Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk

Last updated

Elizabeth Stafford
Duchess of Norfolk
Bornc.1497
Died30 November 1558
Buried Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, Surrey
Noble family Stafford (by birth)
Howard (by marriage)
Spouse(s) Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Issue Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Lady Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset
Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon
Lady Muriel Howard
Lady Katherine Howard, Countess of Derby
Father Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham
Mother Lady Eleanor Percy

Lady Elizabeth Stafford (laterDuchess of Norfolk) (c.1497 – 30 November 1558) was an English aristocrat. She was the eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Lady Eleanor Percy. By marriage she became Duchess of Norfolk. Her abusive marriage to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, created a public scandal.

Contents

Family

Elizabeth Stafford's father, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham 1520.jpg
Elizabeth Stafford's father, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham

Lady Elizabeth Stafford, born about 1497, was the eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Eleanor Percy (d. 1530). Her paternal grandmother, Lady Catherine Woodville was sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville and hence sister-in-law of King Edward IV of England. Her paternal grandfather, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was executed for treason in 1483 by King Richard III, and in 1521 her own father suffered the same fate when he was beheaded on Tower Hill for treason against King Henry VIII.

Early life

Elizabeth lived at home until at least 1508. According to Harris, Elizabeth's father saw that all his children received some education and her literacy is attested to by the fact that she was described by the poet John Skelton as an admirer, friend of the muses and his particular patron. [1] Elizabeth came to court in 1509 as a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, and became the Queen's lifelong friend. [2]

Marriage

Elizabeth Stafford's husband, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk Hans Holbein the Younger - Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (Royal Collection).JPG
Elizabeth Stafford's husband, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

Before 8 January 1513, when she was only fifteen and he was thirty-five years of age, Elizabeth became the second wife of Thomas Howard, then Earl of Surrey. He was the widower of Anne, daughter of King Edward IV. [3]

Elizabeth had earlier been promised in marriage to her father's ward, Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland. The young Elizabeth and Ralph Neville seem to have been mutually devoted, and years later, in a letter to Thomas Cromwell dated 28 September 1537, Elizabeth recalled that: [4]

He and I had loved together two years, an my lord my husband had not sent immediately word after my lady and my lord's first wife was dead, he made suit to my lord my father, or else I had been married before Christmas to my Lord of Westmorland'.

Elizabeth's father initially attempted to persuade Howard to marry one of his other daughters, but according to Elizabeth, 'He would have none of my sisters, but only me'. [5]

Elizabeth brought Howard a dowry of 2000 marks, and was promised a jointure of 500 marks a year, [6] although Howard apparently never kept that promise. [7] In her later letters she asserted that she had been a dutiful wife, continuing to serve at court daily 'sixteen years together' while her husband was absent in King Henry VIII's wars, and accompanying him to Ireland when he was posted there in 1520–22. [8] She bore him five children, [9] and according to Graves, as late as 1524, when he became Duke of Norfolk, 'they appeared to be bonded by mutual love'. [10]

However, in 1527 Norfolk took a mistress, Bess Holland, the daughter of his steward, with whom he lived openly at Kenninghall, and whom the Duchess described variously in her letters as a bawd, a drab, and 'a churl's daughter', 'which was but washer of my nursery eight years'. [11] It appears the Duchess' anger caused her to exaggerate Bess Holland's inferior social status, as her family were probably minor gentry, and she eventually became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn. [12]

During the long period in which King Henry VIII sought to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled, the Duchess remained staunchly loyal to Queen Catherine and antagonistic towards her husband's niece, Anne Boleyn, with whom the King was infatuated. Late in 1530 it was noted that the Duchess was secretly conveying letters to Queen Catherine from Italy concealed in oranges, which the Queen passed on to the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, [13] and at one time the Duchess told Chapuys that her husband, the Duke, had confided in her that Anne would be 'the ruin of all her family'. [14] In 1531 the Duchess was exiled from court at Anne Boleyn's request for too freely declaring her loyalty to Catherine. [15]

According to Graves, the Duchess also quarrelled [16] with Anne over Anne's insistence that the Duchess's daughter, Mary Howard, should marry Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. [17] When Anne Boleyn was crowned on 1 June 1533, the Duchess refused to attend the coronation 'from the love she bore to the previous Queen'. [18]

