Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howard, Charles (1536-1624)

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HOWARD, CHARLES, Lord Howard of Effingham, Earl of Nottingham (1536–1624), lord high admiral, was the eldest son of William, first lord Howard of Effingham (d. 1573) [q.v.], by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Gamage of Coity in Glamorganshire and of Margaret, daughter of Sir John St. John of Bletsoe (Collins, v. 120). He is said to have served at sea under his father during the reign of Queen Mary. On the accession of Elizabeth he stepped at once into a prominent position at court. His high birth and connections—the queen was his first cousin once removed—are sufficient to account for his early advancement, even without the aid of a handsome person and courtly accomplishments (Fuller, Worthies of England, 1662, Surrey, p. 83). In 1559 he was sent as ambassador to France to congratulate Francis II on his accession. In the parliament of 1562 he represented the county of Surrey, and in 1569 was general of the horse, under the Earl of Warwick, in the suppression of the rebellion of the north. In 1570, when the young queen of Spain went from Flanders, Howard was appointed to command a strong squadron of ships of war, nominally as a guard of honour for her through the English seas, but really to provide against the possibility of the queen's voyage being used as the cloak of some act of aggression (Camden in Kennett, History of England, ii. 430; Cal. State Papers, Dom., 29 and 31 Aug. and 2 Oct. 1570). Hakluyt adds that he 'environed the Spanish fleet in most strange and warlike sort, and enforced them to stoop gallant and to vail their bonnets for the queen of England' (Principal Navigations, vol. i. Epistle Dedicatorie addressed to Howard). It is supposed that it was at this time that Howard was knighted. In the parliament of 1572 he was again knight of the shire for Surrey; and on the death of his father, 29 Jan. 1572-3, he succeeded as second Lord Howard of Effingham. On 24 April 1574 he was installed a knight of the Garter, and was appointed lord chamberlain, a dignity which he held till May 1585, when he vacated it on being appointed lord admiral of England in succession to Edward Fiennes de Clinton, earl of Lincoln [q.v.], who died on 16 Jan. 1584-5. In 1586 Howard was one of the commissioners appointed for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots, and, though not actually present at the trial, seems to have conducted some of the examinations in London. According to William Davison (1541?- 1608) [q.v.] it was due to his urgent representations that Elizabeth finally signed Mary's death-warrant (Nicolas, Life of Davison, pp. 232, 258, 281). From Friday, 17 Nov. 1587, till the following Tuesday night, Howard entertained the queen at his house at Chelsea. Pageants were performed in her honour, and in the 'running at tilt' which she witnessed 'my Lord of Essex and my Lord of Cumberland were the chief that ran' (Philip Gawdy to his father, 24 Nov., Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 520).

