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Born about 1497 Elizabeth Stafford was the eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Eleanor Percy. Elizabeth entered Court in 1509 as a lady in waiting to the Queen, Catherine of Aragon. She was betrothed to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, her father's ward, and in 1512 was looking forward to being married to him by Christmas. Her plans were changed when Thomas Howard, son of the Earl of Surrey, persuaded her father to marry Elizabeth to him instead. Early in January 1513 aged 15 she was married to a widower in his forties. That same year Thomas and his father went north in arms and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Flodden. Her father-in-law 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 with Elizabeth as his Countess.  Thomas and Elizabeth are said to have had five children though the Visitation of Norfolk shows only three. 
In 1520 Thomas attended the King at the great gathering of nobles at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France. So far no source places Elizabeth there but there would have had to have been an important reason for her not to have attended. Thomas had just been appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland and he took Elizabeth with him when he sailed to his post. While they were away Elizabeth's father, the Duke of Buckingham, was executed on Tower Hill on a trumped up charge of treason, her father-in-law having presided at the trial. On 21 May 1524 the Duke of Norfolk died and Thomas and Elizabeth became Duke of Duchess of Norfolk.
1527 saw the beginning of the collapse of Elizabeth's marriage. That year Thomas took a mistress, Bess Holland, formerly in Elizabeth's employ but by this time in the household of Thomas' niece, Anne Boleyn, the King's new love. Elizabeth refused to turn a blind eye. She called Bess all manner of names denigrating her as "washer of my nursery". It didn't help that Bess was in service to Anne Boleyn, rival of Elizabeth's mistress, the Queen. In 1531 Elizabeth was banished from court for speaking out too loudly about the King's great matter.
In 1533 the King had his way. His marriage to Queen Catherine was declared void and he married Anne having her crowned on the 1st of June.  With queen Catherine sidelined Thomas was able to deal with his wife. In March 1534, according to Elizabeth, he locked her in a chamber and took away her jewels and apparel and then moved her to Rebourne in Hertfordshire where she was kept a virtual prisoner, harassed and bullied by the women of her household. She continued to complain publicly writing over and over to her husband's enemy Thomas Cromwell seeking redress. The public airing of her grievances estranged her from her surviving children, Mary, Henry and Thomas and her brother, Henry Stafford, condemned her as wild and sensual. 
Passion seems however to have spent itself eventually for in 1546, aged nearly 50, Elizabeth was living at Kenninghall with Thomas and Bess. It was there that all three were arrested when her son, Henry, Earl of Surrey was accused of treason. Both women gave evidence against Thomas. Surrey was convicted and executed on 19 January 1547. Thomas, too, was condemned to die, surviving only because of the timely death of the King. He remained in the Tower throughout the reign of Edward VI. Meanwhile Elizabeth lived in comparative poverty.
When Edward VI died in 1553 Elizabeth was with the Princess Mary when she rode into London to wrest the crown from the Dudley faction and she bore the new Queen's train at her Coronation.Thomas too was restored to favour, released from the Tower and re-instated as Duke of Norfolk. It seems, however, that they had little to do with one another for she was not mentioned in his will. Thomas died on 25 August 1554. Elizabeth survived him, dying on 30 November 1558. She was buried in the Howard Chapel, St Mary, Lambeth.  
Thomas and Elizabeth were, of course, never divorced. Nor does their marriage seem ever to have been annulled. Until some evidence surfaces it is assumed that Elizabeth remained Thomas' wife until his death.
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Categories: England Managed Profiles, Pre-1500