The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Some years ago, the St George’s annual Parish trip went to Arundel Castle where we learnt a little of the history of the Dukes of Norfolk. This series of articles follows on from that trip to put in greater detail some of the history behind this famous family.

Sir Robert Howard born 1385 died 1426

Sir John Howard  1st Duke born 1420 died 1483 at Bosworth Field

Thomas Howard 2nd Duke born 1444 died 1524

Thomas Howard 3rd Duke born 1473 died 1554

Thomas  Howard 4th Duke born 1538  beheaded 1572 attainted

Sir Philip Howard Earl of Arundel born 1557  died 1595 (Saint Philip)

Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel born 1585 died 1646 (Collector Earl)

Henry Frederick Earl of Arundel born 1608  died 1652

Thomas 5th Duke (from 1660) born 1627 died 1677

Henry 6th Duke born 1629 died 1684

Henry 7th Duke, born 1655, died 1701

Thomas 8th Duke born 1683 died 1732

Edward, 9th Duke, b 1685 d 1777

The accession of the 9th Duke, Edward, and his talented and forceful wife Mary (Blount) was the beginning of a long, tranquil and relatively uneventful stretch in the family history after all the dramas of the previous three centuries. The traumatic reversals of fortunes, the victories, the martyrdoms, the riches and poverty, the treasons and the glories, the high politics and devious religious diplomacy all led up to this quiet shy and intelligent man and his admirable and energetic wife growing old together in harmonious wedlock, planting and building, decorating and collecting, praying and reading books. The days of thrills and spills were now gone. The 9th Duke lived into his 92nd year. The only sadnesses came towards the end of his life with the great fire which burnt down their family home and the untimely deaths of his nephews and heirs in their early twenties.

The 9th Duke spent his life in almost total seclusion from political life but he and his wife played a big role in the fashionable and social world.  The Duchess in particular was gregarious and hospitable. Their acquaintances were not restricted to their co-religionists.. Their house was the centre of whatever was great and elegant and their activities softened the religious prejudices of the time.

Soon after Edward’s succession to the Dukedom, they were received at court by George II, recognition that the Duke’s Jacobite past was forgiven and forgotten.  Mary was in many ways a remarkable woman. She was intelligent, energetic, charming and the possessor of natural good taste. She was an ardent Catholic and something of a Francophile who visited the Continent regularly and was received at the French court of Louis XV. She could also be rather formidable being referred to on one occasion as “My Lord, Duchess”. Together the couple discreetly bettered the lot of their fellow Catholics by direct financial help, by building chapels, by sponsoring students for the Priesthood and with gifts to Catholic establishments.

When Frederick Prince of Wales quarrelled with his father, George II, the Norfolks offered him and his wife  shelter at Norfolk House and it was there that the future King George III was born in May 1738.

The couple went on to spend much of their lives improving the Norfolk estates and organizing grand  parties for all the rich and famous. Horace Walpole left an intimate description of one such event... “….all the earth was there too. You would think that there had been a comet as everyone was gazing in the air and treading on one another’s toes looking up at the scenes of magnificence and taste”. Properties at Arundel, London, Sheffield, and above all Worksop all received the attentions of the Duke and his wife. They redesigned the chapel and the entire South wing at Arundel Castle.

The Duke, partly because of his quiet lifestyle and partly because he did not spend vast sums on political ventures and election campaigns found himself getting richer all the time. The most important factor was the exploitation of the minerals and urban development of Sheffield as industrialization gained momentum.

The Duke spent a fortune on the estate at Worksop, his favourite home. The work took several years and was completed in 1761. The Duke now in his 76th year gave a party at which the Duke of York was entertained in considerable splendour. Immediately after that the Norfolks returned to London for the autumn when news was brought to them of a catastrophe at Worksop. The mansion had been burnt to the ground and most of its contents destroyed. All the Duke’s books, many of the paintings, most of the furniture and statues were lost. The financial loss was computed to be 100,000. The elderly couple received the news with stoical fortitude.  “God’s will be done” said the Duke while the Duchess was heard to comment “How many besides us are going to suffer by this calamity”.

The fire was the first of a series of blows to hit the elderly couple. A short time later their nephew, Thomas, son of Philip Howard by his first wife and heir presumptive to the Dukedom, died in Paris. His half brother, Edward, son of the same Philip Howard by his second wife, Henrietta Blount, sister of the Duchess, became the heir.  Being both a nephew of the Duke and the Duchess, he was the couple’s special favourite and was dearer to them than if they had had a child of their own.

The Duchess supervised the rebuilding of Worksop on a grand scale and was seen most days supervising the work which was designed to out do anything else of that time. However all work ceased when, in 1767, their nephew Edward  died as a result of a fever caught when playing tennis too soon after a bout of measles. The Duchess never recovered from the news. The next heir was Charles Howard, a very distant relative of the Greystoke line. Thus the main line of the family died out and the title was continued via a cadet line. The Duke and Duchess found the new heir so depressing that, at a dinner to meet one another, the Duchess burst into tears and had to leave the table.

The building at Worksop ceased altogether and only a third of the project was completed. The Duchess, though younger than her husband, died first in 1773, the Duke following in his 92nd year in 1777.  He continued actively to the end, dressing fashionably, doing his own estate business as he had throughout his life as well as  forming a new library of books to replace those lost at Worksop. They remain a substantial portion of the books in the current library at Arundel Castle. Each book has the 9th Duke’s bookplate together with a little printed note saying that it must remain an heirloom forever.

There is something very touching about the last years of the 9th Duke’s life soldiering on to the end, when all he had to behold was the wreck of much that he loved. His wife and nephews were dead, the family title and honours were being passed away from his own line. On his death the Earldom of Norwich and the Barony of Castle Rising became extinct, while the Baronies of Mowbray and Howard fell into abeyance.  The Dukedom and other titles passed to Charles, a descendant of Charles Howard of Deepdene and Greystoke, 4th son of Henry Frederick, Earl of Arundel.


Autumn Edition 2011

The Dukes of Norfolk