Charles Brandon: "What are your ambitions, my Lord?"
Henry Howard: "To surpass the achievements of my father and grandfather."
Charles Brandon: "...That is very ambitious."
Henry Howard: "I am a Howard, Your Grace. It is expected of me."
The Howard Family is a prominent noble House in The Tudors that originally descended directly from the royal Plantagenet dynasty, making them the most high-ranking (and one of the most respected and wealthy) House at King Henry's royal court. During the War of the Roses, the Howards were among the most powerful supporters of the House of York, which was eventually defeated by House Lancaster under Henry Tudor; several leading members of the Howard family were executed, but the family as a whole was allowed to retain its' power and prestige at court once peace had settled in. However, the Howards have never forgotten how the late Henry VII (the first monarch of House Tudor, and the current King's father) usurped the crown of their relatives, and many of them hope to return a 'true' Plantagenet descendant to the throne.
Initially in the series, the Howard family (headed by Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk) is in alliance with another powerful Plantagenet ex-claimant, the hot-headed Duke of Buckingham, who plots to take the crown from Henry by force. However, the Howards are also connected to the Boleyn family by marriage (Thomas Boleyn is married to Norfolk's sister) and the Boleyns, not wanting England to potentially return to civil war, betray Buckingham's plot, resulting in his execution. This forces the Howards to rely on the Boleyns for a more gradual return to power; Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn scheme to have one of Boleyn's daughters seduce the King. Unexpectedly, Henry's attraction to the younger daughter, Anne, becomes so strong that he attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne instead. Meanwhile, the Howards and the Boleyns work together to bring down their most despised opponent at Court: the King's first minister, Cardinal Wolsey.
At the close of Season One, the Boleyns and the Howards have destroyed Wolsey and dominate Henry's court (alongside the King's best friend Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk). However, their relationship soon begins to fracture as the Boleyn's power starts to surpass the Howards. Norfolk dissapears from the series, while the majority of the Howards- who, like all their ancestors, are devout Catholics- are appalled by the Boleyns' support of the Protestant Reformation. Although this not shown in Season Two, the Howards later turned upon their former allies, and Norfolk presided over the court that covicted his niece Queen Anne (falsely) of adultery and treason, resulting in her execution. The Howards also played a prominent role in both supressing the Pilgrimage of Grace (despite being Catholic) and bringing down their hated Protestant rival Thomas Cromwell, though again this is not shown in the series.
In Season Four, the Howards rise again at Court through the presence of Norfolk's son Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey- and through the fact that King Henry has just married another of Norfolk's nieces, Katherine Howard. They use this influence to seek the destruction of the other powerful family at Court- the Seymour Family, a low-born Reformist House who brought about the downfall of their Boleyn relatives. However, the Howards' influence is later reduced after Katherine's adultery is discovered, resulting in her execution. Surrey breifly restores their prominence in episode 4.06 when he wins the Battle of Solway Moss against Scotland and acts as Marshall of the field at the Siege of Boulogne, in France. However, he is later found guilty of a supposed plot to kidnap the King's son Prince Edward (nephew to the Seymour brothers, who preside over Surrey's trial) and he is executed, while his father Norfolk was later arrested and placed in the Tower of London until after king Henry's death.
The Howard family, headed by Surrey's son (also the Duke of Norfolk) later regained prominence under the reign of the pro-Catholic Queen Mary I, but were reduced again when her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I took the throne. Because Elizabeth, being a daughter of Anne Boleyn, was a blood relative of the Howards, they assumed they could somehow dominate and usurp her power. However, their plot, like Buckingham's, was discovered, and Norfolk was executed along with many of his entourage. This is not to say that all the Howards opposed Elizabeth, however: another member of the family, Charles Howard Earl of Nottingham, served as Lord Admiral of the English Navy during the victory against the Spanish Armada. Descendants of the Howard Family continue to hold the Dukedom of Norfolk to this day, though they have never again held designs on the Throne.
This is a list of members/ descendants of House Howard that are shown in The Tudors, and their status at the end of the series.
- Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (formerly co-President of the Privy Council). Patriarch of the Howard family. Brother-in-Law to Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire; uncle of George Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Katherine Howard. Father of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Imprisoned for treason.
- Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk: Stepmother of Thomas Howard. Deceased.
- Queen Katherine Howard: Niece of Thomas Howard, cousin of Anne, George, Mary and Henry Howard. Beheaded in episode 4.05.
- Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: Son of Thomas Howard, cousin of George, Mary, and Anne Boleyn, and of Katherine Howard. Hanged, drawn and quartered in episode 4.09.
- Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: Son of Henry Howard, cousin of Princess Elizabeth Tudor. Executed during Elizabeth's reign.
They descend from King Edward I of England, through his son Thomas, Earl of Norfolk.