Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset
Frances Howard, born in 1591, was the daughter of Thomas Howard, the 1st Earl of Suffolk, and his wife Katherine Knyvet. She was the great-granddaughter of Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk who was executed in 1572. Suffolk had managed to inherit the estate which his mother had left him at Audley and he had done well out of Royal favour, and had successfully cultivated this in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.
In the early seventeenth century Frances Howard, by marriage Countess of Essex, managed to get a marriage nullity from her husband Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex on grounds which were regarded at the times as somewhat peculiar. She claimed that Essex was impotent towards her, but not with other women. It was a political divorce. She had quite high support as she wished to remarry with Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset, a favourite of King James. The necessary annulment went through, enabling the remarriage. It did not end there. Sir Thomas Overbury had tried to advise Somerset not to marry Lady Essex, but Carr was a desirable ally for the Howards , by this time a powerful factional family. The family managed to get Overbury imprisoned where Frances managed to have him poisoned through an agent. After her divorce she married Somerset and had an only daughter. The anti-Howard faction managed to get the Somersets convicted of murder, though the Somersets were spared execution they suffered life long disgrace. Lady Somerset died in 1632.
The only daughter of the Earl and Countess of Somerset managed due to the determination of her father to make a match which was not only equal to her rank, but a love match.
- The Weaker Vessel, by Antonia Fraser
- Unnatural Murder—Poison at the Court of James I, by Anne Somerset
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