Scanned by Douglas Dowell.
Thomas Howard, the son of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was born on 10 March 1536. Surrey was executed in 1547, due to his resentment of the prospect of a future regency under Edward VI dominated by the Earl of Hertford provoking Hertford into presenting 'evidence' of treason. Thomas was then placed in the care of Mary Fitzroy (née Howard), the widow of Henry Fitzroy - Duke of Richmond and Henry VIII's illegitimate son. He was tutored by John Foxe, the future martyrologst, during this period; Thomas' respect for his tutor would continue throughout his life. Although Foxe was to counsel him against his intrigues, he nonetheless visited Thomas in the Tower and attended him at his execution. Thomas also left him a pension of £20 a year in his will.
When Mary I came to the throne in 1553, Thomas' grandfather, the third Duke of Norfolk was released and shortly restored to his title. Upon his grandfather's restoration on 3 August 1553, Thomas received the courtesy title of Earl of Surrey which had pertained to his father. He was made a Knight of the Bath in September, and when Philip II arrived in England he became the first gentleman of the chamber. Upon the death of the aged Norfolk, Thomas inherited the dukedom of Norfolk and the role of Earl Marshal himself.
In 1556, he made the first of a number of highly advantageous marriages - to Mary Fitzalan, the heiress of the Earl of Arundel. Mary died in childbirth in 1557 - her newly-born son Philip went on to succeed as the Earl of Arundel in his mother's right. Philip II stood godfather to the baby. This marriage was followed by a second, in 1558, to Margaret, the heiress of Lord Audley; this marriage produced two boys and two girls and lasted until Margaret's death in December 1563. His third and final marriage was to Elizabeth Leybourne in early 1567; Elizabeth died in September of that year, leaving a son and three daughters. Norfolk (as Thomas could by now legitimately be called) secured the wardship of the four children and determined to marry his widow's fortune into his family. Following the death of the son in 1569 (he fell off the wooden horse on which he had been practising vaulting), he arranged for the three girls to be married to his sons from his previous marriages. Leonard Dacre, the girls' great-uncle and the heir in the male line, disputed their inheritance; the Marshal's court could not decide the case as Norfolk himself was the Earl Marshal, but commissioners found in favour of Norfolk's position.
Norfolk's highly successful set of acquisitions via marriage may have gone some way towards persuading him of the wisdom of his later ventures with regard to Mary, Queen of Scots. Before that point, his experiences with marriage had uniformly been of significant worldly gain.
Career Under Elizabeth
After Elizabeth acceded to the throne in 1558, she tried to bind him to her. Given Norfolk's power as a regional magnate in East Anglia, she ultimately either had to rule through him or destroy him. The queen had no reason to do the latter in 1558; her intrinsic respect for nobility militated against it, in any case; and Norfolk was her kinsman through her mother Anne Boleyn's Howard connections. Norfolk became a Knight of the Garter in April 1559, and he was chosen to play a key role in the English campaign in Scotland in that year - providing for the defence of Berwick, making contact with the Lords of the Congregation (rebelling against Marie de Guise, the regent for Mary, Queen of Scots). Sir Ralph Sadler and Sir James Croft, both experienced, were placed with him, and in practice he had little power of initiative. He took no part in the military operations, but remained behind with the reserves and organised supplies.
However, after the Treaty of Edinburgh ended the English intervention in Scotland, Norfolk effectively became primarily a courtier. He lived predominantly in London, became a member of Gray's Inn in December 1561 and shortly afterwards was sworn of the Privy Council. Despite his rank and position, he felt that his influence was insufficient - he especially resented Elizabeth's affection for and favour to Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, who in his eyes was an upstart. Leicester's ambition to marry Elizabeth was a particular cause of resentment. The public quarrel of March 1565, in the queen's presence, resulted in her command that the two make peace. The quarrel was patched up, and in January 1566 they were the two men made knights of St. Michael by Charles IX of France, as the two foremost English nobles.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Despite the successes of Norfolk's previous marriages, his striving for matrimony with Mary Stuart was ultimately to condemn him to the block. The arrival of the Queen of Scots in England presented Elizabeth with an extremely difficult dilemma. On the one hand, the queen's instinctive support for the legitimacy of monarchy and hereditary right militated against Mary's deposition and forced abdication - indeed, she had expressed extreme displeasure at these developments - and Mary had come to her of her own free will to request her help. That said, the Lords' regime in Scotland was reliably Protestant and pro-English; simply returning her to Scotland risked her life at their hands; allowing her to travel freely to France or Spain risked conspiracy against Elizabeth as well as the Lords, while allowing the same within England posed similar risks. The result was that Mary was detained in England, intitially pending a conference at York intended to examine the truth of the accusations laid to her charge. Elizabeth probably felt that it would be best, ultimately, to restore Mary to Scotland; but the conditions under which the Scots would accept her restoration (whether as sole queen or jointly with her son James VI; but in the meantime, Mary was kept as a de facto prisoner.
