Philip Howard

20th Earl of Arundel
St Philip Howard

(Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, features briefly in the novel When the Time is Ripe by Tony Thistlewood. We meet him in Beauchamp Tower where he spent the last ten years of his life.)

Philip Howard must surely have had one of the strangest, saddest and shortest lives of the sixteenth century. To be born a Howard at that time was to be born not only into the leading Catholic family in England but also into the premier dynasty: the Dukedom of Norfolk. He was named Philip after his Godfather, King Philip II of Spain, the consort of Queen Mary I – a very Catholic pair.

Yet, despite this pedigree, Philip’s life was destined for troubled waters from the start because, thanks to Henry VIII, England had become a potently Protestant country.

Philip’s father, Thomas Howard the 4th Duke of Norfolk, had three wives. Philip was the product of Thomas’s first marriage to Lady Mary FitzAlan. It is from her that the current family name of FitzAlan-Howard is derived.

Thomas had three sons by his first two wives: Philip, Thomas and William. And his third wife, Elizabeth Dacre (née Leyburne), had three daughters from her marriage to Baron Dacre: Anne, Marie and Elizabeth. The Dacre sisters were, therefore, stepsisters to the Duke’s sons.

Yep, you’ve guessed it! Thomas then married his three boys to his third wife’s three daughters. Now that’s what I call keeping it in the family! Philip Howard was only fourteen when he married Anne Dacre.

Philip’s grandfather, Henry Earl of Surrey (the poet who brought blank verse to England), was executed for treason in 1547. History repeated itself twenty-five years later when his son, that is Philip’s father, Thomas the 4th Duke, became implicated in the Ridolfi plot against Queen Elizabeth. No doubt through the machinations of Lord Burghley who didn’t like Catholics, Thomas was found guilty of treason and executed in 1572.

As a result of all this, the family’s lands and titles were stripped from them – twice. Yet Philip was far from destitute because, in 1580, he inherited the title of Earl of Arundel and related estates from his maternal grandfather.

But the good times didn’t last long. Philip soon fell under the spell of a charismatic Jesuit called Edmund Campion. Philip and Anne became devout Catholics with nowhere to hide in Protestant England. And so, on the 14th April 1585, Philip tried to escape to France, but he was betrayed and arrested. On 25th April of that year, he was incarcerated in the Tower of London’s Beauchamp Tower never to be a free man again. His son, another Thomas, was born while he was in the Tower. Queen Elizabeth would not let Philip see his son or his wife unless he renounced his faith. He refused.

Philip Howard’s properties and titles were attainted in 1589. Subsequently, his son Thomas, whom Philip never saw, was restored in blood to the earldom. However, the title of Duke of Norfolk was not restored to the family until 1660, when Philip’s great-grandson, yet another Thomas, became the 5th Duke. Philip died of dysentery in 1595. He was 38 years old.

In 1970, Philip Howard was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the forty English and Welsh Martyrs who gave their lives for their religion between 1535 and 1679. Saint Edmund Campion was canonized at the same time.

Snapshot Bio of Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel

(In 1842, the family assumed its present surname of FitzAlan-Howard)

Date of Birth:

    28th June 1557
Place of Birth:

    Arundel House, Arundel Street, London.


    Father: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

    Mother: Lady Mary FitzAlan, daughter of Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel.

Date of Death:
    Philip allegedly died of dysentery in the Tower of London on 19th October 1595.
    He was initially interred beneath the floor of the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. However, in 1624 his remains were removed, with King James I/VI’s permission, to the Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel Castle. In 1971, after Philip Howard’s canonization the previous year, his tomb was moved to his final resting place in Arundel Cathedral.
    20th Earl of Arundel (1580). This title was inherited from his mother’s line. Philip is sometimes stated as being the 13th Earl because there is some confusion over which creation of the earldom should be the starting point.
    m. 1571 Anne Dacre (Philip’s stepsister) (b. 1557 d. 1630).
      Elizabeth (b. 1584 d. 1600)
      Thomas (b. 1585 d. 1646 in Padua, Italy)
        m. 1605 Lady Alethea Talbot, daughter of the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury and granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick (wife of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury) from whom Alethea inherited vast estates.

Castles and Houses:

Arundel House, Arundel Street, London.

The house in which Philip Howard was born no longer exists. In the nineteenth century, the then Duke of Norfolk, a descendent of Philip Howard, built the existing house in its place. The International Institute for Strategic Studies acquired the property in 1997.

Arundel Castle, West Sussex.

This magnificent castle has been home of the Dukes of Norfolk or their ancestors (all descended from King Edward I) for over 850 years.

Philip Howard plays an important, although small and fictitious, part in the novel:

When the Time is Ripe

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