The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

The Dukes of Norfolk - The Flodden Duke

Sir Robert Howard, born 1385 Died 1426

Sir John Howard (1st Duke),  born 1420 Died 1483 at Bosworth Field

Thomas Howard, born 1444 Died 1524

Last issue we followed the life and times of Thomas,  Earl of Surrey and subsequently 2nd Duke of Norfolk through the reigns of three Kings, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII. (Four Kings if we include Edward V who was murdered in the Tower before actually being crowned.) We now trace Thomas’ life through his fifth King, Henry VIII.

The accession of the new King, Henry VIII altered the character of the court and Thomas had to adapt accordingly. From Henry VII's miserly approach to finances, the new reign ushered in a period of great extravagance. With his two sons, Thomas and Edward, and his son in law Knyvett, he found himself in great favour and he was appointed Earl Marshall at the Coronation, an office which has now become synonymous with the Dukes of Norfolk. The family was moving ever upward. However they had not planned on the even more meteoric rise of another person, one Thomas Wolsey. The rise of this clerical upstart was causing great consternation among the established governing classes and led to strong differences and mutual jealousies and hatred. Wolsey resented the favour extended to the great Nobles such as Howard and the Duke of Buckingham, one of the King’s favourites.  Howard was also concerned with the financial extravagance of Wolsey's foreign policies.  So disapproving of the way things were going, he begged leave of absence from Court and returned to his estates in East Anglia leaving Henry and Wolsey to push ahead with their plans for a continental war.

Surrey’s sons, and son-in-law all took a prominent part in these  campaigns. Sadly both Edward and Knyvett were killed in these wars. The deaths of these two members of the Howard household had a marked effect on the Howard interest at Court as it removed two members who were closest to the King. However this campaign led to yet another stroke of luck for Surrey. Wolsey arranged that Surrey would not be allowed to accompany the King’s expedition to France. Instead Surrey was left to guard the Kingdom while Wolsey had the ear of the King to himself during the campaign. However he did not forecast that the defence of England would reap far greater rewards that the French expedition. In Henry’s absence the Scots rebelled and James IV invaded England. Surrey who had been engaged in London on routine duties of state learnt that James had crossed the Tweed with 50,000 men and had captured Norham Castle. Surrey gathered together an army  of some 20,000 men and was joined by 5,000 troops who landed at Berwick from the French campaign. The subsequent Battle of Flodden lasting nearly two days was a resounding win for the English forces.  By the morning of the 10th September 1513, James, together with over half of his court and nobility, lay dead, together with  over 10,000 Scottish losses as compared with 400 English dead. The sword, dagger and ring from the dead King were preserved as relics in the Howard  family.  The victory not only saved England from the Scottish invasion, but it ended the Scottish military threat forever. The Norfolk family was suitably rewarded when in 1514 Surrey was ‘honourably restored to his rightful name of The Duke of Norfolk’. He was also presented with thirty manors and an annuity of 40 by Henry VIII. For the remainder of his life the Duke was treated with deference usually only reserved for Princes of the blood.

Despite this great success  Norfolk found his influence at court being gradually eroded by Wolsey. Norfolk confined himself to rather mundane public business. In 1514 he escorted the Princess Mary, the King’s youngest sister to France for her marriage to the elderly Louis XII of France. (In the event the marriage only lasted eighty-three days before Louis died and Mary was able to marry her true love, Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk). Norfolk had a further duty, which could not have been entirely to his satisfaction; that was to escort Wolsey to the West door of Westminster Abbey where he was to receive his Cardinal’s hat. Norfolk’s last major enterprise was the suppression of the May Day riots in 1517.

Wolsey was already planning an event, which would lead indirectly to Norfolk's retirement from public life. This was the destruction of the Duke of Buckingham whose Royal descent made him too dangerous a person to be allowed to live and who had made no disguise of his contempt for Wolsey thus gaining the Cardinal’s wrath.  A few months after Henry, Wolsey and Buckingham returned from the Field of the Cloth of Gold,  (a meeting with the French King) Wolsey had Buckingham arrested much to the astonishment of most of Europe. He was accused of high treason on the flimsiest of charges, and subjected to a travesty of a trial over which Norfolk was  forced to preside.  Buckingham had been his close friend for many years, his eldest son had married Buckingham’s daughter and they agreed on almost every issue. The subservient jury condemned Buckingham and when Norfolk had to pronounce the death penalty and sentence of attainder he burst into tears.  Soon after he resigned from all his posts except Earl Marshall and made his way to Framlingham, never to take part in public life again.

He died on 21st May 1524 aged 80 and was given  a funeral which was to be the last of its kind. His body lay in state for a month at Framlingham. Three solemn masses were sung daily with 19 mourners kneeling round the hearse. Every night the coffin was watched over by 12 gentlemen, 12 yeomen, 12 gentlemen ushers and 12 yeomen ushers. On 22 June the coffin set out on its last journey to Thetford accompanied by 900 mourners, including 400 torch bearers in black gowns, friars, chaplains, standard bearers, lords , knights and many more. The journey took 2 days resting at night at Diss, where a solemn dirge was sung. Alms were distributed all along the way and many of the population benefited from this largesse.

It was well that the Duke died when he did. He would not have welcomed the bloody deterioration of public life under Henry with Wolsey and later on, Thomas Cromwell. This destruction of the monasteries destroyed much of what he held dear, including his own monastery at Thetford.  He was the first and last Duke to be buried there.

The second Duke of Norfolk was the patriarch of the entire Howard family and from him are descended  all the titled Howards, the Norfolks, the Suffolks, the Carlisles and the Effinghams.

This has been a long account of this famous man but I hope you will agree with me that his deeds and times deserve this extended piece in any article about the Dukes of Norfolk.

Tony Rice-Oxley

Next issue: The Third Duke

Winter and Lent Edition 2010