The second son of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey and the younger brother of Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, Henry Howard, the first Earl of Northampton died on June 15, 1614. His father had been executed by Henry VIII's orders just before the old king died and his brother was executed by Elizabeth I's orders because of his plans to marry the former Queen of Scotland.
Northampton was a crypto-Catholic during his time at Court during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, but he died in the Catholic Church, according to his will. Edward de Vere denounced him once as a Catholic and a traitor, but he convinced Elizabeth of his loyalty, even though he did admit attending the Catholic Mass.
He was very successful during the reign of James I, leading peace treaty discussions with Spain and participating in the trials of Guy Fawkes and Father Garnet after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Toward the end of his life he was involved in a sordid story of unfaithfulness and murder! According to the website:
Despite his lack of principle, Northampton displayed a many-sided culture, and was reputed the most learned nobleman of his time. His taste in architecture is proved by his enlargement of Greenwich Castle, by the magnificence of his London residence, afterwards Northumberland House, which was built at his cost from the designs of Moses Glover, and by his supervision of Thorpe's designs for Audley End, the residence of his nephew Suffolk. He planned and endowed three hospitals, one at Clun, Shropshire; a second at Castle Rising, Norfolk, for twelve poorwomen,27 and a third at Greenwich, called Norfolk College, for twelve poor natives of Greenwich, and for eight natives of Shottesham, Northampton's birthplace. He laid the foundation-stone of the college at Greenwich, 25 Feb. 1613-14, and placed its management under the Mercers' Company.