Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England: An Anthology of Renaissance Writing

By Betty S. Travitsky; Anne Lake Prescott | Go to book overview

5
Elizabeth Stafford Howard,
duchess of Norfolk (1497–1558)
Henry Stafford, baron Stafford (1502–1563)

Elizabeth Stafford Howard, Duchess of Norfolk,
Quarrels with Some Men in her Life

The marriage in 1512 of Elizabeth Stafford (1497–1558), daughter of Edward Stafford, third duke of Buckingham, to the far older Thomas Howard (1473–1554), third duke of Norfolk, was unusual in leaving evidence of the misery of the parties. The marriage was eagerly sought by Norfolk. An arranged match, it took place despite Elizabeth's earlier attachment to Ralph, fourth earl of Westmoreland (1499–1550), who married her sister Catherine (by whom he had eighteen children). Norfolk must have found his match less valuable after Buckingham's execution for treason1 rendered his daughter less powerful.

These sober realities did not deter the duchess from protesting when, in 1526, after fourteen years of marriage and five children (including the poet Surrey), Norfolk took a mistress. That this woman, Bess Holland, was lowborn may have intensified the duchess's vituperative efforts to end the relationship. Norfolk's indifference to his wife's anguish and his anger at her public complaints over what was common male behavior led to the involvement of their extended families and even of government officials. Although the duchess was a highly accomplished woman, Norfolk removed her from their home and kept her on a

____________________
1
Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham (1478–1521), was executed after an attempt to revive a distant claim to Henry VIII's throne.

-39-

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