|Origin and meanings of the
The origin of
the Howard name is English and the Coat of Arms contains “Red
with a silver stripe between six silver crosses.” The family
motto is “Sola virtus invicta” which means "Virtue alone invincible"
(see our logo - top left of the page).
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Howard Family Genealogy items
(and other surnames too!
Howard is an ancient name
whose history on English soil dates back to before the wave
of emigration that followed the Norman Conquest of England in
1066. Howard or Howart, is a cognate of the Old Norse name Haward
and means "high" or "chief" warden. Occasionally, the surname
Howard may have been applied to someone who worked at a dairy
farm at which female sheep were kept. In this case, the derivation
is from the Old English words "eowu," which means "ewe," and
"hierde," which means "herd." The name also came to Britain
with the Normans, where it came from the Old French name Huard
or the Old German name Howard. The former name is derived from
the Old German name Hugihard, which literally means "heart-brave."
First found in in Cumberland, England, where
they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before
the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings
For four centuries the Howard family stood
at the head of English nobility. The Howard family can definitely
trace their ancestry back to Sir William Howard living under
the first of two Edwards from 1297 to 1308. It was in the stirring
days of Edward I that the first Howard made his home at East
Wynch. This was Master William Howard, afterwards to become
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and a knight. Of his parentage
we know nothing, although the probabilities are that he belonged
either to a burgess family of Lynn, or else to some substantial
yeoman stock of the neighborhood. He may have been either of
Danish or of English descent. Northwest Norfolk was as much
a district of the Danes as it was of the Angles ;"and both races
sought refuge in its marshy fastnesses after the Norman conquest,
gradually emerging from their hiding places as the laws of the
invader grew less rigorous. But it must also be remembered that
the shores of the Wash sheltered searovers of many different
breeds, and that there are evidences, especially in local place-names,
of a stubbornly rooted British population.
The surname which Howard bore tells us little in this direction.
As it stands, it might well be of Scandinavian origin, and the
sea-going tastes of so many early Howards seem to indicate a
Viking strain; or the original form may possibly have been "Hereward".
There certainly was a rich burgess of Lynn, William Hereward
by name, who flourished early in Henry III's reign ; but neither
the Chief Justice himself, or any of his descendants, ever spelled
their patronymic thus, although they use many other forms, such
as Heyward, Heiward, Haward, and Harrard.
The Hereward theory has inspired certain genealogists to deduce
the descent of the ducal line of Norfolk from Hereward the Wake,
"last of the Saxons"; but the derivation most favored by the
matter-of-fact is the simple one of " Heyward", which was a
title bestowed in old England upon the functionary who guarded
the barns and haggards of a farm or village. "The warden of
a common is still so called in some parts of the country.
It is interesting to note the various pedigrees, more or less
splendid, upon which the professional heralds have attempted
at different periods to graft the Howard stock. Instead of helping
to unravel the puzzle, these tabarded flatterers have so confused
the evidences at their command that today the very name of Justice
William Howard's father is unknown and will probably remain
Perhaps the most absurd of these gorgeous lines of descent is
that quoted in Collins' Peerage, "on the authority of three
heralds of high repute." But, in truth, the pedigree which flaunts
itself unblushingly in Burke's Peerage, tracing the Howards
to "Hereward the Wake", rests upon no better foundation; and
if there were even a tradition in the Judge's time of any such
descent (and there must have been, had any such descent existed),
some memorial of the fact would have figured in the Howard arms.
It is satisfactory to find that one of the first to set aside
these vain imaginings was himself a Howard, Henry Howard of
Corby, who, in his "Memorials", describes the worthy Judge's
ancestors as " gentry of small estate, probably of Saxon origin,
living at home, intermarrying with their neighbors, and witnessing
each other's deeds of conveyance and contract."
Mr. Henry Howard makes the Judge a grandson of "Robert Howard
of Terrington and Wiggenhall," and a son of "John Howard, by
his wife Lucy Germund"; but even of this modest claim there
is no tangible proof. That Robert Howard owned lands in Wiggenhall
and Terrington cannot be denied; but the deeds and charters
show that while he purchased some of this property, presumably
out of his legal earnings, the remainder came to him with his
wife, Alice Fitton of Wiggenhall St. Germans.
It is to be feared that we must accept Dugdale's dictum, and
look upon William Howard of East Wynch as the first of his Howard
How did William Howard become the Duke
Before the Dukes of Norfolk, there
were the Bigod Earls of Norfolk, starting with Roger Bigod from
Normandy (died 1107). Their male line ended with Roger Bigod,
5th Earl of Norfolk, who died without an heir in 1307, so their
titles and estates reverted to the crown. Edward II then created
his brother Thomas of Brotherton earl in 1312. It passed to
his daughter Margaret, and then to her grandson Thomas Mowbray.
When King Richard II created Thomas Mowbray
duke in 1397, he conferred upon him the estates and titles (including
Earl Marshal) that had belonged to the Bigod earls. His elderly
grandmother Margaret was still alive, and so at the same time
she was created Duchess of Norfolk for life.
Between 1397 and 1476, the Mowbray family
held the title and estates of the Duke of Norfolk. John Mowbray,
the 4th duke, died without male issue in 1476, his only surviving
child being the 3-year-old Anne Mowbray. At the age 5, Anne
was arranged to marry Richard, Duke of York, the 4-year-old
son of King Edward IV of England. She remained Richard's wife
until she died at the age of 8.
In accordance with the marriage arrangements,
Richard inherited the lands and wealth of the Mowbray family.