In December 1587 Howard received a special commission as 'lieutenant-general and commander-in-chief of the navy and army prepared to the seas against Spain,' and forthwith hoisted his flag on board the Ark, a ship of eight hundred tons, which, having been built by Ralegh as a private venture and afterwards sold to the queen, seems to have been called indifferently Ark Ralegh, Ark Royal, and Ark (Edwards, Life of Ralegh, i. 83, 147). Howard's second in command was Sir Francis Drake [q.v.], whose greater experience of sea affairs secured for him a very large share of authority, but Howard's official correspondence through the spring, summer, and autumn of 1588—much of it in his own hand—shows that the responsibility as commander-in-chief was vested in himself alone. His council of war, which he consulted on every question of moment, consisted of Sir Francis Drake, Lord Thomas Howard, Lord Sheffield, Sir Roger Williams, Hawkyns, Frobiser, and Thomas Fenner (cf. his letter 19 June). When looking out for the approach of the Spanish fleet on 6 July, Howard divided the fleet into three parts, himself, as commander-in-chief, after prescriptive usage, in mid-channel, Drake off Ushant, and Hawkyns off Scilly, according to their ranks as second and third in command respectively. In the several encounters with the Spaniards off Plymouth, off St. Alban's Head, and off St Catherine's, Howard invariably acted as leader, though his colleagues, and Drake more particularly, were allowed considerable license. The determination to use the fire–ships off Calais was come to in a council of war, including—besides those already named, with the exception of Williams, who had joined the Earl of Leicester on shore—Lord Henry Seymour, Sir William Wynter [q.v.], and Sir Henry Palmer [q.v.]; but the attack on the San Lorenzo, when stranded off Calais, was ordered and directed by Howard in person, contrary, it would appear, to the opinion of his colleagues, This action was severely criticised (cf. Froude, xii. 416 and note); it was urged that the commander-in-chief should then have been, rather, off Gravelines, where the enemy was in force. But the incident serves to mark the independence of Howard, as well as the sense of responsibility which tempered his courage. That the prudent tactics adopted throughout the earlier battles were mainly Howard's, we know, on the direct testimony of Ralegh, who highly commends him as 'better advised than a great many malignant fools were that found fault with his demeanour. The Spaniards had an army aboard them, and he had none; they had more ships than he had, and of higher building and charging; so that had he entangled himself with those great and powerful vessels, he had greatly endangered this kingdom of England. . . . But our admiral knew his advantage and held it; which had he not done, he had not been worthy to have held his head ' {History of the World, Book v. chap. i. sect. vi. ed. 1786, ii. 565). In the last great battle off Gravelines the credit of the decisive result appears to be due, in perhaps equal proportion, to Seymour and to Drake. It is quite possible that they were carrying out a plan previously agreed on, but Howard, having waited on the San Lorenzo, was later in coming into action. Neither he nor his colleagues understood till long afterwards the fearful loss sustained by the Spaniards. 'We have chased them in fight;' he wrote, ' until this evening late, and distressed them much; but their fleet consisteth of mighty ships and great strength. . . . Their force is wonderful great and strong, and yet we pluck their feathers by little and little' (Howard to Walsingham, 29 July, State Papers, Dom., ccxiii. 64). On the return of the fleet to the southward, vast numbers of the seamen fell sick, chiefly of an infectious fever of the nature of typhus (Howard to lord treasurer, 10 Aug., State Papers, Dom. ccxiv. 66; Howard to queen, Howard to council, 22 Aug., State Papers, Dom. ccxv. 40, 41), aggravated by feeding on putrid beef and sour beer. Many of the sick were sent ashore at Margate, where there were no houses provided for their reception; and it was only by Howard's personal exertions that lodging was found for them in 'barns and such outhouses.' 'It would grieve any man's heart,' he wrote, 'to see them that have served so valiantly to die so miserably.' The queen demurred to the expenses thus involved. Howard had already paid part of the cost of maintaining the fleet at Plymouth, sooner than break it up in accordance with the queen's command, and his available means, which were not large considering his high rank, were exhausted (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 19 June); but 'I will myself make satisfaction as well as I may,' he said in reference to this additional outlay, 'so that her Majesty shall not be charged withal' (Froude, xii. 433-4).

During the years immediately following the destruction of the 'Invincible Armada' Howard had no employment at sea. His high office prevented his taking part in the adventurous cruising then in vogue [cf. Clifford, George, third Earl of Cumberland], and no expedition on a scale large enough to call for his services was set on foot, though one to the coast of Brittany was proposed in the spring of 1591 (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 12 March 1591). He was meantime occupied with the defence of the country and the administration of the navy. He has the official, and probably also the real, credit of organising the charity long known as 'The Chest at Chatham' [cf. Hawkins, Sir John], which was founded by the queen in 1590 'by the incitement, persuasion, approbation, and good liking of the lord admiral and of the principal officers of the navy' (Chatham Chest Entry Book, 1617-1797, p.1).

In 1596 news came of preparations in Spain for another attempt to invade this country, and a fleet and army were prepared and placed under the joint command of Howard and the Earl of Essex [see Devereux, Robert, second Earl of Essex], equal in authority, the lord admiral taking precedence at sea and Essex on shore, although in their joint letters or orders Essex's signature, by right of his earldom, stands first. The fleet, consisting of seventeen ships and numerous transports, arrived off Cadiz on 20 June and anchored in St. Sebastian's Bay. It was determined to force the passage into the harbour on the following morning. After a stubborn contest the Spanish ships gave way and fled towards Puerto Real. The larger vessels grounded in the mud, where their own men set them on fire. Two of the galeons only, the St. Andrew and St. Matthew, were saved and brought home to be added to the English navy. An 'argosy,' 'whose ballast was great ordnance,' was also secured. The other vessels, including several on the point of sailing for the Indies with lading of immense value, which were destroyed, might have been taken had not Essex landed as soon as the Spanish ships gave way. Howard, who had been charged by the queen to provide for her favourite's safety, was obliged to land in support of him (Monson, 'Naval Tracts,' in Churchill's Voyages, iii. 163). The town was taken by storm, and was sacked, but without the perpetration of any serious outrage. The principal officers of the expedition, to the large number of sixty-six, were knighted by the generals, the forts were dismantled, and the fleet again put to sea. The council of war, contrary to the views of Essex, agreed with the admiral that it was the sole business of the expedition to destroy Spanish shipping, and they returned quietly to England without meeting any enemy on the way. Howard's caution, which was with him a matter of temperament rather than (as is sometimes asserted) of age, was undoubtedly responsible for the comparatively small results of the enterprise. He declined all needless risk, and his judgment, in the queen's opinion, was correct. 'You have made me famous, dreadful, and renowned,' she wrote to the generals on their return, 'not more for your victory than for your courage, nor more for either than for such plentiful liquor of mercy, which may well match the better of the two; in which you have so well performed my trust, as thereby I see I was not forgotten amongst you.' Elizabeth, however, was, after her wont, very angry when Howard applied for money to pay the sailors their wages. She asserted that the men had paid themselves by plunder, and that she had received no benefit from the expedition.

