till late in the evening. In recognition of his services, Elizabeth elected the Duke a Knight of the Garter on St George's Day at Whitehall. As that day was a Sunday the St George's Feast was postponed until 6 Jun when Norfolk and the other new knights, Dudley, Northampton and Rutland, were installed at Windsor by the Earl of Pembroke, as her Majesty's deputy, and the communion service in the chapel on that day was for the first time celebrated in English. After a few further days at court the Duke was at last free to go into the country where he stayed until the autumn.

Margaret and her new husband retired to Kenninghall and did not return to London until the following autumn. The marriage appears to have been a love match and produced four children. So great was Margaret’s desire to rejoin her husband for Christmas in 1563 that she left Audley End when she was still weak from childbirth. She caught a chill on the journey and died at Norwich on 10 Jan 1564. Norfolk's second wife also died young and was buried at St. John the Baptist's church at Norwich. The Dowager Countess of Surrey acted as chief mourner at her funeral, going through the same sombre ritual in the cathedral and the great hall of the palace that she had done six years before for her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Richmond. It was only a Howard death that brought her out of the shadows.

Norfolk was favored by Elizabeth I although he was jealous of the larger measure of confidence she placed in Robert Dudley. In Apr 1559 he was made Knight of the Garter. Elizabeth styled him 'her cousin', on the ground of the relationship between the Howards and the Boleyns, and chose him to take a leading part in the first great undertaking of her reign, the expulsion of the French troops from Scotland. At first Norfolk refused the offer of the post of lieutenant-general in the north, and probably expressed the views of the nobility in holding that the Queen would better secure herself against France by marrying the Archduke Charles of Austria than by interfering in Scottish affairs. But his scruples were overcome, and in Nov 1559 he set out to Newcastle. His duty was to provide for the defence of Berwick, to open up communications with the lords of the congregation, and cautiously aid them in their measures against the Queen Regent, Marie De Guise. By his side were placed men of experience, Sir Ralph Sadler and Sir James Croft. On 27 Feb 1560 he signed an agreement at Berwick with the representatives of James Hamilton, Earl of Arran and Duke of Chatelherault, as 'second person of the realm of Scotland,' and soon after the siege of Leith was begun. Norfolk did not take any part in the military operations, but remained behind at the head of the reserve, and organised supplies. When the time came for diplomacy William Cecil was despatched for the purpose, and the treaty of Edinburgh released Norfolk in Aug from duties which he half-heartedly performed.

Norfolk resented the pretensions of Robert Dudley, recently created Earl of Leicester, to Elizabeth's hand, and in Mar 1565 they had an unseemly quarrel in the Queen's presence. The Queen ordered them to make peace. A reconciliation was patched up, and in Jan 1566 the two rivals were chosen by the French King, as the foremost of the English nobles, to receive the order of knights of St. Michael.

Norfolk's third wife, Elizabeth Leyburne, dau. of Sir James Leyburne of Cunswick and Helen Preston, was a widow when she married him, her late husband being Thomas, 4th Lord Dacre of Gillesland. 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. Elizabeth Leyburne died 4 Sep 1567. Norfolk obtained a grant of wardship of the minors. The young Lord Dacre died in May 1569 from the fall of a wooden horse on which he was practising vaulting, and his death confirmed Norfolk in the project of dividing the Dacre lands amongst his sons. Their title, however, was called in question by their father's brother, Leonard Dacre, who claimed as heir male. The cause would naturally have come for trial in the marshal's court, but as Norfolk held that office, commissioners were appointed for the trial. Great promptitude was shown, for on 19 Jul, scarcely a month after the young Dacre's death, it was decided that 'the barony cannot nor ought not to descend into the said Leonard Dacre so long as the said coheirs or any issue from their bodies shall continue'.

