(3rd D. Norfolk)

Born: 1473

Died: 25 Aug 1554, Kenninghall, Norfolk, England

Buried: Framlingham, Norfolk, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Thomas HOWARD (2º D. Norfolk)

Mother: Elizabeth TILNEY (C. Surrey)

Married 1: Anne PLANTAGENET 4 Feb 1494/5, Greenwich Palace, London, Middlesex, England


1. Thomas HOWARD (b. 1496 - d. 1508)

2. Henry HOWARD

3. William HOWARD

4. Dau. HOWARD

Associated with: ¿?

5. Margaret HOWARD


Married 2: Elizabeth STAFFORD (D. Norfolk) BEF 8 Jan 1512/13, Easter Time


6. Henry HOWARD (E. Surrey)

7. Mary HOWARD (D. Richmond)

8. Thomas HOWARD (1° V. Bindon)

9. Catherine HOWARD (C. Derby)

Associated with: Elizabeth HOLLAND

Associated with: ¿?

10. Jane GOODMAN

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Thomas Howard by Hans Holbein in 1539
He holds the Earl Marshall's baton and the Lord Treasurer's stave
Royal Collection, St. James' Palace

English nobleman, a master of survival in the treacherous political climate of Henry VIII's Court, described by Ludovico Falieri, Venetian Ambassador in Nov 1531 as 'prudent, liberal, affable and astute; associates with everybody, has very great experience in political government, discusses the affairs of the world admirably, aspires to greater elevation, and bears ill-will to foreigners... small and spare in person, his hair is black...'. His own education and instincts were old fashioned; in religion and politics, Norfolk was a conservative, unimpressed by the new ideas of the reformers and uncomfortable with the low born "new men" of the Tudor Court. He claimed the deference due the leader of the traditional nobility, yet recognized uneasily that loyalty, ability and service counted as much as or more than ancient tittle to the Tudors.

Thomas was the first son of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (afterwards the second Duke of Norfolk) and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney, widow of Sir Humphrey Bourchier. Thomas and his brothers received a medieval education, studying Latin and French, and the usual course of grammar, rethoric, logic, some arithmetic and a bit of music. Thomas may have shared the latter stages of his education with his half brother, John Bourchier, second lord Berners.

Old enough at his grandfather death's to have spent time at John Howard's house at Tendring Hall, in 1484, Thomas Howard was brought to Court and bethroted to Anne Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV and niece to Richard III. With his brother Edward, he was placed in Henry VII's household as a page. There they learned subservience to the new dynasty while being trained as gentlemen and serving as hostages to Surrey's repeatedly tested loyalty. Married with Anne 4 Feb 1495 at Westminster Abbey, thus became brother-in-law to Henry VII. Howard would be landless and penniless until the death of the dowager Duchess of Norfolk (who survived until 1507), and Anne had nothing but her name, so relatives had to provide for the couple. Queen Elizabeth provided her sister with twenty shillings a week for food and drink, and paid for personal retinue of two women, a young maid, a gentleman, a yeoman and three grooms. Surrey gave them the use of a number of manors, and was compensated by the crown with an annuity of £120, probably indicating the value of the lands.

Although Thomas and Anne had a number of children, none lived to maturity. The longest lived, Thomas, was born about 1497, and died Aug 1508, buried in the Howard Chapel at Lambeth. Anne herself seems to have suffered poor health, and died early, for consumption, in 1512. After seventeen years of marriage, Thomas was left a childless widower.

The Howards overcame the disgrace of their support of Richard III because Surrey and his sons proved useful to Henry VII. Like Richard before him, Henry needed loyal support to establish and maintain his power. The Earl of Surrey was constantly at Court and in council, serving as the only prominent titled noble among the King's ecclesiastical circle. During the reign of Henry VII there are a little information about Howard.

