Mary Howard: Too Wise for a Woman

In this article I will be discussing one of my favorite women at Tudor court – the fearless Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Mary had the bravery that wasn’t often shown by a woman during this time period. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.

It was her father who was quoted as saying that Mary was, “too wise for a woman” – one of the reasons I love her so much.

This post was originally a podcast that was transcribed into an article – if you’d rather listen to it you can do so here:



Family Ties – The Howards

Mary Howard was born around 1519 to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later to be Duke of Norfolk) and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford.

You might recognize the name Elizabeth Stafford – this Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the ill-fated Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.This means Mary had both Norfolk and Buckingham blood in her veins.

Mary was the only daughter of Thomas Howard and received an education that was appropriate to her standing. It’s been said that she was both beautiful and smart. A double threat – both traits are something that we’ll see come into play a little later.

A Marriage Arranged

In December of 1529, when Mary was ten years old, Henry VIII asked her father, now the Duke of Norfolk to allow his son (Mary’s older brother) Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey to become a companion of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy at Windsor Castle. At the same time a marriage was arranged between Mary and Fitzroy.

Mary Howard

While many have said the marriage was Norfolk’s niece Anne Boleyn’s idea, it had always been maintained by Norfolk that it was the idea of the King, however, the marriage between Fitzroy and Mary Howard had definitely been promoted by Anne to help strengthen her ties to the throne.

Like the later marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves there was no dowry expected with this marriage, which was unusual for the time. This may indicate the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the king.

Elizabeth Stafford, Mary’s mother, was totally against the marriage. Whether she blamed Anne Boleyn for the breakdown of her marriage with Norfolk or was disgusted with the amount of control she had in the negotiations, she was not happy and made it known. Because of this conflict she was banished from court.

Marriage to Fitzroy

When King Henry and Anne Boleyn went to Calais in October 1532, they brought with them Fitzroy, Mary Howard and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Fitzroy and Surrey both stayed in France after the English monarch’s departure – Fitzroy was a member of King Francis’ Privy Chamber and Surrey was also a member of his entourage.

While Fitzroy and Surrey were away in France, Anne Boleyn and King Henry were married – Anne was now Queen and Mary Howard was one of her ladies in waiting. The young men were called back to England in August of 1533 and merely three months later Henry Fitzroy and Mary Howard were married at Hampton Court Palace. She was was fourteen and he was fifteen years old.

Because of their youth the couple was not allowed to live together. Instead they went back to their respective homes. Henry VIII believed that his late brother Arthur’s death may have occurred because he had intercourse at too young an age. This was also believed to be what caused the death of Katherine of Aragon’s brother, Juan.

Henry Fitzroy

An interesting note: A few months before the marriage of the young couple, Pope Clement was proposing the marriage of the Earl of Surrey with Lady Mary, the king’s daughter. The Pope was hoping that the Howard clan would help promote the cause of Katherine of Aragon.



Mary Becomes a Widow

Unfortunately, Mary and Fitzroy would never be able to consummate their marriage – in July 1536, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and only male child of Henry VIII died.

Since the marriage had never been consummated, King Henry denied his 17 year old widowed daughter in law the vast estates she should have inherited as the widow of the Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Mary, still young, could not remarry until her jointure was settled. King Henry decided to keep it all for himself instead.

Because of the King’s greed, Mary was forced to live off the hand-outs of her father, the Duke of Norfolk and to sell her jewels in order to have money to live.

Expecting her powerful father to help her with his connection to the King, Mary was disappointed by his efforts and had threatened to confront the king in person, herself.

Feeling desperate, Mary wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell asking him to intercede. Cromwell brought Archbishop Cranmer into the fold and Cranmer confirmed that the marriage had been valid even though it had not been consummated. This was exactly what Mary needed, progress was being made in her case.

This matter of Mary’s jointure was not resolved until 1540, after the dissolution of the monasteries – Mary finally received some property and income to live on.

An Accomplice to Love

Around the same time that Mary was fighting for what was rightfully hers, she was helping Margaret Douglas in her clandestine love affair with her uncle, Lord Thomas Howard. Mary was present, as possibly a look-out, when these two lovers were able to have some quiet time together. All that came to an end when the king discovered the couple had a pre-contract to marry. Both Thomas and Margaret were sent to the Tower and Mary was saved because the couple insisted that she never knew of the pre-contract.

The Seymours and Howards

In the meantime, Mary was being linked with Thomas Seymour for a possible marriage alliance. If she accepted this proposal she would not get what she had been working so hard for. Mary was not interested in marrying Seymour – it was merely her father’s way of creating ties with the new queen’s family. Her brother the Earl of Surrey was even more upset about the match – he saw the Seymours as ‘upstarts’ and didn’t want them associated with his noble line.

Interestingly enough, the Earl of Surrey had the hots for Anne Stanhope, wife of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Stanhope had rebuffed Surrey. When Hertford found out he was furious and it caused a lot of friction between the men.

