Howard Family

Sola Virtus Invicta (Only Virtue Unconquered)

Chapter 8 : Dangerous Times

In 1536, an Act of Parliament for suppression of smaller monasteries was passed. For Norfolk, this was a hard pill to swallow – particularly as he felt he was overlooked in the parcelling out of the spoils.

In October of 1536, rebellion broke out in Lincolnshire and then Yorkshire, partly motivated by religious change. Norfolk and Surrey were sent to lead the King's army against the rebels. Delighted at being given a chance to prove his continuing loyalty to Henry, Norfolk, despite his 62 years, hot-footed it north to Welbeck, near Doncaster, where he was to meet with another section of the royal army under the Earl of Shrewsbury.

The Duke and Earl's combined forces were no more than 10,000 in the face of some 40,000 rebels (or Pilgrims, as they styled themselves.)

Norfolk, always prudent in war, and with a reputation for being a clever negotiator, wrote to Henry that, in the face of such numbers, he would be obliged to promise redress of the Pilgrim's grievances. Such promises, he said

"I shall surely observe no part thereof..,thinking…that none oath nor promise made for policy to serve you…can disdain me."

Norfolk and Surrey met the rebels at Doncaster Bridge, and promised a safe conduct for two of their representatives to travel to the King to lay their petitions before him. Henry was unimpressed, and, infected by the whispering of Norfolk's enemies at court, who believed Norfolk sympathised with the Pilgrims' aims, berated him for negligence. Norfolk was forbidden to address any grievances, but told to lecture the rebels on their sinful behaviour. Only in the last resort were any concessions to be granted.

Eventually, Norfolk persuaded the rebels to disperse, promising pardons and a Parliament to be held in the North to redress their grievances. The Pilgrims, trusting to Norfolk's word as a gentleman and nobleman, disbanded. Their trust was misplaced. When a further rebellion broke out in the following spring, Norfolk was again dispatched to suppress it.

Now with numerical superiority, he declared Martial Law and hanged some 200 rebels, although he forbore the drawing and quartering that Henry had ordered, and wrote about the rebels with some sympathy – observing that their poverty was at the root of the problem. Norfolk and Surrey continued to face accusations that they had sympathised with the rebels, but Henry was content with their actions, and no investigation was made.

Norfolk, as mentioned, had a reputation for being silver tongued. Surrey, however, although a brilliant poet, was quarrelsome and apt to get involved in personal altercations. In 1537, he quarrelled with another courtier (possibly, but not certainly, Sir Edward Seymour, brother of Queen Jane) and struck him in the face.

The punishment for such a transgression in the King's Court, was loss of the right hand. Only the most obsequious of letters from Norfolk on behalf of his son saved him from this terrible fate. Surrey was banished to Windsor, where he spent his time writing. This was the period when he developed the new sonnet form (ababcdcdefefgg) that would later be famed as "Shakespearian sonnet".

Surrey was forgiven and he and Norfolk returned to court in October 1537, in time to greet the arrival of Henry's longed-for son, Edward. Duchess Mary was already there as one of Queen Jane's ladies-in-waiting and also Norfolk's half-brother, Lord William Howard. As the only Duke left in England, after the execution of Buckingham, Norfolk stood as god-father to the young prince.

Following Queen Jane's death, both Surrey and Mary, Duchess of Richmond seem to have spent most of their time away from Court. She was still pressing her father "with weeping and wailing" to persuade Henry to give her her jointure money. Eventually, in 1539 a settlement was reached and she began to receive an income.

Mary, reputedly extremely attractive, was evidently as keen to uphold her rights as her mother had been, and she was also an accomplished and intelligent woman. She had been part of the circle of poet and wits around Queen Anne Boleyn, and would go on to be a champion of the reformed faith in the household of Queen Katherine Parr.

During the late 1530s Surrey was restocking the Howard nurseries with four children: Thomas, Katherine, Henry and Margaret. Meanwhile, his half-uncle William had produced one daughter by his first wife, and a further five daughters and four sons by his second wife. Another generation of Howards was being brought up to serve their monarch and advance themselves.