In the spring of 1497, Thomas Howard began his military career, joining some fifty gentlemen and knights sent to quell a rising of Cornishmen which culminated at Blackheath on 17 Jun. Having earned his spurs, Thomas was sent north to join his father, who was serving as lord lieutenant against the Scots. After a series of skirmishes and raids, James IV of Scotland and Henry VII made a truce in Sep 1497 that led to peace treaty in Jan 1502. For their part in the fighting, Thomas and his brother Edward were knighted by their father at Ayton Castle in Sep. In 1503, when his father escorted Margaret Tudor to Scotland, the entire family went along. Thomas also accompanied his father on an embassy to Flanders in 1507.

During the rest of the reign of Henry VII, there are only scattered snatches of information about Sir Thomas Howard. For the most part, Sir Thomas and his wife lived quietly at Stoke and Lambeth. Thomas was involved in a few land deals with his father which have left traces in the public records and in 1506 was pardoned, along with his brother Edward and several other men, for an illegal entry upon a manor belonging to the estate of the late John Grey, lord Lisle. Despite ample contact with the King, Thomas never became a favorite, and was little employed in public business, even as his father's adjunct.

At the death of Henry VII in Apr 1509 Sir Thomas Howard was named one of the lords attendant for the funeral, and with his father was issued black velvet livery of mourning. Thomas Howard also joined in the tournament held to celebrate the coronation. Henry VIII did not attempt feats of arms in his own honor, but there were many knights at court who did. Thomas, Edward and Edmund Howard, as well as Richard Grey (brother of the Marquis of Dorset), Charles Brandon and Sir Thomas Knyvett (brother-in-law of the Howards) rode as challengers against Henry's answerers, who included Sir John Carre. On the first day, Thomas Howard and Carre won prizes as the most skillful combatants in the tournaments. Thomas was being paid five hundred marks along with Sir John Carre on 24 May for his services in Henry VII's funeral and Henry VIII's coronation.

After being nominated to the Order of the Garter but not elected in 1509, on 27 Apr 1510 Thomas Howard was added to that Order.

In Aug 1511 Thomas and Edward Howard were sent out to engage Andrew Barton, a favorite sea captain of James IV. In the ensuing fight, a full-scale sea battle in the Channel, Barton was killed, and his two ships, the Lion and Jenny Perwin, captured.

In Oct the Holy League was signed at Rome, and Henry and Ferdinand of Spain agreed soon after that an English assault on France would commence by 30 Apr 1512. Now the Howards found fresh employment. Surrey was sent to watch over the north of the realm, Edward was given a command at sea, and Thomas and Edmund with their future brother-in-law Rhys ap Griffith joined the English army supporting Ferdinand's invasion of southern France. Thomas Grey, 2° Marquis of Dorset was named commander of the army in Spain; Thomas Howard was commissioned as Dorset's second in command. Henry had not yet learned how little he could trust his father-in-law Ferdinand, and the expedition was a fiasco. By 8 Jul, Thomas wrote to Cardinal Wolsey to outline the English plight but also to assure him that the troops were in good order, not yet troubled by sickness as were the Spanish soldiers; but already Howard saw hints of disaster. The Spanish, he wrote, would not extend the English any aid, for they loved money better than their own kin. This letter is the first important surviving document written by Thomas Howard.

After his first wife’s death he married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Stafford, 3d Duke of Buckingham. Elizabeth, who was about nineteen to Howard's forty, had been one of Catalina de Aragon's attendants, and perhaps a member of the Queen's household, as were several Stafford aunts, Buckingham's sisters. The arrangements were made swiftly. Brushing aside the inconvenience of Elizabeth's romance with the young Ralph Neville (later forth earl of Westmorland), Buckingham gave his daughter to Howard, and by Easter they were married. The Duke settled an annuity of five hundred marks on Elizabeth and gave Howard a dowry of twenty-five hundred marks.

