Who were Mary and Margaret?
Mary FitzAlan was the third daughter of Henry FitzAlan, 12th earl of Arundel, and Katherine Grey (Lady Jane Grey’s aunt). She married Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk, c. 1554 and gave birth to their son, Philip Howard, in June 1557. Tragically, she never recovered from his birth and died on 25th August; she was just 17 years old. Mary is known for the quality of her classical education – some her translations from English and Greek into Latin are held in British Library. It is also through Mary that the later dukes of Norfolk inherited the earldom of Arundel and its associated lands, including Arundel Castle, home of the present day dukes.
Margaret Audley was the daughter of Thomas, Lord Audley (Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor) and Elizabeth Grey (another of Lady Jane Grey’s aunts!). She married Lord Henry Dudley in 1554, when she was 14 years old, shortly before the Dudleys attempted to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Although her husband was pardoned for his part in the plot, she was widowed when he was killed at the Battle of Saint-Quentin in August 1557. In 1559, she married Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk. Thomas and Margaret had applied for papal dispensation to marry in 1558 – dispensation was needed because she was May FitzAlan’s first cousin – and were still waiting when Mary I died in November 1558. With the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I taking the throne, they went ahead and married without the dispensation – parliament subsequently ratified the marriage. Margaret and Thomas had four children before her death on 10 January 1564, aged 23 – like her cousin, Mary, she also died of complications from childbirth.
Didn’t the 4th duke of Norfolk have three wives?
Good Tudor knowledge! Thomas Howard married Elizabeth Leyburne, widow of Thomas Lord Dacre of Gilsland, on 29 January 1567. She already had four children, and quickly fell pregnant with Norfolk’s child. Sadly, Elizabeth and her baby died in childbirth on 4 September 1567. Elizabeth is believed to have been buried at St Michael’s church.
So, are Mary and Margaret also buried in St Michael’s church?
Despite the memorial to them, neither Mary nor Margaret was buried in St Michael’s church. Mary was buried in St Clement’s without Temple Bar (St Clement Danes) on 1 September 1557. Margaret was buried in the church of St John the Baptist, Norwich, on 17 January 1564. For added confusion, the 4th duke of Norfolk’s will refers to laying his body in the tomb where his wives were buried. It is likely that this is conflating his third wife, Elizabeth, who was buried at St Michael’s and the tomb to his first two wives. Elizabeth is not commemorated on this tomb.
Where is the tomb located?
The tomb is located in the north-east corner of St Michael’s church in Framlingham, a short walk down the road from Framlingham Castle, the ancient seat of the dukes of Norfolk (though, by the second half of the 16th century, their primary residence in East Anglia was in Kenninghall). It sits alongside the tombs erected in memory of Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond (d. 1536), Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (d. 1547), and Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk (d. 1554).
What is the tomb like?
The basic design of the memorial is quite traditional with recumbent effigies on a tomb chest, however, it is particularly large, especially in its height. Panels around the sides contain the arms of Mary and Margaret, alone and quartered with the duke of Norfolk’s arms. These would have had coronets over them, but some of these have been lost. Between the panels are Corinthian columns with winged busts on top of them. Both women are depicted wearing coronets and ermine trimmed robes. There are lions at three corners of the tomb, each one hold a shield depicting the duke of Norfolk’s coat of arms within the Garter – the fourth lion has been moved to the tomb of the 3rd duke of Norfolk. At floor level you can see the bases of the columns that would have supported a large canopy over the tomb. Sadly, when I visited the church, the top of the chest was in poor state of repair and beginning to subside.
Why is there a gap between the two effigies?
Not only there is a noticeable gap between the effigies to Mary and Margaret, there is also a blank shield at the the head of the tomb in line with the gap. This gap was likely intended to contain an image of Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk with his coat of arms would carved into the shield below his effigy. In his will, he instructed his executors not to spend money on a new tomb for him but rather to either mount a statue on the wall next to his wives’ tomb or place a statue (ie: an effigy) on their tomb.
However, Thomas was executed for treason in 1572, and buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. Understandably, given the circumstances, there seems to have been no attempt to carry out his instructions. When his heir, Philip Howard, came of age he was more interested in spending money to win Elizabeth I’s favour than paying for an effigy for his father.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Tudors Dynasty blog post on Margaret Audley; Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk’s will (Arundel Castle archives, T5); ‘Diary: 1557 (July – Dec)’, in The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, 1550-1563, ed. J G Nichols (1848), p. 148; The Howards and the Tudors: Studies in Science and Heritage, ed. by Phillip Lindley (2015)