In 1568 was chief of the commission that inquired into Scottish affairs after the flight of Mary, Queen of Scots to England. Elizabeth was embarrassed how to deal with Mary. Her first step was to appoint a commission representing all parties to sit at York in Oct, and inquire into the cause of the variance between Mary and her subjects. Elizabeth's commissioners were the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler. Norfolk was doubtless appointed through his high position, as the only duke in England, and as the representative of the nobility, who urged that, if Elizabeth would not marry, the recognition of Mary's claim to the succession was inevitable; he was further likely to be acceptable to Mary herself.

Norfolk at first wrote as one convinced of Mary's guilt. But Maitland of Lethington in a private talk suggested to him, as a solution of all the difficulties which beset the two kingdoms, that he should marry Mary, who might then with safety to Elizabeth be restored to the Scottish throne, and recognised as Elizabeth's successor.

A widower, the richest man in England, popular and courted, but chafing under the sense that he had little influence over affairs, Norfolk conducted secret negotiations for Mary's hand. Norfolk left York with a settled determination to carry it out. For a time he acted cautiously, and when the investigation was transferred to Westminster before the great council of peers, he still seemed to believe in Mary's guilt. But he had a secret interview with James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, who professed his agreement with the plan, and encouraged a hope that after his return to Scotland Maitland should be sent to Elizabeth as envoy of the estates of Scotland, with a proposal for Mary's marriage with Norfolk.

On this understanding Norfolk sent a message to the northern lords, begging them to lay aside a project which they had formed for taking Moray prisoner on his return from London. The opening months of 1569 seemed to be disastrous for Elizabeth in foreign affairs, and Cecil's forward policy awakened increasing alarm among the English nobles. Leicester tried to oust Cecil from the Queen's confidence; when he failed he joined with the earls of Arundel and Pembroke in striving to promote Mary's marriage with Norfolk. They communicated with Mary at Tutbury in Jun, and received her consent. Norfolk was reconciled to Cecil, and hoped to gain his help in urging on Elizabeth the advantages to be derived from such a settlement. He still waited for Moray's promised message from Scotland, and wrote to him on 1 Jul that 'he had proceeded so far in the marriage that with conscience he could neither revoke what he had done, or with honour proceed further till such time as he should remove all stumbling-blocks to more apparent proceedings'. Norfolk's plan was still founded on loyalty to Elizabeth and maintenance of protestantism; but the protestant nobles looked on with suspicion, and doubted that Norfolk would become a tool in the hands of Spain, and the catholic lords of the north grew impatient of waiting; many of them were connected with Leonard Dacre, and were indignant at the issue of Norfolk's lawsuit; they formed a plan of their own for carrying off Mary from her prison.

Norfolk still trusted to the effects of pressure upon Elizabeth, but he had not the courage to apply it. He left others to plead his cause with the Queen, and on 27 Aug the council voted for the settlement of the succession by the marriage of Mary to some English noble-man. Still Norfolk was afraid to speak out, though one day the Queen 'gave him a nip bidding him take heed to his pillow'. At last he grew alarmed, and on 15 Sep hastily left the court. Still he trusted to persuasion rather than force, and wrote to the Earl of Northumberland telling him that Mary was too securely guarded to be rescued, and bidding him defer a rising. Then on 24 Sep he wrote to Elizabeth from Kenninghall that he 'never intended to deal otherwise than he might obtain her favour so to do'. He was ordered to return to court, but pleaded the excuse of illness, and, after thus giving Elizabeth every ground for suspicion, at last returned humbly on 2 Oct, to be met with the intimation that he must consider himself a prisoner at Paul Wentworth's house at Burnham.

