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Elizabeth Dutchess Norfolk Stafford Howard, 15th Great-Grandmother

June 11, 2015 , ,

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

My 15th great-grandmother was married to a duke who treated her very badly.  She was involved with court intrigue during the reign of Henry VIII.

Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of Edward, 3rd duke of Buckingham (February 3,1478-May 17,1521) and Eleanor Percy (1470-1530). Robert Hutchinson’s House of Treason gives alternate life dates as 1493-September 4, 1558. Elizabeth was to have married one of her father’s wards, Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, at Christmas 1512, but shortly before that she acquired a new suitor in the person of the recently widowed Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey (1473-August 25,1554).

Buckingham offered his other daughters to Sussex, but the earl was determined to have Elizabeth, described by Jessie Childs in Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey as “…passably pretty, with soft features, light colouring and a distinguished forehead….”

Early in 1513, Elizabeth married Surrey, bringing with her a dowry of 2,000 marks. They had five children:
Henry (1517-x.January 19,1547),
Mary (1519-December 9,1557),
Charles (d.yng),
Thomas (1528-1582), and a fifth child who died young and may have been named Muriel.

Elizabeth was often at court and became close friends with Catherine of Aragon. She carried Princess Mary to the font at the princess’s christening in 1516 and was a patron of the poet John Skelton, who describes Elizabeth and her ladies making a chapelet in the poem “A Goodly Garlande or Chapelet of Laurell.” When the earl of Surrey was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1520, he was ordered to take his entire family with him.

There they were exposed to war, disease, crowded conditions, and severe shortages of just about everything. To make matters worse, during their sojourn in Ireland, Elizabeth’s father was accused of treason and beheaded. In 1524, with the death of her father-in-law, Elizabeth became duchess of Norfolk. She continued to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the queen, at court for months at a time, but with the king’s growing determination to obtain a divorce, her role changed.

By 1530, Elizabeth was spying on her own husband, on the lookout for any information that would help Queen Catherine. By then, there were also problems in Elizabeth’s marriage. In 1526, Norfolk took Bess Holland, daughter of his chief steward, as his mistress, a long-term relationship which he did not trouble to keep secret from his wife.

Elizabeth continued to be vocal in her support of Catherine of Aragon. Norfolk, and most of the Howard family, favored the king’s plan to marry Anne Boleyn, whose mother was a Howard. Elizabeth went so far as to refuse to bear Anne’s train at her investiture as Marchioness of Pembroke and was conspicuously absent from both Anne’s coronation and the christening of Princess Elizabeth. In May,1533, Norfolk wrote to Elizabeth’s brother, Henry Stafford, asking him to take her in. Stafford refused, expressing the fear that “…her accustomed wild language…” would place him and his family in danger if he did so.

The matter came to a head on Tuesday of Passion Week, 1534. Norfolk arrived at Kenninghall, his principal residence, to find his wife in a rage because he was still keeping Bess Holland as his mistress. Norfolk’s response was to lock Elizabeth in her chamber, then banish her to Redbourne, a manor in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth referred to this as imprisonment, even though she had twenty servants and an allowance of three hundred marks per annum.

Legally Norfolk was within his rights to do as he wished with her. She tried three times for a reconciliation, but to no avail. Norfolk was not about to forgive some of the claims she had made, including one that he had assaulted her when she was pregnant with their daughter in 1519. Some of the charges may indeed have been “false and abominable lies,” but Norfolk was known to have a temper, too. In 1541, Elizabeth was still trying to regain freedom of movement, as well as a bigger allowance.

Her children, to her distress, sided with their father. Indeed, most people did. Wives were expected to put up with their husbands’ infidelities, not make a fuss about them. Upon Mary Tudor’s accession, Elizabeth returned to court and there was reunited with her husband, who had been in the Tower of London since 1547. He died at Kenninghall the following August.

Although both Elizabeth and Norfolk appear in effigy on the same monument in Framlingham, completed in 1559, only he is buried there. She was interred in the Howard Chapel in St. Mary’s Church, Lambeth, in December 1558. The epitaph written by her brother lauds her kindness and says she was to him “a mother, sister, a friend most dear.”