The origins of plans to marry Norfolk to Mary, in fact, lay in the commission at York. Norfolk was one of Queen Elizabeth's commissioners, and there he met Maitland of Lethington, who had been Mary's Secretary of State and (though he had subsequently acted with the Lords and was there as one of their commissioners) continued to work for her interests secretly. Maitland suggested that a match between Mary and Norfolk, with Mary subsequently restored to the Scottish throne and recognised as the successor to Elizabeth, might be the best solution to the problems of the two kingdoms. It was by no means certain that the English queen would disapprove; arguably, marrying Mary to a Protestant Englishman was a good way of removing the threat she posed to Elizabeth and to the Scottish Lords, allowing her to be restored to Scotland with a pro-Protestant and pro-English policy. (The concern which Elizabeth might have felt about the most powerful magnate in her realm marrying the principal claimant to her realm does not seem to have featured in Norfolk's considerations at this stage.) However, as soon as the queen received an inkling of the plan, she warned Norfolk sharply against any such scheme. Norfolk's reply was that "I love to sleep upon a safe pillow."
The initial notion of the match with the Queen of Scots meshed with a variety of other schemes in 1569. The Norfolk match attracted interest from a number of nobles, who wished to use the opportunity to remove Elizabeth's Secretary of State, Sir William Cecil, especially in the context of the dramatic rupture in Anglo-Spanish relations that year. Although Leicester himself failed to dislodge Cecil, he joined with the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke in trying to promote the Norfolk match. Although Norfolk's plans at this stage were founded on loyalty to Elizabeth and to Protestantism, Protestant nobles had their suspicions. However, on 27 August the Privy Council voted in favour of the settlement of the problem of Mary by marrying her to an English nobleman. Although most councillors were in favour of the idea, Elizabeth was not - as she feared a conspiracy against herself. She gave Norfolk several chances to confess - including the famous "You come from London and can tell no news of a marriage?" and, when she had Norfolk to dine alone with her, bidding him "take good heed of my [Norfolk's] pillow" in reference to his earlier denial - which Norfolk failed to take.
Elizabeth became more and more alarmed, and her temper grew worse as time went by - both Leicester and Cecil found themselvs under attack, as she raged that they were scheming on Mary's behalf. She had heard about the plan from her ladies, and when Leicester heard that the plotters were also linked to the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland - and thus a potentially extremely dangerous rising - he rapidly took to his bed. The queen, fearing for him, rushed to his bedside - at which point he confessed all to her. Elizabeth, worried for his health, was enraged with Norfolk and commanded him to banish any such thoughts forever, on his allegiance.
Norfolk, clearly in Elizabeth's displeasure, left the Court for London on 16 September 1569 - without permission. The queen immediately recalled him, but he refused the summons - delaying for four days, on the grounds of illness. On 23 September he rode to Kenninghall. This was seen by the Court as clear signs of his forthcoming open rebellion. Further summons were sent, and Norfolk continued to plead illness. He was, in fact, in contact with the Earl of Westmoreland and was contemplating revolt - and initially it seemed as though he would actually proceed to it, promising to "stand and abide the venture" - but given the lack of gentry support in his home county, his courage subsided. On 30 September, he decided to throw himself on the mercy of Elizabeth and set out for Windsor - imploring Westmoreland in a note not to rebel; "for if he did, he [Norfolk] was then in danger of losing his head". He was arrested on the way on 3 October; within days he was taken to the Tower.
Investigations and the Northern Rebellion
The queen now focussed on securing the confessions of the other nobles involved in the affair. Arundel, Lumley and Pembroke were confined to their apartments and questioned closely about the plots of the summer of 1569. While Norfolk, questioned himself, managed to hide his dealing with the Spanish ambassador and with Northumberland and Westmoreland, Elizabeth was quite enraged enough by what she did learn. She was determined that he would suffer for the weeks of strain and suspense which she had endured - but even Cecil made it clear to her that the Crown would be unlikely to secure a conviction for charges of treason. Although she initially threatened to proceed with execution on her own authority, she eventually accepted that the Duke could not be put to trial on a treason charge. He was, however, to be detained in the Tower for the time being - and was outwardly penitent.
