The Bigod family had held the earldom of Norfolk for some 150 years until the death of the last and 5th Earl Roger Bigod in 1306. The earldom was subsequently granted by Edward II to his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton who held it until his death in 1338 when Thomas' only daughter Margaret succeeded and became Countess of Norfolk in her own right.

Thomas Mowbray was the grandson of Margaret the Countess of Norfolk (being the son of Elizabeth de Segrave only daughter of Margaret and her husband John de Segrave) and having being created Earl of Nottingham in 1383 and appointed Marshall of England in 1384, Thomas Mowbray was further ennobled by being made Duke of Norfolk in 1397.

Thomas Mowbray however had little time to enjoy this latest honour as he entered into a dispute with the Duke of Hereford and was due to meet his fellow duke in combat to settle the matter before Richard II intervened and ordered them both to leave the country in 1398, with Thomas being banished for life. Thomas Mowbray therefore left for the continent and died in exile at Venice in the September of 1399.

His eldest son, another Thomas Mowbray was not permitted to succeed to his father's dukedom, but he was allowed to use the titles of Earl of Nottingham and Earl Marshal. (Although others were appointed to the office of Marshal to perform the actual duties.) He later joined Scrope's rebellion against Richard II, was taken prisoner at the battle of Shipton Moor and was later executed at York on the 8th of June 1405.

His younger brother John Mowbray succeeded as Earl of Nottingham and was able in 1425 to secure his recognition as Duke of Norfolk, becoming the 2nd Duke of the Mowbray line. On his death he was succeeded by his son John Mowbray, the 3rd duke in 1432 and the 3rd Duke succeeded in turn by his son another John Mowbray the 4th Duke in 1461. When the 4th Duke died in 1476 without male heirs the dukedom became extinct.


Anne Mowbray, daughter of John Mowbray the 4th and final Duke of the Mowbray line, was married at the age of nine to Richard, the four year old Duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV. Richard was created Duke of Norfolk in 1476, but his wife Anne died in 1481, and following his father's death in 1483, Richard disappeared into the Tower of London never to be heard from again.


Around the year 1420, Sir Robert Howard had married the Lady Margaret Mowbray, who was the eldest daughter of Thomas Mowbray, the 1st Duke of Norfolk. The Howards were generally unhappy with the way that Edward IV had 'appropriated' the Mowbray inheritance for his own and thus John Howard son of Robert Howard became one of they supporters of Richard III's usurpation of 1483 and was rewarded by being created Duke of Norfolk and appointed to the office of Marshal of England by Richard in June 1483. John Howard consequently fought on Richard's side at the battle of Bosworth which is where he died on 22nd August 1485.

His son, Thomas Howard, who had similarly been created Earl of Surrey by Richard III in 1483 was also at Bosworth, but was survived although taken prisoner. Naturally, as a proven enemy of the new king Henry VII, he was stripped of his titles and locked up. He was however released early in 1489, and restored to the title of Earl of Surrey but not the dukedom of Norfolk and given the job of maintaining peace in the north. It was not until he led the army to its comprehensive victory over the Scots at the battle of Flodden in September 1513, that he was rewarded with the restoration of the title of Duke of Norfolk in the February of 1514.

On his death in 1524 his eldest son another Thomas Howard succeeded to the title. This 3rd Duke developed a close connection to the crown as Henry VIII married two of his nieces, firstly Anne Boleyn and then Catherine Howard. Unfortunately both these ladies were to be executed for adultery which did little for Thomas' reputation; he eventually fell prey to internal power struggles as both he and his son Henry Howard were arrested on charges of treason. Henry Howard was executed in the January of 1547, but Thomas himself survived simply because Henry VIII died before he could sign the execution warrant. Thomas Howard remained in prison throughout the reign of Edward VI, but in August 1553 he was released by queen Mary I and restored to his dukedom.

The 3rd Duke died shortly after his restoration and was succeeded by his surviving son, another Thomas Howard who became the 4th Duke. The 4th Duke became a man of considerable power and influence during the reign of Elizabeth I but was eventually found to be conducting clandestine correspondence with Mary, Queen of Scots as well as with the Spanish. As a result he was arrested, convicted of high treason and executed on the 2nd June 1572.

The Resoration of the Howards

There were to be no more Dukes of Norfolk for nearly 100 years, but between 1644 and 1660 the Howards did manage to regain the title of Norfolk, only this time as the seperate creation of an earldom. (And therefore see Earl of Norfolk.) Eventually Thomas Howard the great-great-grandson of the 4th Duke was able, with the restoration of Charles II in 1660 to win a reversal of the attainder of 1572 and become the 5th Howard Duke of Norfolk.

Since their restoration as Dukes of Norfolk the Howards have, generally speaking, kept out of politics and concentrated on administering their estates; and in many cases the Howards were of the Catholic faith and as such were prevented from exercising their full rights until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1824.

Later Dukes from the 12th Duke onwards adopted the surname Fitzalan-Howard in place of Howard, simply in order to emphasise their connection to the Fitzalan family, from whom they inherited the title of Earl of Arundel. Through this connection the Howard family hold what is considered the most senior earldom in the kingdom as well as the most senior dukedom, which combined with their position as hereditary Earl Marshals since 1672, places the Duke of Norfolk as the leading member of the British peerage.

A note on the succession of the Mowbray Dukes

As noted above, with the death of Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk in 1399 his son Thomas was not permitted to succeed to the title of Duke of Norfolk by king Henry IV. Since there was no legitimate reason why this should have the case, as it was purely down to the personal prejudice of the king, this second Thomas is sometimes described as the 2nd 'de jure' Duke of Norfolk (although he was never known as such when he was alive) with the result that the subsequent Mowbray dukes are renumbered as the 3rd to the 5th. (Which is of course, the source of much confusion as all three were named John.)

The presentation below sticks to historical reality and omits this second Thomas from the formal sequence of Dukes.



Title suspended in 1399, but the following is sometimes shown,

Title formally restored in 1425



Title forfeit in 1485, restored in 1514

Title forfeited in 1547, restored in 1553

Title forfeited in 1572, restored in 1660



  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entries for
  • THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790) see
  • Royal Genealogy information held at University of Hull see
  • RoyaList Online at
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

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