The Duke in his Country

Neville Williams profiles Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk (1538-1572), a great territorial magnate, commanding fanatical affection and wielding an influence that was little less than absolute.

As England’s sole duke and her greatest territorial magnate, Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, wielded an influence in his native county that was little less than absolute, for the county, the city of Norwich, and the five corporate towns were largely governed from Kenninghall Palace. Many of his lands formed a private franchise, “the Liberty of the Duke of Norfolk,” that had been founded by Edward IV for John, the third Duke of the Mowbray line, and continued intact with privileges unabridged despite the upheavals of the Reformation.

Since the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster had both been merged with the Crown estate, the Norfolk Liberty remained the greatest lay private franchise in the realm. In his county, as he boasted to Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Howard was monarch of all he surveyed, and it was a demesne worthy of its lord.

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