Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Question from Harry - Child of Thomas Howard and Margaret Douglas

Lord Thomas Howard (1511-1537), son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk Thomas Howard by Agnes Tilney, apparently by some sources had an affair with Margaret Douglas, niece of Henry VIII and daughter of his sister Margaret.

Due to this they were both sent to the Tower and Thomas died there. However, Margeret was released to Scion House in London. Was she pregnet with Thomas's child (Robert) as supposedly there was a Robert Howard born at the Scion house in 1537?

I cannot find any substantial historic reference to this. Various on-line trees have it but their source seems to be other people's trees.

The archives of the Dukes of Norfolk in England would not confirm it so I don't know the original source of this birth (myth?).

There was a succesion problem which caused their imprisonment as Henry had just bastardized his 2 daughters after his marriage to Jane.


Susan Higginbotham said...

I don't know of any contemporary evidence for a child at all; indeed, Chapuys wrote that he had heard that "copulation had not taken place" between Margaret and Thomas. I suspect the report of a child arose from someone trying to fabricate a royal descent.

Marilyn R said...

Henry was very jittery over not having a male heir (yet) and Mary and Elizabeth were out of favour for being their mothers’ daughters, so he was suspicious of anyone making a play for such a near relative as his niece Margaret Douglas.

Agnes Tilney was the second Duke of Norfolk’s second wife and their son Lord Thomas Howard (1511–1537) was imprisoned in the Tower with Margaret, but she was moved to more congenial conditions because of recurring illness. Lord Thomas died in the Tower of illness the following year.

Howard men must have held some sort of fatal attraction for Margaret Douglas, as she was in trouble again in 1541 for a similar affair with her late lover’s half-nephew Charles Howard, and had a severe warning not to let it happen again. Charles’s father, Lord Edmund Howard, was from the Duke’s first marriage to Agnes’s cousin Elizabeth Tilney, so Edmund and Thomas were half-brothers. Charles was a full brother of Queen Katherine.

I agree with Susan that this birth at Syon House looks a bit suspicious. I have been working on Agnes Tilney’s involvement with her step-granddaughter Katherine Howard in Lambeth for a long time and have not come across the birth of this supposed grandson of hers at Syon. Are you able to let us know what your source is?

Anonymous said...

I see the Howards as not needing to fabricate royal descent. Their Arundel and Norfolk titles put them in the oldest and second only peerage to the crown in England. They gave rise to Queen Elizabeth through Anne Boelyn's mother, Elizabeth (a Tilney by descent as well). On the issue of whether there was a son by Margaret Douglas and a Howard man, like everyone else, I can't say. The motivation to fabricate royal descent, I don't believe, was a motive to assert that there was a child. Thanks for this discussion. DLC

C said...

Has there every been any DNA testing done to determine a connection between Robert and Margaret Douglas?

Anonymous said...

I do not think there is reason to Not believe that Robert was the son of Thomas Howard and Margaret. They were betrothed and promised each other to each other. A repeating illness was likely morning sickness. I know that with my first child, I was sick daily for months.

country housewife said...

I have from some reference that the son was named Rowland, not Robert, but I cannot locate any information on him either.

KIMBERLY S said...

I traced my ancestry back to all these people through my paternal side.

Adam Shipley xame to America in mid 1600's & married Lois Howard, it's though her lineage I came upon alo this info.

freedomlady said...

Hello All,

I have found a distant cousin Russ Howard In Oregon. His wife Katherine owns the dance studio in Roseburg. He has told me about a book " Providence......Lost...." that describes much.
We don't need to "have" a blood line....but it makes sense that Rowland or Robert was the product of the Secret marriage...More then an Engagment. Reports are that Her Love Sir Thomas Howard had a Older (?) brother with the same first and Last name...and Margaret Gave her baby to him to raise....To save the child's and her life. She reported to have gone often to visit him and raised him to never tell of his paternal Connection or that she was his mother. He had a son.....who had a son....To Matthew Howard...who Immigrated to the New World. One of Matthews Grandchildren married one of Sir Thomas Hinton's grandchildren ( Sir Thomas Hinton was co Founder of Jamestown COLONY......and Other "Howards" married into the HINTON line. Vachel HInton was a PVT in the Virginia Militia during the REVOLUTIONARY War...and was married to his Second Wife ( My 5 x great GM

peterhowardsantarosa said...

