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. This month we cover  the  13th Duke.

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, born 1685, died 1777

Charles 10th Duke, born 1720, died 1786

Charles 11th Duke, born 1746, died 1815

Bernard Edward 12th Duke, born 1765, died 1842

Henry Charles 13th Duke, born 1791, died 1856

Henry Granville 14th Duke born 1815 died 1860

It is very difficult to write about Henry Granville Fitzalan-Howard, 14th Duke of Norfolk;  he was such an amiable, excellent and highly respected gentleman. He was described by his close friend Count Montalembert as the most noble, the most humble and the most pious nobleman of our times.  ‘No Saint could have had a more holier death’ wrote Fr Faber, a lifelong friend of the Duke. He used his position entirely for the service of God and the poor. He twice turned down the order of the Garter when offered it by Palmerston as he disapproved of his policies.  Henry and his wife were the most perfect expression of mid nineteenth century English Catholic society. Rich, aristocratic, cosmopolitan and devout, austere, self denying, they were tirelessly devoted to good works. They formed part of a group of nobles which was described as an aristocratic version of the Salvation Army, single handedly building churches and knitting vests for orphans!

Henry was born on 7th November 1815 and was educated by private tutors and at Trinity College, Cambridge and served briefly in the Life Guards. He then travelled widely on the continent in the late 1830s and early 1840s before becoming the 14th Duke at the age of 41. However his tenure of the Dukedom was very brief. Known as ‘Fitz’ throughout his life, his European travels were to encourage him to forget a certain Miss Pitt whom his parents did not wish him to marry. During these travels he met a certain Miss Mary Minna Catherine Lyons to whom he became engaged.  Disraeli quipped that ‘he had escaped from the Pitt to fall into the Lyons mouth’. They were married in June 1839 and the Duchess, a firm Anglican at the time, but later converted to Catholicism becoming a strong adherent of that faith.

Henry was Member of Parliament for Arundel from 1837 to 1851 and Earl Marshall until his death in 1860. He also held the Honorary title of Member of Parliament for Limerick City in 1852.

Fitz’s frequent visits to France in the 1840s had the most profound impact on him. In Paris he was introduced to the small but influential Catholic party activists and he fell under the spell of some impressive Preachers who were then attracting large crowds to Paris churches with their stimulating and profound sermons.  It was all so different from his father’s and grandfather’s low key Catholicism. There were churches full of eager and enthusiastic young people of all classes listening to deep and well argued sermons as well as taking part in services of such splendour unknown in England.

The Duke put his experiences to work once back in England, on the one hand paying for the chapel at the oratory in Brompton and with the other building a private chapel at Arundel. His letters to the architect over the Arundel chapel were quite clear. He wanted to keep it massive and simple. He had intended the chapel work to be the first part of more major works to Arundel Castle but these were cut short by his untimely death.

Fitz spent most of his days as Duke seated at his desk in the library at Arundel, sitting with his wife who acted as his secretary, dealing with correspondence from the poor, the sick and the lonely, a task he undertook with heroic patience and good humour. He gave away most of his income to churches, schools, orphanages, almshouses, hospitals, convents and seminaries - the list is endless. He regarded himself as nothing more than the administrator of his goods for the benefit of God and his neighbours.

The Duchess was received into the church in 1856 and of their 11 children, (8 girls and three boys) three of the girls devoted their lives to good works. Their eldest daughter, Minna, became a Carmelite Nun, Lady Ethelreda became a Sister of Charity and Lady Margaret worked all her life in the slums of London.

The Duke, when he was only 43 contracted a painful and incurable disease of the liver and died two years later, though it was only in the last six weeks that he knew he was dying.  When told he said “Ah, well, since I have to die it behoves me to make a good death”. Pope Pius IX sent a last pontifical blessing, and the Duke confessed and received Holy Communion for the final time and died with his head on his wife’s shoulder and his family around him on 25th November 1860. He chose for his dying words, those of his ancestor and hero, Philip Howard, from the Tower in 1595.

Duke Henry and his wife Minna are both buried in the mausoleum in the Fitzalan chapel on the western grounds of Arundel castle. Henry was succeeded by his son Henry who became the 15th Duke of Norfolk.

Tony Rice-Oxley

Festival Edition 2012

The Dukes of Norfolk