An angry feeling which had arisen between Essex and Howard was increased the following year, when, on 22 Oct., Howard was created Earl of Nottingham, the patent expressly referring not only to his services against the Armada in 1588, but to his achievements in conjunction with Essex at Cadiz. Essex claimed that all that had been done at Cadiz was his work alone, and resented the precedence which the office of lord admiral gave Howard over all non-official earls. The queen appointed Essex earl marshal, thus restoring his precedence; but the relations between the two were still strained (Chamberlain, p.38).

In February 1597–8 some small reinforcements sent to the Spanish army in the Low Countries were magnified by report into alarge force intended for the invasion of England, and Howard was suddenly called on to take measures for the defence of the kingdom. Nothing was ready. With the exception of the Vanguard, Nottingham wrote, all the ships in the Narrow Seas are small, 'fit to meet with Dunkirkers, but far unfit for this that now happens unlooked for. In my opinion, these ships will watch a time to do something on our coast; and if they hear our ships are gone to Dieppe, then I think them beasts if they do not burn and spoil Dover and Sandwich. What four thousand men may do on the sudden in some other places I leave to your lordships' judgments' (Nottingham to Burghley and Essex, 17 Feb. 1598, Cal State Papers, Dom.) Eighteen months afterwards there was a similar alarm, with many false rumours, springing out of a gathering of Spanish ships at Corunna. They were reported off Ushant and in the Channel (ib. August 1599). A strong fleet was fitted out and sent to sea, 'in good plight for so short warning' (Chamberlain, p. 61); a camp was ordered to be formed, troops were raised (ib.), and Nottingham was appointed to the chief command by sea or land, his commission constituting him 'lord lieutenant-general of all England,' an exceptional office, which Elizabeth had destined for Leicester at the time of his death, but which had been actually conferred on no one before. Howard now 'held [it] with almost regal authority for the space of six weeks, being sometimes with the fleet in the Downs, and sometimes on shore with the forces' (Campbell, i. 397).

Nottingham was one of the commissioners at Essex's trial (19 Feb. 1600–1), and after the execution of Essex served on the commission with the lord treasurer and the Earl of Worcester for performing the office of earl marshal (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 10 Dec. 1601). He was in high favour with the queen. On 13 or 14 Dec. 1602 he entertained her at Arundel House. The feasting, we are told, 'had nothing extraordinary, neither were his presents so precious as was expected, being only a whole suit of apparel, whereas it was thought he would have bestowed his rich hangings of all the fights with the Armada in 1588'(Chamberlain, p.169). These hangings were afterwards in the House of Lords, and were burnt with it in 1834, though copies still exist in the engravings made by Pine in 1739. It was to Nottingham that the queen on her deathbed named the king of Scots as her successor (Campbell, i. 398), and it was at his house that the privy council assembled to take measures for moving the queen's body to London (Gardiner, i. 85). He had probably been already in communication with James, and from the first he was marked out as a recipient of the royal favour. He was continued in his office of lord admiral. He was appointed (20 May 1603) a commissioner to consider the preparations for the coronation; in May 1604 he was a commissioner for negotiating the peace with Spain, and in March 1605 was sent to Spain as ambassador extraordinary, to interchange ratifications and oaths. His embassy was of almost regal splendour. He had the title of excellency, and a money allowance of 15,000l. All the gentlemen of his staff wore black velvet cloaks, and his retainers numbered five hundred (Winwood, Memorials, ii. 39, 52). His firmness, his calm temper, and his unswerving courtesy, backed up by the prestige of his military achievements, carried the treaty through most satisfactorily. 'My lord's person,' wrote Sir Charles Cornwallis [q. v.], 'his behaviour and his office of admiral hath much graced him with this people, who have heaped all manner of honours that possibly they can upon him. The king of Spain has borne all charges for diet, carriage, &c., and bestowed upon him in plate, jewels, and horses at his departure to the value of 20,000l.' ( Winwood, ii. 74, 89). Liberal presents of chains and jewels were made to the officers of his staff, and Nottingham won golden opinions from the Spanish courtiers by his open-handed generosity.

