Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzroy, Mary

FITZROY, MARY, Duchess of Richmond (d. 1557), was the only surviving daughter of Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk [q. v.], by his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Stafford, eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Her childhood was passed in the summer at Tendring Hall, Suffolk, and in the winter at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. In 1533 a dispensation, bearing date 28 Nov. of that year, was obtained for her marriage to Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond [q. v.], the natural son of Henry VIII. Owing to the tender age of both, the duchess continued to live with her own friends, and Richmond probably went to reside at Windsor Castle. The duke died on 22 July 1536, and the duchess afterwards remained a widow. She had some trouble before she could obtain a settlement of her dowry, as appears from a letter to her father preserved in Cotton MS. Vespasian, F. xiii. f. 75. A bill was signed in the duchess's favour, 2 March, 30 Hen. VIII (1539–40), by which she received for life the manor of Swaffham in Norfolk, and perhaps others. In 1546 her father offered her in marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour, proposing other alliances between the two families (expostulation addressed to the privy council, Cotton MS. Titus, B. ii.).

When the Duke of Norfolk and his son, the Earl of Surrey, were arrested in December 1546, three commissioners were sent to her father's mansion, Kenninghall, near Thetford, Norfolk, to examine her and a certain Elizabeth Holland, ‘an ambiguous favourite’ of the duke. The commissioners reached Kenninghall by daybreak, 14 Dec. The duchess, on learning the object of their visit, at first almost fainted. She promised to conceal nothing. The two ladies were forthwith brought to London (report of commissioners to the king, State Papers, Hen. VIII, i. 888–90; Froude, Hist. of England, cabinet edit. 1870, ch. xxiii.) From the evidence of Sir Wymound Carew it appeared that her brother, the Earl of Surrey, had advised her to become the mistress of Henry. Carew's evidence was supported by another witness, who spoke of her strong abhorrence of the proposal. The duchess effectually screened her father; but against her brother her evidence told fatally. She confirmed the story of his abominable advice, and ‘revealed his deep hate of the “new men”’ (Froude, loc. cit.)

Surrey had recently set up a new altar at Boulogne, while his sister was a patroness of John Foxe, the martyrologist. When Surrey's children were taken from their mother, and committed to the care of their aunt, she immediately engaged Foxe as their preceptor. The duchess's household was usually kept at the castle of Reigate, which was one of the Duke of Norfolk's manors.

Her father appears to have always retained a kindly feeling towards her. In his will, dated 18 July 1554, he bequeathed her 500l. as an acknowledgment of her exertions to obtain his release from confinement, and of her care in the education of his grandchildren. About two years before she had been granted by the crown an annuity of 100l. towards the support of the children.

The Duchess of Richmond died on 9 Dec. 1557. A portrait, drawn by Holbein, of ‘The Lady of Richmond’ remains in the royal collection, and is engraved by Bartolozzi in the volume of ‘Holbein Heads’ published in 1795 by John Chamberlain, with a biographical notice by Edmund Lodge. A manuscript volume of poetry, chiefly by Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the library of the Duke of Devonshire, is supposed by Dr. Nott to have belonged to the Duchess of Richmond. At p. 143 is written ‘Madame Margaret et Madame de Richemont.’ Nott imagined that several pieces in the volume were written by her hand (preface to Works of Wyatt, p. ix).

[Life by J. G. Nichols in Gent. Mag. new ser. xxiii. 480–7; Lord Herbert's Reign of King Henry VIII; Letters and Papers of Reign of Henry VIII (Gairdner), vols. vi. vii.]

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