It’s been said that in 1537, Surrey was imprisoned at Windsor Castle because he punched Edward Seymour in the face – the reason? Because Seymour suggested that Surrey favored the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Surrey wasn’t imprisoned long.



Mary and the Queens

When Anne of Cleves became queen it was thought that Mary would have a place in her household, however, Anne had brought ladies of her own and did not have room for her.

Mary’s cousin, Katherine Howard, when she became queen, made Mary a Lady of the Privy Chamber…under the supervision of get this, Margaret Douglas.

After the execution of Queen Katherine, the Howard clan was once again lacking favor with the King. Both Mary Howard and Margaret Douglas sent away from court for seventeen months.

Seymour Again

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children. On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

The Fall of the Howard Men

Once again, Mary was not interested in marrying Thomas Seymour. She discussed this problem with her brother (Surrey) who suggested she discuss it with the King and use her charm to become a mistress to the king – this would help in advancing not only her interests but that of the Howards as well.

Mary was insulted and disgusted by her brother’s plan and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with it. Mary and Henry Howard’s relationship would never be the same again and this would mark the beginning of Surrey’s downfall.

When her father and brother were arrested in December 1546, Mary did nothing to save them. She even gave testimony against her brother.

Mary told the council that her brother had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth and he said “if God called away the King they should smart for it.” She went on to tell them that he replaced the coronet with a crown on his coat of arms.

When Surrey’s home was searched they found more evidence against him – a plate with the arms of Edward the Confessor, even though the only person in the kingdom who could claim that was the king.

She also told them about the conversation her brother had with her about becoming the king’s mistress.

Both her father and brother were charged with treason and sentenced to death. Only her brother would make it to the block because eleven days later King Henry VIII was dead. Norfolk’s sentence was halted and he remained in prison until the reign of Queen Mary.

In the End

Mary raised her brother’s children after his execution and apparently was granted money by Edward VI for doing so – he said that he knew of no finer place for the children to be educated.

The date of death varies for Mary Howard – what I do know is that she most likely died in December. It’s the year that varies – some reports say 1555, others 1556 or 57.

In her three decades of life, Mary Howard witnessed a lot of drama at Tudor court. Especially during the reign of her father-in-law.

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/sixwives/meet/cp_handbook_love2.html
http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Bridal+Prospects+of+the+King
http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/MaryHoward(DRichmond).htm
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol21/no2/pp269-291https://archive.org/stream/seymourfamilyhis00lockuoft#page/30/mode/2up/search/Richmond
http://under-these-restless-skies.blogspot.com/2013/11/mary-howard.html
http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/henry-fitzroy-marries-mary-howard-2/
http://spartacus-educational.com/Mary_Howard.htm
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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Mary Howard: Bold Disobedience

Mary Howard- Bold Disobedience

Mary Howard was born in 1519, to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford. Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. Mary’s father, the Duke of Norfolk was a very powerful man in England — at the time of her birth he was a very high-ranking noble, just behind the King.

Sometime in 1529, it was suggested that Henry Fitzroy should wed Mary Howard. The marriage would strengthen the Howard name and bring them even closer to the power of the throne. During this time Henry VIII was trying to end his marriage with Katherine of Aragon and wed Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn was niece to Thomas Howard – Mary’s father. Some have suggested that Anne Boleyn put into motion the idea of a union between the two teenagers to further strengthen the Howard name near the throne — she needed allies, and family was always the first to rise after a royal marriage.

Anne Boleyn supposedly convinced Henry VIII to wed his son to Mary Howard, without a dowry. It showed how strong of an influence Anne had on the King at the time.

Henry FitzRoy
Henry Fitzroy

In 1533, Mary Howard married the King’s illegitimate (but recognized) son, Henry Fitzroy. With the marriage she became Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived and on 23 July 1536, Henry Fitzroy died and Mary was left a widow.

There was some talk in July 1538, of a marriage between Thomas Seymour and Mary Howard. The Duke of Norfolk gladly offered up his daughter to wed Seymour. Apparently Henry VIII was looking to raise Seymour’s station and Norfolk was more than happy to use his daughter to be nearer the King.

A letter dated 14 July 1538 from Rafe Sadleyr to Cromwell:

The day the King removed from Westminster to Hampton Court, the duke of Norfolk made a suit to him touching the jointure of his daughter the duchess of Richmond, and spoke about her marriage, mentioning two persons, one being Sir Thos. Seymour. The King has spoken to Sir Thos. about it, and he, considering that Cromwell’s son has married his sister, prefers him to have “the mayning of the matter.” The King desires him to speak to the Duke at some time convenient, and soon, as the Duchess goes into the country tomorrow or next day. Chobham, 14 July.

