Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk is infamous for murdering (or being responsible for the murder of) theDuke of Gloucester, who was a prisoner at Calais at the time when Mowbray was Captain of Calais. Mowbray is featured in Shakespeare's Richard II, in which he is accused of murdering Gloucester by Bolingbrooke, Duke of Hereford. Richard II quickly banishes Mowbray as he does not want the secret that he was involved to be revealed as well.

1st Earl of Nottingham (1383-1399)
Marshal of England (1385-1398)
1st Duke of Norfolk (1397-1399)
Born 1366 Died 1399

Thomas the Earl of Nottingham

Born on the 22nd March 1366, Thomas was the second son of John Mowbray and Elizabeth Segrave. His father John was the 4th Baron Mowbray of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire who was killed in battle against the Turks on the 9th October 1368 near Constantinople on his way to the Holy Land. Whilst his mother Elizabeth, was the daughter and sole heiress of John Segrave and Margaret of Brotherton, who was herself the daughter and heiress of Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk and son of Edward I.

Notwithstanding his descent from the royal Thomas it seems that our Thomas was named after Thomas a'Becket, for whom his mother had a particular devotional regard, and may well therefore suggest that Thomas might have been destined for a career in the Church. Circumstances however changed when his elder brother John died in February 1382 and Thomas therefore inherited the Mowbray barony together with the expectations of eventually inheriting the extensive estates of his great-grandfather Thomas of Woodstock. (When of course his grandmother Margaret of Brotherton eventually died.)

His brother John was a great friend of the young Richard of Bordeux and was rewarded for his friendship by being created Earl of Nottingham when Richard was crowned as Richard II in 1377. Some of this affection rubbed off on to the younger brother as on the 12th February 1383, Richard II granted Thomas the dignity of Nottingham, as had earlier been borne by his brother. Two years later, in the summer of 1385, Thomas joined the king in his expedition against the Scots and shortly before their was appointed Marshall of England for life.

Thomas the Lord Appellant

It was also in 1385 that Thomas married Elizabeth Fitzalan the daughter of Richard Fitzalan, 4th Earl of Arundel, and this Fitzalan became one of the foremost critics of Richard II's government and in particular the king's reliance on favourites such as Michael de la Pole and Robert de Vere. Thomas appears to have fallen under the influence of Fitzalan and been persuaded to join in with the opposition.

Thomas did not initially appear at the forefront of the opposition to Richard II; he does not appear to have to have been amongst those barons who took part in the stage-managed rebellion before the king at Court in October 1386, neither did he take any part in the armed confrontation of November 1387, when the triumvirate of Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick extracted from Richard a promise that his advisers would be brought before Parliament. But his support had not gone unnoticed and his name had been placed on a 'hit list' by Robert de Vere, now the Duke of Ireland.

Perhaps it was knowledge of this last fact that prompted Thomas to take a more active part as he was certainly at Huntingdon on the 12th December 1387 when he met with the other four Lords Appellant (as they became known) and marched with them into Oxfordshire to intercept de Vere and who defeated the Duke of Ireland at the battle of Radcot Bridge on the 20th December 1387. (Although Thomas later claimed that both he and Henry Bolingbroke had argued against Fitzalan's plan to capture and depose the king, and also that he arrived too late to take any part in the fighting at Radcot Bridge.)

Following the victory at Radcot Bridge, these Lords Appellant marched to London where, at Westminster on the 27th December, they formally accused the king's favourites of treason and forced the king to order their arrest and submit to their being placed before Parliament. Thomas was thus active in the Merciless Parliament which met on the 3rd February 1388, and which was fairly ruthless in its treatment of the king's former ministers (or at least those who lacked the sense to flee abroad to safety). However, this period of control by the Lords Appellant proved rather unsuccessful and shortlived and on the 3rd May 1389 Richard recovered his personal control of the government, removing Thomas and his fellow Lords Appellant from power.

Thomas the Duke of Norfolk

But whilst Richard was only to glad to see the back of the likes of Thomas of Woodstock and Richard Fitzalan he appears to have gone to some effort to conciliate Thomas and to bring him over to his side. On the 1st June 1389, Thomas was appointed Warden of the East Marches, Captain of Berwick-on-Tweed, and Constable of Roxburgh Castle for a term of two years. (Which where offices of some prestige and import in the north.) By the middle of September both Thomas and Henry Bolingbroke (who Richard also appeared eager to favour) had been restored to the Privy Council.

In 1391 Thomas resigned his northern offices in return for that of Captain of Calais and in November 1392 this appointment was renewed for a further six years together with the position of Lieutenant in Calais, Picardy, Flanders and Artois for the same period. In March 1394 he was additionally appointed to the office of Chief Justice of North Wales, and in May of that year to the post of Justice of Chester and Flint.

In September 1394 he went with Richard to Ireland, and after his return in the following year Thomas was sent to France on the all important business of both, negotiating a truce with the French and marriage between Richard and the young Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France. Thomas was successful in his mission and was consequently one of the guests of honour at the suitably expensive and lavish wedding celebrations held at Calais in October 1396.

When parliament next met in January 1397 Thomas was regranted the office of Marshal of England only this time on an hereditary basis together with the specific style of 'Earl Marshal'.

