Philip’s father was executed for treason against Queen Elizabeth I in 1572, which explains why Philip was not allowed to succeed as Duke of Norfolk. He was, however, allowed his mother’s inheritance and, on the death of his grandfather, became Earl of Arundel in 1580.
The Duke of Norfolk had, at least to some extent, conformed to the Church of England and Philip’s tutor was no less a person than John Foxe, author of the Book of Martyrs. Nonetheless, it appears that, at an absolute minimum, the family had strong Catholic sympathies.
Philip, despite his father’s execution, was at first in Elizabeth’s favour, and in 1581 was ‘restored in blood.’ This meant that most of the consequences of his father’s attainder were removed, although he was not allowed the Norfolk title. It is highly likely he would have ‘earned’ it back in time, had he continued in the Queen’s regard.
However, Philip’s wife, Anne Dacre, converted to Catholicism. It seems that he was also influenced by a debate in the Tower where Edmund Campion, a Jesuit and soon-to-be martyr, evidently impressed him. In 1584 he was received into the Catholic church.
He had all the fervour of a convert, and naturally, this did not go unnoticed. In 1585 he attempted to go into exile abroad – illegal in itself without permission – but was captured at sea, brought back and placed in the Tower, where he spent the rest of his life. He was fined £10,000 and sentenced to imprisonment during pleasure.
In 1589 he was tried on rather specious charges and sentenced to death. His alleged treason amounted to little more than praying for the success of the Armada. (He was, obviously, not in any position to commit any real treason. His trial probably had more to do with the hysteria of the time than any substantial action on his part.)
He was not executed but tormented by frequent threats that he soon would be. His request to be allowed to see his wife and children was granted on condition that he attended a Church of England service – this he refused to do. The Queen is said to have offered to restore him to his honours on this basis – however, Philip would not compromise.
He was kept in strict imprisonment and not allowed to meet others confined in the Tower for their beliefs. However, it is said that his dog, a greyhound, kept him company and also carried messages (presumably in its collar) to others, notably the priest Robert Southwell.
Philip Howard died in the Tower of dysentery in 1595, and was at first buried in the chapel there. Later his body was exhumed and removed to Arundel. He was beatified in 1929 and made a saint of the Catholic Church in 1970. Arundel Cathedral has a shrine to him, on which there is a statue of him, accompanied by his faithful greyhound. His widow lived on until 1630, for most of that time in great poverty. She never remarried.