Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howard, Edward (1477?-1513)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
613180Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 28 — Howard, Edward (1477?-1513)1891John Knox Laughton

HOWARD, Sir EDWARD (1477?–1513), lord high admiral, second son of Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, and afterwards second duke of Norfolk [q. v.], served, when about fifteen, in the squadron which, under the command of Sir Edward Ponynges [q. v.], co-operated with the troops of the Archduke Maximilian in the reduction of Sluys in 1492. In 1497 he served under his father in the army in Scotland, and was then knighted. At the jousts held at the coronation of Henry VIII he was one of the 'enterprisers.' On 20 May 1509 he was appointed standard-bearer, with the yearly pay of 40l. (Rymer, xiii. 251). In July 1511 he is said to have commanded, in company with his elder brother Thomas, the ships which captured the two Scotch pirates, Robert and Andrew Barton [q. v.] Of the circumstances of the action, round which much legend has grown, we have no contemporary account. It is not mentioned in the State Papers. Later chroniclers speak of Howard as commanding by virtue of his rank as lord-admiral, and relate that the king received the news of the Bartons' piracies while at Leicester, a place which it is certainly known he did not visit in the early years of his reign (information from Mr. J. Gairdner). Moreover, Howard was not lord-admiral in 1511, and it is not recorded that he had before that date any command at sea; and it seems not improbable that the names of the Howards were introduced without justification, on account of their later celebrity (Halle (1548), Henry VIII, fol. xv, where the Christian name is given as Edmond; Lesley, Hist. of Scotland, Bannatyne Club, p.82). The details given in the ballad of 'Sir Andrew Barton,' which were adopted by Sir Walter Scott (Tales of a Grandfather, chap. xxiv.), are unquestionably apocryphal.

On 7 April 1512 Howard was appointed admiral of the fleet fitting out for the support of the pope and of Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and to carry on hostilities against the French (Rymer, xiii. 326, 329). By the middle of May the fleet was collected at Portsmouth, to the number of twenty large ships, and, going over to the coast of Brittany, ravaged the western extremity with fire and sword. On Trinity Sunday he landed in Bertheaume Bay, drove the French out of their bulwarks, defeated them in several skirmishes, and marched seven miles inland. On Monday, 23 May, he landed at Conquet, burnt the town and the house of the Sieur de Portzmoguer. On 1 June he landed again, apparently in Crozon Bay. The neighbouring gentry sent a challenge, daring him to stay till they could collect their men. He replied that 'all that day they should find him in that place, tarrying their coming.' He had with him about 2,500 men, but these he posted so strongly that when the French levies, to the number of 10,000, came against him, they did not venture to attack, and resolved to wait till Howard was compelled to move out of his entrenchments, and so take him at a disadvantage on the way to his boats. But while waiting, a panic seized the Breton militia; they fled; and Howard was left free to re-embark at his leisure. He declined 'to surcease his cruel kind of war in burning of towns and villages,' at the request of the lords of Brittany, or to grant them a truce of six days; and having done as much harm as he could, he went along the coast of Brittany and Normandy, and returned to the Isle of Wight.

In the beginning of August he sailed again for Brest with twenty-five great ships. The French had meantime prepared a fleet of thirty ships. It is impossible to form any correct estimate of the relative strength. Several of the French ships were large, especially the Marie la Cordelière, which is said to have had a crew of a thousand men. The largest of the English ships, the Regent and the Sovereign, seem to have had crews of seven hundred. Howard's own ship, the Mary Rose, was somewhat smaller. On 10 Aug. the French put to sea, under the command of Hervé, Sieur de Portzmoguer, known to French chroniclers as Primauguet, and to the English as Sir Piers Morgan. They had just got clear of the Goulet when the English fleet arrived, and at once attacked them. The fight was fiercely contested, especially among the larger ships; the Cordelière, commanded by Portzmoguer in person, in avoiding the onslaught of the Sovereign, fell on board the Regent, which was commanded by Howard's brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Knyvet [q.v.] The two grappled each other, and while the fight was still raging caught fire, and burnt together. Of the seventeen hundred men on board very few escaped. The disaster struck a panic into the French, who fled confusedly into the harbour. The English pursued; anchored in Bertheaume Bay; ravaged the coasts of Brittany, Normandy, and Picardy, and, taking and burning many French ships, returned to Portsmouth. On 26 Aug. Wolsey, writing to Foxe, bishop of Winchester, gave the account of the action as the news of the day, adding: 'Sir Edward hath made his vow to God that he will never see the king in the face till he hath revenged the death of the noble and valiant knight, Sir Thomas Knyvet' (Fiddes, Life of Wolsey, Collections, p.10).