Meanwhile, the Duchess's own marriage continued to deteriorate. The Duke refused to give up his mistress, and resolved to separate from his wife. Both the Duke and Thomas Cromwell requested the Duchess's brother to take her in, a suggestion he utterly rejected. [19] The Duchess wrote of her husband's abuse of her during this period, claiming that when she was recovering after the birth of her daughter, Mary, he had pulled her out of bed by the hair, dragged her through the house, and wounded her with a dagger. In three separate letters to Cromwell the Duchess repeated the accusation that the Duke had 'set his women to bind me till blood came out at my fingers' ends, and pinnacled me, and sat on my breast till I spit blood, and he never punished them'. [20] Howard responded to the allegations by writing that 'I think the apparent false lies were never contrived by a wife of her husband that she doth daily increase of me'. [21]

Continued cohabitation was clearly impossible, and on 23 March 1534 [22] Howard forced a separation. According to the Duchess, the Duke had ridden all night, and arriving home in a furious temper had locked her in a chamber and taken away all her jewels and apparel. [23] She was sent to a house in Redbourn, Hertfordshire, from which she wrote a number of letters to Cromwell complaining that she was kept in a state of virtual imprisonment with a meagre annual allowance of only £200. [24] At first the Duchess attempted to reconcile with her husband, but when she received no reply to her 'kind letters' to the Duke, she declared to Cromwell in a letter dated 30 December 1536 that 'from this day forward I will never sue to the King, nor to none other, to desire my lord my husband to take me again'. [25] On his part, Norfolk refused to give up Bess Holland, and attempted to persuade the Duchess to agree to a divorce, offering to return her jewels and apparel and give her a great part of his plate and stuff of household, but she rebuffed his offers. [26] She received little or no support from her family. Her eldest son and daughter became estranged from her, [27] while her brother condemned her behaviour. [28]

Forsaken by almost everyone, the Duchess remained obdurate. On 3 March 1539, she wrote to Cromwell that: [29]

I am of age to rule myself, as I have done these five years, since my husband put me away. Seeing that my lord my husband reckoned me to be so unreasonable, it were better that I kept me away, and keep my own house still, and trouble no other body. . . I pray you, my lord, take no displeasure with me, although I have not followed your lordship's good counsel, and your letters, as touching my lord my husband for to come home again, which I will never do in my life.

Final years

Framlingham Church, burial place of Elizabeth Stafford's husband Framlingham Church - geograph.org.uk - 179291.jpg
Framlingham Church, burial place of Elizabeth Stafford's husband

The Duchess's entreaties to Cromwell ceased with his fall from power in 1540. She and her brother were eventually reconciled, and at some time before 1547 he sent one of his daughters to live with her, whom the Duchess treated very generously. [30]

During Henry VIII's last years Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, and Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, both of whom favoured the reformed faith, gained influence with the King while the conservative Duke of Norfolk became isolated politically. The Duke attempted to form an alliance with the Seymours through a marriage between his widowed daughter, Mary Howard, and Hertford's brother, Thomas Seymour, but the effort was forestalled by the provocative conduct of the Duke's eldest son and heir, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who had displayed in his own heraldry the royal arms and insignia. [31] On 12 December 1546 both Norfolk and Surrey were arrested and sent to the Tower. On 12 January 1547 Norfolk acknowledged that he had 'concealed high treason, in keeping secret the false acts of my son, Henry Earl of Surrey, in using the arms of St. Edward the Confessor, which pertain only to kings', and offered his lands to the King. Norfolk's family, including the Duchess, his daughter Mary, and his mistress, Bess Holland, all gave evidence against him. Surrey was beheaded on 19 January 1547, and on 27 January 1547 Norfolk was attainted by statute without trial. The dying King gave his assent to Norfolk's death by royal commissioners, and it was rumoured that he would be executed on the following day. He was saved by the King's death on 28 January and the council's decision not to inaugurate the new reign with bloodshed. [32]

Norfolk remained in the Tower throughout the reign of King Edward VI. He was released and pardoned by Queen Mary I in 1553, and in Mary's first parliament (October–December 1553), his statutory attainder was declared void, thereby restoring him to the dukedom. He died at Kenninghall on 25 August 1554, and was buried at St. Michael's Church at Framlingham in Suffolk. The Duchess was not named in his will. [33]

Elizabeth Howard died 30 November 1558 at Lambeth, and was buried in the Howard chapel in the Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth. Her brother wrote a brief but apparently heartfelt epitaph: [34]

Thou wast to me, both far and near,
A mother, sister, a friend most dear.

