Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk

From The Tudors Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Agnes Howard nee Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk as played by Barbara Brennan (Season 3)

born c. 1477 - died 1545
Character's backstory
Agnes was born into the English gentry. Her mother was from the powerful Lincolnshire family - the Talboys. Her brother, Philip, was part of the household of Thomas Howard, then Earl of Surrey (later 2nd Duke of Norfolk) who was then married to her cousin, Elizabeth Tilney. After the death of her cousin, Agnes and Thomas were wed in 1497. Through this marriage Agnes became Anne Boleyn's and Katherine Howard's step-grandmother. She would also become step great-grandmother to Princess Elizabeth Tudor. She was one of the highest ranking and richest women outside the Royal family.

Agnes was part of court life while her husband tended to his affairs as a member of the Privy Council. Agnes became a leading lady in the household of Queen Katherine of Aragon after the King's sister, Princess Mary [[[Princess Margaret Tudor]]].

In 1527, the King began to look for ways to get an annulment of his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon, on the grounds of his failure to produce a male heir. Although initially disapproving of the plan, Agnes, now three years widowed, found strength in the fact that the new queen Anne Boleyn was a family relative. In 1529, she emerged to give evidence that Katherine of Aragon had been Prince Arthur’s wife. Agnes bore the train wearing a robe of scarlet with a coronet of gold on her cap at Anne's coronation, and Sir Thomas, Lord Borough, the Queen's Chamberlain, supported the train in the middle. The Dowager Duchess also held Anne's infant daughter with the king, Princess Elizabeth, at her baptism.

Her main residences were at Horsham in Sussex and Lambeth where she kept a great household. There were many unmarried women of noble birth in her household and they acted as her waiting women, they were also, supposedly, to complete their education- with a music master and clerks and secretaries to teach reading and writing. Katherine Howard found herself in this rather lax household- lax because Agnes was often at court and when not was a rather ineffectual disciplinarian.

Agnes actually caught Katherine and music teacher Mannox in a somewhat compromising situation and "gave Katherine two or three blows"and declared that Katherine and Mannox should never be alone together. Keys to the dormitories were stolen and midnight feasting was being shared in the ladies dormitory with the gentlemen of the household. It was a jealous Mannox who informed Agnes of these shenanigans by letter but it would seem that none of these goings-on were taken very seriously. Once Katherine caught the King's eye, it was Agnes who gave her new, fashionable clothes and advised her how to handle Henry. It was she who convinced Katherine to take Dereham into her household some say to possibly keep him quiet about his affair with her.

Agnes was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, along with many other Howard family members, as well as the queen's household. The Tower of London was said to be full with prisoners, and that some had to be lodged in the royal apartments. On 22nd December she was tried for "misprision of treason", for concealing and abetting Katherine Howard's offences. She was sentenced to imprisonment at the King's pleasure and forfeiture of goods.Eventually, the Dowager Duchess was released in 1543, but her stepson Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was never returned to favour.

Gentility: Descended from Tailboys and Tilney families, married into the ducal Howard family

Position: Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, member of Katherine of Aragon's household

Personality type:

Signature look:

Endearing trait(s): Continued to care for her large family of children and stepchildren after her husband died during the Battle of Flodden Field. She was also guardian of the younger children of her stepson, Edmund Howard, after he died in debt.

Annoying trait(s): tight-fisted with money and lax with regards to the discipline of the girls in her care.

Scandals: Historically she's been blamed for the corruption and ultimately the execution of Katherine Howard, her step-granddaughter, due to her lack of attentiveness to Katherine's flirtations with men of her household. Despite knowledge of Katherine's scandalous past, Agnes and her stepson, the Duke of Norfolk, lobbied King Henry VIII to take Katherine as his fifth wife. Some historians claim Agnes tried to destroy any evidence of Katherine's past and even promoted a former lover, Francis Dereham, as the queen's secretary in an effort to cover up the scandal.

