HOWARD (formerly HALSEY), George (1622-71), of Fitzford, Tavistock, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. Feb. 1622, illegit. s. of Mary, da. and h. of Sir John Fitz of Fitzford, w. of Sir Charles Howard of Clun Castle, Salop, prob. by George Cuttford of Walreddon, Whitchurch, Devon. m. 10 Sept. 1655, Mary, da. of Richard Burnby of Bratton Clovelly, Devon, 1s. d.v.p.1
Commr. for militia, Devon Mar. 1660, assessment Sept. 1660-9; portreeve, Bere Alston 1661-2; j.p. aft. 1666-69.2
Howard’s mother came from a minor gentry family which represented Tavistock in several Parliaments in the 15th century. When her father, ‘a very comely person’, committed suicide after a short but violent career, she inherited an estate of £1,000 p.a. and ‘a haughty and imperious nature’. ‘A lady of extraordinary beauty’ with one of the best fortunes in the west country, she was four times married. By her third husband, Sir Charles Howard, a younger son of the 1st Earl of Suffolk, she had two daughters. But at the time of Howard’s birth, in ‘some obscure place near London’, they had been separated for 18 months, and the real father was probably a servant called George Cuttford, whom Lady Howard made her steward, addressing him affectionately as ‘honest Guts’. The child was christened George Halsey, which was the maiden name of Cuttford’s mother, and his existence was successfully concealed until he was nine years old. Lady Howard became a widow a few months after his birth and in 1628 married a professional soldier, Sir Richard Granville. By him she had a son and a daughter, but this marriage too broke up in a few years, and during the Civil War, in which Granville played a notable if not altogether creditable part as a Cavalier, they were living apart. She continued to reside in London, and was accordingly regarded as a parliamentary sympathizer. After the war, when Granville was banished, she resumed residence at Fitzford.3
Howard was completely overshadowed by the colourful personality of his mother, whose evil deeds made her a prominent figure in Devon folklore. He continued to live with her after his marriage and to manage her estates, reduced to £500 p.a. by her generosity to Cuttford. He was returned to the Convention on the family interest at Tavistock and probably with the support of John Maynard I at Bere Alston, but in each case on a double return. On 27 Apr. 1660 he was allowed to hold both seats until the merits of the elections should be decided, and chose to serve for the former borough on 30 May. He was marked by Lord Wharton as an Anglican and presumably supported the Court, though he was probably totally inactive both as committeeman and speaker. He was re-elected to the Cavalier Parliament for both boroughs, again on double returns. On 16 May 1661 he was declared elected for Tavistock, but allowed also to occupy the Bere Alston seat on the merits of the return. When this was also awarded to him on 29 Jan. 1662 he chose to sit for Tavistock, and acted as returning officer at the by-election. He was an inactive Member, being appointed to only three private bill committees. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664, possibly by confusion with his namesake, subsequently 4th Earl of Suffolk, who was a pensioner of the Duke of York. He died on 17 Sept. 1671, and was buried at Tavistock. His mother died in the following month, bequeathing the Fitzford estate to her cousin Sir Willian Courtenay.4