Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howard, Thomas (1561-1626)
HOWARD, THOMAS, first Earl of Suffolk (1561–1626), born on 24 Aug. 1561, was the second son of Thomas, fourth duke of Norfolk [q. v.], who was attainted, by his second wife, Margaret, daughter and heiress of Thomas, lord Audley of Walden. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, and was restored in blood as Lord Thomas Howard on 19 Dec. 1584 (Lords' Journ. ii. 76). Howard accompanied as a volunteer the fleet sent to oppose the Spanish Armada, and in the attack off Calais displayed such valour that he was knighted at sea by the lord high admiral on 25 June 1588, and was afterwards made captain of a man-of-war. On 5 March 1591 he was appointed commander of the squadron which attacked, in the face of overwhelming difficulties, the Spanish treasure ships off the Azores, when Sir Richard Grenville [q.v.] was killed (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1591-4, pp. 37, 61). In May 1596 he was admiral of the third squadron in the fleet sent against Cadiz. On his return he was created K.G., 23 April 1597, and in the following June sailed as vice-admiral of the fleet despatched to the Azores. His ability and courage commended him to the favour of the queen, who in her letters to Essex was wont to refer to him as her ‘good Thomas’ (ib. Dom. 1595-7, p. 453). It is said that he endeavoured to compose the differences between Essex and Raleigh. On 5 Dec. 1597 he was summoned to parliament as Baron Howard de Walden, and became lord-lieutenant of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely on 8 April 1598, and admiral of a fleet on 10 Aug. 1599. In February 1601 he was marshal of the forces which besieged the Earl of Essex in his house in London, and on the 19th he sat as one of the peers on the trials of the Earls of Essex and Southampton, being at the time constable of the Tower of London. He was sworn high steward of the university of Cambridge in February 1601 (Cooper, Annals of Cambr. ii. 602), lord-lieutenant of Cambridgeshire on 26 June 1602, and acting lord chamberlain of the household on 28 Dec. (Sidney Papers, ii. 262). Before going to Richmond, in January 1603, the queen visited Howard at the Charterhouse, and was sumptuously entertained (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601-3, p. 285). On the accession of James I Howard met him at Theobalds, was made a privy councillor on 4 May 1603 (Stow, Annales, ed. Howes, p. 822), and acted from that day until 10 July 1614 as lord chamberlain of the household. Howard was created Earl of Suffolk on 21 July 1603, and was appointed one of the commissioners for making knights of the Bath at the coronation of the king. He became joint-commissioner for the office of earl-marshal of England on 4 Feb. 1604, and joint-commissioner to expel Jesuits and seminary and other priests on 5 Sept. following; he honourably, in 1604, refused a Spanish pension, though his wife accepted one of 1,000l. a year, and she supplied information from time to time in return (Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. i. 215). Howard himself complained bitterly to Winwood that he and his family were suspected of endeavouring to persuade the king to ally himself with Spain (Winwood, Memorials, ii. 174). In the ensuing year he helped to discover the Gunpowder plot (ib. ii. 171). Howard became M.A. of Cambridge on 31 June 1605, lord-lieutenant of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire on 18 July 1605, M.A. of Oxford on 30 Aug. 1605 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 309), captain of the band of gentlemen pensioners in November 1605, which post he was allowed to hand over to his son Theophilus [q.v.] on 11 July 1614, councillor of Wales in 1608, high steward of Ipswich on 6 June 1609, keeper in reversion of Somersham Chace, Huntingdonshire, on 26 April, joint lord-lieutenant of Dorsetshire and town of Poole on 5 July 1611, keeper of the forest of Braydon, Wiltshire, on 21 March, a commissioner of the treasury on 16 June 1612, and lord-lieutenant of Dorsetshire on 19 Feb. 1613. In this year, with the rest of the Howards, he supported the scheme for the divorce of his daughter Frances from Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex [q.v.] On the death of his uncle, Henry, earl of Northampton, Howard was elected chancellor of the university of Cambridge on 8 July (Cooper, iii. 63). He prevailed on the king to visit the university in March 1615. On that occasion he resided at St. John's College, and is said to have spent in hospitality 1,000l. a day. His wife held receptions at Magdalene College (Mullinger, Univ. of Cambr. ii. 514, 518; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-18, p. 278).
On 11 July 1614 Howard was constituted lord high treasurer of England, and formally held office until 19 July 1619. In November a determined attempt was made to implicate him in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. He was the father-in-law of Somerset, and to some extent responsible for his fate; the king at all events thought that Suffolk wished to escape a full investigation (cf. Amos, Great Oyer of Poisoning). On 1 Feb. 1618 he was made custos rotulorum of Suffolk, on the following 14 April was commissioned with others to discover concealed lands, encroachments, &c., and to arrange with pensioners of the crown for an exchange of their pensions for a certain portion of these lands (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-18, p. 534). On 23 June of the same year he became for a second time joint-commissioner to banish Jesuits and seminary priests.