It seems high time to confirm through DNA testing that Matthew Howard was the great grandson of Thomas Howard and Lady Margaret Douglas. A paternal line descendant of Matthew Howard's DNA should confirm if the proper English authoritiy would consent to a DNA test. I have read that his brother Matthew's brother, John Howard, used a seal of the Duke of Norfolk on his will filed in Virginia, which would have been illegal if not authorized to use such seal given the Colonies were under the rule of the King at the time in the late 1600s. John Howard would never have used an illegal seal which could have had the effect of nullifying his well.

I know several paternal direct descendants of Matthew Howard, starting with (Eagle) Col John Howard of Merritt Isla
nd Florida.

Debra Cofer said...

I also know a male descendant of Matthew Howard. Y-DNA, anyone????

Stephanie Fairchild Fister said...

Good morning from snowy Kentucky! I hope this find you well.

My research on the mystery of Robert Howard of Syon House led me to a post you made several years ago. Have you found any evidence in recent years to support the claim some have made that Robert Howard b. 1538 was the secret child of Thomas Howard and Margaret Douglas? My hope to include accurate information in a book I'm writing.

Kind regard,

Jennifer Gray said...

Stephanie, I, too, live in Kentucky, and am writing a book. I have been tracing my lineage to the Howards. Supposedly, I am a descendant of Robert, and the dead-end is very unnerving.

Susan Shine said...

Stephanie and Jennifer, I too am supposed to be a descendant of Robert Howard. I live in South Carolina. My 2nd great grandmother was Fatima Howard. I traced her backward through the Howard's and got as far as:

Robert John Howard
Birth JAN 1537 • London, Middlesex, , England
Death 1598 • Tybbenham, Norfolk, England

I seems that Fatima was the end of my Howard line, if it is correct. I have been told that the Howard line is one of the most difficult lines to prove. I hope someone can verify this about Lord Thomas and Margaret. I have take an Ancestry DNA test. I would love to find someone who is related to me, through this line.


Susan Shine said...

I am from South Carolina. My 2nd great grandmother was Fatima Howard. Her line led me back to:

Robert John Howard
Robert John Howard
Birth JAN 1537 • London, Middlesex, , England
Death 1598 • Tybbenham, Norfolk, England

I was told that the Howard line was one of the hardest to prove. I have taken the Ancestry DNA test and would love to have a match in this line. Please contact me if you show up in my Matches.


Lyle Howard said...

A lot of American Howards would be happy if Edward Fitzalan-Howard would have his DNA tested. Surely someone out there is closely enough related to him to give a sample. For what it is worth, I am a Howard and my DNA is R1b1a2a1a1c1a, Z306 (so says Experimental Tree, can't remember the website but can come up with it if asked). My line stops at King and Queen County, Virginia, in the early 1700's but DNA searches on AncestryDNA keep bringing up allied families to the Virginia and Maryland Howards and what seem to be allied English families. If you hunt around a bit you can find a smattering of information on Thomas H and Margaret Tudor. I remember reading about them in the Calendar of State Papers.

Lyle Howard said...

Correction to the above. Margaret Douglas rather than Tudor.

Susan Shine said...

I show my Howard line coming from England to Essex, Mass and the places in Virginia.

Lyle Howard said...

It seems that the northern Howards and southern Howards are kin. I'm sure there are some Howards who aren't part of the family but I have a suspicion many of the American Howards are related. DNA searches are giving me hints that north and south families are related. For example, one of my DNA matches has an Alden who married a Howard (in Duxbury, MA). John Howard lived with Miles Standish at one point. I figure DNA is going to reveal the relationship between north and south families.

Cynthia Landrum said...

