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The Man Behind the Tudors (Hardback)

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > Royal History P&S History > Social History

By Kirsten Claiden-Yardley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 159
ISBN: 9781526745538
Published: 27th January 2020


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History Hit

An article written by the author for Dan Snow's History Hit: 'The Death of a King: The Legacy of the Battle of Flodden'

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Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk, lived a remarkable life spanning eighty years and the reigns of six kings. Amongst his descendants are his granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth I. The foundations of this dramatic and influential dynasty rest on Thomas’ shoulders, and it was his career that placed the Howard family in a prominent position in English society and at the Tudor royal court.

Thomas was born into a fairly ordinary gentry family, albeit distantly related to the Mowbray dukes of Norfolk. During the course of the fifteenth century, he and his father would rise through the political and social ranks as a result of their loyal service to Edward IV and Richard III. In a tragic turn of events, all their hard work was undone at the Battle of Bosworth and his father was killed fighting for King Richard. Imprisoned for treason and stripped of his lands and titles, Thomas had to start from the beginning to gain the trust of a new king. He spent the next thirty-five years devoting his administrative, military and diplomatic skills to the Tudors whilst rebuilding his family fortunes and ensuring that his numerous children were well-placed to prosper.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

🏵 I have been researching and studying my family tree since I was 12 years old. Based on my research, Thomas Howard (the man this biography is about) is my 18th great-grandfather. So, I had to read this, right? Gotta study up on what old grandpa did in his life! 😊

🏵 This was meticulous in detail, slightly academic, but still very readable. It is a relatively short book (print length 208 pages) so it is a fairly quick read.

🏵 For those who don’t know, Thomas Howard was the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, the grandfather of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (both beheaded wives of Henry VIII), and the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. This biography covers his entire lifetime and discusses his successes and failures in both his family and political life.

🏵 If you are a Tudor nerd like me, this is a must read. I really enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Kimberly Murphree

A very solid historical biography on this royal personage and I was very glad to have spent some time with this duke !

NetGalley, Jaidee Deableau

A fascinating look at a character that is often overlooked in history. I love reading things like this it didn't disappoint.

NetGalley, Sally Aquire

The images included in the book were interesting, some that I hadn’t seen before, which always adds to the allure of a book. The bibliography was quite extensive, and you could tell it had been well-researched.

The Tudor Blogger

This book, by Kirsten Claiden-Yardley, gives effective insights and new information for all those interested in the Tudor Revolution. You may disagree with certain conclusions drawn but you cannot fault the scholarship.

NetGalley, Willy Marz

An interesting history of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, and his struggles to better his family via the patronage of the kings. An astute insight into the lives of Tudor gentry, and in particular the life of a man so crucial to Tudor history.

NetGalley, Gillian Shackleton

A great read full of information about the duke of norfolk, I have read many books on the Tudors but found out lots of new information from this book, a great read for history lovers.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end, so much so that I read it in under twenty-four hours – I just didn’t want to put it down! Throughout the years of reading and my own personal research, I have read a great deal about Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, but never a great deal of his father. Yes, the 2nd Duke’s victory against the Scotts at the Battle of Flodden had always been discussed, but the man, who he was, his personal interests, his desires, his triumphs and tragedies have so often been overlooked. Claiden-Yardley changes all of this and brings to light a fascinating and intriguing man integral to the Tudor court...

What I greatly admired within this book is Claiden-Yardley’s ability to show both sides of a story. She did not paint Howard as a saint nor as a villain but explained that he was very much a product of his time. A man with flaws but a man who also loved deeply and desired to do what he believed to be right, for both the King and his family. He was a man that married for love, fathered many children and amassed a great wealth behind him. He was a military-minded man, a clever strategist, politically minded and able to weather the political changes and politics of court life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it shed a spotlight on an often-overlooked figure of the early Tudor court. I would highly recommend this book!

Read the full review here

Sarah Bryson - Author

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thomas Howard is a name that you will hear repeatedly in English history. He was the grandfather of queens, a friend of kings, and one of the most powerful magnates in the land.
His story spans the life of a man who lived longer than most - reaching eighty years of age. During his lifetime, he would be involved in one of the most active kings' lifetimes, and span the reign of more than SIX kings. His life was far from easy, having to rebuild and reestablish himself after being arrested for treason.

The life of Thomas Howard was fascinating. I found myself having a hard time putting this book down to get anything else done! To image what he must have seen, after reading through his life, I am awed by the man that he was, and the legacy that he left behind.

