Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

Last updated

Thomas Howard
Duke of Norfolk
Born10 March 1536
Died2 June 1572(1572-06-02) (aged 36)
Tower Hill , London, England
Noble family Howard
Spouse(s) Mary FitzAlan
Margaret Audley
Elizabeth Leyburne
Father Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Mother Frances de Vere
Arms of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Arms of the Duke of Norfolk.svg
Arms of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, KG (10 March 1536 2 June 1572) was an English nobleman and politician. Although from a family with strong Catholic leanings, he was raised a Protestant. He was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I through her maternal grandmother, and held many high offices during her reign.


Norfolk was the son of the poet, soldier and politician Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. He commissioned Thomas Tallis, probably in 1567, to compose his renowned motet in forty voice-parts, Spem in alium .

He was executed for his role in the Ridolfi Plot.

Early life, family, and religion

Norfolk was taught as a child by John Foxe, the Protestant martyrologist, [1] who remained a lifelong recipient of Norfolk's patronage. His father predeceased his grandfather, so Norfolk inherited the Dukedom of Norfolk upon the death of his grandfather, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in 1554.

He was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I through her maternal grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and he was trusted with public office despite his family's history and leanings towards Catholicism.


While still young, Norfolk was Earl Marshal of England and Queen's Lieutenant in the North. From February to July 1560, Norfolk was commander of the English army in Scotland in support of the Lords of the Congregation opposing Mary of Guise. He negotiated the February 1560 Treaty of Berwick by which the Congregation invited English assistance, [2] and after the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed in July of that year he was able to return to Court. [1]

Norfolk was the Principal of the commission at York in 1568 to hear evidence against Mary, Queen of Scots presented by Regent Moray, including the casket letters. [3]

Having married and lost three wives by 1567, and despite having presided at the York commission, Norfolk schemed to marry Mary, Queen of Scots. William Maitland of Lethington favoured the proposed union, and Mary herself consented to it, but Norfolk was unwilling to take up arms. He was briefly involved in the Northern Rebellion in an attempt to free and marry Mary, and Elizabeth ordered his arrest for this in October 1569. He was imprisoned for nine months. [1] Following his release in August 1570, and after some hesitation, he participated in the Ridolfi plot with King Philip II of Spain to put Mary on the English throne and restore Catholicism in England. The plot was revealed to the queen's minister Lord Burghley, [1] and after a trial in January 1572, in which he was found unanimously guilty, Norfolk was executed for treason in Tower Hill, London, in June. [4] [5] He is buried at the Church of St Peter ad Vincula within the walls of the Tower of London.

Norfolk's lands and titles were forfeit, although much of the estate was later restored to his sons. The title of Duke of Norfolk was restored, four generations later, to his great-great-grandson Thomas Howard.

Marriages and issue

First wife

Mary FitzAlan Hans Eworth called Mary Fitzalan Duchess of Norfolk.jpg
Mary FitzAlan
Margaret Audley MargaretAudley.jpg
Margaret Audley
Portrait of Elizabeth Leyburne attributed to Hans Eworth, c. 1560 Elizabeth leyburne.jpg
Portrait of Elizabeth Leyburne attributed to Hans Eworth, c. 1560

Thomas Howard's first wife was Mary FitzAlan, daughter of Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel. She died after a year of marriage, having given birth to a son, who, on the death of his grandfather, inherited the Arundel title and estates:

It is from this marriage that modern Dukes of Norfolk derive their surname of 'FitzAlan-Howard' and their seat in Arundel. Though her funeral effigy is found at Framlingham church, Mary FitzAlan was not buried there but first at the church of St. Clement Danes, Temple Bar and then, under the direction of her grandson's will, at Arundel.

Second wife

Norfolk next married another heiress, Margaret Audley, [6] widow of Sir Henry Dudley and daughter of Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden. Margaret's children by her marriage to Norfolk were:

Margaret Audley Howard's tomb effigy is found at St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham. [8]

Third wife

After Margaret's death in 1563, Norfolk married Elizabeth Leyburne (1536 4 September 1567), widow of Thomas Dacre, 4th Baron Dacre of Gillesland and daughter of Sir James Leyburn.

Norfolk's three sons by his first two wives, Philip, Thomas, and William, married, respectively, Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth Dacre. The Dacre sisters were the daughters of Elizabeth Leyburne by her marriage to Thomas Dacre and were, thereby, stepsisters to Norfolk's sons.

Attempted fourth marriage

After Norfolk's third wife's death in 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots fled to England in 1568 and was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth. Thomas Howard was suggested as a husband for her as he was a cousin to Queen Elizabeth and the wealthiest landowner in the country. Together they would have a strong claim on England's throne as Mary was also Elizabeth's cousin. This suited Norfolk as he was ambitious and felt Elizabeth consistently undervalued him. Therefore, Norfolk supported the Northern Rebellion in 1569 in an effort to free and marry Mary, Queen of Scots. It is still debated whether this plot actually planned to overthrow Elizabeth or even if Mary knew about it. Howard soon lost his nerve and the plan failed, but he made another effort to marry Mary in 1571 as part of the Ridolfi Plot. This plot planned to murder Elizabeth and free Mary. She would then marry Howard so that they could take the throne. Elizabeth's government discovered the plot and Howard's servants betrayed him under torture. Norfolk was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth and put on trial in January 1572. He was found guilty unanimously, and beheaded on Tower Hill, London, in June. [9]



See also

Related Research Articles

Duke of Norfolk Dukedom in the Peerage of England

The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England, and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The Duke of Norfolk is, moreover, the Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England. The seat of the Duke of Norfolk is Arundel Castle in Sussex, although the title refers to the county of Norfolk. The current duke is Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk. The dukes have historically been Catholic, a state of affairs known as recusancy in England.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey 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 the last known execution by 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 Wyatt, who was the older poet of the two. 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, Surrey 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 aging and embittered Henry VIII. He was arrested, tried for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill.

