The Howards are an aristocratic family in Britain. They have been part of the nobility since the 15th century and are still dukes today. The senior line holds the titles Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Arundel, Earl of Surrey and Earl of Norfolk, as well as six baronies. Both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, second and fifth wives of Henry VIII, belonged to the Howard family. In this period, they were a very powerful and influential family, and remained strongly Catholic. Two of their members became martyrs; one was even declared a saint.
The main Howard in Prophecy is Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton. Henry was an aristocrat, courtier and very learned man. He came under suspicion for his religious beliefs (he was suspected of Catholic worship), but protested his innocence. In 1569, Henry’s brother Thomas, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, was imprisoned for plotting to marry Mary, Queen of Scots. He was released, but became involved in a plot to put Mary on the throne. He was executed for treason in 1572. The behaviour of his brother caused Henry Howard a great deal of trouble. Henry was arrested and questioned, and though he was found innocent the matter ruined his prospects. Later, he was arrested again for corresponding with Mary, Queen of Scots. He admitted taking part in Catholic worship but denied that he was trying to win Mary’s favour. He was set free again, and in 1582 began working on his book, a scathing attack on prophecy.
Henry’s nephew, Philip Howard, also features. He was the son of the ill-fated Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. He became the 20th Earl of Arundel when his maternal grandfather died. When Philip’s father was executed for treason, his uncle Henry Howard took over his education. Philip remained strongly Catholic throughout his life.