Frances Howard, Countess of Kildare (died 1628), courtier, and governess of Princess Elizabeth, later Queen of Bohemia.
Frances Howard was the daughter of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham. She was married firstly to Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare (d.1597), and secondly in May 1601 to Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham. Around the same time Cobham's brother George Brooke married Elizabeth Burgh, daughter of Lord Burgh. After her second marriage she retained the name "Lady Kildare". She was a member of the household of Queen Elizabeth as a lady of the Privy Chamber.
Rowland Whyte mentioned her several times in his newsletters to Robert Sidney. In November 1595 he described how Barbara Sidney was received at court and 'my Lord Admiral and all that tribe were glad to see her' and Lady Kildare was sent especially to keep her company and dine with her in Lady Hoby's chamber. Her husband the Earl of Kildare died, and in November 1598 Elizabeth gave her £700 to compensate the loss of her marriage jointure in Ireland. In August 1599 Whyte heard that Margaret Radcliffe, a maid of honour, had stayed in her chamber for four days after Lady Kildare had been unkind to her because they were rivals for the affection of Lord Cobham. Radcliffe died in November 1599, after refusing to eat, and Ben Jonson as an epitaph wrote an acrostic epigram.
On 16 December 1602 Elizabeth gave Lady Kildare a black velvet gown embroidered with scallop shells and ragged pearls which had originally been a gift to her from the Earl of Warwick in 1578. It was altered for Lady Kildare by the queen's tailor William Jones and the embroiderer John Parr.
Howard became involved in correspondence between English courtiers and James VI of Scotland before his succession to the throne of England. Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton tried to break her Scottish connections, and wrote to Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss, asking if he could find out about three letters she had written to James before the fall of the Earl of Essex in February 1601. One asked if she could have a private cipher to write secret letters to the king, and Northampton heard she had a cipher to write to Sir Thomas Erskine. In the second she had offered to engineer the disgrace of Cecil and Walter Raleigh with Queen Elizabeth. In the third she warned James VI against Raleigh and the Master of Grey. Northampton was keen to thwart Lady Kildare's involvement in international politics, and on 22 November 1601 wrote to the Earl of Mar about his difficulties with 'her entermeddelinge'. Northampton questioned her access to useful information, claiming 'hir owne sexe dare not speake before hir', incidentally giving insight into the political roles of ladies in waiting at Elizabeth's court.
In 1601 Howard took a letter from Christian Annesley, Lady Sandys to the queen to plead for Lord Sandys, who was pardoned for supporting Essex. Lady Raleigh complained to Robert Cecil in March 1602 that Kildare was damaging her reputation with the queen.
Governess to Princess Elizabeth
After the succession Lord Cobham and the Earl of Northampton travelled to Berwick upon Tweed to greet King James on 7 April 1603. Frances also came to Berwick with other courtiers in an official party to welcome Anne of Denmark. These were chosen by the Privy Council, following the king's order of 15 April 1603. The group consisted of two countesses, Kildare, and Elizabeth, Countess of Worcester; two baronesses Philadelphia, Lady Scrope and Penelope, Lady Rich; and two ladies Anne Herbert, a daughter of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and Audrey Walsingham.
Kildare, as William, Lord Compton reported to Cecil, left the official party at Berwick and travelled on to Edinburgh to meet Anne of Denmark, writing "my lady Kildare would needs quit her companions at Berwick and went to Edinburgh". Others made the same journey, hoping to gain the queen's favour, including Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford. The queen came from Stirling Castle to Edinburgh with a convoy of English ladies. and on 31 May 1603 the queen attended church in Edinburgh accompanied by these would-be companions. On 3 June 1603 the queen arrived in England welcomed by the remaining ladies of the official party. Kildare was made the governess of Princess Elizabeth on 5 June 1603 despite Northampton's efforts to discredit her, and sworn a Lady of the Queen's Privy Chamber two weeks later. A later memoir, which has a very favourable view of Kildare, states she had a letter from the king to the queen recommending her.
Her father, the Earl of Nottingham, visited her and Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth at Oatlands in September 1603. An account of expenses made by Anne Livingstone, one of the ladies-in-waiting mentions Kildare's footman and wagon-man, and that Kildare sent away some male servant when plague was suspected.
In September 1603 she lost this position four months after her husband was named in the 'Bye Plot' and 'Main Plot'. It was said she urged her husband to testify against Raleigh to save himself. Howard wrote to Cecil blaming and implicating her brother-in-law Sir George Brooke. Arbella Stuart wrote, "Kildare is discharged of her office, and as near a free woman as may be and have a bad husband."
She wrote to Robert Cecil offering him her husband's papers from their house in Blackfriars. Some were state papers, which she wrote were no concern of women, and she would like to be acquitted of keeping them:
ther ar so manny papars and writtings cast and lad (laid) about that if it might ples (please) you[r] lordship I shwld be very glad to be holy (wholly) dispossest of them for that manny letters consarne foren (foreign) cases, were of wes (whereof use) might be maed, thee (they) ar un fit for women to see or men of mene jugement for thee (they) concarne state causis, I shwld be much bound to your lordship if you wolld procour a commanddyment from the king that I shwld be frely acquitted of them all if anyn evidences consarne me, I presume of your hannorabell concenes to rit me in all things.
