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Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk (c. 1477 – May 1545)

The second wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Two of King Henry VIII's queens were her step-granddaughters. Agnes' brother, Sir Philip Tilney of Shelley (d.1533), was the paternal grandfather of Edmund Tilney (1535/6–1610), Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth and King James.

The real Agnes Tilney[]

The Dowager Duchess remained in favour after her husband's death. Ordinances issued at Eltham in 1526 indicate that she was accorded first place in the Queen's household after the King Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor.

King had already married the Dowager Duchess's step-granddaughter Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony. Anne was crowned Queen on 1 June 1533. The Dowager Duchess bore Anne's train in the coronation procession, and was godmother at the christening of Anne's daughter, Lady Elizabeth Tudor.

A speedy annulment of the marriage to Anne of Cleves by Act of Parliament on 12 July 1540. By then Katherine Howard, another of the Dowager Duchess's step-granddaughters, had already caught the King's eye. Henry and Catherine were married at a private ceremony at Oatlands on 28 July 1540.

While the King and Queen were on progress during the fall of 1541, people told Archbishop Cranmer of the Queen's sexual indiscretions, while she had been a young girl living in the Dowager Duchess's household at Lambeth. On 1 November 1541 Cranmer revealed these matters in a letter to the King. The King immediately ordered that the Queen be confined to her apartments. The Dowager Duchess, hearing reports of what had happened while Catherine had been under her lax guardianship, reasoned that 'If there be none offence sithence the marriage, she cannot die for that was done before'. Unfortunately for the Queen and the Dowager Duchess, further investigations by Cranmer and the Council revealed that with the connivance of one of her attendants, Lady Jane Rochford. Dereham, Manox, and other members of the Dowager Duchess's household were arrested and interrogated by the Council. Her stepson, the Duke of Norfolk, was sent to search her house at Lambeth and question members of the household. They revealed that the Duchess had attempted to destroy evidence by burning the papers of Dereham and his friend William Damport. The Duchess was sent to the Tower. Towards the end of November she was questioned by the Council, but could add little to what was already known by her interrogators.

on 10 December 1541 Dereham and Culpeper were executed at Tyburn. On the same day the Dowager Duchess was again questioned, and admitted to having promoted her niece as a prospective bride for the King while having knowledge of her prior misconduct, to having persuaded the Queen to take Dereham into her service, and to having burned Dereham's letters. By mid-December the Dowager Duchess's eldest son, William Howard, his wife, and the Duchess's daughter Anne Howard were committed to the Tower. About the same time another of the Duchess's daughters, Katherine Daubeney, Lady Bridgewater was also arrested. On 14 December 1541, Norfolk, fearful for his own safety, denounced his stepmother and kin in a letter to the King. On 22 December William Howard and his wife, and a number of servants who had been witnesses to the Queen's misconduct, including Malyn Tilney (mother of Edmund Tilney, future Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth), were arraigned for misprision of treason 'for concealing the evil demeanour of the Queen, to the slander of the King and his succession'. All were sentenced to life imprisonment and loss of goods, although most were pardoned after Queen Catherine's execution. The Dowager Duchess, although included in the indictment, was not brought to trial as she was 'old and testy', and 'may die out of perversity to defraud the King's Highness of the confiscation of her goods', but like the others she was sentenced to imprisonment and forfeiture of lands and goods. The King was of the view that there was as much reason to convict the Dowager Duchess of treason as there had been to convict Dereham. However the Council urged leniency, and she was eventually released from the Tower on 5 May 1542. Her stepson, the Duke of Norfolk, escaped punishment, but was never fully trusted again by the King.

Season 3[]

In episode 3.08 The series' portrayal of the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk as a shelter for distantly related "aristocratic bastards" and the resulting implication that Catherine Howard was possibly an illegitimate child.

Sir Francis Bryan arrives at Lambeth Palace London to select someone for the king. The Dowager Duchess was sitting down with him and greeted him as, “my sweet Francis. How I have missed you. Hanson as ever.”

Asking what he has been up to, she was interested in if he did mange to killed the guy. Knowing why he came she stated “I suppose you have come to look over my little darling.” Which Sir Francis responses “Only after I feasted my eyes on you, dear lady.” After the exchange of presently the Dowager Duchess comments she wonders how those who birthed the children didn’t feel bothered or obliged to raise them. She commented with emphasis “Aristocratic basters.”

Season Four[]

Mentioned in only. 4.02 The Dowager Duchess is spoken of as was her house by Lady Jane Rochford and Joan Bulmer. Back living there, Joan Bulmer and Katherine Howard were visited at night by Edward Waldegrave and Francis Dereham.

4.04 The Dowager Duchess is brought up by Francis Dereham, on his arrival to see the queen. He presented a letter of recommendation from the Dowager Duchess.

Reminding that they both remember the Duchess.  He came seeking employment with Katherine. Having held a number of positions in the Duchess’s household.

Then spoken of by Katherine Howard to Thomas Culpepper when he questioned Dereham. “I knew him a long time ago, we both lived with the Dowager Duchess. She wrote to me, to recommend his services.”

4.05 The Dowager Duchess is mentioned in the letter that the king and Hertford were reading about the queen’s dissolute living when with her.

Lambeth and Dowager Duchess of Norfolk came up in the questioning of Joan Bulmer and Francis Dereham about the queen.

The king sat with his nobles, lord Hertford Edward Seymour stated his preliminary finding of the investigation of the queen back while growing up with the Dowager Duchess.  The 2 men whom tainted her.

Physical Appearance[]

In the series, older looking with blond hair. Having jewels to adorn her.