Monday, May 23, 2011

Question from Lauren - Mary Fitzroy's position in widowhood and precedence order

Mary Howard Fitzroy - did she retian her position in the hierarchy (i.e. as first lady in the land) after the death of Fitzroy? Did dowagers usually keep their places? And was the Duke of Richmond given precedence over Norfolk, and then Norfolk over Suffolk?


Cate Drewry said...

Richmond would have had precedence over Suffolk and Norfolk, as it was a semi-royal title. I don't know what the order of precedence would have been for other dukes.

I have never heard of his wife being referred to as first lady in the land. Certainly she would have been outranked by Henry's daughters, judged illegitimate or not, and by his sister, and current wife. I believe once Anne of Cleves was made Henry's honorary sister, she also outranked anyone aside from his daughters or queen.

As to retaining her position, I believe dowagers did retain their social position, if not the tangible things that went with the titles. But if, say, she had had a son with Richmond, who had succeded to the title and lived to marry, I believe his bride would then have outranked his widowed mother, as she would then have been Duchess of Richmond.

It is a sticky thing, which I imagine has given hostesses nightmares for centuries; trying to ensure seating in correct order of precedence.

kb said...

Mary Howard Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond was never first lady of the land. There were many women, as Cate points out, ahead of her in precedence. When her husband died, she had to lobby hard to get her jointure. There is a great letter to her father demanding he obtain her funds printed in Wood, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies, vol iii, p. 201. You might find this on Google Books or the Internet Archive.

Mary was forced to sell her jewelry and ran up considerable debt for a while, especially after her brother was suspected of engaging himself to Margaret Douglas the king's niece. Once that blew over, she returned to court, possibly as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves (discussed as a possibility but I have no evidence she actually had a post) and then to Katherine Howard.

Several other proposals for her marriage were put forward and she rejected them all preferring to remain duchess of Richmond. She was apparently a staunch believer in the reformed faith and patronized John Foxe hiring him as a tutor for her brother's children despite the Howards' consistent adherence to Catholicism.

Dowager duchesses usually retained their title and, if clever, their land and income. They did not sit in Parliament or retain any of their husbands' offices. If they remarried, they generally, but not always, lost their previous status but might retain their title.

The order of precedence amongst the peerage is a complicated thing and changed frequently depending on primogeniture, accusations of treason and the monarch's whim. Best to consult one of the books on the peerage such as Burke.

Julie K said...

Did Henry Fitzroy Tudor and Mary Howard have a child? Was it a girl named Mary Fitzroy Tudor?

I know they were very young and acknowledge that Henry Fitzroy died in his late teens or very early twenties; and that Mary Howard Fitzroy Tudor did not remarry.

I gather i am a descendent of Elizabeth Blount and that Henry Fitzroy is my first degree cousin 11 times removed!

I am just curious and interested in history and am not fervent in establishing any royal connections!