Portraits of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. On 19 January 1547, Surrey was executed at the Tower of London.
Portraits of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. On 19 January 1547, Surrey was executed at the Tower of London.
Who was the wife of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and what do we know about her?
Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the ill-fated Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Eleanor Percy, eldest daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. She was born in 1497, so one can assume that she was named for the queen consort, Elizabeth of York.
Before we go too deep into the life of Elizabeth, lets understand her family a bit better. Elizabeths father, the 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was a proud man; here is a bit quoted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, written by C.S.L. Davies:
When his father rebelled against Richard III in 1483 (and was executed), Edward Stafford was hidden in various houses in Herefordshire; whether he remained there for the rest of Richard’s reign is unclear. (C.S.L. Davies)
Edward then attended the coronation of the new Tudor king, Henry VII. In November 1485, after the reversal of the 2nd Duke of Buckinghams attainder, Edward was restored to his inheritance. He was now the 3rd Duke of Buckingham.
After the execution of his father, his mother had married Henry VII’s uncle, Jasper Tudor. Despite this, Buckingham’s wardship was entrusted to the king’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and his education probably took place at her various houses… he was to follow Lady Margaret’s example in his own household.
This should give you an idea of what Elizabeths fathers childhood was like. She was surely brought up with the same values as her father was taught by Margaret Beaufort.
Like most women of the time-at least women of noble birth, Elizabeth Stafford was educated at home. University was only for their male counterparts, of course.
Elizabeths father, the Duke of Buckingham, had originally promised to marry his daughter to his ward, Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland – that is, until the recently widowed Thomas Norfolk-then the Earl of Surrey-came knocking.
Elizabeth is quoted as writing this about Ralph Neville: [H]e and I had loved together two years and her plan was to marry him before Christmas; but Howard and her father had other plans for the young Elizabeth.
Thomas Howard wanted Elizabeth Stafford for his second bride. Buckingham, seeing as his daughter had already been promised in marriage to Neville, he offered one of Elizabeths younger sisters in her place. Norfolk declined the offer because Elizabeth was the eldest daughter and with her came more wealth.
Eventually an agreement was reached between Buckingham and Norfolk, and the couple were married in 1513. What a powerhouse marriage that must have been seen as; the Buckinghams and Norfolks.
Elizabeth became Countess of Surrey upon their marriage at the tender age of fifteen. Howard, was twenty years her senior at 35.
Upon their marriage, Thomas Howard received a dowry of 2000 marks, while Elizabeth was promised an annual income of 500 marks. Per reports, this was an income she never received.
With that being said, Elizabeth, like most women, had hoped to marry for love. She believed that her marriage to Howard would be just that. We are soon to discover it was not in the cards for the two of them.
Elizabeth was a dutiful wife. In 1520, she and her children moved to Ireland with Thomas where he was to serve the King as lieutenant of Ireland. Despite being away from all she knew, Elizabeth loved her husband and was loyal to him.
In 1521 Henry Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham was executed for treason. There is no evidence to declare how Elizabeth felt about it while she far away in Ireland. We must assume she mourned the loss of her father.
Unfortunately any happiness she found with her husband would soon be over. Thomas Howard, now the Duke of Norfolk took a mistress in 1527. She is someone youve certainly heard of; her name was Bess Holland and she was the daughter of his private secretary.
Bess Holland, as stated, was the daughter of the duke’s secretary and household treasurer. At the time she became the dukes mistress, she was one of Anne Boleyn’s attendants (prior to her time as queen.) Howard then installed her in his household, thereby deepening his estrangement from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was clearly hurt by the affair. She once described Bess as a harlot, a drab, and ‘a churl’s daughter’, who was but ‘washer of my nursery’ for eight years (ibid., 12/2, no. 143; Harris, Edward Stafford, 63)
The Duke and Duchess had several children together, but we know two of them the best: Henry Howard (Earl of Surrey,) and Mary Howard (Duchess of Richmond and Somerset).
In December of 1529, Henry VIII requested that the Duke of Norfolks son (the earl of Surrey) become a companion to his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. It was at this time that a marriage was arranged between the Dukes daughter Mary and Fitzroy.