Added to his new wife connections, he was related to many noble families by his father, grandfather and sisters marriages, including those of the earls of Derby, Oxford, Sussex, Bridgewater, Devon and Wiltshire; as well as baronial clans such the Lisles and Dacres. If second cousins are considered, there was hardly a Tudor peer who was not Thomas Howard's kin.

On 12 Aug 1512 his brother-in-law Thomas Knyvett was killed in a foolhardy adventure at sea off Brest battling the French. Edward Howard vowed to avenge Knyvett's death and as a result was himself killed on 25 April 1513. Edward's death deprived the Howards of Henry's favorite of Surrey's sons, but did bring Thomas Howard new duties. On 25 Apr, he was appointed Lord Admiral in succession to his brother, and by 7 May had arrived at Plymouth to view the shambles of the royal fleet.

He fought against the Scots at Flodden and became, in 1514, Earl of Surrey when his father was made Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard the younger established himself as an important soldier and sailor and, with the prize of the earldom of Surrey won at Flodden, moved out of his father's shadow to became a man of importance in his own right.

In Apr 1525, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, pursued the guardship of Elizabeth Marney, of one of the two daughters and co-heirs of John, second Lord Marney of Layer Marney {d. 1525), by the latter's wife, Christian, daughter and sole heir of Roger Newburgh. Although he found necessary to write to his enemy, the Cardinal Wolsey, on 4 Apr, to gain the favor of the King in this case. This letter was writing while Marney was on his deathbed, hardly in good taste, but haste and determination were essential in obtaining choice wardship to exploit. Norfolk obtained the wardship of Elizabeth Marney at the end of May of 1526 and purchased the right of her marriage from the master of the King's wards in Apr 1529. Elizabeth Marney, on the death without issue of her sister, Catherine, Lady Poynings, inherited all the Marney estates {Letters and Papers, Henry VIII., vol. iv.). Norfolk at first intended Elizabeth Marney for his eldest son, the Earl of Surrey, but eventually bestowed her hand upon the oungest, Lord Thomas, afterwards Viscount Bindon, on 14 May 1533, at Norfolk House in Lambeth.

Around 1526 Norfolk noticed a woman who was a part of the ducal household at Kenninghall. Elizabeth Holland, known as Bess, was the daughter (some sources say the sister) of John Holland of Wartwell Hall, Norfolk’s secretary and one of his stewards; and a kinswoman, probably a niece, of John Hussey, 1st baron Hussey of Sleaford. She became his mistress. Because of the letters left by Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk, there is a good deal of confusion about Bess Holland. Since she was a gentlewoman, she was probably not a laundress in the household, or the children’s nurse. She may have been their governess. She was certainly on good terms with Mary Howard, Norfolk’s daughter.

By May 1533 the situation in Norfolk’s household had become impossible for Duchess. From their letters, neither Duke nor Duchess appears to have been very well tempered, and if any of the scenes Elizabeth described took place—such as being held down by Norfolk’s servants until her fingers bled and, in her rage, she spit blood— separation may have been the only solution. The records left by the Duchess of Norfolk paint Bess Holland as a villainess and the Duke as a monster, but the truth is probably less dramatic. Bess was his mistress for some twenty years. 

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In 1530, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk found himself in trouble over what he must have considered a mere formality, the requirement for the King's assent to all marriages within the peerage. Norfolk arranged for his eldest daughter, Catherine, to wed Edward Stanley, whose family had long held considerable influence in the north of the realm. Henry choose to view the arrangement as an abduction of the twenty year old Derby, who was still legally a minor. On 21 Feb 1530, Norfolk was forced to sue for pardon and post a bond with the King, but was still allowed to carry the marriage to conclusion. Catherine Howard was at least twenty two years old when a few weeks later, on 16 Mar 1530, died suddenly of the plague. Anxious not to loose this alliance the Duke arranged for his half-sister, Dorothy to become Derby's second wife. Norfolk considered the Derby marriage to be so important that he 'had no had a sister to offer he would have proposed his oher daughter...' who has been promised to the King bastard son, the Duke of Richmond.

