Howard family

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Howard family
Noble family

Coat of arms of Howard, granted to Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
CountryKingdom of England, United Kingdom
Founded1483; 541 years ago (1483)
FounderJohn Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk
Current headEdward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk
Cadet branches

The Howard family is an English noble family founded by John Howard, who was created Duke of Norfolk (third creation) by King Richard III of England in 1483. However, John was also the eldest grandson (although maternal) of the 1st Duke of the first creation. The Howards have been part of the peerage since the 15th century and remain both the Premier Dukes and Earls of the Realm in the Peerage of England, acting as Earl Marshal of England. After the English Reformation, many Howards remained steadfast in their Catholic faith as the most high-profile recusant family; two members, Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel, and William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, are regarded as martyrs: a saint and a blessed respectively.

The senior line of the house, as well as holding the title of Duke of Norfolk, is also Earl of Arundel, Earl of Surrey and Earl of Norfolk, as well as holding six baronies. The Arundel title was inherited in 1580, when the Howards became the genealogical successors to the paternally extinct FitzAlans, ancient kin to the House of Stuart, dating back to when the family first arrived in Great Britain from Brittany (see Alan fitz Flaad).

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, married as his first wife Mary FitzAlan, who, after the death of her brother Henry in 1556, became heiress to the Arundel estates of her father Henry FitzAlan, 12th Earl of Arundel. Her son was the above-mentioned Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel. It is from this marriage that the present Duke of Norfolk takes his surname of FitzAlan-Howard and why his seat is Arundel Castle. There have also been several notable cadet branches; those existing to this day include the Howards of Effingham, Howards of Carlisle, Howards of Suffolk and Howards of Penrith. The former three are earldoms, and the latter a barony.

Throughout much of English and later British history, the Howards have played an important role. Claiming descent from Hereward the Wake, the resister of the Norman conquest who has been much celebrated in folklore, John Howard fought to the death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in defence of the cause for the House of York. The Howards regained favour with the new Tudor dynasty after leading a defence of England from Scottish invasion at the Battle of Flodden, and Catherine Howard subsequently became the fifth wife and Queen consort to King Henry VIII. Her uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, played a significant role in Henrician politics. Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, served as Lord Admiral of the English fleet which defeated the invading Spanish Armada.

Arundel Castle has been in the family of the Duke of Norfolk for over 400 years, and it is still the principal seat of the Norfolk family. As cultural heritage, it is a Grade I listed building.[1]


Arundel Castle, home of the Fitzalans and later the Howards

The later Howards would claim legendary descent from Hereward the Wake, but a pedigree compiled and signed by Sir William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms of the College of Arms, and dated 8 April 1665, stated that the Howard family are descended from the Howarth [sic, Howard] family of Great Howarth Hall, Rochdale. According to Dugdale, "it is clear from above seventy deeds, without date, that the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk, do derive from the Howards Howarth of Great Howarth and that William Howard of Wigenhall… was a direct decedent of Osbert Howard de Howarth." Osbert, Dugdale wrote, had been given lands in Rochdale in return for his service as Master of King Henry I's Buckhounds.

The scroll states, in clear terms, that William Howard de Howard (born 1237) was the second son of Robert Howarth of Howarth, son of William, who was himself the son of Peter de Howard. Dugdale states that William Howard de Howard was the progenitor of the subsequently noble Howard family. William Howard was knighted in c. 1278 and that he was appointed (Chief) Justice of the Common Pleas in 1297. William Howard married firstly Alice de Ufford, the daughter of the Justiciar and Suffolk landowner Sir Robert de Ufford. If Dugdale was correct a young William Howard left Lancashire to settle in Norfolk and practise as a lawyer perhaps at the behest of his father-in-law.[2]

Later in 1636 the Rev. Richard James separately wrote the Iter Lancastrense, a poem on the history of Lancashire in which he mentions "Robin Howorrth, from whose familie Great Noble peers derive their progenie".[3]

Alternatively it is sometimes stated that William Howard is son of a John (Howard) de Wiggenhale, who with other family members appears to have held land in or near Wiggenhall in Norfolk.[4]

Sir William Howard settled in East Winch and Wiggenhall. He was a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas and was summoned as a justice to the House of Commons in the Model Parliament of 1295. Sir William's son, Sir John Howard I, became Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk and married Joan de Cornwall, an illegitimate granddaughter of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans,[5] the second son of King John. He died in 1308.


Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII

Sir William's great-great-great-grandson, Sir Robert Howard, married Lady Margaret Mowbray, elder daughter of Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1366–1399). The Mowbray line of Dukes died out in 1476 and the heiress of the last Duke, Anne Mowbray, died at the age of nine in 1481; after declaring her widower King Edward IV's son Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, illegitimate, Richard III of England created the son of Sir Robert and Lady Margaret, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, of a new creation on 28 June 1483, the 200th anniversary of the Barony of Mowbray to which he was also senior co-heir. John had previously been summoned to Parliament as Lord Howard by Edward IV. He was also created hereditary Earl Marshal. John's son and heir, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, was the grandfather of two English queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both wives of Henry VIII.

The Howard family became one of the foremost recusant families due to their continued adherence to Roman Catholicism throughout the English Reformation and its aftermath. This meant that they often could not take their seats in the House of Lords. Three family members in a row fell out of favor and were attainted because of their Catholic beliefs: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in late 1546 was arrested for treason and also partly for being a Catholic, being executed in January 1547.[6] The son of Surrey, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk who, despite having been brought up as a boy in Protestantism, was a Catholic, fell into disgrace and was executed in July 1572 for having conspired against Queen Elizabeth I with intended to replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots and thus restore Catholicism to England.[7] Norfolk's son, Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his Catholicism in 1585, remaining there for over ten years until he fell ill with dysentery and he died in October 1595.

Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII

Both the Dukedom and Earl Marshalship have been the subject of repeated attainders and restorations in the 15th to 17th centuries. Before Charles II restored the titles for good, the Howards had inherited the ancient title of Earl of Arundel through an heiress, and formed additional branches that have continued to this day.

A branch of the Howard family has been seated at Castle Howard, one of England's most magnificent country houses, for over 300 years.

In order of genealogical seniority:

Howard family tree[edit]

Arms of the Howard family[edit]

See: Gallery of Howard Arms

The Howard family's original arms were the white bend on red with the crosslets. On marrying the heiress of the dukes of Norfolk, the first Howard duke of Norfolk quartered his arms with those of Thomas of Brotherton 1st Earl of Norfolk, son of King Edward I Longshanks as well as the Mowbray arms. Starting with the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, the Howards added in the 3rd quarter the checkered blue and gold of the Warren Earls of Surrey, whom they became heirs of. Philip Howard was deprived of the dukedom of Norfolk, which was under attainer, but inherited the earldom of Arundel. His descendants used the gold lion on red of the Fitzalan Earls of Arundel in the 4th quarter.

Earl Marshal is a hereditary royal officeholder and chivalric title under the sovereign of the United Kingdom used in England (then, following the Act of Union 1800, in the United Kingdom). It is the eighth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Constable and above the Lord High Admiral. The Earl Marshal has responsibility for the organisation of State funerals and the monarch's coronation in Westminster Abbey.[9] He is also a leading officer of arms. The office is hereditary in the Howard Family in their position as Dukes of Norfolk, the senior dukedom in the United Kingdom.

Coat of arms of the Duke of Norfolk
1842 by the future 14th Duke of Norfolk, who added the prefix "FitzAlan" to his surname and replaced the 4th quarter "Mowbray" with "FitzAlan".
A Coronet of a Duke
1st: Issuant from a Ducal Coronet Or a pair of Wings Gules each charged with a Bend between six Cross-crosslets fitchy Argent (Howard);
2nd: On a Chapeau Gules turned up Ermine a Lion statant gardant with tail extended Or gorged with a Ducal Coronet Argent (Thomas of Brotherton);
3rd: On a Mount Vert a Horse passant Argent holding in the mouth a Slip of Oak Vert fructed proper (Fitzalan).
Quarterly, 1st: Gules on a Bend between six Cross-crosslets fitchy Argent an Escutcheon Or charged with a Demi-lion rampant pierced through the mouth by an arrow within a Double Tressure flory counterflory of the first (Howard); 2nd: Gules three Lions passant gardant in pale Or, Armed and Langued Azure, in chief a Label of three points Argent (Plantagenet of Norfolk); 3rd: Checky Or and Azure (Warenne); 4th: Gules a Lion rampant Or, Armed and Langued Azure (Fitzalan).
Dexter a Lion, sinister a Horse both Argent the latter holding in the mouth a Slip of Oak Vert fructed proper.
Sola Virtus Invicta (Latin for "Virtue alone is unconquered").
Often, the coat of arms of the Duke of Norfolk appears with the Garter circlet of the Order of the Garter surrounding the shield, as seen in the arms of the 17th Duke of Norfolk. However, this is not hereditary; the 17th Duke did not become a Knight of the Garter until 22 April 1983. The 18th Duke of Norfolk, as of 2017, had not been appointed to the Order of the Garter.
Other elements
Placed behind the shield are two gold batons in saltire enamelled at the ends in black, which represent the Duke of Norfolk's office as Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England.
The shield on the bend in the first quarter of the arms was granted as an augmentation of honour by Henry VIII to the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Flodden. It is a modification of the Royal coat of arms of Scotland. Instead of its normal rampant position, the lion is shown cut in half with an arrow through its mouth, commemorating the death of King James IV at the battle.[10]