Elizabeth first thought of bringing Norfolk to trial for treason, but this was too hardy a measure in the uncertain state of public opinion. Norfolk was still confident in the power of his personal popularity, and was astonished when on 8 Oct 1569 he was taken to the Tower. His friends in the council were straitly examined, and his party dwindled away. No decisive evidence was found against him, but the Rising of the North in Nov showed Elizabeth how great had been her danger. Norfolk wrote from the Tower, assuring Elizabeth that he never dealt with any of the rebels, but he continued in communication with Mary, who after the collapse of the rising caught more eagerly at the prospect of escaping from her captivity by Norfolk's aid. She wrote to him that she would live and die with him, and signed herself 'yours faithful to death'. But Norfolk remained a prisoner till times were somewhat quieter, and was not released till 3 Aug 1570, when he was ordered to reside in his own house at the Charterhouse, for fear of the plague. He had previously made submission to the Queen, renouncing all purpose of marrying Mary, and promising entire fidelity.

On his release Howard was drawn into the plot of Ridolfi, agent of Felipe II of Spain, who was planning a Spanish invasion and the dethronement of Elizabeth. Many still thought that his marriage with Mary was possible, but Norfolk had learned that it would never be with Elizabeth's consent. The failure of previous endeavours had drawn Mary's partisans more closely together, and now they looked for help solely to the Spanish King. This was not what Norfolk had intended when first he conceived his marriage project; but he could not let it drop, and slowly drifted into a conspirator. He conferred with Ridolfi, and heard his plan for a Spanish invasion of England; he gave his sanction to Ridolfi's negotiations, and commissioned him to act as his representative with Felipe II

The discovery of Ridolfi's plot was due to a series of accidents; but Norfolk's complicity was discovered by the indiscretion of his secretary, Higford, who entrusted to a Shrewsbury merchant a bag of gold containing a ciphered letter. William Cecil was informed of this fact on 1 Sep 1571, and extracted from Higford enough information to show that Norfolk was corresponding with Mary and her friends in Scotland. Norfolk's servants were imprisoned, threatened with torture, and told much that increased Cecil's suspicions. 

Norfolk was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 5 Sep 1571. The investigation was steadily pursued till the evidence of Norfolk's complicity with Ridolfi had become strong, and the whole history of Norfolk's proceedings was made clear. Elizabeth saw how little she could count on the English nobility, who were all anxious for the settlement of the succession, and were in some degree or other on Mary's side. It was resolved to read them a lesson by proceeding against Norfolk, who was brought to trial for high treason on 16 Jan 1572. His conviction was inevitable, and sentence of death was pronounced against him. From the Tower Norfolk wrote submissive letters to the Queen, owning that he had grievously offended, but protesting his substantial loyalty. Elizabeth, always averse to bloodshed, for a long time refused to carry out the sentence; but her negotiations for a French treaty and a marriage with Alençon required that she should act with vigour. Norfolk called John Foxe, who had dedicated to him in 1559 the first version (in Latin) of his martyrology, to console him in his last days, and bequeathed him a legacy of £20 a year. Parliament petitioned for the death of Mary and of Norfolk, and at last, on 2 Jun 1572, Norfolk was executed on Tower Hill. He spoke to the people, and maintained his innocence; he said 'that he was never a papist since he knew what religion meant'.

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The tomb of Mary Fitzalan and Margaret Audley has a fine display of heraldic quarterings and the two effigies are shown in their robes of state. They rest their heads and feet on emblems connected with their Houses. It would seem that at some former period there were columns which supported a canopy over the tomb which must have rendered it highly magnificent. There is a large space between the effigies and it has been suggested that this was reserved for Norfolk's third wife or himself, or even Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary Fitzalan was never buried at Framlingham, but first at the church of St. Clements Without, Temple Bar, and then under the direction of her grandson's will, at Arundel.

Norfolk's second wife was buried at St. John the Baptist's church at Norwich. Whether, and if so, when her remains were reinterred at Framlingham is uncertain. In 1842 this vault was opened and found to be empty but for a skull and some ashes. Tradition has it that the inhabitants of the town hid some of their valuables in the tomb during the rebellion of 1745 and swept it clean. It thus remains a mystery as to what the contents were. It would seem more probable that Margaret's body would have been reburied at Arundel in preference to Framlingham by this time.


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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