Agnes Tilney as played by Barbara Brennan

Life was too short and too complex for her to be burdened with the morals of her household, and all she asked was that lusty youth conform to outward appearances. ~ Lacey Baldwin Smith

"Rigidly religious, balancing the sins of her youth with a hair-shirt in the twilight of her life, the old Dowager was under it all a kind-hearted if short-tempered matriarch. She had most of the strength and shortcomings of her generation. She rarely went
to court except on business or command, and she must have represented almost everything that Henry and the new men of the age most disliked. Her acid tongue, her stubborn defence of Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, her studied disregard for
the refinements of high society, and her total disdain for courtly etiquette must have made her distinctly unpopular at court. But under this starched and feudal facade lay both shrewdness and knowledge of the ways of the world, and despite her outward
religious orthodoxy, there remained a good deal of amused toleration of the antics and escapades of youth. Officially frowning upon what went on in her maidens chambers at night, the Dowager probably knew a good deal more about such goings-on than Katherine and her companions gave her credit for. She knew full well where a certain Mr Francis Dereham was prone to spend his evenings, and more than once she was heard to exclaim: 1
warrant you if you seek him in Katherine Howard's chamber ye shall find him there.
All she required was that the younger generation should not flaunt their love-affairs in her face, and when she stumbled upon Katherine and Dereham kissing in the corridor she flew into a rage, boxed her granddaughter's ears and upbraided Dereham for his liberties. Yet for all the Duchess' vinegary words and violent fashions, she seems to have liked the full-blooded adventurer, and when Katherine finally grew weary of Dereham s attentions she found a perverse pleasure in remind
ing Mistress Howard of her early fascination." ~ Lacey Baldwin Smith in A Tudor Tragedy

"Together with her own children, Duchess Agnes had a vast family of step-children, who were also her own relatives, to raise. The Duchess had been a prominent figure at court for the last 40 years...

Afterwards, vultures hovering around the carcass of Katherine Howard's reputation would suggest that Duchess Agnes kept something closely approaching a high class brothel, but the true comparison was to a high-class finishing school in which some quietly prospered and others more daringly looked round to exploit its opportunities (or were in their turn exploited).

Certainly Duchess Agnes was considered to be a responsible figure, quite apart from her rank, to whom the care of the young could be safely entrusted.... But of course the comparison to a large school occurs once again when one considers the huge size of the Duchess's household -- over 100 people at Lambeth -- and the scandals which might take place as a result."

~ Antonia Fraser " the Six Wives of Henry VIII"

Click EasyEdit to update this page!
(Don't see the EasyEdit button above? <a href="/#signin" target="_self">Sign in</a> or <a href="/accountnew" target="_self">Sign up</a>.)


Family members:
Father: Hugh Tilney Esq of Lincolnshire
Mother: Eleanor Talboys
Brother: Sir Philip Tilney
Step-father: Thomas Strangeways
Cousin: Elizabeth Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk (Grandmother of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard & grand-aunt of Jane Seymour)

Husband: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1499 - 1513) (who was previously married to Agnes' cousin Elizabeth Tilney)

Lady Katherine, Countess of Bridgewater; Lady Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Sussex; Lady Anne Howard, Countess of Oxford; Sir William Howard, 1st Baron Effingham; Lord Thomas Howard, Viscount Binden; Lady Dorothy Howard, Countess of Derby
; Agnes Howard; George Howard.
Stepson: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Stepson: Lord Edmund Howard (Father of Katherine Howard)
Stepdaughter: Lady Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne, Mary, and George Boleyn)
Step-granddaughters: Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard

Step-great-granddaughter: Lady Elizabeth Tudor (later Queen Elizabeth I)

Queen Katherine of Aragon (Agnes was first lady of the household after Princess Mary, Queen of France [[[Princess Margaret Tudor]]])
Princess Mary, Queen of France [[[Princess Margaret Tudor]]]

Princess Mary Tudor (was godmother to her)
King Henry VIII

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Katherine Howard
Anne Boleyn
Princess Elizabeth Tudor (held Elizabeth at her baptizm)
Mary Boleyn
George Boleyn
Francis Dereham
Sir Francis Bryan
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Lord Edmund Howard
Lady Elizabeth Howard

King Henry VIII


  • "How dare you! Whoever you are!" - to Sir Richard Rich while being questioned in the Tower. [Deleted scene, Season 4]


Sir Francis Bryan & Agnes Tilney Agnes Tilney as played by Barbara Brennan

Agnes Tilney as played by Barbara Brennan
Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk as played by Barbara Brennan
Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk as played by Barbara Brennan
(not Barbara Brennan - actress unknown)
<embed allowfullscreen="true" height="282" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="344" wmode="transparent"/>
The Tudors Season 4 Deleted Scene - The Investigation Of Queen Katherine Howard
Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk
Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk an engraving done long after her death