Philip Howard

(1557—1595) magnate and alleged traitor

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earl of Arundel and martyr. Born in London, the eldest son of the duke of Norfolk, heir to the premier earldom and five baronies besides the dukedom, his status was inferior to that of royalty alone. On Elizabeth's accession his father conformed to the Church of England: Philip was brought up a Protestant with John Foxe the martyrologist as his tutor. But when the duke proposed marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, he was found guilty of high treason and executed in 1572. His family was therefore disgraced, but Lord Burghley was appointed Philip's guardian and sent him to Cambridge. Later he was presented at court and enjoyed the favour of the queen, which, however, came to an end when he became reconciled to his wife, Anne Dacres, whom he had married when only twelve years of age and had afterwards neglected.

In 1581 he was present at a disputation between some Protestant theologians and Edmund Campion: the latter so impressed him that he left court and planned to live on the Continent with his wife, both now reconciled to the R.C. Church. But Philip was arrested at sea and sent to the Tower. A charge of treason failed, but lesser charges resulted in a fine of £10,000 and imprisonment during Her Majesty's pleasure. In 1589 he was again accused of high treason, on the ground that he had prayed for the Armada's success. Although this story was proved to be a fabrication and the judges ruled that prayer could not constitute treason, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentence was not carried out, but he remained in prison for the rest of his life; his wife and son (whom he had never seen) were not allowed by the queen to visit him. He was consoled to some extent by translating devotional works and by reading Robert Southwell's Epistle of Comfort. Worn out by over ten years' continuous imprisonment, he died at the age of thirty-eight. ‘The Catholic and Roman faith’, he wrote, ‘which I hold is the only cause…why either I have been thus long imprisoned or why I am now ready to be executed.’ Inscriptions written by him on the wall of Beauchamp Tower in the Tower of London survive, as do his relics in Arundel cathedral and a contemporary portrait in Arundel Castle. He was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 19 October.

H. G. F. Howard (ed.), The Lives of Philip Howard and of Anne Dacres, His Wife (1857 and, ed. F. W. Steer, 1971); Catholic Record Society Publications, xxi (1919), passim; M. Creighton in D.N.B., x. 52–4; B.L.S., x. 137–8; Philip Howard's translation of J. J. Lanspergius, An Epistle of Jesus Christ (ed. by a monk of Parkminster, 1926).

Subjects: Christianity.

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