While many have said the marriage was Anne Boleyns idea-she was the niece of the Duke of Norfolk- it had always been maintained by Norfolk that it was the idea of the King. Regardless, 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 the marriage of Mary and Fitzroy, which was unusual for the time. This may indicate the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the king.
Elizabeth Stafford was totally against her daughters marriage. Elizabeth had served Katherine of Aragon years earlier and was loyal to her cause, however she was thrust into serving Anne Boleyn and was not happy about it. Elizabeth was vocal about her opinion on the annulment proceedings, which resulted in her being exiled from court in 1531.
In 1532 it was made known to Elizabeth that since her mother had passed in February, her manors would go to the King by her husbands attainder. (‘Henry VIII: March 1532, 1-10′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 5, 1531-1532, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1880), pp. 401-407. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol5/pp401-407 [accessed 21 September 2018].)
When her son the Earl of Surrey returned from his time in France with Henry Fitzroy in September 1533, he was about 16 years old and returned to a different England than the one he left in October of 1532: Anne Boleyn was now Queen, her daughter Elizabeth was now heir to the throne, and the King was newly dubbed Supreme Head of the Church of England. In addition to all the change in England, Henry had also returned to a very different family situation at Kenninghall. His fathers mistress, Bess Holland had essentially replaced his mother who was in disgrace for her actions at court.
In a letter date the 17th of March 1534, Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, mentioned how Elizabeth had been appointed mistress of the robes to the bastard – a position that Elizabeth must have despised as she was a friend of Katherine of Aragon and presumably her daughter Mary. The letter also gives us a glimpse at the type of behavior that the Duke of Norfolk believed was acceptable toward the Princess Mary:
I am told this very morning that the duke of Norffocq went yesterday to the place where she is, to renew the former threats. Besides that, the Duke ordered her best robes to be seized on the plea that she was no longer a Princess, and that it was necessary to reduce her pomp and pride. In addition to that, the duchess [of Norfolk] has been appointed [mistress of the robes] to the bastard](Bastard meaning Princess Elizabeth), (fn. n23) and at the same time one of the principal officers of the Princess’ household has been dismissed from the service on account of his having shown some affection to her, and done her some small services. (‘Spain: March 1534, 1-20′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 1, 1534-1535, ed. Pascual de Gayangos (London, 1886), pp. 70-83. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol5/no1/pp70-83 [accessed 21 September 2018].)
Elizabeth was eventually sent to Redbourne in Herfordshire where she lived in a state of virtual imprisonment with a meagre annual allowance of only Ł200, and in the spring of 1534 she said that her husband ‘locked me up in a chamber, [and] took away my jewels and apparel’ (LP Henry VIII, 12/2, no. 976).
From Redbourne, Elizabeth sent a series of letters to Cromwell pleading for help. On the 23rd of August 1534, Elizabeth sent a letter with the following request:
“Asks him to send her some venison, which is very scanty with her. Many of her friends who sent her venison last year dare send none now for fear of her lord’s displeasure. Her husband has not sent her any since she came to Redbourne. Thanks for Cromwell’s kindness, which she begs him to continue. Redbourne, 23 Aug. Signed.” (British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol7/pp419-421 [accessed 21 September 2018].)
Elizabeths husband attempted to persuade her to agree to a divorce by offer of material awards and the return of her jewels and clothes, yet she would not agree.
As state earlier, Elizabeth was opposed to the marriage of her daughter Mary. She quarrelled openly with Norfolk over the arranged marriages and primarily disapproved of them due to the involvement of the perceived concubine, Anne Boleyn.
