Saturday, 27 November 2010

Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk

The son of  Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk,  by his second wife, Margaret, dau and heiress of  Sir Thomas Audley, first Baron Audley of Walden.  Sir Thomas was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, with his brothers Phillip and William. He was attainted at the time of his father's execution but his rights were restored in 1584. He accompanied, as a volunteer, the fleet sent to oppose the Spanish Armada and in the attack off Calais displayed such valour that he was knighted at sea by the  Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard  on 25 Jun 1588. He was soon made Captain of a man-of-war. On 5 Mar 1591 he was appointed commander of the squadron which attacked, in the face of overwhelming difficulties, the Spanish treasure ships off the Azores. On his return from battle he was created a Knight of the Garter on 23 Apr 1597. The following June he sailed as Vice Admiral of the fleet dispatched to the Azores.

His ability and courage caught the attention of  Elizabeth I and he became a great favourite at court. In her letters to him she referred to him as her "good Thomas". On 5 Dec 1597 he was summoned to Parliament as Baron Howard de Walden and became Lord Lieutenant of County Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely the following year.

He was sworn High Steward of the University of Cambridge in Feb 1601; Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire on 26 June 1602; and acting Lord Chamberlain of the Household on 28 Dec. In 1601 he was commander of the forces that besieged the  Earl of Essex  in his house and was a member of the jury which tried him.

On one of her famous "progresses", in 1603,  Sir Thomas, at Charterhouse, sumptuously entertained Queen Elizabeth . For an account of another of her progresses, this time at Long Melford, see "Two Hundred Men in Velvet".

Upon the accession of James I (1603), he was created Earl of Suffolk and later held a number of official posts. Discovered the Gunpowder plot against James I. He continued to rise, culminating in being named Lord High Treasurer of England on 11 Jul 1614, an office he would hold until 19 Jul 1619.   His daughter,  Frances Howard,  and her husband, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, were tried and convicted (1616) of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.   In the autumn of 1618 grave irregularities were discovered in the treasurer. Sir Thomas was suspended from his office being accused of embezzlement, defrauding the King and extorting money from the King's subjects. Once again a Howard was in danger of execution.   Catherine, Lady Suffolk, was in the employ of the King of Spain; she received £1,000 per year for acting on his behalf. Catherine was indicted for extorting money from persons having business at the treasury through Sir John Bingley, Remembrancer of the Exchequer. She was of strong character and undoubtedly used his high office to enrich herself. During the proceedings in the  Star Chamber,  she was compared to an exchange woman who kept her shop while her creature, Sir John Bingley, cried "Whad'ye lack?"   Sir Thomas and Catherine were found guilty and fined and ordered to restore all money wrongfully extorted and were sentenced to be imprisoned in the Tower from which they were released after ten days.

Popular opinion of the day placed most of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Catherine. Her beauty was remarkable but in 1619 an attack of small pox destroyed any vestige of loveliness.

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