He served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1520–21). Succeeding his father as Lord High Treasurer in 1522 and as Duke of Norfolk in 1524, Norfolk led the opposition to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

He supported Henry VIII’s divorce from Catalina de Aragon and his marriage to his niece Anne Boleyn. Norfolk brought her to court in the hopes of attracting the King, actively campaigned for her advancement in the hopes of furthering his own political fortunes. When Anne Boleyn was created Marquess of Pembroke, Bess Holland was one of her maids of honor. When Anne fell from grace, Norfolk jumped to the side of her accusers and took part in her downfall. Bess Holland was still at court in 1537 when she rode in the funeral cortege of Queen Jane Seymour.

Norfolk was ready to do whatever it took, even sacrifice his religion and his family, to retain the King's favor and further his ambitions. Norfolk's ambitions were: first, to make the Howard family the most influential family in England; if possible, to place a Howard on the throne; to be in a position that was invulnerable to royal whims and rages; and in the darkest days, as one plan after another miscarried, to keep his head.

Although Norfolk conducted the campaign against the Pilgrimage of Grace, he remained Catholic. In 1537, he was the godfather of Prince Edward, the first legitimate son of King Henry. The birth of Edward weakened Norfolk's position and left the Seymours entrenched at court despite Queen Jane's death. Norfolk was prepared to make alliance with the upstarts, and so he offered to wed his daughter Mary to Hertford's younger brother Sir Thomas Seymour. Norfolk averred gamely that, after all, there was much to be said for noble-commoner matches; "there ensueth no grete good by the conjunction of grete bloodes together". To the surprise of everyone, and certainly to Norfolk's great chagrín, the Dowager Duchess of Richmond refused. Apparently the Earl of Surrey persuaded his sister to refuse Seymour's hand, for Mary left court in Jul determined not to wed, and although Norfolk followed her to Kenninghall, he was unable to change her mind; the proposed match was ruined, and with it Norfolk's chances of an immediate return to a place of influence at court. Had Surrey not intervened and had Mary wed Sir Thomas, the politics of the 15405 might have taken a very different course.

Norfolk spent the late summer and autumn of 1538 in East Anglia. On 9 Aug Norfolk and Sir Roger Townshend reported to Cromwell on rumors that the King intended to seize all unmarked cattle for his own use, a groundless but potentially seditious bruit which enjoyed wide circulation in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Norfolk had some contact with the court during these months; Thomas Audley, the chancellor, visited the Duke at Framlingham in Sep "to kyll sum of his bukkes there" and surely to talk politics as well.

Thomas Howard took possession of the following religious houses at the dissolution: Benedictine Nunnery, Bungay, Suffolk; Priory of the Austin Canons, Butley, Suffolk; Priory of the Cluniac Monks, Castle Acre, Norfolk; Prior of the Austin Canons, Cokesford, Norfolk; Benedictine Cell, Doping, Lincolnshire; Benedictine Cell, Felixstowe, Suffolk; Cluniac Cell, Hitcham, Norfolk; Cistercian Abbey, Newenham, Devon; Benedictine Cell, St Catherine, Norwich; Benedictine Priory, Snape, Suffolk; Cluniac Priory, Thetford, Norfolk; College, Thetford, Norfolk and Cluniac Cell, Wangford, Suffolk.

After the execution in 1542 of another of his nieces, Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Norfolk’s influence waned, and he was forced back into the position of a mere military commander.

On 15 Dec 1541 Norfolk wrote a letter to the King in an effort to divorce himself from the crimes of his niece: The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and her son William had been arrested, and the Duke, after assuring Henry that he had no doubt that all his kin were not imprisoned lightly, "...but for som their fals and traytorous procedynges agaynst Your Royall Majestie...", reminded Henry that he had faithfully aided the investigation of Catherine's crimes. Finally, he wrote: "Eftsonys prostrate at your royall fe te, most humble I beseche Your Majestie, that by suche, as it shall picase you to comande, I may be advertised playnle, how Your Highnes doth way your favour towardes me; assewryng Your Highnes that onles I may knowe Your Majestie to contynew my gode and gracious Lord, as ye wer befor their offensys committed, I shall never desire to lyve in this world any lenger, but shortly to fynishe this transitory lyff, as God knoweth, who send Your Majestie the accomplishmentes of your most noble hartes desires."