In 1536, after the execution of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was still fighting against her husband to keep their marriage. On the 26th of June she wrote a letter to Cromwell, pleading her case. I pulled this letter from Rivals in Power by David Starkey:
…The cause of my writing unto you is, that I may know whether I shall have a better living or not…which my Lord my husband hath forgotten now he hath so much wealth and honours, and is so far doting love with that quean [whore]…He knoweth it is spoken of far and near, to his great dishonour and shame; and he chose me for love, and I am younger than he by twenty years, and he hath put me away four years and a quarter at this midsummer; and [I] hath lived always like a good woman, as it is not unknown…He hath taken away all my jewels and my apparel, and kept me four years and more like a prisoner…Another cause: he set his women to bind me till blood come out at my fingers end, and pinnacled me, and sat on my breast till I spit blood; and he never punished them: and all this was done for Bess Hollands sake (page 93)
In the letter, one she wrote to clearly get Cromwells attention about the abuse against her, Elizabeth alleges rather awful treatment against her; some of which seems too extreme to believe. That is, until we remember what her husband was recorded as saying to the Kings daughter, Mary, in response to Mary not recognizing Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England and that her parents marriage was never valid. He stated that if she was his daughter, he would bash her head into the wall until it was as soft as a baked apple. That was a year before Elizabeth wrote her letter to Cromwell.
Norfolk wanted a divorce. Elizabeth, like Katherine of Aragon, refused to give one to him.
I get the impression that Elizabeth was playing dirty, a different trick than her dear friend Katherine of Aragon used. She even claimed that Norfolk assaulted her as early as 1519 (six years into their marriage) during the birth of their daughter Mary.
When Norfolk discovered what his wife had said, he sent a letter to Cromwell and called her out as a liar, as he would never harm an unborn child. He said, My good Lord, if I prove not by witness, and that with many honest persons, that she had the scar in her head fifteen months before she was delivered of my said daughter – due to a procedure she had done by a surgeon in London.
Elizabeths brother Henry Stafford even turned against her for her ‘wild language,’ and her ‘sensual and wilful mind’. (Oxford DNB)
Norfolk was not a perfect man; This I think we already knew. During his time in Ireland, his treasurer, John Stile, had complained about Norfolks temper. He said that his master was sometimes more hasty than needeth. Tudor historian Polydore Vergil said that Norfolk was quick with his fists. This is evident at the end of his letter, saying that if his wife would ever come into his company again, she might give me occasion to handle her otherwise than I have done yet.
Elizabeth took her husbands threat very seriously and is quoted as saying, I know well, if I should come home again, my life should be but short.
The Duchess was surrounded by enemies, and she had little support in her cause because she was a woman in a mans world. Her voice really did not matter-however, in order to obtain his divorce, Norfolk would need Elizabeths consent, and she wasnt going to give it. Even her children had turned against her and sided with their father.
Author Jessie Childs in Henry VIIIs Last Victim claims that Surrey probably sided with his father because Elizabeth had the nerve to approach Cromwell for help-Cromwell was the man Norfolk detested above all others.
Her daughter Mary, Duchess of Richmond, also sided with her father. Not only did she side with him, but she became good friends with Bess Holland. Whether Mary did this for self-preservation or that she supported her father for real, we do not know.
When Elizabeth discovered that her children had taken the side of their father, she was undoubtedly hurt and said that she was matched with such an ungracious husband and so ungracious a son and a daughter. She described her children as unnatural but also said that I have always love unto them.
By the 1540s, Elizabeth had reconciled once again with her brother Henry, but not with her husband who was still with his mistress.
At the time of her husbands arrest in 1546, Elizabeth and Bess Holland were under the same roof at Kenninghall. Elizabeth gave evidence against her husband, and after his attainder her apparel at Kenninghall was restored to her. At the time of her arrest she had little in the way of valuables, ‘all being very bare and her jewels sold to pay her debts‘. (Oxford DNB)
In 1554, When the Lady Mary became the first Queen Regnant in England, Elizabeth was able to return to court-she even carried the Queens train at her coronation. Quite an honor!
Elizabeth died on 30 November 1558 (around 61 years old) and was buried in the Howard chapel, at Lambeth.
After doing all this research on Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk, I realized how much Mary Howard turned out to be like her mother. She was proud, and she stubborn. Those two traits are clearly something she inherited, or at least learned from her mothers actions. It makes me wonder if Elizabeth was proud of her intelligent daughter, for standing up for herself.
