Thomas Howard: Skilled Political Navigator or Lucky Remnant of the Past?

Thomas Howard, styled Earl of Surrey from 1514 and 3rd Duke of Norfolk from 1524, was one of the most influential figures of his time. Indeed, the actions of the Duke simply can’t be ignored when looking into the reign of Henry VIII (1509–47) in particular. In today’s pop culture, particularly online, references to the reign of King Henry VIII usually feature only a few key figures: Henry himself, his six wives, Thomas Wolsey, and Cromwell. The odd More, Fisher, Cranmer, and Foxe will often feature but the name ‘Howard’ (or ‘Norfolk’) is one which too often goes unnoticed. Upon deeper examination of Henry’s reign, however, it becomes very apparent that the actions of Thomas Howard play a crucial part in a myriad of Henry’s concerns, from his religious policy to his foreign affairs. Howard remains, however, a somewhat vague and ambiguous character of Henry’s court. A part of the ‘old nobility’, with centuries of noble blood in his veins, was Thomas Howard a cunning, powerful political figure or simply a vestige of a dying political class who was lucky to escape the executioner’s axe?

Thomas Howard as a younger man
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, painted by Hans Holbein c. 1539, when the Duke was at the height of his influence.
The Arms of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (Produced by Saltspan, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license)
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Thomas Cromwell
King Henry VIII

Interested in History. Specifically, Tudor History and the Middle Ages in England.

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