What was Thomas Howard's role during the life Anne Boleyn?

So i have to do a quite important paper on Phillippa Gregory's novel "The Other Boleyn Girl".

As one part of it i have to figure out if Anne and Mary's Uncle (as well as their parents) really played such an important role in pushing them towards the king as it happend in the book. Did it happen like this in history or not?

On Wikipedia it says that Thomas Howard indeed used his two nieces (Katherine Howard as well as Anne Boleyn) to rise to power. This however is in no way proofed through References.

For my paper i need reference so if someone of you knows whether there is some historian (For example - Alison Weir, Henry VIII: The King and his court)

who wrote something about Uncle Howard's role that would be a huge help to me!

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
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    First off, toss the Phillippa Gregory book, it’s rubbish in terms of historical accuracy. Certainly entertaining, and if it encourages the masses to educate themselves about history, worthwhile, but also confounding in terms of actual facts.

    Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk did indeed play a pivotal role in prodding along the relationships of both Mary & Anne Boleyn as well as his other niece, Katherine (kitty) Howard. While his true reasons have long been buried in his grave, it is almost certainly due to his desire for political advancement within the court.

    Thomas was actually related to Anne and her sister Mary on the maternal side of the family; the brother of their mother; a Howard. The Howards were a well respected family with a fairly long history with nobility and power, whereas their father, the Boleyn, was not.

    The Duke of Norfolk encouraged Mary to engage in a relationship with the king, and then later did so again with Anne, after Mary bore Henry a child- a son- though there is some debate as to whether he also fathered her second child, a daughter, as well. It was common to give a bastard child of the King the last name Fitzroy if the King chose to acknowledge it; as he did with Mary’s son- but not the daughter. This is the basis for the doubt of his paternity of the girl, though argument can be made in favor for it as well, since there was nothing to be gained by acknowledging the daughter he had~ a son, on the other hand, demonstrated he was able to produce boys himself, and placed the weight of the blame on his unsuccessful attempts to do so in his own marriage on his wife, Catherine of Aragon.

    Mary Boleyn was indeed married when she began her affair with Henry; and after he ended his liaison with Mary, she returned to the husband, and they lived together for a couple years until his untimely death. Mary later remarried.

    When Anne was put in Mary’s place (and for the record, this didn't happen immediately following the relationship the king had with Mary, her sister- Anne was most certainly still receiving her education at the court of France during the time Mary was with Henry, which also demonstrates the probability that Mary was the older of the two, and not Anne), it was only expected she would have an affair with Henry as well, possibly bearing him a son that would help cement the Howards and Boleyn's position in the courts, even after the affair ended. It was Anne's own diversion to facilitate the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine, and not the work of her Uncle.

    After Anne's death, the Duke of Norfolk remained in somewhat precarious favour of the King- or more likely, merely tolerated because of his history within the court and his degree of separation in his relationship to Anne.

    This may have been enough to deter him, the caveat being, once Henry married Jane Seymour, her brothers and family became darlings of the court, and this left Norfolk in a lower position than he was akin to.

    To facilitate his rise back into favor, the Duke arranged for his niece, Kitty Howard, to be brought into court once Jane has passed and Henry demonstrated a dissipating favor towards his latest queen, Anne of Cleves. The Duke knew that if the King was to pass away while his son was still young, it would more or less mean the Seymour uncles would rule through the child- but calculatingly taking into consideration the high rate of child mortality, the Duke also knew he himself may be able to re establish himself in the opinion should Henry produce an heir with his niece Kitty.

    By the time Henry married Kitty Howard, he was already morbidly obese and suffering from severe and crippling issues from his leg injury, all of which contributed to his lack of prowess. Jane Rochford- the wife of George Boleyn, who had given false evidence against her husband by claiming he'd slept with his sister Anne, had long since been exiled without husband or income. The Duke offered to help her get a position in the queen's entourage, in return for her collaboration with him in his plan.

    Henry VIII was still able to have sex with his new wife, but rumors had persisted for years his prowess was limited, and diminishing by the day; recognizing this, and the fact that Kitty had not yet conceived, the Duke put into action a plan to have her impregnated while Henry was still having relations with her, so that the child could be passed off as the King's. This was done by using Jane Rochford as a go between to encourage young Kitty into an affair. Kitty, a mere 15 o so, and notoriously for being not the sharpest crayon in the box, found the idea of sleeping with someone her own age, who was attractive, not crippled or obese, was easily led into an affair with Thomas Cullpepper.

    The end result being they were all found out; and kitty, Thomas, Jane Rochford, and a host of others were executed. The Duke managed to escape prosecution once again, and outlived Henry VIII, though with similarly rocky rocky stability, much of which led him into the tower of London.

    Source(s): 10 years of reasearch into the UK monarchy, with specific focus on Ireland, Scotland, the Bouddica revolt & Tudor dynasty. There are quite a few resources out there regarding him, and his involvement in the Tudor dynasty. You should also bear in mind that the Duke's involvement in the court outlasted and predated Henry VIII, and that his ultimate goal during Henry's reign was to be seated in Wolsey (later Cromwell)'s position, a feat he never achieved. A strong bit of research into those subjects will likely provide you with a better understanding of his motives and intentions. Be wary of sticking to dates sources; while they are certainly useful and many are accurate, only in the last 50 or so years have many documents been unsealed, all of which changed drastically our understanding of the past history of the dynasty. Specifically, you might want to read: The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune: The Life of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk (by David head), Thomas Howard: Fourth Duke of Norfolk (by William Cooke Taylor), The marvellous chance: Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk, and the Ridolphi plot, 1570-1572 (by Francis Edwards) A Tudor Tragedy: Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (by Neville Williams) All of which are centered specifically on the Duke. You will also do well in finding more information on him in the following books, as a collective of the main stays of the Tudor dynasty: The 6 wives of Henry VIII (by Alison Weir) The Lady in the Tower (Alison Weir~ which is a newer book and contains more up to date information) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (by Eric Ives) Henry VIII: The King and His Court (by Alison Weir) Carolly Erickson, Alison Weir, Joana Denny If you need more help, feel free to email me; i'll try to answer any other questions you might have.
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