I’ve never discussed this topic with you but have been wanting to write and article about it for the longest time.
Started as a blank notebook by Mary Howard, the Devonshire Manuscript is an anthology of courtly love poems made by members of Henry VIII’s court and Anne Boleyn’s inner circle.
Mary Fitzroy’s close companions Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor and niece of Henry VIII, and Mary Shelton, another cousin of Anne Boleyn, were actively involved in the manuscript’s making. Male courtiers, including Lord Thomas Howard and Henry Howard, Earl of SurreyHowar, contributed to it too.
This volume has been described as ‘the richest surviving record of early Tudor poetry and of the literary activities of 16th-century women’. It also provides a unique insight into the precarious position of Renaissance women in, or close to, power.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir
On the New Yearâs Day 1511, Queen Katherine gave birth to a son â he would be called Henry, Duke of Cornwall. His birth was greatly celebrated by his parents and the kingdom for England and Henry had an heir. Unfortunately, the Prince would only live for 52 short days. In this article we see quotes from Hallâs Chronicles and Letters and Papers that both refer to the birth, and the death, of the sweet young prince, âlittle Prince Hal.â
This blurb from Hallâs Chronicles discusses the Queen (Katherine of Aragon) taking to her birthing chamber and that is why the King spent Christmas at Richmond Palace. It says that upon the new year the Queen gave birth to a Prince which caused great celebrations in the realm. It goes on to discuss the preparation for the christening as well. It mentions the godfathers as the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Warham) and the Earl of Surrey (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk). As far as godmother it lists Katherine of York, Countess of Devon who was the daughter of Edward IV and wife of William Courteney, 1st Earl of Devon.
It is to be noted that at this tyme the Quene was great with childe, and shortly after this pastyme, she toke her chamber at Richemond, for the whiche cause the kynge kept his Christmas there. And on Newyeres day, the first day of January, the Quene was delivered of a Prince to the great gladess of the realme, for the honour of whom, fyers were made, and divers vessels with wyne, set for such as woulde take thereof in certayne streates in London, and generall processions thereupon to laude God. As touchynge the preparacion of the Princeâs christening. I overpasse, whiche was honorablie done, whose godfathers at the font were the Archbishop of Centerbury, and the erle of Surrey. Godmother the lady Katheryne Countesse of Devonsire, daughter of kynge Edward the foarth. (Hallâs Chronicle; pg 515)
Little Prince Halâs christening was four days after his birth â why, Iâm not sure. Iâm assuming it took time to put together such a grand ceremony and they felt he was a healthy child so it would be okay to have a delay in the christening. This blurb was taken from Letters and Papers and in it they state King Louis XII as a godfather along with William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. Instead of Katherine of York, Countess of Devon it lists the godmother as Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. Historian David Starkey only lists King Louis XII of France and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy as the young princeâs godparents. So, I wonder why Hall lists names incorrectly, as well as in Letters in Papers?
âThe christening of Prince Henry, first son of our sovereign lord King Henry the VIIIth.â
On New Yearâs Day, Wednesday, Dominical letter E., 1 Jan., about _(blank) a.m., 1510, 2 Hen. VIII., at Richmond in Sowthrey, was born Prince Henry, whose christening was deferred till Sunday 5 Jan., when from the Hall to the Friars was made, with barriers and rails, a way 24 ft. wide strewn with rushes, after being new-gravelled. All the south side of the way was âhangenâ with cloth of arras, and near the Friars both sides were so hung, as was the body of the church. Godfathers were the French King Loys de Valoys and the Abp. of Canterbury, Warham. Godmother Margaret duchess of Savoy. âAt the conformacion the Earl of Arrundell.â My lord of Winchester was deputy for the French King and the Countess of Surrey for the Duchess. The French King gave a salt, 51 oz., and a cup 48 oz., of fine gold; and to the Lady Mistress a chain worth 30l. and to the midwife 10l.
(âHenry VIII: January 1511â, inÂ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 369-377.)
