The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

by Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end, so much so that I read it in under twenty-four hours – I just didn’t want to put it down! Throughout the years of reading and my own personal research, I have read a great deal about Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, but never a great deal of his father. Yes, the 2nd Duke’s victory against the Scotts at the Battle of Flodden had always been discussed, but the man, who he was, his personal interests, his desires, his triumphs and tragedies have so often been overlooked. Claiden-Yardley changes all of this and brings to light a fascinating and intriguing man integral to the Tudor court.

The book starts by discussing Thomas Howard’s family history, looking at the rise of his father, the marriage he made and the links that were formed with members of nobility – noticeably the de Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk from East Anglia who were relations. This information was vital in setting up the type of man that Thomas Howard was, hardworking, always pushing himself for more and using what means he could to further himself and his growing family.

Claiden-Yardley explores the relationship that Howard held with Edward IV, Richard III and his participation within the Battle of Bosworth Field fighting under Richard III’s banner. One might think being on the losing side would have disastrous effects upon Thomas Howard and his family and perhaps for a few years, it might have seemed this way. But it would appear that Howard was loyal to the crown and not necessarily to an individual man. He worked hard and proved his loyalty to Henry VII, serving him faithfully and regaining his trust.

The famous battle of Flodden Field is covered within this book and how Howard managed to outwit and overcome a march larger army and see the death of the Scottish King. His actions continued to ingrain himself within the court and shortly afterwards he was reinstated to the title of the Duke of Norfolk, once held by his father.

The book explores, briefly, the lives of Howard children, the death of two of his sons and the rise of his son and heir, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Claiden-Yardley takes great care to explore the letters and personal side of Howard’s life away from political life at court. She discusses and explores the reason why Thomas made the decisions that he did as well as his desire to see his family wealth and land base grow. He was also a vital part of court life and this is explored and his relations with other members of the court, such as Thomas Wolsey and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk are also explored.

What I greatly admired within this book is Claiden-Yardley’s ability to show both sides of a story. She did not paint Howard as a saint nor as a villain but explained that he was very much a product of his time. A man with flaws but a man who also loved deeply and desired to do what he believed to be right, for both the King and his family. He was a man that married for love, fathered many children and amassed a great wealth behind him. He was a military-minded man,  a clever strategist, politically minded and able to weather the political changes and politics of court life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it shed a spotlight on an often-overlooked figure of the early Tudor court. I would highly recommend this book!

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