Arundel Castle castle in West Sussex, England

Arundel Castle is a restored and remodelled medieval castle in Arundel, West Sussex, England. It was established by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067. Roger became the first to hold the earldom of Arundel by the graces of William the Conqueror. The castle was damaged in the English Civil War and then restored in the 18th and 19th centuries by Charles Howard the 11th Duke of Norfolk.

Ridolfi plot

The Ridolfi plot was a plot in 1571 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. The plot was hatched and planned by Roberto Ridolfi, an international banker who was able to travel between Brussels, Rome and Madrid to gather support without attracting too much suspicion.

Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel Chancellor of the University of Oxford; English earl

Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of ArundelKG was an English nobleman, who over his long life assumed a prominent place at the court of all the later Tudor sovereigns, probably the only person to do so.

Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk English sailor, politician, and courtier

Admiral Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, was a son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk by his second wife Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk, the daughter and heiress of the 1st Baron Audley of Walden.

Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton English aristocrat and courtier

Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton was an important English aristocrat and courtier. He was suspect as a crypto-Catholic throughout his life, and went through periods of royal disfavour, in which his reputation suffered greatly. He was distinguished for learning, artistic culture and his public charities. He built Northumberland House in London and superintended the construction of the fine house of Audley End. He founded and planned several hospitals. Francis Bacon included three of his sayings in his Apophthegms, and chose him as "the learnedest councillor in the kingdom to present to the king his Advancement of Learning." After his death, it was discovered that he had been involved in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.

Lord William Howard was an English nobleman and antiquary, sometimes known as "Belted or Bauld (bold) Will".

The Rising of the North of 1569, also called the Revolt of the Northern Earls or Northern Rebellion, was an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots.

Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham Church in United Kingdom

St Michael's Church in Framlingham, Suffolk is a Church of England church dedicated to Saint Michael. It was the burial site of the Howard family. The church was declared a Grade I listed building in 1966.

Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk English noble

Margaret Howard, Duchess of Norfolk was the sole surviving child of Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden, and Lady Elizabeth Grey, herself the daughter of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, and his wife Margaret Wotton.

Kenninghall Human settlement in England

Kenninghall is a village and civil parish in Norfolk, England, with an area of 5.73 sq mi (14.8 km2) and a population of 950 at the 2011 census. It falls within the local government district of Breckland. Home to the kings of East Anglia, after the Norman invasion of 1066 William the Conqueror granted the estate to William of Albany and his heirs as a residence for the Chief Butler of England.

Duchess of Norfolk is a title held by the wife of the Duke of Norfolk in the Peerage of England. The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England, and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The first creation was in 1397.

Frances de Vere, Countess of Surrey English countess

Frances Howard,, Countess of Surrey was the daughter of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth Trussell. She married firstly, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his wife Elizabeth Stafford, by whom she had two sons and three daughters:

Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel English countess and poet

Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel, was an English poet, noblewoman, and religious conspirator. She lived a life devoted to her husband, Philip Howard, and religion, as she converted to Catholicism in 1582, going against society's acceptance. She was known to be a "woman of strong character, and of religious desposition…whose influence soon made itself felt upon her husband… the increasing seriousness of his thoughts led him in the direction of Romanism…". She was also known as a poet and for literary works written about her.

Elizabeth Leyburne English aristocract

Elizabeth Leyburne, Duchess of Norfolk, was a member of the English nobility. She first married Thomas Dacre, 4th Baron Dacre; following his death in 1566, she secretly married Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. She was his third wife.

Thomas Dacre, 4th Baron Dacre of Gilsland, also Baron Greystoke was an English Member of Parliament and after his father's death a peer and major landowner in the counties of Cumberland, Yorkshire and Northumberland.

4th Parliament of Queen Elizabeth I

The 4th Parliament of Queen Elizabeth I was summoned by Queen Elizabeth I of England on 28 March 1572 and assembled on 8 May 1572.

Lady Margaret Sackville, formerly Lady Margaret Howard, was the wife of Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Norfolk, Earls and Dukes of"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 744.
  2. Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 323, 440.
  3. HMC: Manuscripts of the Earl of Salisbury at Hatfield, vol.1 (1883), p. 461.
  4. Jardine, David. Criminal Trials, Supplying Copious Illustrations of the Important Periods of English History During the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I.: To which is Added a Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, with Historical Prefaces and Notes , Volume 1, pp. 121-245 (Nattali and Bond, 1847).
  5. Bacon, Matthew et al. A New Abridgment of the Law with Large Additions and Corrections , Volume 9, p. 399 (T. Davis, 1846).
  6. "Margaret Howard", National Portrait Gallery
  8. "Churchmouse: Framlingham, Suffolk. Church of St. Michael the Archangel". 2 May 2000. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  9. Hodder Education History for Edexcel: Early Elizabethan England

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
The Earl of Shrewsbury
Preceded by
The Earl of Sussex
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Thomas Howard
Duke of Norfolk
3rd creation
Title next held by
Thomas Howard
Earl of Surrey
3rd creation
Title next held by
Thomas Howard
Baron Mowbray
Succeeded by
Philip Howard