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Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel

Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel (1586 - October 4,1646), was a prominent English courtier during the reigns of James I and Charles I but made his name as an art collector rather than a politician. When he died he possessed 700 paintings, and large collections of sculpture, books, prints, drawings, and antique jewelry. His collection of marble carvings, known as the Arundelian Marbles, was left to the University of Oxford.

He is sometimes referred as the 2nd Earl of Arundel; it depends on whether one views the earldom obtained by his father as a new creation or not. He was also 2nd or 4th Earl of Surrey, and later 1st Earl of Norfolk.


Arundel was born in relative penury, his aristocratic family having fallen into disgrace towards the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was the son of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and Anne Dacre, daughter and co-heiress of Lord Dacre of Gilsland. He never knew his father, who was imprisoned before Arundel was born.

Arundel's granduncles returned the family to favor after James I ascended the throne, and Arundel was restored to his titles and some of his estates in 1604. Other parts of the family lands ended up with his granduncles. The next year he married Aletheia Talbot, a daughter of the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, and a grand-daughter of Bess of Hardwick. She would inherit a vast estate in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire, including Sheffield, which has been the principal part of the family fortune ever since. Even with this large income, Arundel's collecting and building activities would lead him heavily into debt.

During the reign of Charles I, Arundel served several times as special envoy to some of the great courts of Europe. These trips encouraged his interest in art collecting.

In 1642 he accompanied Princess Mary for her marriage to William II of Orange. With the troubles that would lead to the Civil War brewing, he decided not to return to England, and instead settled into a villa near Padua, in Italy. He died there in 1646, and was succeeded as Earl by his eldest son.

Arundel had petitioned the king for restoration of the ancestral dukedom of Norfolk. While the restoration was not to occur until the time of his grandson, he was created Earl of Norfolk in 1644, which at least insured the title would stay with his family. Arundel also got Parliament to entail his earldoms to the descendants of the 4th Duke of Norfolk.

As a Collector and Art Patron

Arundel commissioned portraits of himself or his family by contemporary masters such as Daniel Mytens, Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Lievens, and Anthony Van Dyck. He acquired other paintings by Hans Holbein, Mytens, Rubens, and Honthorst.

He collected drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, the two Holbeins, Raphael, Parmigiano, Wenceslaus Hollar, and Dürer. Many of these are now at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle or at Chatsworth.

The architect Inigo Jones accompanied Arundel on one of his trips to Italy. It was there that he saw the work of Palladio which was to become so influential to Jones' later career.

Amongst his circle of scholarly and literary friends were James Ussher and Sir William Harvey.

{| border="2" align="center" |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Philip Howard |width="40%" align="center"|Earl of Arundel |width="30%" align="center"|Followed by:
Henry Frederick Howard |}

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