John Howard, baron Howard and first duke of Norfolk, was one of the most important men of the Yorkist period. He was a consistently loyal supporter of the Yorkist dynasty from the late 1450s until his death at Bosworth in 1485. He was an indefatigable royal servant, active in the military field, as an agent of the Crown at home in East Anglia, as a councillor at Westminster and as an ambassador who became England's leading envoy to France. And yet there were other men of the period, equally significant in their careers, for whom no biographies have been forthcoming. To the question - why write a biography of John Howard? one answer must be - because we can. With the exceptions of the kings he served, no other man of the fifteenth-century peerage has left us so much in the way of evidence of his day-to-day life, not only of his royal service but his domestic concerns. Information about other men of his time depends largely on well-documented political or administrative action, very little information is available on their private lives. The same is not true of Howard. The unparalleled records that he left behind are four volumes of household memoranda covering the periods 1462 -1471 and 1481-1483.The memoranda were a daily record of the money received and dispersed by Howard himself, his family and senior household members. The lack of distinction between business and domestic concerns and the great range of subjects, from payments for ships to laces for his wife's gowns, are what make them so illuminating. Taken together, these surviving records illustrate almost every aspect of his life and bring him alive: talented, efficient, ambitious and not above some dishonourable dealings, short-tempered, paternalistic and loyal.
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