He was also made Duke of Norfolk. However, upon the death of
Edward IV, controversy over the legitimacy arose, as evidence
of an earlier marriage on the part of Edward IV emerged. Soon
after their father's death Richard, and his brother Edward,
were declared illegitimate. Richard was sent to the Tower of
London by the new king, Richard III, in mid-1483, thus ending
his claim to both York and Norfolk.
For his support of Richard III's claim to
John Howard, the son of Thomas Mowbray's elder daughter
Margaret, was created 1st Duke of Norfolk in 1483, in the title's
third creation. From this point to the present, the title has
remained in the hands of the descendants of John Howard.
The current Duke of Norfolk is His Grace Edward
Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk, who succeeded his father,
Miles Stapleton-Fitzalan-Howard, 17th Duke of Norfolk, in 2002.
Early American Howard Settlers
Some of the first settlers of the
Howard name or some of its variants were: John Howard settled
in Virginia in 1622; William Howard settled in Virginia in 1635;
John Howard settled in Virginia in 1634; James Howard settled
in Virginia in 1656 and others.
Surnames as we know them today were first
assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th centuries. They
were not in use in England and Scotland before the Norman conquest
of 1066, and were first found in the Domesday book. The use
of a second name, a custom introduced by the Normans (who themselves
had adopted it not long before) became in course of time a mark
of gentle blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for a gentleman
to have but one single name as meaner people had. It was not
until the reign of Edward II (1307 - 1327) that the practice
became general amongst all people in England.
These names were adopted according to fairly
general principles and can generally be divided into four classifications:
- Local names are taken from place of origin.
- Occupational names denote the trade or
profession of early users. (e.g. Miller).
- Nicknames describe mental or physical
characteristics, clothes etc. (e.g. Strong).
- Patronymic names used a father's first
name as the last name of his son. (e.g. John).
HOWARD is an English patronymic name from
the Norman given name HUARD and HEWARD, which came from the
hug = heart, mind + hard = hardy, brave.
and from an Old Norse name HAWARD, from elements ha = high
+ varđr = guardian.
HEWARD, HEWART, HUART are variations of the
HAWARD is a variation of the Norse.
English/Norman patronymic versions include
HEWARTSON, HEWERTSON, HUARTSON and HUERTSON.
HAYWARD is an English occupational name that
described the man who protected the enclosed forest or other
land from damage by vandals, poachers, or animals. It comes
from Old English:
hay = enclosure + ward = guardian.
HEYWARD and HAWARD are variations.
Some other variations are HAYWORD and
Lord William Howard, First Baron Howard of
Effingham, eldest son of Thomas, Second Duke of Norfolk, by
Agnes his second Duchess in 1510, having been employed by Henry
VIII, and Edward VI in numerous confidential missions to foreign
courts, was elevated to the Peerage in the first year of the
reign of Queen Mary, in March 1554, as Baron Howard of Effingham,
Surrey, and was constituted upon the 20th of the same month
as Lord-High-Admiral of Her Majesty's Dominions. His Lordship
was installed as a Knight of the Garter in December of the same
year. Lord Howard of Effingham in the Reign of Elizabeth, held
the office of Lord Chamberlain to the Household, and afterwards
that of lord-Privy-Seal.
The surname Howard has been worn by many distinguished
bearers, although none more so than the aforementioned. It appears
to derive from the Old Germanic name "Hugihard", denoting one
strong of heart, or very brave. This first name has given rise
to several other patronymic surnames other than Howard, including
Huart, Heward, Hewart, etc., although another German term "howart",
denoting "high chief", or "warden, could also have been the
origin of Howard. Among the earliest written references we read
of Huardus Houart in the Domesday Book in 1086, and one called
Willelmus filius Huward was mentioned in the Pipe Rolls for
Northumberland in 1170. In Ireland the name does duty for O'Hiomhair
in county Clare, where it was formerly O'Hure.
Click here for more information about
Howard Family Genealogy items
(and other surnames too!
The Howard family are sometimes called England's
second family. They are headed by the Duke of Norfolk, Premier
Peer of the Realm.
While legendary pedigrees trace the family
to the 10th century, indisputable descent begins with Sir William
Howard (died 1308), a judge who was in the House of Commons
in the Model Parliament of 1295.
His great-great-great-grandson, Sir Robert
Howard, married Lady Margaret Mowbray, elder daughter of Thomas
Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk. The line of Dukes died out in
1476 and the heiress of the last Duke, Anne Mowbray, died a
girl of nine in 1481; after declaring her widower Richard, Duke
of York illegitimate, Richard III of England created the son
of Sir Richard and Lady Margaret, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk
of a new creation on June 28, 1483, the 200th anniversary of
the Barony of Mowbray to which he was also senior co-heir. John
had previously been summoned to Parliament as Lord Howard by
Edward IV. He was also created hereditary Earl Marshal.
Both the Dukedom and Earl Marshalship have
been the subject of repeated attainders and restorations in
the 15th to 17th centuries. Before Charles II restored the titles
for good, the Howards had inherited the ancient title of Earl
of Arundel through an heiress, and formed additional branches
that have continued to this day.
In order of genealogical seniority:
- The Barons Howard of Penrith descend
from a younger son of the 6th Duke.
- The Earls of Suffolk and Berkshire descend
from the 2nd son of the 4th Duke.
- The Earls of Carlisle descend from the
third son of the 4th Duke.
- The Earls of Effingham descend from the
fourth son of the 2nd Duke, who was Lord High Admiral and
whose son was commander in chief against the Spanish Armada.
Curiously, this line was excluded from eligibility to inherit
on the restoration of the Dukedom.
This chart shows the
BEST chances for meeting a Howard in the USA
Howard Family Distribution
(watch them spread):