Monday, August 10, 2015

Yet Another Tudor Thomas: The 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Known Royal Pimp of His Nieces and Holder of Pool Cues. 
Thomas Howard's best claim to fame may be that he was the uncle who pimped out two of his nieces to the same man -  Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, wives # 2 and 5 respectively, of Henry VIII. 

It was no coincidence.

Both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were promoted at Henry VIII's court by their families; whatever talents and gifts you had, your family made sure everyone knew about them. 
Little-known fact: how family names were a brand, an ongoing marketing campaign, a constant advertisement of surname.
For example, the "B" necklace worn by Anne Boleyn in one of her portraits; it was not like, "Oh, honey, wear that pretty pearl monogrammed necklace for the picture." 
More like, "Be sure that painter outlines the shape of the letter 'B' - FOR BOLEYN! - in black so that it stands out."
It was like the Nike swoosh, the Adidas whatever Adidas has, that weird, dangling sheep on a Brooks Brothers polo shirt - a visual reminder of her family name to everybody who saw it on the neck of the Queen of England.

Boleyn was Anne's last name; her mother Elizabeth Boleyn's maiden name was Howard and when you played ball with the Howard family, you'd better wear your cup, because they pitched hardball. 
Thomas Howard, our Tudor Thomas for today, was Elizabeth Boleyn's brother and he not only pitched hardball, he threw hard, like when he, with righteous indignation, disassociated himself from his nieces after they got sideways with their mutual husband, the King.
Their uncle
Imagine the dysfunction in that family. 

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (yeah, I know, but the number *actually* does make a difference in these guys) was born in 1473; and lucky for him, he was the eldest son of, and the one who would inherit the property of, his dad, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (told you!)
And - remember this for when you'll need to know it a moment or so from now - he was Catholic. 
Back back back in the pre-Tudor days, in 1483, Richard III was on the throne, his brother the king had died, but also the king left two boys which was inconvenient for Richard, as he wanted the throne all to himself. 
Those boys were the little Princes in the Tower, so now you understand how Richard III rolled. 
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk was tight tight tight with Richard III - meaning he was okay enough with the things Richard III did (like those disappearing nephews) that he went along with it. 
That's not exactly a character recommendation, is it? 

In Henry VIII's court, Thomas Howard (the 3rd Duke of Norfolk) was an aggressive, non-stop, very serious business, politician who promoted his family members without regard for their suitability or the consequences for that lack of suitability.
It was just his dumb luck the first time that a niece of his became queen; he had very little to do with bringing Anne Boleyn to the attention of Henry VIII.
The second time that a niece of his became queen, he had quite a bit to do with Henry noticing the young Catherine Howard.

Catherine Howard, daughter to Thomas Howard's ne'er do well but well-born brother, was left motherless from an early age. Her dad couldn't cut it in Henry VIII's court although two of his brothers did quite well, rising in prominence and favor with the notoriously fickle king. 
He deserted his ten or eleven (!) children, thus proving 'deadbeat dad' isn't a new concept, nor is it one limited only the lower classes. 
miniature portrait of Queen Catherine Howard
Maybe not the best likeness of Catherine Howard, who was a known beauty. This looks like a DMV -tier picture?
Catherine Howard was sent to live with her step-grandmother in an atmosphere of benign neglect, where she grew to be a sunny, adorable and beautiful teen-aged girl.

Enter Uncle Thomas Howard.

Henry VIII's fourth marriage was trainwrecking, left and right.
Thomas Howard realized the king would marry again, so why not a Howard? 
He found Catherine a job as lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, the soon-to-be-discarded fourth wife.
The king wasted no time noticing the pretty young thing.
Thomas Howard's influence and favor with the king rose at a roughly proportional to the rising of the king's, er, libido and in no time at all, Catherine was married and on her honeymoon.

Catherine was probably sixteen or seventeen, tops, when she married Henry.
Henry, on the other hand, was closing in on fifty.
Had Thomas Howard done more than ask a superficial question or two about Catherine's time spent in benign neglect as she came to sexual maturity, he'd have discovered Catherine 'was no maid.' 

