Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

Last updated

Thomas Howard
Duke of Norfolk
Born10 March 1536
Kenninghall, Norfolk, England
Died2 June 1572(1572-06-02) (aged 36)
Tower Hill, London, England
Noble family Howard
Spouse(s) Mary FitzAlan
Margaret Audley
Elizabeth Leyburne
Issue Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel
Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk
Lord William Howard
Lady Elizabeth Howard
Lady Margaret Howard
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 (Kenninghall, Norfolk, 10 March 1536 2 June 1572) was an English nobleman and politician. Although from a family with strong Roman 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 is believed to have 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. Although Norfolk was educated and raised Protestant, a vein of Catholicism was never far below the surface, not least because the Howards had always remained loyal to the Roman Church in the turbulent years of the Anglican Reformation (his father had been executed in part for being a Catholic and his grandfather, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, had been a prisoner in the Tower from the end of the reign of Henry VIII and was kept there throughout the reign of Edward VI for the same reason, although he was then released early in the rule of Queen Mary, who was also a Catholic). His father predeceased his grandfather, so Norfolk was able to first inherit the earldom of Surrey (the title held by his father at the time of his death) in 1553 after the title was restored by Mary, and after his grandfather's death in 1554, the dukedom of Norfolk.

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 the Church of Rome.

For Norfolk to have been a Catholic, disguised as a Protestant so as not to attract the attention of the authorities, was not at all unusual during those turbulent years of the Reformation (Many English Catholics took this attitude of publicly showing themselves as Protestants, but secretly and privately professing and maintaining their Catholic faith.). After the death of his first wife Mary FitzAlan in 1557 and to marry Margaret Audley who would be his second wife, had to request a dispensation from Pope Pius IV since Elizabeth was Margaret's cousin.


While still young, Norfolk was Earl Marshal of England and Queen's Lieutenant in the North. From February to July 1560, he 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]

He is believed to have commissioned Thomas Tallis in 1567 to compose his famous motet in forty-parts, Spem in alium.

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 guilty unanimously, 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 and his first wife Katherine Grey. 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 and his second wife Elizabeth Grey. Thus Margaret was the first cousin of Howard's first wife. For the consummation of said marriage a papal dispensation was required from the Holy See given the close relationship of the first wife to whom the Norfolk second wife would be, but the delays from Rome in the issuance of said dispensation caused the marriage to be approved and ratified by the House of Lords in March 1559. [7] Margaret's children by her marriage to Norfolk were:

Margaret Audley Howard's tomb effigy is found at St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham. [9]

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. [10]


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duke of Norfolk</span> Dukedom in the Peerage of England

Duke of Norfolk is a title in the peerage 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 Roman Catholic, a state of affairs known as recusancy in England.

<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 the king's wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. His name is usually associated in literature with that of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Owing largely to the powerful position of his father, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, 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 ageing and embittered Henry VIII. He was arrested, tried for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill.

<i>Elizabeth</i> (film) 1998 film by Shekhar Kapurr

Elizabeth is a 1998 British biographical period drama film directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by Michael Hirst. It stars Cate Blanchett in the title role of Elizabeth I of England, with Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Fiennes, John Gielgud, and Richard Attenborough in supporting roles. The film is based on the early years of Elizabeth's reign, where she is elevated to the throne after the death of her half-sister Mary I, who had imprisoned her. As she establishes herself on the throne, she faces plots and threats to take her down.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ridolfi plot</span> 1571 plan to assassinate Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots

The Ridolfi plot was a Roman Catholic 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel</span> English nobleman and Catholic saint

Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel was an English nobleman. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He is variously numbered as 1st, 20th or 13th Earl of Arundel. Phillip Howard lived mainly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; he was charged with being a Roman Catholic, quitting England without leave, and sharing in Jesuit plots. For this, he was sent to the Tower of London in 1585. Howard spent ten years in the Tower, until his death from dysentery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hans Eworth</span> English painter

Hans Eworth was a Flemish painter active in England in the mid-16th century. Along with other exiled Flemings, he made a career in Tudor London, painting allegorical images as well as portraits of the gentry and nobility. About 40 paintings are now attributed to Eworth, among them portraits of Mary I and Elizabeth I. Eworth also executed decorative commissions for Elizabeth's Office of the Revels in the early 1570s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel</span> English nobleman

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk</span> English sailor, politician, and courtier (1561–1626)

Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, of Audley End House in the parish of Saffron Walden in Essex, and of Suffolk House near Westminster, a member of the House of Howard, was the second son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk by his second wife Margaret Audley, the daughter and eventual sole heiress of Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden, of Audley End.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset</span> Illegitimate son of Henry VIII of England

Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset,, was the son of King Henry VIII of England and his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, and the only child born out of wedlock whom Henry VIII acknowledged. He was the younger half-brother of Queen Mary I, as well as the older half-brother of Queen Elizabeth I and King Edward VI. Through his mother, he was the elder half-brother of the 4th Baroness Tailboys of Kyme and of the 2nd and 3rd Barons Tailboys of Kyme. He was named FitzRoy, which is derived from the Norman French term for "son of the king".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton</span>

Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton KG 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.

Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kenninghall</span> 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.

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

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:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel</span>

Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel, was an English poet, noblewoman, and religious conspirator. She lived a life devoted to her son, Thomas 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elizabeth Leyburne</span>

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.

<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">4th Parliament of Elizabeth I</span> 16th-century session of the English legislature

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 . Vol. 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
  7. "Journal of the House of Lords: March 1559 Pages 21-26 The Journals of All the Parliaments During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth". British History Online. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  8. "Margaret Sackville".
  9. "Churchmouse: Framlingham, Suffolk. Church of St. Michael the Archangel". 2 May 2000. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  10. Hodder Education History for Edexcel: Early Elizabethan England

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by 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