For those who love history, this is a MUST READ! Kirsten Claiden-Yardley did not disappoint with her work, and this book is a true gem!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

She shed some light on a rather remarkable man who was really behind the curtain during the reigns of quite a few English kings. His loyalty to the crown and his family was unwavering. If you want to read a good biography about Thomas Howard and how the Howard family rose to power during the Tudor dynasty, I would recommend you read, “The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk” by Kirsten Claiden-Yardley.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk is a little less known character among Tudor enthusiasts. He is overshadowed by his more famous son, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk - but without the second duke's ambition, hard work and political & military acumen there would be no third duke's success.
This is a wonderful biography of a man who deserves his story to be told. Thomas Howard lived 80 years and served under four kings, earning glory in the famous Battle of Flodden in 1513.
I enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it to history lovers.

Read the full review here

GoodReads, Constant Reader

This was a fascinating book to read about a gentleman I didn’t really have that much knowledge about but he lived to the grand old age of 81 and was the grandfather to two of Henry VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Following him throughout his life, I found this to an interesting read and interactions with various kings. Being pro-Yorkist he was involved in the battles at Bosworth and Flodden. So all in all he seems to have been an interesting fella who I wouldn’t mind seeing much more written about really.

This 146 page book was well written and seemed to be very well researched, it could even gone a bit deeper than it did for me. But overall, a very impressive book and I would happily recommend it to others to read.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

A good biography on Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk who, for his time, lived an astonishing 80 years and saw 6 kings reign - through the War of the Roses and to the reign of the Tudors. Gives a great insight into the times, and a look at the peripheries and behind the scenes that you don't get when only focusing on kings and queens.

NetGalley, Rebekka Steg

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating biography of Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk. It is very well researched and written in a clear engaging style. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it to everyone with an interest in Tudor history.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

Living to the grand old age of 81 and surviving 5 monarchs is no mean feat in itself. But Lord Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk did just that. His story is fascinating with all the twists and turns you'd expect to find in a novel rather than a factual telling of his long life. For students of history there is a lot to be garnered form Yardley's scholastic research whilst for the average reader this book vividly recreates what is took to survive at the top level of society during those tempestuous years when holding on to your lands, and the income they generated, was continually challenged by successive monarchs. Thomas Howard, with great guile not to mention courage, rebuilt his estates and earned the respect and trust of the Tudor monarchs. He twice loyally and successfully defended the North of England from invasion by the Scots and the detailed description of the Battle of Flodden I found absolutely fascinating. When Howard died he left behind a substantial legacy and was honoured with the equivalent of a State funeral in which the 3 day journey taken by his cortege had all the pomp and circumstance of a Royal progress. On finishing this book one feels this respect was well earned.

NetGalley, Nigel Masterton

This was a really interesting, well researched book that captured the essence of a man well known in history for being the grandfather of two of Henry VIII queens, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. There was a lot I didn't know about this fascinating man and i learnt a lot of interesting facts about the time period and some theories I hadn't come across previously. I love history and I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone does too .

NetGalley, Ann Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love the Tudor era so to be able to read about a 'new' facet of this time has been a real treat for me.

This is wonderful - well researched and a great read - the style of writing makes this book so accessible - it draws you in and the fantastic descriptive text brings everything to life.

Absolutely loved this - a must read whether you are into the Tudors, history - even just a reader - an absolute pleasure to read.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I just finished reading this wonderful
Biography of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (grandfather to Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard).Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk was 81 years old when he died in 1524, and he had lived through the reigns of 5 kings. His long life was dedicated to serving to the Crown and the advancement of his own family. A staunch Yorkist, he found himself on the wrong side of the Tudors at the start of Henry VII’s reign. Ever the pragmatist, he worked diligently and faithfully to secure the trust of the new king and quickly rose in favor under both the father and the son. Kirsten Claiden-Yardley offers a brilliant study into then Duke’s life, struggles, and legacy; providing analysis of key figures and events, but not so much that it prevents you from drawing your own conclusions. This book is written in a narrative quality, and the author’s vivid description of court events, and the battles of Bosworth and Flodden field will keep you coming back for more! I’d like to thank Netgalley and Pen & Sword History for the opportunity to read this amazing book!

NetGalley, Laura Riddling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An exhaustive look at Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. This in depth, well-researched book ticks all the historical biography boxes.

He is most known for serving four English Kings and being the grandfather of Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard, but this biography looks past that and follows him throughout his life.

I will definitely buy a copy of this when it comes out, and add it to my extensive Tudor bookshelf.