Title Grantee Created Extinct Notes
England Duke of Norfolk 28 June 1483 Premier duke of England
England Earl of Arundel Premier earl of England; subsidiary to the Duke of Norfolk since 1660
England Earl of Surrey Subsidiary to the Duke of Norfolk since 1660
England Baron Howard of Effingham Lord William Howard 1554
England Earl of Nottingham (1596 creation) Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham 1596 1681
England Baron Howard de Walden Admiral Lord Thomas Howard 1597 Created by writ of summons. Has passed through many families.
England Earl of Suffolk (1603 creation) 1603
England Earl of Berkshire (1626 creation) Lord Thomas Howard 1626
England Baron Howard of Escrick Edward Howard 12 April 1628 29 April 1715
England Baron Stafford (1640 creation) Lord William Howard 1640
England Viscount Stafford 1640 1762
England Earl of Stafford Mary Howard, 1st Baroness Stafford 1688
England Earl of Norfolk (1644 creation) Thomas Howard, 14th/21st Earl of Arundel 1644
England Earl of Carlisle (1661 creation) Charles Howard 20 April 1661 1st Earl also created Viscount Howard by Oliver Cromwell, which passed into oblivion upon the Restoration.
England Baron Howard of Castle Rising Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk 1669 20 September 1777
England Earl of Norwich (1672 creation) 1672 20 September 1777
Kingdom of Great Britain Earl of Bindon Henry Howard, 6th Earl of Suffolk 30 January 1706 8 February 1722 Held with the Earl of Suffolk from 1709 to 1722
Kingdom of Great Britain Earl of Effingham (1731 creation) Francis Howard, 7th Baron Howard of Effingham 8 December 1731 11 December 1816
United Kingdom Earl of Effingham (1837 craetion) General Kenneth Alexander Howard, 11th Baron Howard of Effingham 27 January 1837
United Kingdom Baron Howard of Glossop Lord Edward George Fitzalan Howard 26 November 1869 Subsidiary to Dukedom of Norfolk since 1975.
United Kingdom Baron Lanerton Admiral The Honourable Edward Granville George Howard 1 January 1874 8 October 1880
United Kingdom Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent Lord Edmund Bernard Talbot née FitzAlan-Howard 28 April 1921 17 May 1962
United Kingdom Baron Howard of Penrith Esmé William Howard 10 July 1930
United Kingdom Baron Howard of Henderskelfe Major George Anthony Geoffrey Howard, JP 1 July 1983 27 November 1984 Life Peerage
United Kingdom Baron Howard of Rising Greville Patrick Charles Howard 4 June 2004 Life Peerage


  • William Dugdale, Baronage of England (London, 1675–76);
  • Collins, Peerage of England (fifth edition, London, 1779);
  • Henry Howard, Memorials of the Howard Family (privately printed, 1834);
  • Edmund Lodge, Portraits of Illustrious Personages (London, 1835); The Howard Papers, with a Biographical Pedigree and Criticism by Canston (London, 1862);
  • Yeatman, The Early Genealogical History of the House of Arundel (London, 1882);
  • Doyle, Official Baronage of England (London, 1886);
  • Brenan and Statham, The House of Howard (London, 1907).


  1. ^ Historic England. "Arundel Castle (1027926)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Dugdale's 1665 Pedigree of the Howarths of Great Howarth on Page 64 of The history of the county palatine and duchy of Lancaster by Baines, Edward, 1774-1848". Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  3. ^ "The Rev. Richard James, Iter Lancastrense 1636". Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  4. ^ "Francis Blomefield and Charles Parkin An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk (1739-1775)". Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  5. ^ Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, pg 232–33.
  6. ^ Graves, Michael A. R. (2008) [2004]. "Howard, Thomas, third duke of Norfolk (1473–1554)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13940. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Graves, Michael A. R. (2008) [2004]. "Howard, Thomas, fourth duke of Norfolk (1538–1572)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13941. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Rietstap, Johannes Baptist (2003). Armorial general. Vol. 2. Genealogical Publishing Co. ISBN 0806348119.
  9. ^ "The history of the Royal heralds and the College of Arms". The College of Arms website. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  10. ^ Brooke-Little, J.P., FSA (1978) [1950]. Boutell's Heraldry (Revised ed.). London: Frederick Warne LTD. p. 125. ISBN 0-7232-2096-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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