Life and times of the Tudor duke who was the ultimate survivor

Waterline in costume to perform The Duke of Norfolk Ballad
Waterline in costume to perform The Duke of Norfolk Ballad
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It is apt that Patrick Troughton, who played Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, in The Six Wives of King Henry VIII also played the second Dr Who.

‘Norfolk’ (1473-1554) is a shadowy figure on the edges of the Tudor limelight. The ghost of a Catholic England that died at Bosworth, perhaps.

Gareth Calway as the 3rd Duke of Norfolk

Gareth Calway as the 3rd Duke of Norfolk

Who was he? What did he do? What is his actual connection with Norfolk?

He had an extraordinary career. A supreme loyalist with blood as royal as Henry Tudor’s, his story begins and ends in failure to protect a sovereign. His father and grandfather – the first and second dukes – fought on the wrong side at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, loyal Yorkists sharing Richard III’s defeat.

For the next seven decades, ‘Norfolk’ experienced all the ebbs and flows of Tudor fortune. After a period of family disgrace, attainted titles – loss of dukedom, power, position, wealth – and stubborn rehabilitation, he achieved glory under two Tudor monarchs as the nation’s military leader. Under the second (Henry VIII) he was uncle to two queens, both of them beheaded. (He sentenced one niece to death and survived the fall of the other.)

He spent the whole of the third as a ‘traitor’ under sentence of death in the Tower – in his 70s. He came back to lead Catholic Mary’s army (unsuccessfully) before finally being put out to grass at the palace he’d built himself at Kenninghall. It is incredible that one man could embrace so much triumph and disaster and (unlike most of his enemies) survive to die in his bed.

The 3rd Duke of Norfolk

The 3rd Duke of Norfolk

As the wintry leader of the old nobility enduring an English renaissance spring of new Tudor gentlemen, he was eclipsed for long periods by two brilliant politicians of common birth – Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell – enduring revolutions they led and which he largely opposed; exiled from the power and royal favour he regarded as his birth-right. He would survive to destroy them both, like a vacuum, but could not replace them nor their work.

His royal-blooded support helped legitimise the Tudor revolution but also threatened it. He was never quite sure of his place at the Tudor council table even when he headed it.

The seat of ‘Norfolk’ (still the premier duke, hereditary earl marshall and premier earl in the peerage of England) today is Arundel Castle in Sussex.

Our ‘Norfolk’ built Kenninghall (‘King’s hall’) on the seat of the old kings of East Anglia during one of his periods of enforced exile, suffered prolonged royal confiscation of it, died in it, and today nothing of it remains but a few pieces of masonry in a field.

A fitting monument perhaps to an historical shadow.

There is a link to the ballad as performed by Waterline, https://soundcloud.com/gaz29-1/the-grand-old-duke-of-norfolk-calway-jones-performed-by-waterline

You can also visit www.garethcalway.co.uk

THE BALLAD OF THE DUKE OF NORFOLK

Oh the grand old Duke of Norfolk

Seven years in the Tower

Blue in the joints, black in the heart

They brought him back to power.

When Northumberland pleaded quarter,

Queen Lady Jane Grey’s case;

‘My quarter’s this - you’ll be quartered, hanged

And your heart flung in your face!’

When Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

And his seven thousand men

Rose up against their Catholic queen,

Old Norfolk rode again.

Up to Rochester Bridge on his high horse

With his gunners to the fore,

His London White Coats left behind,

Turned like the tide of war.

“A Wyatt! A Wyatt! our war cry,

For church and liberty;

Against this queen and her Spanish crew,

All Englishmen are we!”

When Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

And his seven thousand men

Rose up against their Catholic queen,

Old Norfolk rode again.

He thundered, ‘turn those guns around!’

But his Londoners fled the field

Their coats all torn, their bows unstrung,

Their Catherine wheels un-wheeled.

The Roman Candle’s final blaze,

It won the day without him,

Till Bloody Mary, too, went down

In flames and rack and ruin.

When Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

And his seven thousand men

Rose up against their Catholic queen,

Old Norfolk rode again.