|Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk|
Norfolk and his wife had a third child, Margaret born in 1562 and on 19th December 1563 Margaret had her fourth child, William. A few weeks later on the 10th January 1564 Margaret died after five years of happy marriage, Bishop Parkhurst of Norwich wrote;
‘The wife of the Duke of Norfolk died in childbirth on the 10th January and was buried at Norwich on the 24th of the same month. I preached her funeral sermon. There were no ceremonies at the funeral, wax candles or torches. Except the sun nothing shone, which annoyed the papists.’[i]
Thomas was grief stricken and Bishop Parkhurst was able to dispense with the traditional ritual of the Catholic Church and substitute Protestant simplicity.
At Michaelmas 1564 Dudley was made Earl of Leicester. In December Elizabeth suggested to the young Queen of the Scots that Mary might considering marrying an English subject. She offered a choice of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Leicester or Lord Darnley. Mary agreed to marry either Leicester or Darnley as long as she was named Elizabeth’s heir. The negotiations ceased abruptly.The following spring Lord Maitland of Lethington[ii] proposed that Mary marry Norfolk. When the marriage was proposed to him the newly made widower declined; his wife was barely cold in her grave.
On 1st May 1565 Norfolk was a signatory to a letter from the Privy Council to Mary, advising her against marriage with Darnley;
‘The Queen finding the intended marriage of Queen Mary with Lord Darnley strange has committed the same to certain of her council, who with one assent thought it would be unmet and directly prejudicial to the sincere amity between both the Queens.’[iii]
A New Spouse?On 17th October 1566 the Lords and Commons asked the Queen to consider marrying and name a successor. Elizabeth believed that Norfolk had pressed the peers to this action, rounding on him at court and calling him a traitor. Whereupon the other great lords sprang to Norfolk’s defence protesting
‘It was not right to treat the Duke badly, since he and the others were only doing what was fitting for the good of the country, and advising what was good for her, and if she did not think it fit to adopt the advice it was still their duty to offer it.’[iv]Elizabeth lashed out at her nobles rejecting the very much unwanted advice.
Elizabeth Leyburne, Duchess of Norfolk
On 29th January 1567 Norfolk married again. His third wife was Elizabeth Leyburne, the couple married secretly; the queen was only informed three days beforehand. The new Duchess of Norfolk was Catholic and brought her chaplain to Kenninghall; the Spanish ambassador believed that she might convert her new husband to the old religion On 4th September 1567 Elizabeth died in childbirth, the child died too.Rumours of Norfolk’s recusancy were spread round court in the November of that year by supporters of the Earl of Leicester. It was during this period that the vexed question of the queen’s marriage to the Austrian Archduke Charles was knocked on the head. Suffering from illness Norfolk spent much of the latter part of 1567 in the country with his children and step-children.
The wardship of Elizabeth’s children, by her former marriage to her first husband Thomas Dacre, was awarded to her widower. Norfolk later arranged the marriages of her daughters to his sons. He was now available to marry again and Norfolk was to be fatally headhunted.Trouble from Scotland
Mary Queen of Scots married for love the second time and her choice fell on Henry Darnley, Lord Lennox, an Englishman. Mary was so infatuated with Darnley that she made him King Consort the night before their marriage on 29th July 1565.The love soon disappeared; Darnley was a callow youth and within a month of the marriage Mary demanded that her courtiers show no favour to her hapless spouse. Only nineteen Darnley was cast adrift; his arrogance alienated many of Mary’s nobles as well as his wife.
Mary now turned to her secretary David Riccio[v], and Darnley felt humiliated. The young man was easily inveigled into the plot to kill Riccio. Mary was horrified by the murder, which took place while she pregnant and in her presence. Elizabeth was kept updated on the events in Edinburgh by her ambassador who wrote to her
‘David, with the consent of the King, shall have his throat cut within these ten days.’[vi]Elizabeth also had forewarning of the plot to kill Darnley[vii].
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Following the murder of an ailing Darnley on 10th February 1567 Mary became dependent on the man who was shortly to become her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell was a key player in the murder and probably its instigator. He persuaded Mary that all her problems would be solved by the death of the twenty-one year old king[viii].Elizabeth wrote to Mary after the murder
‘Madame, My ears have been so deafened and my understanding so grieved and my heart so affrighted to hear the dreadful news of the abominable murder of your mad husband and my killed cousin that I scarcely have the wits to write about it……..I cannot dissemble that I am more sorrowful for you than for him.’’[ix]According to Mary she was forced to marry Bothwell, after he had kidnapped her on 24th April and threatened to rape her. Their marriage took place on 15th May 1567 at Holyrood Palace; Mary having already made Bothwell Duke of Orkney. The Protestant Lords took to arms against the Queen and her new husband and on 15th June 1567 Mary’s troops were defeated and Bothwell fled, taking ship from Aberdeen to Shetland[x].
