HOWARD, Thomas (1625-78)

HOWARD, Thomas (1625–78)

suc. fa. 24 Apr. 1675 as 2nd Bar. HOWARD OF ESCRICK

First sat 30 Apr. 1675; last sat 13 July 1678

bap. 24 Oct. 1625, 1st s. of Edward Howard, later Bar. Howard of Escrick, and Mary Boteler, da. of John Boteler, Bar. Boteler of Brantfield; bro. of William Howard, 3rd Bar. Howard of Escrick. educ. Corpus Christi, Camb. 1637; travelled abroad (France) c.1642–6.1 m. (1) 21 July 1646, Elizabeth (d.1676),2 da. of John Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough, s.p.; (2) June 1677, Jane (d.1716), da. of [unknown] Drake, of Som., s.p. d. 24 Aug. 1678; will none found.

Capt. ‘King’s Company’, 1st Regt. of Ft. Gds. 1660–76; lt. col. 1st Regt. of Ft. Gds. 1676–d.; col. regt. of ft. Feb. 1678–d.; lt. gen. English army in Flanders, c. Mar. 1678–d.3

Associated with: Westminster.

The amours of Thomas Howard’s youth are described in the autobiography of Anne, Lady Halkett (née Murray), whom he was incessantly and unsuccessfully courting in 1644–6, before his attention was diverted by Lady Elizabeth Mordaunt: ‘it might be her wit had taken him but certainly not her beauty’, remarked the embittered Lady Halkett.4 Howard’s connection with the Mordaunts probably led him in the 1650s to be involved in projects for the restoration of the king, as did perhaps the secret negotiations of his younger brother William Howard, later 3rd Baron Howard of Escrick, with the exiled king on behalf of the ‘Anabaptists’.5 In March 1660, Lady Mordaunt, wife of one of Charles II’s leading supporters in England, John Mordaunt, Viscount Mordaunt (who was also Thomas Howard’s brother-in-law), thought that marks of favour should be bestowed on ‘my brother Thomas Howard’ upon the king’s return.6

At the Restoration Howard was commissioned a captain of one of the principal companies in the 1st Foot Guards. He followed a military career until he succeeded to the barony of Howard of Escrick in April 1675, taking his seat on 30 Apr., only 17 days into the tumultuous session of spring 1675. In total he attended just over half of the meetings of this session but was named to only one select committee. In this and the following autumn session of 1675, when he attended all but one of the sittings and was appointed to three select committees, he showed a firm adherence to the court. He appears to have supported, or at least did not object to, the non-resisting Test bill of the lord treasurer, Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later duke of Leeds), for his name does not appear among its opponents in any of the four protests signed against it in late April and early May 1675, nor does he appear among the country opposition in the Letter of a Gentleman of Quality. On 20 Nov. 1675 he voted with the majority against the motion to address the king for a dissolution of Parliament. Although his name does not appear in the printed State Trials, the account of the trial of Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis, drawn up by John Egerton, 2nd earl of Bridgwater, indicates that Howard was one of the small number of 35 peers who were named to the court of the lord high steward in June 1676 and that he, along with the majority of peers, found Cornwallis not guilty of murder.7

After the long period of 15 months between parliamentary sessions, Howard quickly resumed his attendance in the House when Parliament recommenced on 15 Feb. 1677. He came to all but eight of the meetings of the spring 1677 session before the House was adjourned on 16 April. He was named to nine select committees, but the most important for him was that established on 7 Apr. for the bill to allow his brother-in-law Henry Mordaunt, 2nd earl of Peterborough, to sell land in the name of his young daughter, Lady Mary Mordaunt, at that point a minor. Howard’s wife Elizabeth Mordaunt had died by the time of this bill, but her estate and inheritance were undoubtedly concerned in it, and Howard was able to have a proviso in which he was specifically appended to the bill before it received the royal assent on 16 April.8 When Parliament resumed on 21 May 1677, he came to all but one of its five meetings before it was adjourned again. Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, considered Howard ‘worthy’ in his political analysis of the lay peers, drawn up initially in the spring of 1677. The judgment may, however, refer more to Howard’s younger brother, William, who became one of Shaftesbury’s principal political allies, for Shaftesbury also marked Howard of Escrick as ‘dead’, suggesting that this annotation dates from, or was altered after, the 2nd baron’s death in August 1678.

Howard’s usually very high attendance rate was altered when Parliament resumed for business on 28 Jan. 1678; he attended only 13 meetings of the House and was named to only two select committees. His last attendance in this session was on 25 Feb. 1678, for the following day he was commissioned colonel of a regiment to be raised and sent to Flanders for the impending war with France.9 The forces sent were officially under the command of James Scott, duke of Monmouth, but early in March 1678 Monmouth returned to England and gave Howard overall command of the army.10 Howard himself resumed his seat in the following session of Parliament on 17 June, probably returning from Flanders to monitor, and perhaps obstruct, the progress of the disbandment bill, which would directly affect his career. He sat 14 times in this session, and was named to two select committees, before he left the House on 13 July to return to the English military camp in Ostend. He died in Bruges on 24 Aug. 1678, a casualty of the ‘great mortality’ that struck the army in the late summer and autumn of 1678.11

Howard’s body was returned to England and buried with suitable pomp and military honours in St Martin-in-the-Fields.12 He left behind an embarrassed financial and personal situation: he had no children and had made no will, and the king was forced to settle a pension of £500 p.a. on his widow, ‘because his lordship had no power to settle a jointure on her’. This was Howard of Escrick’s second wife, Jane Drake, whom he had married in June 1677. Her origins appear to have been lowly and somewhat suspicious. The identity of her father is not known and Edith Harley wrote cryptically to her brother-in-law Sir Edward Harley that ‘I suppose you know who and what she was before’ her marriage.13 At Howard’s death it was suspected that she was pregnant. The uncertainty surrounding her condition led to a delay in a writ of summons being issued to the person who did eventually take the title, Howard of Escrick’s younger and more radical brother William.14


  • 1 The Autobiography of Anne Lady Halkett ed. J.G. Nichols (Cam. Soc. n.s. xiii), 4–5, 16.
  • 2 Surr. Hist. Cent. K60/3/44–49.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1678, pp. 19, 57.
  • 4 Anne Lady Halkett Autobiog, 3–19.
  • 5 CCSP, iv. 503, 518.
  • 6 Ibid. iv. 616, 625, 634.
  • 7 HEHL, EL 8419, 8420.
  • 8 HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 92; VCH Surr. iv. 258.
  • 9 Add. 28093, f. 215; Add. 28040, f. 49.
  • 10 CSP Dom. 1677–8, p. 680; 1678, pp. 19, 23, 57; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 125, 407–10.
  • 11 CSP Dom. 1678, p. 380; Bodl. Carte 103, f. 225; HMC Rutland, ii. 53.
  • 12 Chatsworth, Devonshire Collection, Group 1/B, newsletter of 28 Sept. 1678.
  • 13 Verney ms mic. M636/32, J. to E. Verney, 9 Sept. 1678; Add. 70118, E. to Sir E. Harley, 17 Sept. 1678.
  • 14 Chatsworth, Devonshire Collection, Group 1/A, newsletter of 1 Nov. 1678.