Catherine Howard

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About Catherine Howard

In February 1685, Charles II died, succeeded by his brother James II, whose desire was to create religious liberty for English Roman Catholics. Jane, Duchess of Norfolk, was Catholic, and remained a dedicated supporter of King James for the remainder of her life. Lady Catherine, eldest daughter of the Duchess, was clothed a Benedictine nun at Ghent in June 1685 in her 15th year, and professed a year later. The stigma of being born before the marriage of her parents would severely limit Catherine's own marriage prospects, and a cloistered life must have seemed the safest and most acceptable form of providing for her. The Duchess likely facilitated this personally, as she disappears from English records in the latter 1680s, and is thought by Howard family historians to have been on the continent during this period. We don't know the exact date of her marriage to Col. Thomas Maxwell, a Scottish officer from the family of the Earl of Nithsdale who was high in the service of King James, but as Maxwell remained loyal to the King following the revolution of 1688 that forced him from the throne, and followed him into exile to St Germain-en-Laye in France, if the Duchess was not already on the continent, she certainly would have been after the King's deposition.

Maj-Gen. Thomas Maxwell, second husband of Jane, Duchess of Norfolk Maxwell was promoted to Major-General in James's army, and commanded his dragoons in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690, with his eldest stepson Lord George Howard also fighting on the King's side. Maxwell remained loyal to James even in defeat, and accompanied him back to exile in France. He continued an officer in the Jacobite army, commanding the King's Irish Dragoons at the battle of Marsiglia, Italy in September 1693, where he was killed. George Howard, meanwhile, made peace with the new King William III three weeks after the Battle of the Boyne, and this may have led to his mother's return to England early in 1691. The Duchess had sold her beloved home in Weybridge to Catharine, Countess of Dorchester, former mistress of James II, evidence of her continuing loyalty to that monarch. The Weybridge home became the Countess's seat, and that of her second husband the 1st Earl of Portmore, and their descendants, who gave it the name of Portmore Park. The dowager Duchess of Norfolk seems to have retreated to Holmes Hall, the Yorkshire estate the Duke had left her, far away from the royal court of William and Mary, and far away from Arundel Castle, the seat of her stepson the 7th Duke of Norfolk. Following her death at Holmes Hall aged 49 in August 1693, her stepson at least allowed her burial beside her Duke in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel. "Depositum Illustrissimae Dnae D. Janae, Ducissae Norfolciae" begins the Latin inscription on her coffin-plate there, the Howard family granting her for eternity in death the title that they were loathe to acknowledge was her legal right in life. She left six children, ranging in age from twenty-five to nine, only one of them settled.

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