The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Sir Robert Howard, b 1385, d 1426

Sir John Howard (1st Duke), b 1420, d 1483 at Bosworth Field

Thomas Howard (2nd Duke), b 1444, d 1524

Thomas (3rd Duke), b 1473, d  1554

Thomas (4th) Duke, born  1538, Beheaded 1572

St. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, b 1557, d 1595

The eldest son of the 4th Duke had the unusual distinction of being canonised Saint.  Few English Ducal houses can claim to be directly descended  from a Saint. Philip inherited his Earldom through his mother’s side and so it was not affected by his father’s attainder. He died very young at the age of 38, a prisoner of conscience having lost everything, his titles, his estates, his houses and all his worldly possessions,  having never seen his son and having been forcibly separated from his wife for ten years. It would have been hard to have predicted this end when one considers his entry into the world. He never became the fifth Duke of Norfolk but his story is well worth the telling and continues the family tree.

He was born on 28th June 1557, the eldest son of the only English Duke. He was baptised in the Chapel Royal in the presence of the Queen, (Mary), and all the principle members of the court. His Godfather was Mary’s husband, Philip II of Spain, and this was the last public ceremony in which Philip took part before departing for Spain, never to return. The Duchess did not recover from the birth and died to the incredible grief of her husband and all their friends. His two step mothers also died in quick succession (see last issue) and Philip’s upbringing was left in the hands of relative strangers, an unusual thing by sixteenth century standards. However his father took great care to ensure the best for his son and heir.

His later education was entrusted to one, Gregory Martin, a noted scholar who had considerable influence over his young charge. Although not openly, Martin was a member of the Church of Rome, and was wholly Catholic in his judgment and affection, and this must have coloured his instruction of the young Philip. Martin became increasingly intolerant of the Protestant leaning of the ducal household and eventually quit the position to go abroad and there he was ordained Priest.

At the age of 12 Philip was betrothed to Anne Dacre, heiress of Lord Dacre of Gisland. At the age of 14 they were married, but by this time his father was in the Tower and doomed. However even under the shadow of the executioners axe the Duke still concerned himself with his family’s welfare and his last letters to Philip still survive today.

Philip went up to Cambridge in 1572 the year his father was executed. However Cambridge did him considerable harm. He made unsuitable friends who set him a bad example. At the age of 18 he went to Court where he quickly forgot his father’s advice and threw himself into a life of extravagance and wantonness and fell for the allurements of corruption and immodest young women. He soon became a dissipated, selfish spendthrift. One effect of this was his ill treatment of his wife whom he more or less abandoned in his attempt to court the favour of the Queen who preferred her young courtiers to be unencumbered by spouses and who seems to have had a special dislike for Anne Dacre.

Philip’s selfish behaviour upset his elderly Grandfather, the Earl of Arundel and his aunt Lady Lumley who partly disinherited him. He spent large sums of money on trivia and, as a result, got seriously into debt. He inherited the Earldom of Arundel and, of course, Arundel Castle on the death of his Grandfather and this increase in responsibility may have been one of the factors which sobered him.

Another cause may have been the religious disputation in the Tower between the condemned Jesuit, Edmund Campion, and some Anglican Divines which made a great impression on a lot of people at the time. This perhaps rekindled the early influence of Gregory Martin and, together with his growing insolvency and his increasing dislike of the aimless frivolity of court life may have led to life changing decisions. Apparently when pacing the long gallery in Arundel Castle he decided  to become a practising Catholic. His wife, his favourite sister Lady Sackville and his Uncle Henry had all become Catholics and his younger brother Lord William Howard later followed suit. This all became part of the English Counter reformation as Cardinal Allen’s grand plan for the reconversion of England began to bear fruit.

Burghley and the government were naturally deeply worried by this growing threat. The defection of the State’s premier Earl was a serious blow. Philip decided that it was best to live abroad where he could practise his religion and follow his studies in peace. However before that plan could be executed the Queen invited herself to Arundel where Philip entertained her in sumptuous style. However at the end of her stay the Queen informed Philip that he was now  prisoner in his own castle and he was interrogated by the Privy Council there and then. Philip defended himself so well that the matter was left on file to be raised at a later date.

Fearing the worst, Philip made another attempt to flee the country but Walsingham’s spies were on his trail at all times. During one attempt his ship was stopped in mid channel by Captain Keloway who arrested him on the orders of the Privy Council. He was committed to the Tower and the now familiar Tudor machinery for judicial murder swung into action. The usual forged letters were produced but again he defended himself so well that the matter was dropped. He was arraigned twelve months later on charges of attempting to leave the country without the Queen’s permission, that he had been reconciled to the Church of Rome, and that he was plotting to be reinstated as The Duke of Norfolk. The third charge was dropped and he did not deny the first two charges; however they were not treasonable and he was fined 10,000 and imprisoned at the Queen’s pleasure. Unfortunately this turned out to be a life sentence.

During his imprisonment Philip was further accused of praying for the success of the Spanish Armada and false witnesses were produced. The Tudors would stop at nothing to nail this poor man. The trial took place in Westminster Hall on 14th April 1589 and the Earl of Derby was appointed to preside. When Philip  was brought in it was noted that he bore the marks of his suffering in his sallow complexion and sunken eyes. The case for the prosecution consisted of the usual groundless accusations. Philip demolished much of the evidence and the false witnesses became confused when reminded by Philip not to utter false witness and to remember the last great judgement. However the desired verdict was forthcoming and to the astonishment of  some observers the Earl was condemned to death. It was the only case in English history where someone was condemned for praying that something would come about. Such was the revulsion at the verdict that Elizabeth spared his life; however he was never told of this. He spent 6 further years in the tower believing that every day might be his last.

Gradually his health declined and in August 1595 he was taken seriously ill with stomach problems which many attributed to slow poisoning. Philip asked to see his brother William and his Uncle Henry but this was refused. The Queen promised that he could see his wife and son and heir Thomas, whom he had never set eyes on.  However this was on the condition that he renounced his faith and attended the established church. His reply is well documented and runs ‘On such condition I cannot accept Her Majesty’s offers, and, if that be the cause in which I am to perish, sorry am I that I have but one life to lose’.

The last night he spent in prayer and he died at 12 noon on October 19th 1595. Thus died Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel the idol of those who knew him, the admiration of Europe and the object of the sympathies of the world.

His persecution was one of calculated vindictiveness and after his death his wife, Lady Arundel, was similarly treated. The royal agents stripped her of her possessions and for the remainder of her 35 years she devoted her life to good works, eventually dying in 1630 aged 74. She petitioned the new King James in 1624 to have her husband’s remains removed from the Tower graveyard and re-interred at the Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel. Later he was removed again and is  now enshrined in Arundel Cathedral having been canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Tony Rice-Oxley

Autumn Edition 2010

The Dukes of Norfolk - Saint Philip Howard