Issue

By Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Elizabeth had two sons and three daughters: [35]

Footnotes

  1. Harris 2002 , p. 48.
  2. Graves 2004.
  3. Richardson IV 2011 , pp. 416–17.
  4. Wood II 1846 , p. 361; Harris 2002 , p. 54; Graves 2004.
  5. Wood II 1846 , p. 361; Harris 2002 , pp. 54–5; Graves 2004.
  6. Wood II 1846 , p. 361.
  7. Elizabeth later stated that Howard 'had but little to take to when he married me first but his lands, and he was always a great player' (gambler); Wood II 1846 , p. 361.
  8. Wood II 1846 , p. 359.
  9. Wood II 1846 , pp. 361, 365.
  10. Graves 2004; Harris 2002 , p. 70.
  11. Wood II 1846 , pp. 224, 362.
  12. Harris 2002 , p. 63; Graves 2004; Weir 1991 , p. 168.
  13. Weir 1991 , p. 220.
  14. Weir 1991 , p. 231.
  15. Harris 2002 , p. 67; Graves 2004.
  16. In contradiction to Graves, Weir claims that Anne won the Duchess's favour by arranging brilliant matches for Thomas Howard with the daughter of the Earl of Oxford, and for Mary Howard with Henry FitzRoy, and that, appeased, the Duchess stopped plotting the restoration of Queen Catherine, and returned to court; Weir 1991 , p. 249.
  17. Graves 2004; Wood II 1846 , pp. 363–4.
  18. Harris 2002 , p. 67; Graves 2004.
  19. Wood II 1846 , pp. 218–19; Wood III 1846 , pp. 96–8.
  20. Wood II 1846 , pp. 361, 362–3, 371.
  21. Wood III 1846 , p. 96; Harris 2002 , pp. 67–8; Graves 2004.
  22. Wood II 1846 , p. 220.
  23. Wood II 1846 , p. 362.
  24. Wood II 1846 , pp. 220, 359.
  25. Wood II 1846 , p. 220.
  26. Wood II 1846 , p. 367.
  27. Wood II 1846 , pp. 224, 367.
  28. Harris 2002 , pp. 68–72; Graves 2004.
  29. Wood III 1846 , p. 99; Harris 2002 , p. 71.
  30. Harris 2002 , p. 71.
  31. Brigden 2008.
  32. Graves 2008; Brigden 2008.
  33. Graves 2008.
  34. Aubrey, 5: 238.
  35. Wood II 1846 , p. 361; Harris 2002 , p. 57; Richardson IV 2011 , pp. 416–17.
  36. Croft 2004.
  37. Cokayne 1926 , p. 584.
  38. Knafla 2008.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey</span> 16th-century English nobleman

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, KG, was an English nobleman, politician and poet. He was one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry and was the last known person executed at the instance of King Henry VIII. He was a first cousin of both Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard, second and fifth wives of King Henry VIII. His name is usually associated in literature with that of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. He was the son of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and when his father became Duke of Norfolk (1524) the son adopted the courtesy title of Earl of Surrey. Owing largely to the powerful position of his father, Howard took a prominent part in the court life of the time, and served as a soldier both in France and Scotland. He was a man of reckless temper, which involved him in many quarrels, and finally brought upon him the wrath of the ageing and embittered Henry VIII. He was arrested, tried for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret Douglas</span>

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was the daughter of the Scottish queen dowager Margaret Tudor and her second husband Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. In her youth she was high in the favour of her uncle, Henry VIII of England, but twice incurred the King's anger, first for her unauthorised engagement to Lord Thomas Howard, who died in the Tower of London in 1537 because of his misalliance with her, and again in 1540 for an affair with Thomas Howard's nephew Sir Charles Howard, the brother of Henry's wife Catherine Howard. On 6 July 1544, she married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, one of Scotland's leading noblemen. Her son Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots, and was the father of James VI and I.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk</span> British noble

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, styled Earl of Surrey from 1483 to 1485 and again from 1489 to 1514, was an English nobleman, soldier and statesman who served four monarchs. He was the eldest son of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, by his first wife, Catharina de Moleyns. The Duke was the grandfather of both Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard and the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1513 he led the English to victory over the Scots at the decisive Battle of Flodden, for which he was richly rewarded by King Henry VIII, then away in France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk</span> English noble

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was a prominent English politician and nobleman of the Tudor era. He was an uncle of two of the wives of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom were beheaded, and played a major role in the machinations affecting these royal marriages. After falling from favour in 1546, he was stripped of his Dukedom and imprisoned in the Tower of London, avoiding execution when Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Stafford, 2nd Earl of Wiltshire</span>

Edward Stafford, 2nd Earl of Wiltshire was an English nobleman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk</span>

Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk was an English nobleman and politician. He was the second son of Henry Howard, 22nd Earl of Arundel, and Lady Elizabeth Stuart. He succeeded his brother Thomas Howard, 5th Duke of Norfolk after Thomas's death in 1677.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwell</span> English noblewoman

Elizabeth Seymour was a younger daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wulfhall, Wiltshire and Margery Wentworth. Elizabeth and her sister Jane served in the household of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. The Seymours rose to prominence after the king's attention turned to Jane. In May 1536, Anne Boleyn was accused of treason and adultery, and subsequently executed. On 30 May 1536, eleven days after Anne's execution, Henry VIII and Jane were married. Elizabeth was not included in her sister's household during her brief reign, although she would serve two of Henry VIII's later wives, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. Jane died 24 October 1537, twelve days after giving birth to a healthy son, Edward VI.