Perhaps Norfolk was not so upset by his relatives' disgrace as might be expected. On 13 Feb the French Ambassador Marillac reported that the Duke hoped that his stepmother would not survive her imprisonment, for he stood to inherit her considerable lands should she succumb. Marillac went on to say that "the times are such that he [Norfolk] dare not show that the affair touches him, but he approves all that is done". At his death in 1524, the second duke's widow, Agnes Tilney, retained a considerable jointure, including twelve manors in Suffolk, Surrey, Essex and Lincoln and more than a dozen others in Sussex. These lands returned to the dukedom only at her death in 1544, and not until Jul 1546 was the third duke confirmed in possession of Agnes's holdings.

Norfolk was considered the leader of the Catholic party during the Reformation of the Church of England and as such was a friend of Sir Thomas More, and was patron of Sir William Roper, brother-in-law of William Dauntesey, both sons-in-law of Sir Thomas More. He was an enemy of Thomas Cromwell and instrumental in bringing about his fall.

In the dangerous days of mid-1546, Norfolk proposed a series of marriages to bind together the Howards and Seymours. Again, Norfolk's daughter Mary, Duchess of Richmond, was to wed Sir Thomas Seymour, and Howard grandchildren were proposed as mates for three of Hertford's offspring. On 10 Jun, Henry gave his approval to the proposal. The main difficulty, as before, was with Norfolk's tempestuous son, Surrey.

In Dec 1546 he and his son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were charged with treason. Norfolk's son was a man of learning often called "the Poet", who also had a reputation for skill at arms. He was charged with quartering the arms of Edward the Confessor with his own, which was like openly claiming the Throne, and was executed. He was probably held in Beauchamp Tower. During Henry VIII's last days, when his execution seemed imminent, Howard was deprived of all comforts, including books, sheets for his bed, and hangings for the damp stone walls above the west moat. Further, he was confined to a narrow cell on the upper floor and forbidden exercise in the outer chambers of the tower. The fate of Norfolk's personal property is documented, for the inventories drawn up at the time of his arrest were annotated as goods were sold or given away. Norfolk's apparel, ranging from satin gowns and velvet coats to petticoats, doublets and hose, and including his parliamentary robes and Garter regalia, went to Edward Seymour, who also obtained Surrey's parliamentary robes and several gilt rapiers and daggers from the Earl's estate. Elizabeth Holland, Norfolk's mistress, and Mary, Duchess of Richmond, were allowed to keep their personal clothing, no small favor considering the mass of satins, velvets, rich embroidery and cloth of gold and silver. Bess Holland also kept her personal jewels. Lord Thomas Howard, Norfolk's younger son, was also arrested, but he was released shortly after Surrey's execution. King Henry VIII died the day before the execution of Norfolk could be carried out.

Bess Holland gave evidence against Surrey and Norfolk. She probably had no choice. When the King’s agents seized and searched Kenninghall, they also confiscated all of Bess’s possessions, including the jewelry she had concealed upon her person. She also lost a new house on thirty-six acres of land in Framlingham, which the Duke had recently given to her. In her chamber at Kenninghall, the commissioners seized rings, brooches, strings of pearls, silver spoons, ivory tables, and other treasures. She was taken to London for questioning but was eventually released. Her jewelry was returned. She also received an annuity of £20 from the Duchess of Richmond. At some point after her liaison with the Duke of Norfolk ended, she married Jeffrey Miles or Myles of Stoke Nayland.

