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It may be noted that immediately following this appointment in the Roll is that of an other commission, in almost identical terms, to inquire into abuses in the treasury). After the report of the naval commission in the September following (Cal. State Papers, Dom. vol. ci.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. i. p. 99), though no blame was attributed to Nottingham, even by current gossip, he probably felt that he was not equal to the task of cleansing the sink of iniquity which stood revealed. Buckingham was anxious to relieve him of the burden, and a friendly arrangement was made, by the terms of which he was to receive 3,000l. for the surrender of his office, and a pension of 1,000l. per annum (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 6 Feb. 1619); he was also during life to take precedence as Earl of Nottingham of the original creation of John Mowbray (temp. Richard II), from whom, in the female line, he claimed descent (ib. 19 Feb.) This precedency seems to have been purely personal (Collins, v. 123), and not to have extended to his wife; for two months later, on the occasion of the queen's funeral, there was a warm controversy on the subject, Nottingham arguing that a woman necessarily took the same precedence as her husband, except when that was official (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 14, 24, 25 April). In his retirement he continued to act as lord-lieutenant of Surrey, and held numerous posts connected with the royal domains (ib. 14 April 1608), the gross emoluments of which were large. Despite his high and remunerative offices he was not accused of greed, but was said to have exercised a noble munificence and princely hospitality, and to have used the income of his office in maintaining its splendour. He died at the ripe age of eighty-eight, at Harling, near Croydon, on 13 Dec. 1624. It appears that he preserved his faculties to the last. A letter dated 20 May 1623, though written by his secretary, was signed by himself, 'Nottingham,' in a clear bold hand. He was buried in the family vault in the church at Reigate, but no monument to his memory is there. One in the church of St. Margaret, Westminster, has sometimes given rise to a false impression that he was buried there.

It has been frequently stated that Howard was a Roman catholic. The presumption is strongly against it, for the Act of Uniformity passed in 1559, declaring the queen the supreme head of the church, required a sworn admission to that effect from every officer of the crown. The statement itself seems to be of recent origin. Dodd, Tierney, Charles Butler, and Lingard, among catholics; Camden, Stow, Collins, Campbell, and Southey, among protestants give no hint of it. The story was not improbably coined during the discussions on catholic emancipation, and suggested by the known religious belief of recent dukes of Norfolk. A number of circumstances combine to give it positive contradiction. He helped to suppress the rebellion of the north, a catholic rising, in 1569; was a commissioner for the trial of those implicated in the Babington plot, and of Mary Queen of Scots; on 2 Oct. 1597, and again 9 May 1605, was appointed on a commission to hear and determine ecclesiastical causes in the diocese of Winchester; was on the commission for the trial of the men implicated in the Gunpowder plot in 1605, and for the trial of Henry Garnett [q.v.], the Jesuit (Hargrave, i.231, 247); was in the beginning of the reign of James I at the head of a commission to discover and expel all catholic priests (Howard, Memorials, p.90). An Englishman in Spain, in the course of a letter of intelligence addressed to Howard, wrote: 'I hope to acquaint you with all the papists of account and traitors in England ' (Cal State Papers,Dom. 13 Aug. 1598). According to information from Douay: 'The recusants say that they have but three enemies in England whom they fear, viz. the lord chief justice, Sir Robert Cecil, and the lord high admiral' (ib. 27 April 1602); and on 20 May 1623 he reported to the archbishop of Canterbury, as lieutenant of the county, that John Monson, son of Sir William Monson, was 'the most dangerous papist,' and was, therefore, committed to the Gatehouse (ib. 30 May). His father, as lord admiral under Mary, was no doubt a catholic then, but in all probability conformed to the new religion with his son on the accession of Elizabeth.

Howard was twice married: first, to Catherine, daughter of Henry Carey, lord Hunsdon [q.v.], first cousin of the queen on the mother's side. By her Howard had issue two sons and three daughters. Of the sons William married in 1597 Anne, daughter of John, lord St. John of Bletsoe, and died 28 Nov. 1615, leaving one daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough, and was grandmother of Charles Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough [q.v.] in the time of Queen Anne; the younger, Charles, on the death of his father, succeeded as second Earl of Nottingham, and died without male issue in 1642. Of the daughters Frances married Sir Robert Southwell, who commanded the Elizabeth Jonas against the Armada in 1588; Elizabeth married Henry Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare, and Margaret married Sir Richard Leveson [q. v.] of Trentham, vice‚Äďadmiral