Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473–25 August, 1554), was a prominent Tudor politician.
He was the son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Tilney. Until 1514 he was known by his courtesy title The Earl of Surrey. His eldest son was the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Norfolk first married Anne, daughter of King Edward IV of England. Following her death in 1512, he married a daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, Elizabeth Stafford. However this marriage was miserably unhappy, since the duke flaunted his adultery with his wife's laundress, Bess Holland, and savagely beat her when she protested.
Appointed Lord High Admiral in 1513 and Lord High Treasurer and Earl Marshal in 1524, Howard was one of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. He distinguished himself many times in battle, and was an able general.
His power increased somewhat after his niece, Anne Boleyn, became Henry VIII's fiancee, sometime around 1527. However, their relationship was fraught with difficulty since Anne found her uncle to be selfish and untrustworthy. Although they were political allies throughout the late 1520s, Norfolk once complained that Anne used words to him "that one would not use to a dog." She was crowned queen in 1533, and was probably influential in securing the marriage of Norfolk's daughter Mary to the king's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, the duke of Richmond.
Queen Anne's religious and political vision was more radical than Norfolk's, and their relationship deteriorated throughout 1535 and 1536. Norfolk was perhaps behind the King's affair with Anne's cousin, Margaret Shelton, another of the duke's numerous nieces. Putting his own security before family loyalties, he presided over Queen Anne's trial in 1536. Anne's innocence was unquestionable, and Norfolk condemned her to death with tears in his eyes. The next day, he condemned his nephew, Anne's brother George Boleyn to death also.
But the experience did not teach him a lesson. He used another of his nieces, Catherine Howard to strengthen his power at court through her affair with the king. He used Henry's marriage to Catherine as an opportunity to depose of his long-term enemy, Thomas Cromwell who was beheaded in 1540. Queen Catherine's reign was a short one, however, since Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, discovered that she had indulged in several affairs before her marriage and (perhaps) one after it. Catherine was beheaded in February 1542, and numerous other Howards were imprisoned in the Tower - including the duke's step-mother, brother, two sisters-in-law and numerous servants.
Queen Catherine Howard's execution was the point at which he fell out of favor with King Henry VIII, despite Norfolk's desperate efforts to heal the rift. There were even rumours that Norfolk was to be beheaded in 1547, although Henry died before the warrant could be signed. Norfolk's eldest son, Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, was not so lucky, for he had been beheaded on the king's orders in 1546.
Following the accession of Henry's son, Edward VI of England, Howard was imprisoned on suspicion of treason, but released by Mary I, the Howards being an important Catholic family. The Duke showed his gratitude by leading the forces sent to put down the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, who had protested against the Queen's forthcoming marriage to a Spanish prince, Philip II and had planned to put Anne Boleyn's daughter, the future Elizabeth I on the throne in Mary's place. The result of Norfolk's suppression of the Wyatt Rebellion was Princess Elizabeth's imprisonment in the Tower (although there was not enough evidence to convict her on treason, since she clearly had not been party to the rebels' precise intentions) and the execution of the Queen's cousin Lady Jane Grey. Norfolk, himself, died not long after the Wyatt Rebellion. He was succeeded by his grandson, who was also a Catholic, and was executed on Elizabeth's orders for plotting to illegally marry Mary Queen of Scots.
|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Duke of Northumberland | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Earl Marshal
1553–1554 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Duke of Norfolk
Last updated: 08-03-2005 09:01:47