Howard, Thomas (1473–1554), earl of Surrey and 3rd duke of Norfolk , one of the foremost soldiers and magnates of his generation, was eldest son of Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, and his wife Elizabeth, widow of Sir Humphrey Bourchier. He married (February 1495) Anne, daughter of Edward IV, but had no children by this marriage. He was styled Lord Howard in his youth and served with his father in the Scottish marches, where he was knighted (September 1497), and in a variety of capacities for Henry VIII: commanding an army in Spain (1512), lord high admiral (1513–25), and leader of the vanguard at the battle of Flodden (1513). When Thomas's father succeeded as duke of Norfolk (1 February 1514), he resigned the earldom of Surrey to his son, who was immediately given by the king the title earl of Surrey for life.
During a lull in the wars with Scotland, Henry VIII had one of his brief flurries of interest in Ireland. Surrey agreed to serve as lieutenant (10 March 1520) and was the first lieutenant to go to Ireland since 1449. He was sent to replace Gerald FitzGerald (qv), 9th earl of Kildare, who was kept in England. Surrey's expedition was the first experiment by Henry VIII in the reformation of the Irish lordship: his task was to restore its administration and report to the king on how the whole island could be returned to English obedience. He arrived in Ireland (May 1520) with a force of English soldiers but soon found them ill-equipped to serve in Ireland and began to recruit locally, raising a force of 500 men.
Although he was sent to reform the administration, Surrey was soon bogged down in the day-to-day activities of a lieutenant. Without the presence and support of the earl of Kildare, he was forced to campaign in Ulster and Munster, taking fresh submissions from the O'Neills, the O'Donnells, and the MacCarthys in the summer of 1520. His activities were vigorously supported by the Dublin administration, Piers Butler (qv) and the seneschal of Wexford, but the expedition served to highlight the problems faced by the crown if it were serious about reestablishing its rule in Ireland. Surrey was forced by lack of money to billet his troops and resort to coign and livery – actions that soured his relations with the gentry of the Pale, who blocked his money bills in the parliament held in 1521–2. To establish royal authority over the Gaelic lords, the king preferred a gradual process of compromise and assimilation, but Surrey came to favour a hard line, recommending a military conquest followed by the colonisation of Ireland with loyal English settlers. In July 1521 he reported to the king that a gradual conquest of Ireland would need an army of 2,500 men, supported from England, while a full conquest would take 6,000 men and at least ten years. Faced by this expensive option and a renewal of hostilities with Scotland and in Europe, the king and Cardinal Wolsey lost interest in Ireland. Surrey was recalled to England (December 1521), leaving Butler as his deputy; he returned to Ireland for a few weeks in March 1522 to close parliament and was then replaced as lieutenant by Butler.
One of the effects of Surrey's lieutenancy was to undermine the stability of the Dublin administration, which had been dominated by the earls of Kildare for over sixty years, and usher in a period of instability where Butler and Kildare alternated as chief governor and fought for control of the administration. While Surrey never returned to Ireland, he remained an influential voice on Irish affairs. He succeeded his father as duke of Norfolk in June 1524. As lord high steward of England he presided over the trial of his niece, Anne Boleyn, in May 1536. While he benefited from the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, Norfolk opposed the reformation and his family remained catholic. He served as a general in Scotland (1541–2) and France (1544), but was arrested for treason in December 1546. He was attainted and stripped of his titles (January 1547), but the death of the king saved him from execution. He was imprisoned during the reign of Edward VI, but freed and restored (August 1553) by Mary I. Norfolk died 25 August 1554, was buried at Framlingham, and was succeeded by his grandson Thomas.