On 15 Aug. 1512 Howard, before the news of the victory reached home, received the reversion of the office of admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine, held at the time by John, earl of Oxford. The patent confirming him in the office of admiral of England is dated 19 March 1513 (Patent Roll, 4 Hen. VIII, pt. ii.) By Easter of 1513 (27 March) the fleet was again collected at Portsmouth (Ellis, Original Letters, 2nd ser. i. 213), and, crossing over to Brest, anchored in Bertheaume Bay, in sight of the French, who lay in the roadstead within. Howard resolved to attack them there, but one of his ships, commanded by Arthur Plantagenet, in endeavouring to pass the Goulet, struck on a sunken rock and was totally lost. On this the fleet returned to its former anchorage, and contented itself with closely blockading the port; while the French, on their side, anticipating a renewal of the attempt, moved their ships close in under the guns of the castle, mounted other batteries on the flanks, and placed a row of fireships in front. It is said that Howard took this occasion of writing to the king, suggesting that he might win great glory by coming over and taking the command himself, in the destruction of the French navy; that the king referred it to his council, who considered the undertaking too dangerous, and wrote to Howard sharply reprimanding him for his dilatory conduct, and ordering him to lose no more time (Holinshed, p.575). No such correspondence is now extant, and the story appears improbable. It seems, too, incompatible with the fact that he was at this time nominated a knight of the Garter, though he did not live to receive the honour.

Meanwhile he learned that a squadron of galleys had come round from the Mediterranean, under the command of the Chevalier Prégent de Bidoux, a knight of St. John, and had anchored in Whitsand Bay (les Blancs Sablons), waiting, presumably, for an opportunity to pass into Brest. A council of war determined that they might be attacked, and as it was found that the galleys were drawn up close to the shore, in very shoal water, Howard resolved to cut them out with his boats and some small row-barges attached to the fleet (25 April 1513). He himself in person took the command of one of these, and, rowing in through a storm of shot, grappled Prégent's own galley, and, sword in hand, sprang on board, followed by about seventeen men. By some mishap the grappling was cut adrift, the boat was swept away by the tide, and Howard and his companions, left unsupported, were thrust overboard at the pike's point. The other boats, unable to get in through the enemy's fire, had retired, ignorant of the loss they had sustained. It was some little time before they understood that the admiral was missing. When they sent a flag of truce to inquire as to what had become of him, they were answered by Prégent that he had only one prisoner, who had told him that one of those driven overboard was the admiral of England. The English drew back in dismay to their own ports, and Prégent, called by English chroniclers 'Prior John,' crossed over from Brest, and ravaged the coast of Sussex.

Howard's death was felt as a national disaster. In a letter to the king of England, James IV of Scotland wrote: 'Surely, dearest brother, we think more loss is to you of your late admiral, who deceased to his great honour and laud, than the advantage might have been of the winning of all the French galleys and their equipage (Ellis, Orig. Letters, 1st ser. i. 77). It is stated by Paulus Jovius (Historia sui Temporis, 1553, i. 99) that Howard's body was thrown upon the beach, and was recognised by the small golden horn (corniculum) which he wore suspended from his neck as the mark of his rank and office. No English writer mentions the recovery of the body; the ensign of his office was a whistle or 'pipe,' not a horn; and it is recorded that before he was forced overboard he took off the whistle and hurled it into the sea, to prevent its falling into the enemy's hands (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. No. 4005).

Howard married Alice, daughter of William Lovel, lord Morley, widow of Sir William Parker, and mother, by her first marriage, of Henry, lord Morley, but had no issue. He was succeeded in his office by his elder brother, Sir Thomas, afterwards earl of Surrey, and third duke of Norfolk [q.v.]

[Collins's Peerage (1768), i. 77; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, i.279; Southey's Lives of the British Admirals, ii. 169-83; Howard's Memorials of the Howard Family; Lord Herbert's Life and Reign of Henry VIII in Kennett's Hist. of England, vol. ii.; Holinshed's Chronicles (edit. 1808), iii. 565-75; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII (Rolls Ser.), vol. i.; Jal, in Annales Maritimes et Coloniales (1844), lxxxvi. 993, and (1845), xc. 717; Troude's Batailles Navales de la France, i.66.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.161
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line
10 i 16 Howard, Sir Edward: for Ponynges read Poynings