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated  some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children.  On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

Twice, it was proposed Mary should wed Thomas Seymour, the brother of Queen Jane. The king approved the union and ordered Cromwell to make it happen. But – surprisingly – Mary refused. Her status as a widow gave her a bit more autonomy than a girl still living at home with her parents. Mary packed up and left court. Her brother, the Earl of Surrey, followed her to her home in Kenninghall, likely trying to badger her into it, but Mary wouldn’t bend.

Thomas & Henry Howard

In December 1546, the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey were arrested on charges of treason. Norfolk’s son and heir, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had unrightfully assumed the royal arms of Edward the Confessor as part of his personal heraldry and it was assumed that Norfolk was aware.

On 13 December, the Duke of Norfolk wrote the Henry VIII:

Begs for grace. Some great enemy has informed the King untruly; for God knows, he never thought one untrue thought against the King or his succession, and can no more guess the charge against him than the child born this night. (fn. n3) Desires that his accusers and he may appear before the King, or else the Council. Knows not that lie has offended any man, or that any are offended with him, “unless it were such as are angry with me for being quick against such as have been accused for Sacramentaries.” As for religion I have told your Majesty and many others that knowing your virtue and knowledge I shall stick to whatsoever laws you make; and for this cause divers have borne me ill will, “as doth appear by casting libels abroad against me.” Begs that he may recover the King’s favour, the King taking all his lands and goods; and that he may know what is laid to his charge and have some word of comfort from his Majesty.

On 14 December, Sir Richard Southwell arrived at daybreak at the Duke of Norfolk’s home and broke the news of the arrest of Norfolk and Surrey to Mary Howard & Norfolk’s mistress:

As the steward was absent “taking musters,” we called the almoner, and, first taking order for the gates and back doors, desired to speak with the Duchess of Richmond and Elizabeth Holland; who were only just risen, but came to us without delay in the dining chamber. On hearing how the matter stood the Duchess was “sore perplexed, trembling and like to fall down”; but, recovering, she reverently upon her knees humbled herself to the King, saying that although constrained by nature to love her father, whom she ever thought a true subject, and her brother, “whom she noteth to be a rash man,” she would conceal nothing but declare in writing all she can remember. Advised her to use truth and frankness and not despair. Examined her coffers, and closet, but find nothing worth sending, all being very bare and her jewels sold to pay her debts, as her maidens and the almoner say.

The deposition of Sir Gawen Carew’s

“First I have heard by the report of the Duchess of Richmond that the Earl of Surrey should give her advice, upon consultation had for the marriage of Sir Thomas Seymour and the said Duchess of Richmond, that, although her fantasy would not serve to marry with him, yet, notwithstanding, she should dissemble the matter, and he would find the means, that the King’s Majesty should speak with her himself; but that she should in nowise utterly make refusal of him, but that she should leave the matter so diffusely that the King’s Majesty should take occasion to speak with her again; and thus by length of time it is possible that the King should take such a fantasy to you that ye shall be able to govern like unto Madame Distamps. Which should not only be a mean to help herself, but all her friends should receive a commodity by the same. Whereupon she defied her brother, and said that all they should perish and she would cut her own throat rather than she would consent to such a villainy.” The Earl of Surrey has said to me, place and time now out of my remembrance, “Note those men which are made by the King’s Majesty of vile birth hath been the distraction (sic) of all the nobility of this realm,” and again that the Cardinal and Lord Cromwell sought the death of his father. Mr. Edward Rogers has told me of the Earl’s saying “If God should call the King’s Majesty unto His mercy (whose life and health the Lord long preserve) that he thought no man so meet to have the governance of the Prince as my lord his father.”

To summarize the above statement:  Surrey attempted to convince his sister Mary to become mistress to King Henry. By doing so it would benefit her and their entire family. She was insulted and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with his plan. Surrey had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth that it ended up destroying him.

On 12 January 1547 Norfolk admitted that he had known and concealed the fact that his son was using the arms of St. Edward the Confessor, which pertain only to king — in his admittance he offered his lands to the King Henry. Norfolk’s family, including his estranged wife, his mistress and his daughter Mary, gave evidence against him.

Mary Howard, from birth, was to be a pawn for her family — such was the case for any woman of noble birth. In the end she took down her own brother and father by telling her side of the story.

In the end the Duke of Norfolk did not lose his head like her brother Surrey did — King Henry VIII died shortly before the scheduled execution of Norfolk and so he was spared.

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/sixwives/meet/cp_handbook_love2.html
http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Bridal+Prospects+of+the+King
http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/MaryHoward(DRichmond).htm
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol21/no2/pp269-291 https://archive.org/stream/seymourfamilyhis00lockuoft#page/30/mode/2up/search/Richmond
http://under-these-restless-skies.blogspot.com/2013/11/mary-howard.html
http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/henry-fitzroy-marries-mary-howard-2/
http://spartacus-educational.com/Mary_Howard.htm
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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