Of course, having enjoyed the undoubted benefits of royal favour in the years since 1389 Thomas had drifted away from his old associates. He was abroad between February and June 1397 but on his return he was amongst the group of royal courtiers who approached Richard and urged him to take action against Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick. Richard, who was eager to revenge himself on those who had earlier humiliated him readily agreed and on the 8th and 9th July the three were arrested. Thomas even accompanied the king when he arrested the Duke of Gloucester in person at Pleshy Castle in Essex and took charge of the unfortunate Duke conveying him to a place of custody at Calais.

At the Parliament that met at Westminster on the 21st September 1397, Thomas once more found himself in the position of appealing individuals for treason, only this time the accused were his former friends and allies. The Earl of Arundel was rapidly tried, convicted and executed at Tower Hill whilst the Earl of Warwick was condemned to a life of exile on the Isle of Man.

As to the Duke of Gloucester, held in secure accommodation in Calais, on the day that his former allies were condemned Richard II issued a writ, addressed to Thomas Mowbray in his capacity as Captain of Calais, instructing him to bring Thomas of Woodstock before parliament to answer the charges of treason that had been made against him. But when Parliament next met on the 24th September, Thomas admitted that he was unable to produce the Duke of Gloucester as requested, as the Duke had unfortunately died in custody at Calais. However on the very next day he did produce a confession, allegedly made by the Duke, which was sufficient to enable Parliament to pronounce a guilty verdict and Thomas of Woodstock was posthumously condemned as a traitor and subjected to the usual penalties.

In return for these valuable services, Thomas Mowbray received his due rewards; on the 28 September 1397 he was granted most of the former Arundel estates in Sussex and Surrey, and given seventeen of the Earl of Warwick's manors in the midlands. Following which on the 29th September, he was created Duke of Norfolk, whilst his grandmother Margaret of Brotherton still very much alive, was created Duchess of Norfolk for life.

Thomas the Exile

Over the period of fourteen years Thomas Mowbray had come a long way; from beginning his career in 1383 as a mere Earl by the autumn of 1397 he was both a Duke and Marshal of England and considerably wealthier than ever before. This very success of course, encouraged envy, in particular from Richard's inner circle of courtiers which included Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey, and William Scrope, Earl of Wiltshire who now actively urged the king to now take action against Thomas. They reminded the king of Thomas' previous involvement with the Appellants and argued that he could not therefore be trusted.

Rumours of such mutterings appear to have reached Thomas' ears as he is said to confided his fears to Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford as they rode from Brentford to London in December 1397. Henry confided in his father John of Gaunt, John spoke to his nephew Richard II, Richard confronted Thomas who duly denied everything.

Summoned to appear before the Parliament which was scheduled to meet at Shrewsbury on the 30th January 1398 Thomas failed to turn up, and on the 4th February, the king ordered his sheriffs to go and find him. Thomas eventually did turn up at Oswestry on the 23rd February, where he denied all charges. Subsequently Richard and his Privy Council met at Bristol and decided to submit the matter to a court of chivalry at Windsor. The court met on the day appointed, and decided that the matter should be settled by trial of battle at Coventry.

On the 16th September 1398 Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke met at Gosford Green outside the city of Coventry ready to do battle, but at the last minute Richard II called a halt to the proceedings and decided to take the matter into his own hands. Since Thomas it seems had confessed at Windsor to some of the charges which he had earlier denied at Oswestry, his guilt was not regarded in question and he was ordered to leave the country and take up residence in either Germany, Bohemia or Hungary, and "pass the great sea in pilgrimage".

Thomas was forbidden to communicate with Henry Bolingbroke, deprived of his offices, most notably that of Marshal of England, (which was granted the very next day to the king's nephew, Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey) but allowed to retain his titles. As far as his lands were concerned; his most recent acquisitions from the former Earls of Arundel and Warwick were declared forfeit; the remainder were also taken by the crown, out of which the Thomas was to be paid an allowance of a £1,000 a year. (This was justified on the grounds that the crown needed to be compensated for losses suffered as a result of alleged maladministration by Thomas whilst he was Captain of Calais.)

Early in October 1398 Thomas sailed from Lowestoft to Dordrecht taking with him an entourage of 40 servants and retainers, together with £1,000 in money, and his personal jewels, plate and harness. Thomas' whereabouts after he left England are uncertain; he was certainly at Venice on the 18th February 1399 when the Venetian senate, granted him the loan of a ship for his journey to the Holy Land under the name of the 'Duke of Gilforth'. It is generally believed that he then visited the Holy Land before returning to Venice where he died of the plague on the 22nd September 1399, and was buried at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, a mere week or so before the formal deposition of Richard II.

Thomas Mowbray was twice-married. his first wife, Elizabeth Strange the daughter of the Baron Strange of Blackmere, died almost immediately after the wedding and so in 1385 he married Elizabeth Fitzalan daughter of Richard Fitzalan, 4th Earl of Arundel, and sister of Thomas Fitzalan, 5th Earl of Arundel. This marriage produced two sons, the elder Thomas Mowbray, who succeeded him as Earl of Nottingham but was executed for treason in 1405 and the younger John Mowbray, who was eventually restored as Duke of Norfolk.


  • Thomas Mowbray at based on information from Burke's Extinct Peerages, pp 386 - 388. and The Mowbray Journal, eds. William Mowbray and Stephen Goslin, 1976-79
  • THOMAS, M0WBRAY, 1st duke of Norfolk from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica at
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

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