Richard III and the Howards

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley | February 6, 2013


The past month has been one of deadlines and, as a result, I have been in a bubble oblivious to pretty much everything going on around me. However, there is one thing that it has been impossible to avoid: Leicester University’s confirmation that the body dug up from beneath a council car park is Richard III – http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/index.html.

Many years ago, I loved reading Josephine Tey’s, The Daughter of Time. Of course, as a Yorkshire lass, it’s rehabilitation of the last Yorkist monarch was to be approved but it was more than just a sense of regional loyalty. Tey had brought together two of my favourite things – history and detective fiction – and made historical research exciting. Do some persistent digging, it said, and you could solve centuries old mysteries and set history straight. The excavation of Richard III’s body taps into that same sense of excitement, the moment when a theory is confirmed and a new discovery made.

Today my interest in Richard III is from the perspective of the Howards. So what is the connection between them?

It lies with John Howard, son of Sir Robert Howard and Margaret Mowbray and a loyal Yorkist. Knighted by King Edward IV after the Battle of Towton in 1461, he was later summoned to parliament as Lord Howard and served as the King’s Lieutenant and Captain at sea. When Richard, duke of Gloucester assumed the throne as King Richard III in 1483, Lord Howard was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England. His loyalty to Richard III was unswerving and he and his son, Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, brought their men to the King’s side at the Battle of Bosworth. According to the Shakesperian legend, on the day of the battle, a note was pinned to Norfolk’s tent:

‘Jockey of Norfolk, be not so bold,
For Dickon thy master is bought and sold.’

Undeterred Norfolk lead the vanguard against John de Vere, earl of Oxford’s forces. In the ensuing battle, Norfolk was killed, the second highest ranking casualty of the battle after Richard III himself. His son was captured, imprisoned and attainted. It was not until 1489 that Thomas Howard was restored as Earl of Surrey and, even then it was a slow road to regain his lost lands and offices. Finally, in 1513, after defeating and killing King James IV of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden Field, he was created Duke of Norfolk, just over 30 years since Richard III had first granted the title to his family.

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1 Comment »

  1. It is just a pity that permission has not been given to examin the bones of the supposed Princes in the Tower. I would love for J. Tey to be vindicated.
    Really enjoyed reading this and glad that my suggestion to read the Daughters of Time had such a productive response.

    Comment by Nick — February 7, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

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