âŚAfter this great joy came sorowfull chaunce, for the young Prince, which was borne upon Neweyeres daye last past, upon the xxii daye of February, being then the eve of sainet Mathy, departed this world at Rychemonde, and from thense was caryed to Westmynster, and buried. (Hallâs Chronicle; pg 519)
The kyng lyke a wyse prynce, toke this dolorous chaunce wonderous wysely, and the more to comfort the Quene, he dissimuled the matter, and made no great mourning outwardely: but the Quene lyke a natural woman, made much lamentation, how be it, by the kynges good persuasion and behaviour, her sorrow was mytigated, but not shortlye. (Hallâs Chronicle; pg 519)
Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born in 1527, in Ireland to Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare and his wife Elizabeth Grey. Elizabeth Grey was the daughter of Thomas Grey, 1st Marquis of Dorset. Dorset was the son of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to King Edward IV, by her first husband, John Grey.
In 1533, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, her mother and one of her sisters moved to London when her father was accused of treason or corruption charges and put in the Tower of London. After her father died in the Fall of 1534 (in the Tower), she was raised at English court alongside her cousin Princess Elizabeth Tudor.
In 1537, her half-brother Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, and five FitzGerald uncles (James, Oliver, Richard, John and Walter) were executed at Tyburn for treason and rebellion. Thomas had renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII. On 3 February 1537, Elizabeth’s brother, who had been imprisoned for sixteen months, and her uncles for eleven months, were executed as traitors at Tyburn. They were hanged, drawn and quartered.
After the execution of her half-brother and uncles, Elizabeth was sent to Lady Mary Tudor’s household at Hunsdon. Her younger brothers, however, were raised alongside Prince Edward Tudor. Elizabeth’s oldest remaining brother, Gerald, who became 11th Earl of Kildare upon the execution of his brother, had gone on the run in Ireland.
Around that same time, at the age of ten, she became immortalized in a sonnet by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. This is where she picked up the nickname, ”The Fair Geraldine”. Since Elizabeth was so young it is not believed to be a love sonnet by any means, it was more of a way for Surrey to show men at court what a great catch she would be in the future. She needed all the help she could get after her family’s name was tarnished by the above noted scandal.
In 1543, at the age of sixteen, Lady Elizabeth married a forty-something year old Sir Anthony Browne and subsequently became stepmother to his eight children.
Five years after they were married, on 6 May 1548, Sir Anthony died – Elizabeth was left a widow at the age of twenty-one. She had two children by Sir Anthony, but they had both died young.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth since she been a companion to her when she was still Princess Elizabeth and they were just small children. The friendship between the girls was renewed in the household of the dowager queen consort Katherine Parr and her husband Thomas Seymour when Elizabeth Fitzgerald went to live in their household after the death of her first husband, Anthony Browne. It is said that they got along during the brief time together.
On 1 October 1552, at the age of 25, she married her second husband, Edward Clinton, Lord High Admiral.
In 1553, Elizabeth and her second husband (Edward Clinton) were supporters of the plot to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne in place of Lady Mary Tudor. Lady Jane Grey had also been a member of Katherine Parr’s household. It seems Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald had affection for the young girl. This may be why she supported Lady Jane’s claim to the throne.
When the plot failed, Lady Elizabeth and her husband managed to regain the trust of Princess Mary, who subsequently became queen. Shortly after the ascension of Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth Tudor to the throne following Mary’s death in 1558, Lady Elizabeth was at court as one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Elizabeth was one of those who, in 1561, had tried to warn Lady Catherine Grey to confess her clandestine marriage to Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford to the Queen before the latter discovered the truth from other people. That same year, Lady Elizabeth fell briefly into disfavour with the Queen and was accused of “frailty” and “forgetfulness of duty”. These charges were made by the Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker who also declared that she should be “chastised in Bridewell” for her “offences”. Tudor historian David Starkey concludes that Archbishop Parker considered Lady Elizabeth to have been a “strumpet“. (Wikipedia: Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Lincoln)
After all that Elizabeth regained her former favor with the Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Lincoln passed away in March 1590. She had survived her second husband by roughly five years.
Queenship and Political Discourse in the Elizabethan Realms by Natalie Mears