An unusual aristocrat, his interests were in art rather politics, field sports and estate management, and his character was gentle and considerate. He was an M.P. for a time, but left the management of the estate to his masterful and capable wife, Rosalind.
The son of Charles Howard, and nephew of the previous Earl, his mother, Mary Parke, died at his birth. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he already took an interest in art, perhaps due to the example of the mother he never knew, who was trained by the artist De Witt. Rosalind tells how ‘In June 1863 George and I on the first day of our meeting first liked one another so well that as we stood looking at the painted window which tells the life of St. Frydeswyde, we knew that we each liked the other.' This window is one of Burne-Jones's earliest at Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford. The following year they were married and came to live at Naworth.
In 1865 he studied at the South Kensington School of Art. His masters were Giovanni Costa and Alphonse Legros and he became a prolific painter, mainly in water-colour. Most of his subjects were landscapes. He was both friend and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Morris. He commissioned Webb to build his house, 1 Palace Green, which was completed in 1869 and was unusual for the West End, both in its design and its material - brick. Morris and Burne-Jones designed the interior.
Among his friends were Browning, George Eliot, Jowett, Mazzini, Tennyson, Trollope, Belloc, Matthew Arnold and Gladstone, most of whom stayed at Naworth, He inherited the title in 1889.
He took a great interest in the building of Brampton Church, though not himself a churchman, and was responsible for the choice of Webb as architect. The east window commemorates his father, and he commissioned three small windows in memory of his child Bessie. He also commissioned Webb to do work at Naworth and to build a house for the agent, Four Gables, and for the vicar, Green Lane House. This was never a vicarage house and he later sold it.
He and Rosalind had eleven children, including Mary, who married Gilbert Murray, Charles, who succeeded to the title, the grandfather of the present Earl, Cecilia, who married Charles Roberts, Geoffrey, who inherited Castle Howard, and Dorothy, who married Lord Henley. He was buried at Lanercost Priory.
If you can't see the menu on the left, select here for the website of St Martin's Pre-Raphaelite Church, Brampton, Cumbria.