In other words, when it came to sex with her overweight, 'is it in?' husband, she'd had better.
And she wanted 'better' again.
So she found it, in the pants of a couple of courtiers.

Cheating on the king was treason; her cousin Anne Boleyn could have told her that; it was an equation for disaster.
So did our Thomas Howard stand behind his nieces when they were called out for their cheating (fake for Anne, hella real in the case of Catherine?) 
No, he did not.
If there were buses in those days, he'd have won an Olympic gold medal for his ability to throw both of them under one.
"Sorry, niece. Nothing personal."

Anne Boleyn learned of her uncle's treachery as she sat eating her dinner (which would have been around the time we'd eat brunch nowadays.) Thomas Cromwell led four members of the king's Privy Council into her chambers; one of the four was good old Uncle Tom. 
After her arrest and unfortunate incarceration in the Tower of London, she faced trial.
Twenty-six peers (rich white men) put her in the cross-hairs of their questions and exaggerated evidence as they took her down.
Oh, and leading those twenty-six?
"Uncle Tom! Hey, how the heck are ya? How's the fam?"

Her uncle, her mother's own brother, passed sentence on her, and reports show that he cried as he did it.
But for whom were those tears?

In the case of Catherine Howard, Uncle Tom chucked her under a bus that was going much faster and veering all over the place - because, as everyone at court knew well, Catherine Howard was such a lovely little dish that were she given time to plead with the king, she'd have stood a very good chance of sweet-talking him out of all charges against her.
Henry was told about his wife's past, and her cheating present, in a way guaranteed to wound and humiliate him.
(Step one.)
Next, Catherine was jailed confined in her own quarters without access to Henry.
(Step two.) 
But teen-aged girls are notoriously slippery; she broke out of jail her heavily guarded apartments and ran screaming Henry's name, begging him to see her, down the hallway between hers, and Henry's, rooms in Hampton Court Palace.
(Step nobody-saw-that-coming.)
Run, Catherine, RUN!
*Note: that hallway is known as the Haunted Gallery, and visitors to Hampton Court Palace report all kinds of spooky things happen to them as they pass through. 
Quick as lightning, she was tackled and silenced and tossed in the Tower of London.
(Step three.)

Uncle Tom, meanwhile, acted as though he had no idea how on earth he could be related to such a detestable whore, and declared 'he wished to see her burned.' 
Seems a bit harsh, Unc.

Catherine, like her cousin Anne Boleyn, had her head sliced off at the neck.
Unlike Anne, the executioner used an axe on Catherine. 
Those imported swordsmen cost money, you know, and by the fifth wife, Henry's attention to detail about how they were gotten rid of had waned.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, pimp of his nieces, did not get away entirely free and clear, though - on 12 January, 1547, he was arrested for his involvement in a kerfluffle over his son's design on the family crest. 
(You couldn't make this stuff up. Really? Over including St. Edward the Confessor on your family crest? Wow.) 
His son was beheaded on 19 January, 1547.
Thomas Howard wasn't even given a trial, just a 'guilty - kill him in the morning' verdict on 27 January, 1547.
Henry VIII died the next day.
It wasn't quite that he got out of jail free, the old man was a wreck who shivered and ate bad food for five years in the Tower of London, until Mary I (Catholic - no coincidences there!) ascended the throne after the death of her younger brother, who'd taken over after Henry's death.

Mary I laughed in the face of Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant cousin, who'd been willed the throne by the young king before his death; she laughed in her face then rode into London with armies behind her.
"How do you like me now, bitches?" said Mary, as she had Jane Grey tossed into the Tower.
As for Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Mary I freed him from prison in a public relations stunt intended to show the country that there was a new queen in town, and like the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, she was Catholic. 
Deal with it. 

Thomas Howard died, not on the executioner's block like his two (TWO!) nieces, but rather, at his family's pile in Norfolk, Kennington.

 His two nieces died at the hands of someone like this:
Anne Boleyn, not dying of old age.
 Or this: 
Catherine Howard-type executioner - another niece of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, not dying of old age.

The old pimp got to die in his own bed. Hardly seems fair, does it? 

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