Monday, October 4, 2010

The Howard Family

On October 4, 1646, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel and 1st Earl of Norfolk, and Earl Marshal died--also known as the "Collector Earl" for amassing a fine array of ancient marbles and Renaissance paintings. He was the son of St. Philip Howard, who died in the Tower of London after asking to see him, who had been born after Philip was imprisoned--that request being denied by Elizabeth I's government unless he renounced his Catholicism and become an Anglican (heartless!).

James I restored the family Earldom to Thomas in 1604. He then married a wealthy noblewoman, Alethea Talbot, in 1606. Thomas Howard evidently swore oaths of loyalty to both James I and Charles I--because he served in their governments and courts--although he returned to the Catholic Church sometime before his death.

Thomas and Alethea Howard had three children, one of whom, William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, would be accused, because of his Catholicism, in the Popish Plot, executed on December 29, 1680 and beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Their second son, Henry Howard, the 22nd Earl of Arundel, was the father of Philip Cardinal Howard and of Henry Howard, who was:
6th Duke of Norfolk,
4th Earl of Norfolk
7th Earl of Surrey
24th Earl of Arundel
20th Baron Segrave
19th Baron Mowbray
15th Baron Furnivall
14th Baron Maltravers
and Earl Marshal!
This multi-titled nobleman went into exile in August 1678 when the Popish Plot was first gathering steam, living in Bruges. His son, Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk (1655-1701), served on the Privy Council of William and Mary and at first refused to take the new oaths of Supremacy but then renounced his Catholicism to serve in the House of Lords.

By the late eighteenth century, around the time of debates about Catholic Relief, the 11th Duke of Norfolk had also renounced his Catholicism to further his political career. He supported the effort to emancipate Catholics which George III blocked. The 13th Duke of Norfolk, Bernard Howard, took his seat as the first Catholic in the House of Lords after Emancipation in 1829.

The title of Earl Marshal means that the Duke of Norfolk arranges the coronations, weddings, and funerals of the Royal Family. The 16th Duke of Norfolk, Bernard Fitzalan-Howard (1908-1975) for example, organized the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth I, and the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales.

While all these titles are confusing (as is the family tree with all its branches), the pattern that emerges of a noble Catholic family that sometimes accommodated itself out of loyalty to the monarch, sometimes endured imprisonment, martyrdom, and exile is poignant and fascinating.


  1. When visiting England, Arundel Castle is a "must see"... art and artifacts too numerous to mention here. The Great Hall is my favorite, because it is the very history of portraiture itself. (from Holbein thru the present)
    The incredible history of the FitzAlan-Howards - Soooo many executed / yet their dynasty survived.

  2. I so want to visit Arundel Castle when I'm in the Brighton area next September