Early in Edward's reign became clear that Norfolk would remain a prisoner. On 3 Mar 1547 Sir John Markham, lieutenant of the Tower, was ordered to provide Norfolk with clothing and personal furnishings befitting his station. As early as Feb 1547 Norfolk began to be allowed family visitors; Mary, Duchess of Richmond, and Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, were permitted to visit Howard "at tymes and with traynes convenient, the Lieutenant being present". Further, a bit of personal freedom was now allowed: "the said Duke may have libertye to walke in the gardein and gallery when the Lieutenant shall think good". Political turmoil in the Edwardian regency was reflected in the conditions of Norfolk's incarceration. After Northumberland rise to power Norfolk enjoyed greater liberty, although not his freedom. In Jul 1550 Norfolk was given leave to walk or ride within the precincts of the Tower, accompanied by a guard, and in Apr 1551 was permitted a visit from his son Thomas. Although the conversation was held in the presence of Markham, such a meeting between a traitor and his son was very unusual.

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The tomb of the third Duke of Norfolk in Framlingham Church, with his effigie and of his wife, Elizabeth Stafford, who separated from him in life was buried at Lambeth

There were rumors from time to time that Northumberland, would release Norfolk, and after Somerset's execution an imperial envoy reported in Feb 1552 that Norfolk was no longer in danger and would soon be freed. Norfolk was given permission to write a letter to the council (perhaps petitioning for his liberty; the letter has not survived), but remained a prisoner until Mary Tudor arrived in London in Aug 1553. The most reasonable explanation for Norfolk's not being freed is that certainly Somerset and probably Northumberland had no good reason for releasing a former rival who, despite his age, was still a potential threat if given his liberty. But just as important to the Edwardian junto were their considerable financial gains from the redistribution of Norfolk's forfeited lands and goods. Most of the progressive faction had profited from Norfolk's fall; they were little inclined to see the attainted duke freed, much less restored to his titles and property, at their expense.

He was released from prison on the accession of Mary I and restored to his dukedom. It was a time of great rejoicing, and the Duchess of Norfolk, separated from her husband for the past twenty years, entered fully into the spirit of the family reunion. His first important service to the new Queen was to preside the trial of the Duke of Northumberland. He successfully led the forces against the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Sir George Howard was sent with his uncle into Kent against Wyatt and was a chief mourner at the duke’s funeral nine months later.

After six weeks of failing health, he died at Kenninghall on 25 Aug 1555. A last minute bequest of £100 was made to Jane Goodman, a young girl living in Norfolk's London house when he made the final changes to his will in the previous Jul. She may have been a natural daughter; at any rate she was still a member of the Howard Household in 1571. Nothing was left to Elizabeth Holland, even though her father, by now the Duke's secretary, wrote out the will.

The important will was witnessed by no less than eight trusted servants, headed by Thomas Gawdy. The executors included Stephen Gardiner, Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor; Robert Brooke, Chief Justice of Common Pleas; Nicholas Heath, Bishop of Worcester and Robert Rochester, Controller of the Queen Household. Queen Mary was herself appointed supervisor of the will.


Chapman, Hester W.: Two Tudor Portraits: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Lady Katherine Grey (Little, Brown and Company - 1960 - Boston)

Head, David M.: The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune: The Life of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk (The University of Georgia Press – Athens & London – 1995)
Murphy, Beverley A.: Bastard Prince: Henry VIII's Lost Son (Sutton Publishing Ltd. -  2001 – Phoenix Mill)

Routh, C.R.N.: Who´s Who in Tudor England (Who´s Who in British History Series, Vol.4) (Shepeard-Walwyn Ltd. – 1990 – London) (1º Ed. as Who´s Who in History Series, Vol. II - 1964)

Smith, Lacey Baldwin: A Tudor tragedy – The life and times of Catherine Howard (The Reprint Society Ltd. – 1962 - London)

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

Williams, Neville: Henry VIII and his Court (Cardinal – 1973 – London – 1º Ed. 1971)


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