Thomas Howard, son of Thomas Howard and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney was born in 1473.  At the time of his birth his family were merely landowners who could trace their line on the female side to Edward I. His grandfather, John Howard, was a supporter of the Yorkists, created a Knight of the Garter by Edward IV in 1472. At the funeral of the King in 1483 John Howard bore the royal banner and subsequently the crown at the Coronation of Richard III. Thomas Howard, young Thomas' father carried the sword of state. For his support John Howard was created Duke of Norfolk on 28 June 1483 and his son Earl of Surrey. The elevated status of the family did not last for on 22 August 1485 both Duke and Earl fought beside their King at the Battle of Bosworth field. John Howard was killed, Earl Thomas was wounded and captured, attainted at the first parliament of Henry VII and incarcerated in the Tower where he remained for three years until the King found it expedient to release him and, in 1489, restore him to the Earldom of Surrey. 
It was a sign of the Howards return to favour when, in 1495, young Thomas married Anne of York, sister of the Queen at Greenwich Palace on the 4th of February.  They had four children, none of whom lived to their majority.
In 1497 the younger Thomas was in arms for the King against the Cornish rebels then later that year he and his brother, Edward went with their father against the Scots. On this occassion on or before 30 September 1497 Thomas and Edward were knighted by their father.  Thomas' mother died on the 4th of April 1497 and in indecent haste on the 2nd of August his father married her cousin, Agnes Tilney.
Henry VII died in 1509 and was succeeded by his only surviving son, the youthful Henry VIII who married his deceased brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon on the 7th of June and was crowned with her on the 24th. It was a sure sign of Thomas popularity with the new King when he was created a Knight of the Garter in 1510. Thomas' own wife, Anne died late in 1511 leaving him a childless widower nearing forty years of age. Early in 1513 he married again. His new wife was 15 year old Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Eleanor Percy and lady-in-waiting to the Queen. At the time when Thomas pressed his suit to Buckingham Elizabeth was betrothed to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland and was looking forward to being married before Christmas. Thomas and Elizabeth are said to have had five children though the Visitation of Norfolk shows only three. 
James IV King of Scots invaded England that same year. Surrey, young Thomas and Edmund Howard defeated the invaders at the Battle of Flodden on the 9th of September.  For this service Surrey was created Duke of Norfolk on 1 February 1514. As a special mark of favour he was allowed to yield his Earldom of Surrey so that it could be bestowed on his eldest son, not merely borne as a courtesy title. Thomas was then Earl of Surrey in his own right. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 10 March 1520 but did not go immediately since he is listed as attending the great gathering of nobles in France known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. While Thomas and Elizabeth were in Ireland her father was executed on a charge of treason. On 21 May 1524 his father died. Thomas became head of the extensive Howard family when he inherited the Dukedom of Norfolk and passed the Earldom of Surrey on to his son, Henry, then about 7 years old.
By 1526 it was becoming clear to the court that the King was in love again. The object of his affections this time was Anne Boleyn, daughter of Thomas' sister, Elizabeth and her husband, Thomas Boleyn. Unlike her older sister, Mary, Anne refused to submit to the King's advances.  Then, the following year, Thomas took a mistress. She was Bess Holland, daughter of his private secretary. Elizabeth Stafford did not avert her eyes as her betters had done before her; she railed long and loud against Bess, a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.  With Anne making it clear to the King that she would have marriage or nothing and Elizabeth Stafford raging to anyone who would hear her about her husband's misdeeds both men were faced with the same problem: what to do about a wife who stood in their way? Both began to look for an annulment to solve their problems and Thomas became a solid supporter in the king's search for a solution.
By 1529 Thomas and Elizabeth's children were growing up and it was time to look for marriages for them. Thomas' eye fell on Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby one of the richest unattached young noblemen of the time and, from the age of 13, under the guardianship of the King, with his affairs largely managed by Cardinal Wolsey. Thomas is said to have carried the youth off and married him to his eldest daughter. Since Edward was almost of age it is likely that he was complicit. They were married before 9 December 1529. On 21 February 1530 a pardon was issued to the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Derby for procuring the marriage of the Earl to Katherine Howard without the consent of the King who was still Edward's guardian. Curious then to note that Norfolk had bought Derby's marriage from the King for 3500 marks. Eustace Chapuys reported that the Duke of Norfolk's eldest daughter died of the plague on 15 March 1530. Thomas was unwell at the time of his daughter's death but, once recovered, he set about recouping something for his investment in the Stanley marriage. Later that year Edward Stanley was married to Thomas' half-sister, Dorothy Howard. Meanwhile Elizabeth Stafford expressed herself far too freely in support of Queen Catherine and in 1531 was exiled from court.
Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen on 1 June 1533, a glittering event which Elizabeth Stafford refused to attend. She had been completely sidelined by the fall of Catherine and Thomas was free to deal with his tiresome wife. Stripped of her jewels and magnificent apparel she was moved to Rebourne in Hertfordshire, where she lived a virtual prisoner.  Thomas' matrimonial arrangements for his family continued successfully when on 28 November 1533 his daughter, Mary, was married to Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, illegitimate and only son of the King. Anne Boleyn's golden days did not last. Having failed to provide a male heir she was legally disposed of. Accused of adultery, incest (with her brother, George) and high treason she was brought to trial on 15 May 1536. Thomas presided on the jury of 27 peers who unanimously found her guilty. George Boleyn's trial followed and he too was found guilty. George went to the block on 17th May and Anne followed on the 19th. Thomas' other family relationship with the King ended when Richmond died on the 23rd of July.  When the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in October Thomas, together with the Earl of Shrewsbury, was sent north to deal with it. Finding themselves seriously outnumbered they made the rebels acceptable promises and persuaded them to disperse. The promises were not carried out, the rebellion flared up early in 1537 and was this time savagely suppressed.
About 1539 Thomas sat for this painting by Hans Holbein. Whatever he might have thought of the King making himself Head of the Church Thomas did not scruple to profit from the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  By this time he had a serious rival in Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Seymour was brother of the King's third wife, Jane Seymour, and uncle to the heir, Prince Edward. The debacle of the marriage to Anne of Cleves followed the death of Jane Seymour and Thomas dangled his pretty little niece Catherine before the King. They were married on the 28th July 1540.Catherine was the daughter of Thomas brother, Edmund, and had been raised at Lambeth in the lax household of the ageing Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney. Agnes was in her sixties by this time and had not been supervising the behaviour of the young people in her charge. Rumours began to circulate that Catherine was not the "rose without a thorn" of the King's imagination. When the King heard that she had been impure before her marriage and probably adulterous afterward it was all over. Thomas retreated to Kenninghall to await events. Catherine went to the block on 13 February 1542. Though Thomas escaped censure it was the end of his closeness to the King. English politics was fracturing, with the old guard, Thomas and Stephen Gardiner on one side, and the new men including the Seymours and Archbishop Cranmer on the other.
By the mid 1540s the King was rapidly ageing. For years he had been wracked with pain from his ulcerated legs and his once heroic frame had become grossly fat. It began to be suspected that he would not live to see his son's majority. Should the King die then power would likely fall to the Seymours and their cronies, the Dudleys. This did not suit Thomas' son Henry. An earl from the age of 9 and son of one of the most powerful men in England, he had grown up feeling entitled. In August 1545 Henry Howard consulted the Garter King of Arms, Sir Christopher Barker, about his right to bear the arms of Brotherton and St Edward the Confessor, since time immemorial borne by his ancestors, the Dukes of Norfolk. Quartering the Arms of England with his own, which he did, was a major folly. It might have merely been meant as a claim to power but could, and was, interpreted as a claim to the throne itself. Henry was arrested in December 1546, charged with treason. His friends gave evidence against him and he died on the block on 19 January 1547.Thomas himself was at Kenninghall, at the time living with not only his mistress Bess Holland but also his wife, Elizabeth Stafford. He too was arrested. The ladies both gave evidence against him. Having confessed he was attainted without trial on 27 January 1547 and condemned to die. Only the death of Henry VIII the following day saved him.
Thomas remained in the Tower throughout the reign of Edward VI, noting the death of Thomas Seymour on 20 March 1549.  and of Edward Seymour, by this time Duke of Somerset, on 22 January 1552.  He survived to be released, pardoned and restored by Queen Mary in 1553, bearing the crown at her coronation. In August he presided at the trial of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Nearing 80 years of age he led a force against Thomas Wyatt the Younger in January 1554 but was compelled to retreat when the Londoners he led changed sides.
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Despite a relationship than lasted almost 20 years no children are claimed for Thomas and Bess Holland.
Thomas appears to have had a daughter, Margaret, born before his first marriage. The only evidence comes from History of Parliament. She is said to have been the wife of William Timperley of Hintlesham in Suffolk. 
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