The queen also summoned Northumberland and Westmoreland, in response to separate rumours of a rebellion in the north; after the discovery of the Norfolk plans, she was determined to keep her grip on affairs. However, with Norfolk in the Tower, the Earls assumed that a similar fate lay in store for them; and they rose up in revolt in November 1569, with the aims of restoring Catholicism and making Mary the Queen of England - although the Earls claimed to be rescuing Elizabeth from her 'evil advisors', as was traditional in rebellions. In response, Mary was moved to Coventry - further south and further away from the rebellion - and 28,000 troops were sent north. The rebellion was crushed, but Elizabeth had been badly frightened; 700 people were executed, the highest rate for a rebellion of any Tudor monarch.
The Ridolfi Plot and Norfolk's Execution
Norfolk was not released from the Tower until 3 August 1570. At this point, he was ordered to reside in his own house at the Charterhouse. He had promised to renounce all ideas of marrying the Queen of Scots, and promised total loyalty to his own queen; but he did not abandon his ambitions. It was now clear that Elizabeth would not agree to his marriage with Mary, and the plot to pursue the Norfolk marriage became meshed with plans for a Spanish invasion of England. Norfolk thus found himself involved in what became known as the Ridolfi plot, after the Italian banker who acted as the connecting link between the parties. The plan was that English Catholics would rise in rebellion; a Spanish army would invade; and Elizabeth would be overthrown, to be replaced by Mary Stuart. Alva, the Spanish commander in the Netherlands, had no confidence in Ridolfi and made it clear to him (when he had travelled abroad to explain the scheme to him, to the Pope and to Philip II) that there would be no Spanish troops until the Catholics in England had actually revolted.
At this point, Ridolfi sent letters to Norfolk, the Bishop of Ross (one of Mary's supporters) and Lord Lumley, via Charles Bailley. Bailley was arrested at Dover, and confessed. By the time Ridolfi had secured support in Rome and had persuaded Philip II that Elizabeth could be assassinated and that, once she was dead, a Spanish invasion should take place - and wrote to Mary, Norfolk and the Bishop of Ross to tell them so - it was too late; the government had already found out all it needed in September. Norfolk and others were arrested and the Ridolfi Plot had failed.
Norfolk's own complicity had been discovered by the indiscretion of his secretary, Higford, who entrusted to a Shrewsbury merchant a bag of gold which contained a ciphered letter. On 1 September Cecil was informed of this, and he obtained enough information from Higford to show that Norfolk was in correspondence with Mary and her friends in Scotland. The Duke's servants, imprisoned and threatened with torture, gave more information. On 7 September, Norfolk was again sent to the Tower. By 11 October, he admitted to having further dealings with Mary. He claimed that Ridolfi only wanted to raise money abroad for Mary's supporters in Scotland, thus attempting to explain his travels abroad, and denied that any foreign invasion had been involved in the plot. The Bishop of Ross, however, confirmed everything the English government wished to know.
As the evidence mounted up, it was decided to proceed against Norfolk for high treason. He was tried on 6 January 1572 and, inevitably, found guilty and sentenced to death. For several months, Elizabeth held out against executing him; she was not naturally bloodthirsty, and she was loath to execute her relatives. She did sign a death warrant on 9 February for an execution the following morning, but revoked her decision late that night. This was repeated three times further. Under political pressure to execute Mary or at least exclude her from the succession and to execute Norfolk as well, however (the 1572 parliament was in fact called due to the crisis concerning Mary, Queen of Scots, and was used by her Council to attempt to pressure the English queen), she concluded that opinion had to be satisfied in the matter of Norfolk. (She requested that Parliament only draft a Bill to exclude Mary from the succession - which she then declined either to sign or veto!) On 2 June 1572, the fourth Duke of Norfolk was led to the scaffold on Tower Hill. Dressed in a black satin doublet, he addressed the crowd with dignity before the axe fell:
Through great clemency of her Majesty, it has been strange to see a nobleman suffer in this place. It is my fortune to be the first, and I pray God that I may be the last.
Inevitably, he was not; but the fact remains that Elizabeth carried out this first with great reluctance.