Open main menu

Lord Thomas Howard (1511 – 31 October 1537), courtier, was a younger son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk by his second marriage to Agnes Tilney.[1] He is chiefly known for his marriage (later invalidated by King Henry VIII) to Lady Margaret Douglas (1515–1578), the daughter of Henry VIII's sister, Margaret Tudor, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower, where he died on 31 October 1537. The affair is immortalized in verses by his nephew, the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

Lord Thomas Howard
Died31 October 1537 (aged 25–26)
Tower of London
Noble familyHoward
FatherThomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
MotherAgnes Tilney


Early lifeEdit

Lord Thomas was at court in 1533 when his niece, Anne Boleyn, married King Henry VIII as his second wife, and helped to bear the canopy at the christening of Anne's daughter, Elizabeth. In the years which followed he was often at court, and it was there that he met Lady Margaret Douglas (1515–1578), the daughter of Henry VIII's sister, Margaret Tudor, and her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (c. 1489 – 1557). By the end of 1535 Lord Howard and Lady Margaret Douglas had fallen in love and become secretly engaged.[2]

Lord Thomas Howard is often confused with his elder brother, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. They were both sons of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, however Lord Thomas was the product of a second marriage, while the Duke was the son of his father's first marriage.

Imprisonment and deathEdit

Howard's niece, Queen Anne, fell from power in May 1536. This undoubtedly contributed to the King's fury when in early July 1536 he learned of the marriage contract of Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret since Lady Margaret was at the time next in the line of succession as a result of the King's bastardization of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth. The couple were committed to the Tower, and on 18 July 1536 an Act of Attainder accusing Howard of attempting to 'interrupt ympedyte and lett the seid Succession of the Crowne' was passed in both houses of Parliament. The Act sentenced Howard to death, and forbade the marriage of any member of the King's family without his permission.[3] The death sentence was not carried out, and Lord Thomas languished in the Tower despite the fact that Lady Margaret was required to renounce their relationship by King Henry's minister Richard Cromwell. While in the Tower Lady Margaret fell ill, and the King allowed her to be moved to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. There are many reports that her illness was her pregnancy with Lord Thomas Howard's son and thus she was sent to the Abbey during her confinement. She was released from the Abbey on 29 October 1537. Howard remained in the Tower, where he caught an illness and died on 31 October 1537. There is an unsubstantiated tradition that he was poisoned. His body was given to his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, with the stipulation that it be buried ‘without pomp’. Howard was interred at Thetford Abbey.[4]

Lord Thomas' nephew, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, referred to his death in a poem to a lady who refused to dance with him:—[citation needed]

If you be fair and fresh, am I not of your hue?
And for my vaunt I dare well say, my blood is not untrue;
For you yourself doth know, it is not long ago
Sith that for love one of the race did end his life in woe,
In Tower both strong and high, for his assured truth,
Whereas in tears he spent his breath, alas, the more the ruth!
This gentle beast so died, whom nothing could remove,
But willingly to seek his death for loss of his true love.

In 1540 Lady Margaret Douglas was disgraced in a similar affair with Thomas Howard's nephew Sir Charles Howard, the son of Lord Thomas' elder half-brother Lord Edmund Howard, and a brother of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Katherine Howard.[5]



  • Davies, Catherine (2008). Howard [née Tilney], Agnes, duchess of Norfolk (b. in or before 1477, d. 1545), noblewoman. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Head, David M. (2008). Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524), magnate and soldier. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • McDermott, James (2008). Howard, William, first Baron Howard of Effingham (c.1510–1573), naval commander. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Marshall, Rosalind K. (2006). Douglas, Lady Margaret, countess of Lennox (1515–1578), noblewoman. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2004). Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Riordan, Michael (2004). Howard, Lord Thomas (c.1512–1537), courtier. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Weir, Alison (1991). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.