My mother's maternal line has resided in MD (non-stop) since the 1600s. In particular, they have lived on the Severn River/near Annapolis as the first people with land grants that predate the formation of London Town and Providence. The surnames that we have in our family tree on that side include: Cheney, Hatton, Shipley, Ridgely, Brice, Chase, Monroe, Duvall, Wade, Kemp, Collinson, etc...Most of these individuals were expatriated Catholics and Quakers, when they immigrated during the English Civil War. In particular, my great something grandfather Richard Cheney, emigrated in 1649 because he signed a loyalty oath in support of King Charles I. As a distant relative of Elizabeth Cheney (great-grandmother of three wives of Henry VIII), he believed in the "Divine Right of Kings". His descendants living in the Tidewater Region continued (for many generations) to do what they would have done in Great Britain, by intermarrying with other families that had blood connections to the Plantagenets, Stuarts, and Tudor Kings and Queens. Another ancestor who arrived in MD at this time as a "Quaker" was Robert Kemp. A descendent of two Archbishops of Canterbury, he also had direct lines to King Henry III, Roger Mortimer, First Earl of March, the Despencers, Le Strange etc...Through my mother's paternal line, I am a direct descendent of Sir Robert Howard (through Matthew Howard) and Governor Nicholas Greenberry, through Catherine Griffith. The former is believed to be a descendent of Margaret Douglass and Thomas Howard and the latter the illegitimate son of King Charles II. Through this same side of the family, I have another connection to Anne Bolyene through my great something grandmother Sarah Ayer (Puritan side of Family from New England), who had that surname in her family tree. This same line has Sir Thomas Heydon, Catherine Willoughby, the Le Strange Family, Welles, Lancaster, Plantagenet, etc....On that same side of the family, I am also a direct descendent of Sir William Wade, who served on the Board for the Virginia Co of London/Jamestown. All that said, I'm inclined to believe that Sir Robert Howard was in fact the son of Margaret Douglass and Thomas Howard, simply because the descendants of the refugees of the various waves of the English Civil War, continued to intermarry and self identify as "British". They only partially rejected that identity, after the English Crown adopted the Hanoverian line in favor of a "Protestant" monarch over a "Catholic"sovereign with more "Tudor/Stuart/Plantagenet" blood. For what it's worth, I'm normally a Native Americans Studies scholar/historian. I accidentally wondered into this, when I was trying to write an introduction to my book on Eastern Woodland tribes. As I got further into the topic, my ancestors kept rising to the surface and I connected some dots with family genealogies/stories that had been handed down. That said, I haven't even mentioned the other half of my DNA from KY. On that side, I have the Daniel Boone (my great something uncle)/Frances Somerset/John of Gaunt connection controversy. That's another story for another blog!

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Debra Cofer said...

Cynthia, I am very interested in your information. I am descended from Matthew Howard, am related to the Boones and Bryans, and I am inclined to give credence to the Thomas Howard/Margaret Douglas theory. I look like the daughter of Lady Tessa Howard. After looking at numerous portraits of Margaret Douglas at different ages, and comparing them to my great aunt, a Howard, I am amazed at the resemblance. This could all be coincidence, I suppose, but I have found other references to Matthew's line being from the Duke of Norfolk line. I have many, many DNA matches to people on when I enter names such as Tudor, Plantagenet, Talbot, Stuart, Mowbray, FitzAlan, etc. I will be happy to share what I have with anyone interested. My grandmother was a Howard and that line has been DNA-proven to be Matthew descendants.

Debra Cofer said...

I am a Matthew Howard descendant and have information you may be interested in. Feel free to contact me at

Peter Howard said...

I am direct male line descendant Of Matthew Howard through his son Samuel. My DNA search says I am a close match with Gabriel Howard Matthews grandson through Matthew Jr.

Cynthia’s news above that Lord Thomas Howard was the illegitimate son of King Charles II is a new lead. Would love to hear the basis for that angle.

I have read that Lord Thomas and Margaret were married under English custom of the time with witnesses and clergy, and lived as husband and wife for six months before king Henry VIII found out and sentenced them to the Tower. That would logically be plenty of time to conceive. I have read their love letters from the tower.

This mystery may be solved when the English side DNA is tested.

Even King Henry I, was the son of William the conqueror, who was th even King Henry I, was the son of William the conqueror, who was by most accounts the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy .

Certainly the English Civil War Was a tough time, and plenty of motivation for then English Catholics to leave and come to Virginia. Two of Matthew’s sons sealed their wills with Duke of Norfolk seals, Which is remarkable unrefutable evidence of Matthew’s ancestry. No significant landholding family would violate the kings laws in the 1600s with such acts.

Debra Cofer said...

Peter, we are both descendants of Samuel. Did I give you the info on Dr Nicholas Ferguson Howard, Lumpkin County, GA Find-a-Grave site? And Wikipedia-Hampton National Historic Site? Mentions Matthew's gr-grandaughter being related to Carlisle branch of Dukes line.