NetGalley, Julianne Freer

This was a well-written, short look into the life of Thomas Howard. A man who survived four kings, he may be most well known today for being the grandfather of two of Henry VIII's wives- Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard- but in his lifetime he was certainly one of the powers of the realm. Loyal to the crown, he served both Richard III and his successor Henry VII (despite fighting against Henry at the Battle of Bosworth) and not only served England well, but also managed to create a family dynasty of his own. "The Man Behind the Tudors" does an excellent job of putting Thomas' life and actions in context and analyzing why he did, or did not, take certain actions. I enjoyed this book and certainly learned a lot here, and would recommend it to others interested in learning about not only Thomas Howard, but also what it was like living in this time period and trying to keep influence with kings.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

An excellent account of Thomas Howard's life, very detailed.

NetGalley, Jeannie Zelos

I love Tudor history and I thought I knew all about Thomas Howard. Although this book is short it packs a lot of history within the pages. I learned more about Thomas Howard in a couple of hours than I have in all the books I have read combined.

NetGalley, Crystal Prescott

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I appreciate the manner in which the author critically examines the texts and opinions of the time in which they were written and does not just accept them blindly as true sources. She instead considers any possible biases given the reporter and the politics of the day. It remains very true that writers such as Eustace Chapuys or Sir Thomas More very well might have had their own agendas. This book is written quite well and is easy to read. I like the writer's style as she makes the research interesting. She really brings these people to life as she describes their lives and manner. I know how hard it is to make the cold facts of history come to life. Ms. Claiden-Yardley exhibits a high level of scholarship and includes a bibliography for those who would like to further explore Thomas Howard's life.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

After reading this I understand Thomas to be a family man, working to ensure his family was established and wealthy. His relationship with his children is discussed along with the dynasty he left behind. Thomas was of course grandfather to two queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and great grandfather to Elizabeth I, a pretty impressive legacy.

I greatly enjoyed that Claiden-Yardley provides information about the current extended Howard family who maintain some of the titles gained through Thomas' hard work all those years ago. I also especially enjoyed the images of Thomas' tomb and what it may have looked like had it not been destroyed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it brought Thomas to life. It seems Thomas was always loyal to the crown regardless of who wore it and tried his best for his monarch and family. I highly recommend this to those with an interest in the era.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

A fascinating look at an interesting man. Very thorough and interesting. I'd recommend this to mature readers who enjoy history.

NetGalley, Haley Lossing

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I doubt that anyone with even the faintest interest in the Tudors won't have heard of Thomas Howard, being placed so centrally as he was. However, I realised whilst reading this that I actually knew relatively little of the man himself, beyond his relationships to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and his connections to Henry VIII. This book provides a very interesting account with lots of new information and perspectives. A fascinating character.

NetGalley, Amelia Louise

Article: 'The Princes in the Tower: Was our duke guilty? as featured by

East Anglian Daily Times, 10th February 2020 - words by Steven Russell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm a Tudor fanatic, but most of what I've read has been centered on the stories of the Tudor monarchs, and, if it concerned the Howards at all, it was in association with the more scandalous members of the family, like Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, or Thomas Howard the Younger, the 3rd Duke. But Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk is very much the progenitor of the family, being the first to work to advance them from their relative humble origins through their noble connections. While it did seem unlikely in the political climate, given their initial service to the Yorkists, and Richard III was defeated by Henry VII, Thomas is repeatedly shown through the historical record as making himself a valuable asset as the Tudor dynasty rose, going from imprisonment to weaving his way into the King's good graces. I love how Claiden-Yardley demonstrates what a keen diplomat he was, showing what a triumph his life was, while also delving into the mixed legacy of his descendants, the more infamous Howards. The book is also well-researched and cited, while also never feeling like a slog to get through, with an easy prose style that is easy to engage with.

NetGalley, Courtney Tonokawa

About Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley studied Modern History as an undergraduate at Merton College, Oxford, before completing a part-time Masters course in English Local History at Kellogg College, Oxford. She later returning to Merton College to complete a PhD on noble identity and commemoration in the Tudor period, as part of the collaborative project titled "Representing Re-Formation". In between times, she has worked in publishing and as Assistant Church Buildings Officer for the Diocese of Oxford. She was also engaged as a production researcher on the television adaption of Wolf Hall and as a historical adviser on a number of fiction and non-fiction publications. She is the co-founder of a heritage consultancy partnership specialising in ecclesiastical projects, and mother to a lively two-year-old.

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