Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

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Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk as played by Henry Czerny

Born 1473 - Died 25 August 1554

Character's Backstory: Oldest son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney. His sister was Elizabeth Howard, wife of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and mother of Anne Boleyn. He was initially brought to court as a page to Henry VII and then betrothed to Anne Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV and niece to Richard III. He married her in 1495 and became brother-in-law to Elizabeth of York (Henry VIII's mother). At this point, he was landless and penniless until the death of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk in 1507. Anne also had nothing but her name and they survived on relatives until this time.

At the death of Henry VII in April 1509, he was named as one of the Lords Attendant for the funeral. On April 27, 1510, he was added to the Order of the Garter.

Thomas and his wife Anne had at least four children; none survived, and Anne died of consumption in 1512, leaving Thomas a childless widower after 17 years of marriage. He distinguished himself many times in battle, and was an able soldier.
Circa 1512/13, when he was 40, he married the 19-year-old Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. She was an attendant to Queen Katherine of Aragon; her romance with Ralph Neville (later earl of Westmoreland) had been brushed aside.

He fought against the Scots at Flodden Field in 1514 as Earl of Surrey, when his father was still Duke of Norfolk. He succeeded his father in 1522 and led the opposition to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He supported Henry VIII's divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon and his marriage to his niece Anne Boleyn. But he later sat on the jury which found Anne guilty of treason. Despite being Catholic he conducted the campaign against the Pilgrimage of the Grace. He took possession of many religious houses during the dissolution of the monasteries. He was the godfather of Prince Edward Tudor.
During these early days of the Reformation, he was considered the leader of the Catholic faction. He was instrumental in bringing down Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex.

After the execution in 1542 of another of his nieces, Katherine Howard, the King's 5th wife, his influence waned and he was back in the position of a mere military commander.

In 1546 he and his son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey were charged with treason. Norfolk's son was a man of learning and often called "the Poet"; Surrey also had a reputation for skill at arms. He was charged with quartering the arms of Edward the Confessor with his own, which was like openly claiming the throne, and was executed. He was probably held in Beauchamp Tower. During King Henry VIII's last days, when his execution seemed imminent, Howard was deprived of all comforts, including books, sheets for his bed, and hangings for the damp stone walls above the west moat. Further, he was confined to a narrow cell on the upper floor and forbidden exercise in the outer chambers of the tower. His son's execution was carried out; however, the King died the day before his execution could be carried out and his sentence was commuted. He remained a prisoner all through Edward VI's reign. Howard was only released on Mary I's accession; at that time his dukedom was also restored. He led the forces against the Wyatt Rebellion.

The result of Norfolk's suppression of the Wyatt Rebellion was Princess Elizabeth Tudor's imprisonment in the Tower (although there was not enough evidence to convict her on treason, since she clearly had not been party to the rebels' precise intentions) and the execution of the Queen's cousin Lady Jane Grey. Norfolk died not long after the Wyatt Rebellion a very old man by Tudor standards (80 yrs old) and was succeeded by his grandson Thomas. His tomb is situated in <a class="external" href=",_Framlingham" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham">Framlingham Church, Suffolk</a>.

Gentility: Nobleman

Position: 2nd Earl of Surrey, Lord High Admiral, Lord High Treasurer and Earl Marshal

Personality Type: Ambitious and rather insensitive to others.
He was conservative, unimpressed with the new ideas of reformers and uncomfortable with the low-born "new men" of the Tudor Court. Only joined with reformers or any religion that would bring him power and wealth. When he no longer had any use for them, he turned back to his old and staunch ways.

Signature Look: Conservative

Endearing Traits:
The Venetian ambassador in 1531 described him as 'prudent, liberal, affable and astute: associates with everybody, has very great experience in political government, discusses the affairs of the world admirably...small and spare in person, his hair is black...'

A loyal and sincere friend to Thomas More, before More's downfall.

Annoying Traits:
Selfish and untrustworthy. Put his own security before family loyalties. Arrogant, little caring of his relatives the Boleyn family. Careless also of what his actions might do to the families and welfare of others, just as long as they furthered the political or economic advancement of himself or his relatives.

When his nieces became Queens of King Henry VIII respectively, Norfolk took advantage of the position of both of them in turn to destroy his political rivals.

Upon the ascent of Anne Boleyn as Queen, Norfolk and her family destroyed Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

Upon the ascent of Katherine Howard as Queen, Norfolk and his political allies destroyed Thomas Cromwell.

His affair with his wife's maid, Bess Holland, naturally caused an estrangement with his wife. The marriage was unhappy, allegedly because the duke flaunted his betrayal with Bess Holland. He beat his wife savagely when she protested.

Thomas Howard as played by Henry Czerny
Henry Czerny as Thomas Howard

Thomas Howards signature

"....It is perilous striving with princes.
And therefore, I would wish you somewhat to incline to the King's pleasure. By God's body, Master More,
the anger of the prince means death."

- Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk,
to Sir Thomas More,1534

Norfolk arms
Coat of Arms of the Howard Family

"The slight, dark-haired, swarthy man who held the ducal title may have been an unscrupulous dynast, greedy for personal power and family aggrandizement, but in Tudor times security rested on calculated servility and cautious recognition of the political facts of life. All the Howards had to dance nimbly the Tudor fandango, lest their suspicious sovereign reach down and pluck from them their family titles, or lest their political opponents interpret bristling dynastic pride as high treason. Retirement into secure political nonentity was impossible, for whether Thomas Howard desired it or not, the ducal dignity and feudal blood were always the magnetic centre for political organization and traitorous sentiments. Howard blood conjoined with Plantagenet descent made the Duke and his son possible successors to the throne should Henry VIII die without a male heir.

...If Thomas Howard is to be classified at all, it is as the rough and ready military man, more at home in camp life than in that pavilion of Renaissance brilliance and wit which was Henry's court. Efficient and thorough, if unimaginative, he found the weight of medieval armour a lighter burden than the intricate game of court politics and international diplomacy.

...An inveterate intriguer, but politically inept, he
never won the recognition after which he grasped because he was both too inconstant and too cautious. Taciturn and often tactless, his brusque and arrogant methods lost him valuable friends at court, while his constant aspiration for greater elevation , together with family insolence, antagonized both friend and foe. "
" ~ A Tudor Tragedy by Lacey Baldwin Smith

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Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was not only the uncle of Anne Boleyn but of Katherine Howard, Henry's 5th wife. It is popularly believed that Norfolk conspired against his niece Katherine when she took a lover, even after he had helped her attract the King's notice and attain the throne. The case of Anne was similar; however--unlike Katherine--Anne never committed adultery even though she was charged with it. Norfolk passed sentence on both of his nieces, and both were sentenced to death for high treason and adultery.
It should be added that Norfolk did not contribute only to the ruin of his own flesh and blood. He was the prime architect of Thomas Cromwell's downfall. During the Katherine Howard debacle, Norfolk 'gave up' his own 'spy-in-waiting' Lady Rochford, along with his niece Queen Katherine.
Ultimately, Norfolk even betrayed his own erstwhile close friend-- Thomas More.


Family Members:
Father : Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Mother: Elizabeth Tilney
Sister : Lady Elizabeth Howard (Anne Boleyn's mother)
Brother: Lord Edmund Howard (Katherine Howard's father)
Niece: Anne Boleyn (King Henry's ill-fated second wife)
Niece: Mary Boleyn
Nephew: George Boleyn
Niece: Katherine Howard (King Henry´s ill-fated fifth wife)
Son: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (poet)
Grandson: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, executed for treason against Elizabeth I
Son-in-law: Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Anne of York, daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (died 1511).

Lady Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Alianore Percy.

Children by Anne of York:
Son: Lord Thomas Howard (died 1508)

Children by Lady Elizabeth Stafford:
Son: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (poet). The Duke's oldest son by his second wife, Elizabeth Stafford.
Daughter: Lady Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond (wife of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond)

Mistress: Elizabeth "Bess" Holland, his wife's maid and maid-of-honour to Queen Anne Boleyn.

At one time, The Boleyn family but that changed and as head of the catholic faction he joined with his enemy Cromwell to topple them.
Sir Thomas More
Bishop Stephen Gardiner
William Parr

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Thomas Cromwell
Anyone who got in the way of his ambition.

Norfolk must be understood in the same context of power-hungry behavior so typical of others such as Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. These personages well represent all the other courtiers/nobles--whether men or women--who presided at the Tudor Court and sought power and influence. The simplest explanation for what motivated these people and drove their behavior is: "They were a product of their era."


  • "When she opens her legs for him she can open her mouth to denounce Wolsey. They do say that the sharpest blades are sheathed in the softest pouches". Norfolk to Thomas Boleyn about his daughter, Anne
  • "Well, the King is plainly in love with you. Don't you see, niece? It makes a man--any man--extremely vulnerable".
  • "It would be wise for you not to be fooled by your own masquerade. It is your duty to use his love to our advantage in supplanting Wolsey."


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Thomas Howard as played by Henry Czerny
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, by Hans Holbein
Thomas HowardThomas Howard as played by Henry Czerny
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
with Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Howard
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Howard

The Howards

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Arundel Castle
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - The Tudors Wiki

Located in Sussex and home to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, as well as his descendants. Arundel Castle calls to mind the image of Windsor Castle, but on a smaller scale.
Lulworth Castle
Lulworth Castle
Made part of the Howard family estates upon its acquisition by Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk.

See also: The Tudors Cast | The Tudors Episode Guide