A later memoir states that although Cobham had been unkind to Howard, she became sick with worry at his arrest, leading to her replacement as governess, and a letter of Thomas Edmondes explained 'her spyrittes have been of late much troubled with her husbande's disaster'. Lord Cobham was not executed but remained in Tower for years, dying in 1618. Kildare was a 'countess assistant' at the funeral of Anne of Denmark in 1619.
Her daughter Bridget married Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and secondly Nicholas Barnewall, 1st Viscount Barnewall. Her daughter Elizabeth Fitzgerald married Luke Plunket, 1st Earl of Fingall. Lady Kildare lived at Cobham Hall and Deptford. She borrowed another house at Deptford belonging to the East India Company to entertain the poor of the neighbourhood at Christmas in 1623, and had done the company 'some favours'.
On 9 September 1627 she visited Sir John Coke, the Master of Requests, to ask a favour. The Earl of Dorset wrote to Coke recommending her and suggesting good manners were required, "She is a lady out of date, and therefore I may more confidently intercede in her behalf, bur she has strains in her of the ancient nobility, and is one who will deserve all courtesy".
- Portrait: Weiss Gallery, Tudor and Stuart Portraits (2013), pp. 46-7
- Kristen Bundesen, 'Frances Kildare's Letter to Dr. Julius Caesar, 1589'
- Norman McClure, Letters of John Chamberlain, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1939), p. 64.
- Michael Brennan, Noel Kinnamon, Margaret Hannay, The Letters of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney (Philadelphia, 2013), p. 94 (A. Collins, I, (1746), p. 366).
- Norman McClure, Letters of John Chamberlain, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1939), p. 52.
- Michael Brennan, Noel Kinnamon, Margaret Hannay,The Letters of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney (Philadelphia, 2013), p. 319, 375 610 (Collins, II, (1746), pp. 117, 140-1).
- Elizabeth Goldring, Faith Eales, Elizabeth Clarke, Jayne Elisabeth Archer, John Nichols's The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth: 1596-1603, vol. 4 (Oxford, 2014), p. 189.
- Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (Leeds, 1988), pp. 272.
- Alexander Courtney, 'The Secret Correspondence of James VI, 1601-3' in Susan Doran & Paulina Kewes ed., Doubtful and Dangerous (Manchester, 2014), p. 143 & fn. 46.
- [David Dalrymple], Secret Correspondence with James VI (Edinburgh, 1766), pp.209-10.
- [David Dalrymple], Secret Correspondence with James VI (Edinburgh, 1766), pp. 19-23: HMC Mar & Kellie, I (1904), pp. 53-6 (misdated to 1610): George Lillie Craik, The Romance of the Peerage vol. 3 (London, 1849), pp. 181-6.
- HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 14 (London, 1923), p. 193.
- James Augustus Saint-John, Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, vol. 2 (London, 1868), p. 46: HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 12 (London, 1910).
- John Bruce, Diary of John Manningham (London, 1868), p. 159.
- Charles Harding Firth, Stuart Tracts (New York, 1903), pp. 23-4, from the True Narration of the Entertainment of His Royal Majesty (London, 1603).
- J. Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England (Philadelphia, 2001), pp. 41-3.
- John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James, vol. 1 (London, 1828), pp. 167-8: H. Ellis, Original Letters, 1st series vol. 3 (London, 1824), p. 82; HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 15 (London, 1930), p. 112 (quoted): HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 24 (London, 1976), p. 173, a receipt of 1609 mentions her journey into Scotland with a servant, Elizabeth Laurence.
- 'The Diarey (sic) of Robert Birrell', in John Graham Dalyell, Fragments of Scottish History (Edinburgh, 1798), pp. 59-60
- J. Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England (Philadelphia, 2001), pp. 43-5.
- [Lady Frances Erskine] Memoirs Relating to the Queen of Bohemia by One of Her Ladies (c. 1770), pp. 42-3.
- William Fraser, Memorial of the Montgomeries, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1859), p. 247.
- John Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England (Pennsylvania, 2001), pp. 41-2, 45-6.
- HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 15 (London, 1930), p. 380.
- Edmund Lodge, Illustrations of British History, vol. 3 (London, 1838), p. 27: Sara Jayne Steen, Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart (Oxford, 1994), p. 183.
- James Daybell, 'Gender, Politics, and Archives', Daybell & Svante Norrhem, Gender and Political Culture in Early Modern Europe (Routledge, 2017), p. 34.
- [Lady Frances Erskine] Memoirs Relating to the Queen of Bohemia by One of Her Ladies (c. 1770), pp. 89; John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James, vol. 1 (London, 1828), p. 271.
- Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Japan, volume 4, 1622-1624 (London, 1878), p. 190.
- HMC 12th Report Earl Cowper, Coke MSS, vol. 1 (London, 1888), p. 321.
- William Scott Robertson, 'Wills Relating to Cobham Hall' in Kentish Archaeology, vol. 2 (London, 1877), p. 36-43.