Lord Thomas Howard was an English courtier at the court of King Henry VIII. He is chiefly known for his marriage to Lady Margaret Douglas (1515–1578), the daughter of Henry VIII's sister, Margaret Tudor, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died on 31 October 1537. The affair is referenced in a verse by his nephew, the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lord Edmund Howard</span> 16th-century English nobleman

Lord Edmund Howard was the third son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. His sister, Elizabeth, was the mother of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, and he was the father of the king's fifth wife, Catherine Howard. His first cousin, Margery Wentworth, was the mother of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anne Stafford, Countess of Huntingdon</span> English noblewoman

Anne Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon was an English noble. She was the daughter of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and Lady Catherine Woodville. She was first the wife of Sir Walter Herbert and then George Hastings, 1st Earl of Huntingdon, and served in the household of King Henry VIII's daughter, the future Queen Mary I.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agnes Howard, Duchess of Norfolk</span>

Agnes Howard was the second wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Two of King Henry VIII's queens were her step-granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Catherine Howard was placed in the Dowager Duchess's care after her mother's death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mary FitzRoy, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset</span> British duchess

Mary FitzRoy, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset, born Lady Mary Howard, was the only daughter-in-law of King Henry VIII of England, being the wife of his only acknowledged illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Eleanor Percy, Duchess of Buckingham, also known as Alianore, was the eldest daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, by his wife, Lady Maud Herbert, daughter of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Eleanor Percy married Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, who was beheaded in 1521 on false charges of plotting to overthrow the king, Henry VIII. As a result, the Dukedom of Buckingham and estates were forfeited, and her children lost their inheritance.

Sir William Stafford, of Chebsey, in Staffordshire was an Essex landowner and the second husband of Mary Boleyn, who was the sister of Anne Boleyn and one-time mistress of King Henry VIII of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey</span>

Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey was an English heiress who became the first wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. She served successively as a lady-in-waiting to two Queen consorts, namely Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV, and later as Lady of the Bedchamber to that Queen's daughter, Elizabeth of York, the wife of King Henry VII. She stood as joint godmother to Princess Margaret Tudor at her baptism.

John de Vere, 14th Earl of Oxford was an English peer and landowner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dorothy Stafford</span>

Dorothy Stafford, Lady Stafford was an English noblewoman, and an influential person at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England, to whom she served as Mistress of the Robes. Dorothy Stafford was the second wife of Sir William Stafford, widower of Mary Boleyn. She and her family sought exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary I to escape the persecution of their Protestant religion. The Protestant reformer John Calvin stood as godfather to her youngest son.

Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford was an English noblewoman; the wife of Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford; a wealthy heiress and the only daughter of Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury. Her mother was the last surviving member of the Plantagenet dynasty and was executed for treason at the age of 67 in 1541 by the command of King Henry VIII.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mary Arundell (courtier)</span> Courtier

Mary Arundell, Countess of Arundel, was an English courtier. She was the only child of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornwall, by his second wife, Katherine Grenville. She was a gentlewoman at court in the reign of King Henry VIII, serving two of Henry VIII's Queens, and the King's daughter, Princess Mary. She was traditionally believed to have been "the erudite Mary Arundell", the supposed translator of verses now known to have been the work of her stepdaughter, Mary FitzAlan, later the first wife of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frances Stewart, Duchess of Lennox</span>

Frances Stewart, Duchess of Lennox and Richmond, Countess of Hertford was the daughter of a younger son of the Duke of Norfolk. An orphan of small fortune, she rose to be the only duchess at the court of James I of England. She married the son of a London alderman who died in 1599, leaving her a wealthy widow at a young age. She became, for 20 years, the third wife of the ageing Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, nephew of Jane Seymour, third queen consort of Henry VIII. Within months of Edward's death she married a cousin of James I, Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox and 1st Duke of Richmond. One of the great beauties of the Jacobean court, she was also the patron of Captain John Smith of the Virginia Colony.

References