The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Five – Historical Tidbit

In Chapter 5 of The Prince and the Pauper, we are introduced to a character who Henry VIII absolutely loathes. However, Mark Twain gives the readers little to no background information on him. Today we explore the man whose death was Henry VIII’s dying wish…

The Duke of Norfolk

Was the Duke of Norfolk really a real historical figure? Was he actually placed in the tower? Was Henry VIII actually obsessed with having him killed? Keep reading or watch the video below for more information.

Below you will find the Ch. 5 where Henry VIII rants about wanting the Duke of Norfolk dead.

“Peace! Insult not mine ears with his hated name. Is this man to live for ever? Am I to be baulked of my will? Is the prince to tarry uninstalled, because, forsooth, the realm lacketh an Earl Marshal free of treasonable taint to invest him with his honours? No, by the splendour of God! Warn my Parliament to bring me Norfolk’s doom before the sun rise again, else shall they answer for it grievously!” (p. 24-25)

In case that wordy quote means nothing to you, here’s the same speech, but from a version where the vocabulary has been simplfied (the yellow version of the book).

“Quiet! Don’t insult me by saying his name. Won’t that man ever die? Are my wishes going to be ignored? Is the prince supposed to wait around without an official ceremony, because, in reality, the kingdom doesn’t have any Earl Marshal who hasn’t committed treason who can present him with the official honors he deserves? No, by the glory of God! Warn my Parliament to kill Norfolk before the sun rises again, or else they will be in big trouble!” (p. 24-25)

Who was the Duke of Norfolk?

The Duke of Norfolk (actually the 3rd Duke of Norfolk…the one who was Duke at the time of Henry VIII’s reign) was named Thomas Howard. He was given the position of Lord High Admiral in 1513, which means he was the head of the Royal Navy. Throughout Henry VIII’s reign, Thomas Howard’s influence rose and fell, but there were moments where he was essentially second in command after Henry. He was also the uncle of two of Henry’s wives, Anne Boleyn (Henry’s 2nd wife) and Catherine Howard (Henry’s 5th wife). Incidentally, both of his nieces were beheaded by Henry.

Throughout his time serving Henry VIII, he had a number of strikes against him that ultimately led to his imprisonment in the Tower of London. One of these strikes was that Henry VIII found out about Catherine Howard’s prior relationships, and he accused the Howards (including Thomas) of hiding it from him. However, Henry soon got over this, and Thomas was not in trouble. Additionally, Thomas was pretty conservative in religion, and was not enthusiastically on Henry’s side when it came to switching England over to the Church of England.

But the thing that ultimately landed the Duke in the Tower was related to a treasonous act committed by his son. His son, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, decided to include arms associated with King Edward the Confessor on his own coat of arms. This was something that only kings were supposed to do. This upset Henry so much that he threw Henry and his father Thomas into the Tower.

What happened to him?

In real life, he was thrown in the Tower toward the end of Henry’s reign and remained there throughout all of Edward VI’s reign as king as well. He was ultimately released by Queen Mary I (Henry VIII’s daughter, who reigned after Edward passed away). After being released, most of his previous titles were restored, and he continued working in the palace. This differs from his fate in The Prince and the Pauper, but I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t made it to that part of the story yet!

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