Howard, English noble family. Landowners in Norfolk from the 13th cent., the Howards obtained the duchy of Norfolk through the marriage of Sir Robert Howard to Margaret Mowbray, daughter of Thomas Mowbray, 1st duke of Norfolk. Their son John Howard, 1st duke of Norfolk (in the Howard line), received the title in 1483 when the direct Mowbray line died out. He was killed fighting for Richard III at Bosworth Field. His son, Thomas Howard, 2d duke of Norfolk, was deprived of his title and estate by Henry VII, but he regained favor and was a prominent military commander under both Henry VII and Henry VIII. Two of Henry VIII's wives—Anne Boleyn (mother of Elizabeth I) and Catherine Howard—were members of the Howard family; they were both nieces of Thomas Howard, 3d duke of Norfolk. He came into conflict with Henry after the execution of Catherine, and in 1546 he and his son, Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, were both accused of treason. The latter was executed, but his father was restored to the title in 1553 on the accession of Mary I. His grandson, Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk, was beheaded in 1572 for conspiring on behalf of Mary Queen of Scots. His forfeited titles were gradually restored to the family in the 17th cent.—earl of Surrey (1603), earl of Norfolk (1644), duke of Norfolk (1660). The office of earl marshal has long been hereditary to the dukes of Norfolk, but because of the family's Roman Catholicism, they were not able to exercise the office until empowered to by special statute in 1824. The present head of the Howard family is Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 18th duke of Norfolk, b. 1956. Norfolk is the oldest and premier dukedom in England. The title of earl of Arundel and Surrey passes to the heir apparent of the dukedom. The cadet branches of the Howard house are numerous.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies