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The Dukes of Norfolk Paperback – 1 Jan 2005
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In his preface, Robinson writes that Norfolk is “the only surviving dukedom of medieval creation.” I had to do a double-take about that: what about Northumberland, or even Cornwall and Lancaster? But he is right. He goes on to remark that to the Norfolks has come “on the one hand all the principle offices of the state, the favour of sovereigns, power, influence, riches, glory, and on the other murder, treason, attainder, imprisonment, divorce, disgrace, martyrdom and ruin, ”their Catholicism also adding to “their aura of ‘fatal glory’.”
Robinson’s book is a chronological account of the dukes and, by implication, the dukedom. But the title is really a bit of a misnomer, as Robinson tells only the story only of the Howard dukes and not their predecessors, the Mowbrays – and the Bigod earls of Norfolk also are rarely mentioned.
Robinson’s story is told over thirteen chapters. He takes us through the line, Howard duke by Howard duke. His apology, or rather his declaration of the innocence of the fourth duke to treason is perhaps a little too much, but his roll call is certainly not a work of hagiography. He can be critical of some of the actions of his employer’s ancestors – but how much is left unsaid?
One chapter diverts us into exploring the lives and lineages of the Howard earls of Nottingham, Northampton, Suffolk, and Carlisle; whilst another has as much to say on a younger brother, Philip (later cardinal) as on his elder brother, the duke himself. The final chapter ends with the fifteenth holder of the title, who died in 1917, thus “leaving a decent gap between the historical past and the present.” Nevertheless, a final ‘envoi’ brings the story of the family up to date.
For those wishing to delve further into specific periods of personalities, this book can perforce only be an introduction. But for anyone wanting a detailed overview of the Howard dukes of Norfolk, their triumphs, their tragedies, their place in British history, their individual foibles and proclivities, then this book will answer many questions.
The book is reasonably well-illustrated with ninety-three photographs and sixteen colour plates. There are three maps, a genealogical table, endnotes, a bibliography, and an excellent index.
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