On 24th July 1567 Mary Queen of Scots abdicated in favour of her son, James[xi]; Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray was made Regent. She was imprisoned in Loch Leven castle, from which she escaped on 2nd May the following year. Eleven days later her small force was defeated and she fled to England[xii]. On 18th May Mary was taken into protective custody by English officials at Carlisle castle.The Casket Letters Commission
King's Manor, where Norfolk was shown the Casket Letters
On 4th October 1568 Norfolk arrived in York, to sit as the principal commissioner of a Commission set up to hear evidence against Mary Queen of Scots, presented by the Scottish Regent. Mary was accused of involvement in the murder of Darnley. The principal evidence provided by the Scots were letters purported to be from Mary to Bothwell.Behind the scenes there had been a lot of bargaining between Elizabeth and Regent Moray, who was reluctant to let his prize evidence out of his hands until he knew from the English Queen what the expected outcome of the Commission was to be.
Mary was not allowed to attend the Commission[xiii], but was allowed Commissioners to act on her behalf. She vehemently denied writing the casket letters. Norfolk was watched carefully by both of the Scottish parties, for signs of favouring the other side. He found the letters repelling and wrote to Elizabeth
‘The said letters and ballads do discover such inordinate love between her and Bothwell, her loathsomeness and abhorring of her husband that was murdered, in such sort as every good and godly man cannot but detest and abhor the same.’[xiv]Norfolk was convinced that, unless the letters could be proved to be forgeries, that Mary was implicated in the death of her husband.
William Maitland, Lord Lethington
On the 16th October, Lord Maitland[xv] went hawking with Norfolk and suggested that one way of the problem was for Norfolk to marry Mary, who could then be restored to her throne and her children could eventually rule in Whitehall as well as Holyrood. There was already a clause in the Commissioners’ instructions stating that anyone marrying Mary or advising another to do so;
‘Shall be ipso facto adjudged as traitorous and shall suffer death.’[xvi]After a few weeks one of the English commissioners was summonsed to London and Norfolk set out on an inspection tour of the northern defences. He was then ordered to return to London. Elizabeth had been given reason to suspect that Norfolk was showing partiality towards Mary. The adjourned hearing recommenced at Hampton Court. At some point Elizabeth asked Norfolk to his face if he wanted to marry Mary and he denied it.
James Stewart, Earl of Moray
Before the Scottish Regent left London he had a meeting with Norfolk who suggested that he should marry Mary and Moray’s daughter should marry King James. This secret conversation was immediately reported to Elizabeth by Moray himself. By now Norfolk was planning to try and persuade Elizabeth to agree to the marriage.Over a period of time all the various suggestions, that he should consider marrying Mary, began to have an effect on Norfolk. No doubt he was in part activated by the preferential treatment given to Leicester by the queen. He was becoming enmeshed in a web from which he would not escape.
BibliographyElizabeth and Mary – Jane Dunn, Harper Perennial 2003
Walsingham – Alan Haynes, Sutton Publishing 2004Elizabeth I – Anne Somerset, Fontana 1992
Rivals in Power – ed. David Starkey, Macmillan London Ltd 1990Mary, Queen of Scots – Alison Weir, BCA 2003
A Tudor Tragedy – Neville Williams, Barrie and Rockcliff 1964www.wikipedia.en
[i] Rivals in Power - Starkey
[ii] Mary’s senior adviser
[iii] A Tudor Tragedy - Williams
[iv] Elizabeth - Somerset
[v] Or Rizzio; there were rumours of sexual relations between the two
[vi] Elizabeth and Mary - Dunn
[vii] Elizabeth was intensely interested in the affairs of the Scottish court, not only because Mary was her potential heir, but because she was fully aware of the potential for a Catholic Scotland to join Spain, France and the Pope in a league against Protestant England.
[viii] The extent of Mary’s involvement in the plot is unlikely to be ever proved, but without doubt she was involved.
[ix] Elizabeth and Mary - Dunn
[x] Bothwell was later arrested and held prisoner in Norway, dying in 1568
[xi] The future James I of England
[xii] Mary hoped to be allowed to travel to join her family in France, an outcome that would not be to Elizabeth’s advantage. It never occurred to her that Elizabeth might place an anointed queen in custody
[xiii] Elizabeth did not want Mary to plead her innocence before the Commission and in public. Nor did she want her commissioners swayed by Mary’s appeal and beauty. It is possible that she did not want Mary personally inspecting the casket letters and find errors that might undermine the Regent’s case. .This was certainly an issue that concerned Regent Moray greatly
[xiv] A Tudor Tragedy - Williams
[xv] Now one of Regent Moray’s Commissioners
[xvi] A Tudor Tragedy - Williams