In the autumn of 1618 grave irregularities were discovered at the treasury. Howard was suspended from his office. He was accused of having embezzled a great part of the money received from the Dutch for the cautionary towns, with defrauding the king of 240,000l. in jewels, with committing frauds in the alum business, and with extorting money from the king's subjects. The countess was indicted for extorting money from persons having business at the treasury, chiefly through the agency of Sir John Bingley, remembrancer of the exchequer. At first Howard talked boldly about publishing the real reasons of his suspension (ib. Dom. 1611-1618, p. 594), but as the time for his trial drew near he offered his private submission (ib. Dom. 1619-23, p. 60). After eleven days' hearing in the Star-chamber (October-November 1619), the earl and countess were fined 30,000l., commanded to restore all money wrongfully extorted, and were sentenced to be imprisoned apart in the Tower during pleasure (ib. Dom. 1619-23, pp. 88, 94, 96). Howard was popularly credited with having acted under the influence of his wife (ib. Dom. 1619-23, p. 93). They were released after ten days' imprisonment, but as a condition of their enlargement their sons, Lord de Walden and Sir Thomas Howard, were dismissed for a short time from their places at court (ib. Dom. 1619-23, pp. 101, 111). Howard pleaded inability to pay his fine, and a commission was issued for the Archbishop of Canterbury and others to inquire into his estate. Probably to defeat this inquiry, he made a great part of it over to his son-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury, and his brother, Sir W. Howard (Carte, Hist. of England, iv. 47-8). The king threatened the earl with another Star-chamber bill, but Howard appeased him by making humble submission, and promising to pay all, though he was fully 50,000l. in debt (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619-23, pp. 115, 116). The king and Buckingham stood sponsors for his grandson, James Howard, afterwards third earl of Suffolk (1619-1688) [q.v.], and in July 1620 he was received into favour again, and his fine, reduced to 7,000l., was made over to John, viscount Haddington (ib. Dom. 1619-23, pp. 170, 179). In 1621 Suffolk with Lord Saye and Sele strongly pressed that Bacon should be brought to the bar of the house in the beginning of the investigation into the chancellor's offences. Suffolk was probably inspired by revenge for his own treatment by Bacon in similar circumstances. A little later in the session he attempted to mediate between Arundel and Spencer in the discussion as to Yelverton's case.
In 1621 Howard became high steward of Exeter, and endeavoured to ingratiate himself with Buckingham by marrying, in December 1623, his seventh son, Edward, afterwards Lord Howard of Escrick (d. 1675) [q.v.], to Mary, fifth daughter of Sir John Boteler (ib. Dom. 1623-5, pp. 132, 134). On 9 May 1625 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. He died on 28 May 1626 at his house at Charing Cross, and was buried at Saffron Walden. He married, first, Mary, daughter and coheiress of Thomas, fourth lord Dacre of Gillesland, who died on 7 April 1578 without issue. In 1583 he married, secondly, Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir Henry Knevet, knt., of Charlton, Wiltshire, and widow of Richard, eldest son of Robert, lord Rich. She had a great ascendency over her husband, and undoubtedly used his high office to enrich herself. Bacon, in his speech in the Star-chamber against the earl, compared the countess to an exchange woman, who kept her shop, while her creature, Sir J. Bingley, cried ‘What d'ye lack?’ Her beauty was remarkable, but in 1619 an attack of small-pox did it much injury (ib. Dom. 1619-23, p. 16). Pennant, in his ‘Journey from Chester to London’ (ed. 1782, pp. 227-8), has given an engraved portrait of the countess from a painting at Gorhambury. By her Suffolk had seven sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Theophilus, second earl of Suffolk, the fifth, Sir Robert Howard (1598-1653), and the seventh, Edward (d. 1675), are separately noticed.
The fourth son, Sir Charles Howard, was knighted 13 Feb. 1610-11, and died 22 Sept. 1622, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, by his wife, whom he married in 1612, Mary (1596-1671), daughter of Sir John Fitz of Fitzford, Devonshire. This high-spirited lady had previously been married to Sir Allan Percy (d. 1611), Sir Richard Grenville (1600-1658) [q.v.] Her portrait by Van dyck was engraved by Hollar (see Lady Howard of Fitzford, by Mrs. G. H. Radford, repr. from Trans, of Devonshire Assoc. 1890, xxii. 66-110).Thomas Darcy, son of Lord Darcy of Chiche (afterwards Earl Rivers). In 1628 she married a fourth husband,
[Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 447-9; Collins's Peerage (Brydges), iii. 147-55; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595-7, passim; Gardiner's Hist. passim.]