No important commission seems to have been considered complete unless Nottingham was a member of it. He was appointed to the commission formed to prevent persons of low birth assuming the armorial bearings of the nobility, 4 Feb. 1603–4; to consider the union of England and Scotland, 2 June 1604; for the trial of the parties concerned in the Gunpowder plot, 27 Jan. 1604–5; to grant leases of his majesty's woods and coppices, 24 Sept. 1606; and to take an inventory of, jewels in the Tower, 20 March 1606–7. On the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine, 14 Feb. 1612–13, 'she was conducted from the chapel betwixt him and the Duke of Lennox' (Collins, v. 123), and was afterwards escorted to Flushing by a squadron under his command. This was his last naval service. The last commission of which he was a member was that appointed on 26 April 1618 to review the ancient statutes and articles of the order of the Garter (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 674). He was now an old man, and it may be conceived that the cares of office sat heavily on him. Many abuses crept into the administration of the navy, as indeed into other public departments, and a commission was appointed to inquire into them on 23 June 1618 (Gardiner, iii. 204; Patent Roll, 16 Jac. I, pt. i. It may be noted that immediately following this appointment in the Roll is that of an other commission, in almost identical terms, to inquire into abuses in the treasury). After the report of the naval commission in the September following (Cal. State Papers, Dom. vol. ci.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. i. p. 99), though no blame was attributed to Nottingham, even by current gossip, he probably felt that he was not equal to the task of cleansing the sink of iniquity which stood revealed. Buckingham was anxious to relieve him of the burden, and a friendly arrangement was made, by the terms of which he was to receive 3,000l. for the surrender of his office, and a pension of 1,000l. per annum (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 6 Feb. 1619); he was also during life to take precedence as Earl of Nottingham of the original creation of John Mowbray (temp. Richard II), from whom, in the female line, he claimed descent (ib. 19 Feb.) This precedency seems to have been purely personal (Collins, v. 123), and not to have extended to his wife; for two months later, on the occasion of the queen's funeral, there was a warm controversy on the subject, Nottingham arguing that a woman necessarily took the same precedence as her husband, except when that was official (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 14, 24, 25 April). In his retirement he continued to act as lord-lieutenant of Surrey, and held numerous posts connected with the royal domains (ib. 14 April 1608), the gross emoluments of which were large. Despite his high and remunerative offices he was not accused of greed, but was said to have exercised a noble munificence and princely hospitality, and to have used the income of his office in maintaining its splendour. He died at the ripe age of eighty-eight, at Harling, near Croydon, on 13 Dec. 1624. It appears that he preserved his faculties to the last. A letter dated 20 May 1623, though written by his secretary, was signed by himself, 'Nottingham,' in a clear bold hand. He was buried in the family vault in the church at Reigate, but no monument to his memory is there. One in the church of St. Margaret, Westminster, has sometimes given rise to a false impression that he was buried there.

It has been frequently stated that Howard was a Roman catholic. The presumption is strongly against it, for the Act of Uniformity passed in 1559, declaring the queen the supreme head of the church, required a sworn admission to that effect from every officer of the crown. The statement itself seems to be of recent origin. Dodd, Tierney, Charles Butler, and Lingard, among catholics; Camden, Stow, Collins, Campbell, and Southey, among protestants give no hint of it. The story was not improbably coined during the discussions on catholic emancipation, and suggested by the known religious belief of recent dukes of Norfolk. A number of circumstances combine to give it positive contradiction. He helped to suppress the rebellion of the north, a catholic rising, in 1569; was a commissioner for the trial of those implicated in the Babington plot, and of Mary Queen of Scots; on 2 Oct. 1597, and again 9 May 1605, was appointed on a commission to hear and determine ecclesiastical causes in the diocese of Winchester; was on the commission for the trial of the men implicated in the Gunpowder plot in 1605, and for the trial of Henry Garnett [q.v.], the Jesuit (Hargrave, i.231, 247); was in the beginning of the reign of James I at the head of a commission to discover and expel all catholic priests (Howard, Memorials, p.90). An Englishman in Spain, in the course of a letter of intelligence addressed to Howard, wrote: 'I hope to acquaint you with all the papists of account and traitors in England ' (Cal State Papers,Dom. 13 Aug. 1598). According to information from Douay: 'The recusants say that they have but three enemies in England whom they fear, viz. the lord chief justice, Sir Robert Cecil, and the lord high admiral' (ib. 27 April 1602); and on 20 May 1623 he reported to the archbishop of Canterbury, as lieutenant of the county, that John Monson, son of Sir William Monson, was 'the most dangerous papist,' and was, therefore, committed to the Gatehouse (ib. 30 May). His father, as lord admiral under Mary, was no doubt a catholic then, but in all probability conformed to the new religion with his son on the accession of Elizabeth.

