The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


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 (3rd Duke), born 1473, Died  1554

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

St. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, born 1557, Died 1595

Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, born 1585, Died 1646

After the attainder against the 4th Duke, the Howard line passed three generations without the Dukedom title. Saint Philip was the first of these and his only son, Thomas, was the second.

Thomas was the greatest of the early English collectors. He achieved a collection of over 700 pictures and his antique marbles, gems, prints and drawings were unequalled. In the 20th century he has been studied and written about more than any other of the Howards. His collections, his patronage of artists, his cult of the past all formed part of an attempt to restore the honour and glory of his family, and in this he was largely successful. For although the Dukedom remained under attainder for all of his lifetime, he secured many new titles and won back many of the estates lost to his family during the Tudor years.

Thomas was born penniless and was brought up by his austere  and pious mother. His intellectual stimulus came from his Great Uncles and his Uncle Lord William Howard. Thomas was fascinated by the story of his ancestors and thought no period or part of history was to compare with their lives. For this reason Holbein was among his favourites and he formed the greatest collection of  Mytens work ever assembled. Not only was Holbein one of the greatest geniuses of his time but, in particular, he had immortalised the Howards through what had been their golden age of power, riches and glory. Many of Thomas’s achievements were as a tribute to his family and within his lifetime he made, repaired and recorded monuments to his relations and commissioned paintings of his ancestors and events in family history.

The late sixteenth century had seen the eclipse of the Howard fortunes but the accession of James I ushered in a new area of Howard supremacy. His Uncles, the Earls of Nottingham and Northampton were well respected at Court and they managed to recover many of the Howard properties, Framlingham to Lord Suffolk, Arundel House to Lord Nottingham and other estates to Lord Northampton. At this stage Thomas was too young to attend Court so was not around when the rewards were handed out.

Thomas was restored as Earl of Arundel and Surrey in 1604 with the attendant properties one of which was Arundel Castle. He was introduced at Court in 1605 and married Aletheia who became sole heiress of 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. This inheritance transformed the family finances. Aletheia brought with her vast estates across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, estates rich in minerals, lead, coal and iron and with a great house at Worksop which was to become their principal Ducal seat in the Eighteenth century, while the town of Sheffield has been the  backbone of the family fortunes ever since.

With all this behind him, Thomas began to retrieve the Howard position at Court. He took great pains to look the part, and a study of a succession of his portraits shows a callow, gawky youth maturing into a majestic serious and bearded courtier. In 1611 he was created Knight of the Garter and the following year the Venetian Ambassador described him as ‘the premier Earl of the Kingdom’ and ‘one who is very powerful in Government’. Only his religion stood in the way of further advancement but in 1616 he conformed by receiving Communion in the Chapel Royal, and was immediately appointed to the Privy Council. He accompanied the King on several progresses, and was well clear of any involvement in the machinations of Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset and the Overbury murder. The fall of Carr left several important positions vacant but Buckingham, the King’s favourite, avoided these going to Thomas. Quite why is uncertain as Thomas was a firm friend of Buckingham at this time, though later they were to fall out. Whilst supporting Buckingham in Parliament, he was adjudged to have affronted the dignity of the house, and was sent to the Tower to ‘cool off’ where he remained for several weeks because he refused to apologise.

The incident did him no harm and in 1621 he was appointed as Earl Marshal, a post which he coveted as it had been held by his family for generations. In 1623 he was offered a minor Dukedom but he declined as he would only accept the restoration of the Dukedom of Norfolk and, as this would have precedence over Buckingham, the King was not prepared to acquiesce. The decision to advance Buckingham to a Dukedom and the position of senior English nobleman greatly offended Thomas. And he retired from Court for a while.

Tony Rice-Oxley

to be continued.

Christmas Edition 2010

The Dukes of Norfolk - The Collector Earl - Part 1