Friday, May 5, 2017

Agnes Tilney Howard Leaves the Tower

The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney Howard, was freed from the Tower of London on May 5, 1542, even though she had been found guilty of misprison of treason--not reported another subject's treason against the monarch--all her goods taken, and sentenced to life in prison. She received some of her land and manors back later that month (May 20), but her wealth and prestige were destroyed. She died in May of 1545 and was buried on May 31 of that year in the church of Thetford Priory in Norfolk with all the other Howards. Since the Cluniac house had been suppressed in 1540, however, the Howard remains were moved, hers to St Mary-at-Lambeth, others to the Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham.

She was the second wife of Thomas Howard, the second of Norfolk (his first wife had been her cousin, Elizabeth Tilney). In this portrait, she might be praying a rosary.

The reason for her forfeiture and imprisonment was that she had not supervised Catherine Howard properly at Norfolk House and Chesworth House and then not reported to the King that his affianced wife--after he'd determined he would not stay married to Anne of Cleves--might have been promised in marriage to another man and might not be the innocent young girl she seemed. Of course, that would have been a hard thing to do, since Henry VIII was infatuated and in love. A new law, passed after the fall of Catherine Howard, required all subjects to tell the king things like that in the future.

Thomas Howard, the Third Duke of Norfolk, who had separated himself as much as possible from his niece's fall, tried to save Thetford Priory and the family tombs:

The Duke of Norfolk, the powerful patron of Thetford Priory, naturally looked with dismay upon the approaching destruction of this house and of the church, where not only his remote but more immediate ancestors had been honourably interred. His father, Sir Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey and duke of Norfolk, who died on 21 May, 1524, was buried before the high altar of the conventual church, where a costly monument to himself and Agnes his wife had been erected; whilst still more recently, in 1536, Henry Fitzroy, duke of Somerset, had been buried in the same place. As a means of preserving the church and establishment, the duke proposed to convert the priory into a church of secular canons, with a dean and chapter. In 1539 he petitioned the king to that effect, stating that there lay buried in that church the bodies of the Duke of Richmond, the king's natural son; the duke's late wife, Lady Anne, aunt to his highness; the late Duke of Norfolk and other of his ancestors; and that he was setting up tombs for himself and the duke of Richmond which would cost £400. He also promised to make it ' a very honest parish church.' At first the king gave ear to the proposal, and Thetford was included in a list with five others, of ' collegiate churches newly to be made and erected by the king.' Whereupon the duke had articles of a thorough scheme drawn up for insertion in the expected letters patent, whereby the monastery was to be translated into a dean and chapter. The dean was to be Prior William, (fn. 50) and the six prebendaries and eight secular canons were to be the monks of the former house, whose names are set forth in detail. The nomination of the dean was to rest with the duke and his heirs. The scheme included the appointment by the dean and chapter of a doctor or bachelor of divinity as preacher in the house, with a stipend of £20. (fn. 51).

But the capricious king changed his mind, and insisted on the absolute dissolution of the priory. The duke found that further resistance was hopeless, and on 16 February, 1540, Prior William and thirteen monks signed a deed of surrender. (fn. 52) Two months later the site and the whole possessions of the priory passed to the Duke of Norfolk for £1,000, and by the service of a knight's fee and an annual rental of £59 5s. 1d. The bones of Henry's natural son, and of the late Duke of Norfolk and others, together with their tombs, were removed to a newly erected chancel of the Suffolk church of Framingham, and the grand church of St. Mary of Thetford speedily went to decay.

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