Howard was twice married: first, to Catherine, daughter of Henry Carey, lord Hunsdon [q.v.], first cousin of the queen on the mother's side. By her Howard had issue two sons and three daughters. Of the sons William married in 1597 Anne, daughter of John, lord St. John of Bletsoe, and died 28 Nov. 1615, leaving one daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough, and was grandmother of Charles Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough [q.v.] in the time of Queen Anne; the younger, Charles, on the death of his father, succeeded as second Earl of Nottingham, and died without male issue in 1642. Of the daughters Frances married Sir Robert Southwell, who commanded the Elizabeth Jonas against the Armada in 1588; Elizabeth married Henry Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare, and Margaret married Sir Richard Leveson [q. v.] of Trentham, vice–admiral of England. Catherine, the first countess of Nottingham, died in February 1602-3, which, we are told, the admiral took 'exceeding grievously,' keeping his chamber, mourning in sad earnest ' (Chamberlain, p. 179; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 9 March 1603). She was a favourite with the queen, and when she died in February 1602-3, Elizabeth fell into a deep melancholy, and herself died 20 March following. The story that the countess intercepted a ring sent by Essex to Elizabeth, and confessed the deceit to the queen on her deathbed, is doubtless apocryphal [see Devereux, Robert, second Earl of Esssex]. Before June 1604 Howard married his second wife Margaret, daughter of James Stuart, earl of Murray, great-granddaughter through the female line of the Regent Murray. On 12 June 1604 she was granted the manor and mansion-house of Chelsea for life (Cal. State Papers, Dom.); she is again mentioned in December 1604 as having a 'polypus in her nostril, which some fear must be cut off' (Winwood, ii. 39). By her Howard had two sons: James, who died a child in 1610, and Charles, born 25 Dec. 1610, who, on the death of his half-brother and namesake, succeeded as third Earl of Nottingham; he died without issue in 1681, when the title became extinct, the barony of Effingham passing to the line of Howard's younger brother.

A portrait of Howard by Mytens is at Hampton Court; another, full length, life size, in Garter robes, collar of the Garter with George, with the Armada seen in the background through an open window, belongs to the Duke of Norfolk; a third, three-quarter length, life size, is the property of Mr. G. Milner-Gibson Cullum; a fourth is in the possession of the Earl of Effingham. They all represent Howard as an old man.

[By far the best Memoir of Howard is that in the Biographia Britannica, which exhausts the older sources of information; the memoir in Campbell's Lives of the Admirals (i. 392) is a condensed version of it. The notice in Collins's Peerage (edit. of 1768), v. 121, is also good; that in Southey's Lives of the British Admirals, ii. 278, is, as a biography, meagre. Much new matter is in the Calendars of State Papers, Dom. There is some interesting correspondence in Winwood's Memorials, vol. ii., and in Chamberlain's Letters (Camden Soc. 1861). Treswell's Relation of the Embassy to Spain (1605) is republished in Somers's Tracts, 1809, ii. 70. The story of the Armada and of the sacking of Cadiz is in Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, and the whole naval history of the period is brought together in Lediard's Naval History. Other authorities bearing on parts of Howard's extended career are Monson's Naval Tracts in Churchill's Voyages, vol. iii.; Devereux's Lives of the Devereux, Earls of Essex; Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia in Harleian Miscellany, ii. 98; Howard's Memorials of the Howard family, which makes some strange blunders in dates; G. Leveson-Grower's Howards of Effingham, in vol. ix. of Surrey Arch. Coll. p. 395; Froude's Hist. of England (cabinet edit.); Gardiner's Hist. of England (cabinet edit,)]

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

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4 ii 22f.e. Howard, Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham: for 1604-5 read 1605-6