“Marriage Sixteenth-Century Style: Elizabeth Stafford and the Third Duke of Norfolk” by Barbara J. Harris in Journal of Social History, 15/3 (1982).
Source– A WHO’S WHO OF TUDOR WOMEN: Stafford

Elizabeth Dutchess Norfolk Stafford Howard (1497 – 1558)
is my 15th great grandmother
Lady Katherine Howard Duchess Bridgewater (1495 – 1554)
daughter of Elizabeth Dutchess Norfolk Stafford Howard
William ApRhys (1522 – 1588)
son of Lady Katherine Howard Duchess Bridgewater
Henry Rice (1555 – 1621)
son of William ApRhys
Edmund Rice (1594 – 1663)
son of Henry Rice
Edward Rice (1622 – 1712)
son of Edmund Rice
Lydia Rice (1649 – 1723)
daughter of Edward Rice
Lydia Woods (1672 – 1738)
daughter of Lydia Rice
Lydia Eager (1696 – 1735)
daughter of Lydia Woods
Mary Thomas (1729 – 1801)
daughter of Lydia Eager
Joseph Morse III (1756 – 1835)
son of Mary Thomas
John Henry Morse (1775 – 1864)
son of Joseph Morse III
Abner Morse (1808 – 1838)
son of John Henry Morse
Daniel Rowland Morse (1838 – 1910)
son of Abner Morse
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Daniel Rowland Morse
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

Elizabeth Howard (nee Stafford) (1494- 30 November1558) was the daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and the wife of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
Elizabeth was born in 1494, the eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham (3 September1478-1521 and Eleanor Percy. Her paternal grandparents were Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Catherine Woodville. Her maternal ancestors were Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and Maud Herbert. Her grandfather, the Duke of Buckingham, was executed in 1483 by King Richard III for treason, and in 1521, her own father suffered the same fate when he was beheaded on Tower Hill for treason against his king, Henry VIII. Elizabeth had two sisters, Mary, Lady Bergavenny and Catherine, Countess Westmoreland, and a brother, Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford.
On 8 January1513, Elizabeth married Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, who in 1524, would become the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The marriage was his second. His first wife had been Anne of York, the daughter of Edward IV, but none of their children had lived beyond early infancy. Elizabeth bore her husband four surviving children but their marriage was unhappy and violent. He had taken as his mistress Bess Holland, who was her own laundress, and when Elizabeth protested, calling her “a churl’s daughter who was but a washer in my nursery for eight years” Howard savagely beat her. She later accused his mistress of striking her. They separated in 1533, the year Howard’s niece, Anne Boleyn, was crowned Queen of England. Elizabeth did not like Anne and was staunchly partisan in favour of Catherine of Aragon. In 1530, Elizabeth smuggled letters received from Italy to Catherine concealed in oranges Elizabeth also later told the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, that Howard had confided in her that “Anne would be the ruin of all her family”.. Anne, however, managed to win the favour of Elizabeth by arranging brilliant matches for the Howard children. Henry was married to the daughter of the Earl of Oxford, while Mary married the King’s illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Appeased, Elizabeth stopped plotting against Anne and returned to Court. She died on 30 November 1558 in Lambeth, London at the age of sixty-four. Elizabeth was the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk at the time of her death, her estranged husband, the Duke, having died four years earlier. She was buried on 7 December 1558 in Lambeth.
Elizabeth was often at court and became close friends with Catherine of Aragon. She carried Princess Mary to the font at the princess’s christening in 1516.

Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Anne Boleyn’s uncle Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford


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Wow, Pamela. This is a large piece of historical information that I really enjoyed reading.

Liked by 1 person

Brigitte Kobi

June 12, 2015

Thanks Brigitte. I like to watch dramas about the Tudors now because i often spot my ancestors in the show.


Pamela Morse

June 12, 2015

This is actually quite a famous bit of history;) Love that portrait too xx

Liked by 1 person

June 13, 2015

I love your family history. It’s so interesting especially the Tudor collection!

Liked by 1 person

Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

June 13, 2015

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