The Tudor Society

21 May – 81-year-old Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

On this day in Tudor history, 21st May 1524, in the reign of King Henry VIII, courtier, magnate and soldier, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, died at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. He was about 81 years of age when he died.

Norfolk was the grandfather of Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, but there was far more to him than that. In today's talk,I introduce a man who was still leading troops into battle in his seventies.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 21st May 1535, reformer and Bible translator William Tyndale was arrested in Antwerp. Why was Tyndale arrested and why didn't King Henry VIII help him? Find out in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1471 - Henry VI, King of England and Lord of Ireland, Duke of Aquitaine, died at the Tower of London. The chronicle “The Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV” recorded him dying “of pure displeasure and melancholy”, but many believe that he was in fact killed on Edward IV's orders.
  • 1508 – Death of Giles Daubenay, 1st Baron Daubeney, administrator, soldier, and diplomat. He was buried in St Paul's Chapel, Westminster Abbey.
  • 1527 – Birth of Philip II of Spain, King of Spain and consort of Mary I, at Valladolid, Spain. He was the son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isabella of Portugal.
  • 1558 – Death of William Glyn, Bishop of Bangor, at Bangor. He was buried in Bangor Cathedral.
  • 1580 – Death of Sir John Thynne, member of Parliament and builder of Longleat. He was buried at Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire.


21 May
On this day in Tudor history, 21st May 1524, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, courtier, magnate and soldier, died at his home, Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. He was about 81 years of age when he died.
Norfolk was the grandfather of Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, but there was far more to him than that. Let me tell you a few Thomas Howard facts…
• Howard was born in 1443 in the county of Suffolk, in East Anglia, and was the eldest son of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, and his wife, Catherine, daughter of William, Lord Moleyns.
• Not much is known about his early life, but Howard started his court career in the late 1460s, serving King Edward IV as a henchman.
• In late 1470, when Henry VI was restored to the throne and Edward IV was forced into exile in the Low Countries, Howard went into sanctuary at St John’s Abbey in Colchester. Edward returned to claim the throne in spring 1471 and on 14th April Howard fought on Edward’s side at the Battle of Barnet. He was badly injured during the battle and was rewarded for his service by the victorious Edward by being made esquire of the body.
• In 1472, Howard married Elizabeth Tilney, daughter of Frederick Tilney and widow of Humphrey Bourchier. The couple had three surviving sons and two daughters together, including Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Elizabeth Howard, mother of Anne Boleyn, and Edmund Howard, father of Catherine Howard. Their other children died young.
• Howard was knighted in January 1478 as part of the marriage celebrations for Edward IV’s son, Richard, who’d just been made Duke of York and Duke of Norfolk, and Anne Mowbray, the only surviving child of John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Historian David Head points out that “This marriage extinguished the Howards' faint claim to lands and titles of their Mowbray kinsmen, and it may have determined their role in the events that followed.”
• King Edward IV died on 9th April 1483 and Howard and his father, John, supported Richard, Duke of Gloucester, when he took the throne as Richard III in June 1483. Thomas Howard helped with the arrest of Lord Hastings, and he bore the sword of state at Richard’s coronation and served as steward at his coronation banquet. On 28th June, his father John was created Duke of Norfolk and Thomas was made Earl of Surrey. Thomas was also granted an annuity of £1,000, and both men received lands. Thomas was also appointed to the privy council and elected to the Order of the Garter.
• Father and son helped put down the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion and then fought on Richard’s side at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485. John, who was commander of the vanguard, was killed, and Thomas was taken prisoner by Henry Tudor’s forces.
• Thomas was attainted for treason by Henry VII at his first parliament, imprisoned in the Tower of London for three years, and stripped of his earldom.
• He was offered the chance of escape in 1487 during the rebellion of the Earl of Lincoln, but refused.
• Following his release from prison, he was able to prove his loyalty to the new king by serving him as a lieutenant in the north, as Lord High Treasurer and as a diplomat.
• He was restored as Earl of Surrey in 1489.
• While he was the king’s lieutenant in the north, he repelled an attack by King James IV, who was supporting the pretender, Perkin Warbeck, and was subsequently involved in negotiations for the marriage of Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret, and the Scots king. He escorted Margaret to Scotland in 1503 for her marriage.
• In 1497, following the death of his first wife, Surrey married Agnes Tilney, his first wife’s cousin, and the couple went on to have six surviving children, including William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham.
• His diplomatic work for King Henry VII included negotiations for the marriage of Henry’s eldest son, Arthur, and Catherine of Aragon, and leading negotiations with Emperor Maximilian in 1508 regarding a marriage between Henry’s daughter, Mary, and the emperor’s grandson, Charles, the future Emperor Charles V. The betrothal was later broken off.
• Surrey acted as an executor of Henry VII's will in 1509 and went on to serve Henry VIII as Earl Marshal. He was created Duke of Norfolk in 1514 following his service and success at the Battle of Flodden against the Scots in 1513, while the king was in France campaigning. He was seventy years of age at that battle! His son, also named Thomas, was made Earl of Surrey.
• In 1514, as a diplomat, he was involved in the negotiations for the marriage of Henry VIII’s sister Mary and King Louis XII of France, and he was also part of Mary’s escort when she travelled to France for her marriage.
• In May 1517, at the age of 74, he helped put down the Evil May Day Riots in London, and in 1521, as Lord High Steward, he presided over the treason trial of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.
• In 1522, an ailing Thomas Howard resigned as Lord Treasurer and retired from court to his home of Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, where he died on this day in 1524 at the grand age of 81.
• He was buried in a lavish funeral on 22nd June 1524 at Thetford Priory. David Head describes how there was “a procession of 400 hooded men bearing torches and an elaborate bier surmounted with 100 wax effigies and 700 candles” and that the “sermon on the text 'Behold the lion of the tribe of Judah triumphs' (Revelation 5: 5) so terrified the congregation that the mourners fled the church.” Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that funeral!
• The priory was later dissolved and his remains were moved to the Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham.
• At his death, the duke’s estate was worth £4500 per year, which is well over 2 million in today’s money.
• He didn’t live to see his granddaughters, Anne and Catherine, become queen consorts to Henry VIII, or to see his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth become queen regnant in 1558.
• The Howard family still hold the dukedom of Norfolk today, with the present duke being Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, who is also Earl Marshal.

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21 May – 81-year-old Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk