John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

HOWARD, JOHN, first Duke of Norfolk of the Howard family (1430?–1485), son and heir of Sir Robert Howard by Margaret, daughter of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk (d. 1399), and cousin and ultimately coheiress of John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk (d. 1475), is supposed to have been born about 1430. His first recorded service is dated 1452, when he followed Lord L’Isle to Guienne, and was present at the battle of Chastillon on 17 July 1453. He entered the service of his kinsman John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk (d. 1461), and on 8 July 1455 the duchess wrote to John Paston [q. v.] desiring him that, as it was ‘right necessarie that my lord have at this tyme in the parliament suche persons as longe unto him and be of his menyall servaunts,’ he would forward the election of Howard as knight of the shire for Norfolk. The Duke of York also wrote on his behalf. Some at least of the Norfolk gentry were indignant at having ‘a straunge man’ forced or them, and the duke was reported to have promised that there should be a free election, which made Howard ‘as wode as a bullock,’ but in the end he was elected (Paston Letters, i. 337, 340, 341; Return of Members, i. 351). It is evident that he was of service to the Yorkist cause, for on the accession of Edward IV in 1461 he was knighted (Doyle), was appointed constable of Colchester Castle, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and one of the king’s carvers, and was known to have ‘great fellowship’ with the king. He took an active part in the Duke of Norfolk’s quarrel with John Paston; he had a violent brawl with Paston in the shire-house at Norwich in August, and used his influence with the king against him, while Howard’s wife declared that if any of her husband’s men met with Paston he should ‘go no penny for his life’ (Paston Letters, ii. 42, 53, 54). As sheriff Howard had given offence at the election of Paston and Berney, and in consequence of the many complaints preferred against him was, in November, it is said, committed to prison (ib. p. 62). His favour with the king was not diminished, for in 1462 he was appointed constable of Norwich Castle, and received grants of several manors forfeited by the Earl of Wiltshire and others. He was joined in a commission with Lords Fauconberg and Clinton to keep the seas; and they made a descent on Brittany, and took Croquet and the Isle of Rhé. Towards the end of the year he served under Norfolk against the Lancastrians in the north, and was sent by the duke from Newcastle to help the Earl of Warwick at Warkworth, and in the spring of 1464 was with Norfolk in Wales when the duke was securing the country for the king.

Howard returned home on 8 June (1464), and bought the reversion of the constableship of Bamborough Castle, worth ten marks a year, for 20l. and a bay courser (Accounts). During the last weeks of the year he was with the king at Reading, and presented him with a courser worth 40l. and the queen with another worth 8l. as New-year’s gifts. On 3 Nov. 1465 he lost his wife Catharine, daughter of William, lord Moleyns, who died at his house at Stoke Nayland, Suffolk (Paston Letters, iii. 486; in 1452 according to Dugdale, Nicolas, and Doyle). In 1466 he was appointed vice-admiral for Norfolk and Suffolk, was building a ship called the Mary Grace, and being charged with the conveyance of envoys to France and the Duke of Burgundy remained at Calais from 15 May to 17 Sept. In the following January he married his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Chedworth, and in April was elected knight of the shire for Suffolk, spending 40l. 17s. 8d. in feasting the electors at Ipswich (Accounts; Return of Members, i. 558). Although a member of the commons he is styled Lord Howard (dominus de Haward) in a commission issued in November appointing him an envoy to France (Fœdera, xi. 591). He was in this year made treasurer of the household, and held that office until 1474. He was employed in June 1468 (in 1467 Nicolas) in attending the king’s sister Elizabeth to Flanders on her marriage with Charles, duke of Burgundy (Bramante, xi. 125).

When Henry VI was restored he created Howard a baron by a writ of summons dated 15 Oct. 1470, and styling him Baron de Howard. Nevertheless, he appears to have remained faithful to the Yorkist cause, for not only was he commanding a fleet sent to oppose the Lancastrians, but on Edward’s landing in March 1471 proclaimed him king in Suffolk. A list of his retainers is extant for that year (Accounts), and it may therefore be concluded that he was present at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. In June he was appointed deputy-governor of Calais, and after having sworn to maintain the succession of the Prince of Wales, crossed over thither on 3 June, and was engaged in negotiations with France, and in the May following with the Duke of Burgundy. When Edward invaded France in July 1475 he was accompanied by Howard, who appears to have been one of the king’s most trusted councillors during the expedition; he was one of the commissioners who made the truce at Amiens, received a pension from Louis XI, and met Philip de Commines to arrange the conference between the two kings at Picquigny (Commines, pp. 97, 99, 103, 109). He remained in France as a hostage for a short time after Edward’s departure, and on his return to England received from the king as a reward for his fidelity and prudence grants of several manors in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire forfeited by the Earl of Oxford. On being sent to treat with France in July 1477 for a prolongation of the truce, he and his fellow envoys negotiated with the envoys of Louis at Cambray, and in the following March and in January 1479 he was again employed in the same way. In that year also he was sent to Scotland in command of a fleet [see under Edward IV]. In May 1480 he and other envoys were sent to remind Louis of his engagement that his son Charles should marry Edward’s daughter Elizabeth, but their mission was fruitless. At the funeral of Edward in April 1483, Howard, who is styled the king’s bannerer, bore the late king’s banner (Archæologia, i. 351). He attached himself to Richard of Gloucester, and became privy to all his plans and doings. He was appointed high steward of the duchy of Lancaster on 13 May, and a privy councillor, and on 28 June was created Duke of Norfolk and earl marshal with remainder to the heirs male of his body, the patent thus reviving the dignities held by the Mowbrays and Thomas of Brotherton, son of Edward I, from whom he was descended on the mother’s side through females. He was concerned in persuading the widowed queen to deliver up her younger son the Duke of York, that he might be lodged with his brother in the Tower. At the coronation of Richard III on 6 July he acted as high steward, bore the crown, and as marshal rode into Westminster Hall after the ceremony, and ‘voyded the hall’ (Hall, p. 376); a few days later he was appointed admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine. On 10 Oct. he heard that the Kentish men had risen and were threatening to sack London, and ordered Paston to come to the defence of the city. He probably accompanied Richard on his visit to the north, for he was with him at Nottingham on 12 Sept. 1484 when he was nominated chief of the commissioners to treat with the ambassadors of James III of Scotland (Letters and Papers, pp. 64-7). A story that he was solicited in February 1485 by the Lady Elizabeth to promote her marriage with the king is doubtful (Buck ap. Kennett, Complete History, p. 568, comp. Gairdner, Richard III, pp. 257, 258). When in August it was known that the Earl of Richmond had landed, Norfolk summoned his retainers to meet him at Bury St. Edmunds to fight for the king. The night before he marched to join Richard, several of his friends tried to persuade him to remain inactive, and one wrote on his gate

Jack of Norffolke be not to bolde,
For Dykon thy maister is bought and solde;

but for the sake of his oath and his honour he would not desert the king (Hall, p. 419). At Bosworth he commanded the vanguard, which was largely composed of archers, and he was slain in the battle on 22 Aug. He was buried in the conventual church of Thetford. He was attainted by act of the first parliament of Henry VII.

Norfolk was a wise and experienced politician, and an expert and valiant soldier, careful in the management of his own affairs, and a faithful adherent of the house of York; but his memory is stained by his desertion of the interests of the son of his old master and by his intimate relations with the usurper. By his first wife, Catharine, he had Thomas, earl of Surrey and second duke of Norfolk [q. v.], and four daughters: Anne, married to Sir Edward Gorges of Wraxall, Somerset; Isabel, married to Sir Robert Mortimer of Essex; Jane, married to John Timperley; and Margaret, married to Sir John Wyndham of Crownthorpe and Felbrigg, Norfolk, ancestor of the Wyndhams, earls of Egremont. His second wife, who bore him one daughter, Catharine, married to John Bourchier, second lord Berners [q. v.], survived him, married John Norreys, and died in 1494. Norfolk’s autograph as ‘ J. Howard ‘ is subscribed to a letter of his in Cotton MS. Vesp. F. xiii. 79, and as duke is given in Doyle’s ‘Official Baronage.’ A painting of Norfolk at Arundel has been engraved by Audinet, and the engraving is given in Cartwright’s ‘Rape of Bramber,’ and a portrait in coloured glass in the possession of the Duke of Norfolk is also given in colours by Cartwright. Nicolas speaks of two portraits of Norfolk and his first wife Catharine, in the possession of the Earl of Carlisle, which have been engraved.

[An excellent biography by Sir H. N. Nicolas in Cartwright’s Eape of Bramber, which forms vol. ii. pt. ii. of Dallaway’s Western Division of Sussex, must in places be corrected by the Paston Letters, ed. Grairdner, and by the Accounts and Memoranda of Norfolk in Manners and Household Expenses (Roxburghe Club). See also Dugdale’s Baronage, ii. 265 sq.; Doyle’s Official Baronage, ii. 586; Rymer’s Fœdera, xi. ed.1710; Rolls of Parliament, vol. vi.; Return of Members,i. 351, 358; Stow’s Annals (Howes); Hall’s Chron. ed. 1809; Polydore Vergil and Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles (Camd. Soc.); Mémioires de P. de Commines, ed. Buchon; Letters and Papers, Richard III and Henry VIII (Rolls Ser.); Archæologia, i. 351; Kennett’s Complete History, p. 568; Gairdner’s Life and Reign of Richard the Third.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 28
Howard, John (1430?-1485) by William Hunt

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