(E. Surrey)

Born: 1517, Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, England

Acceded: Kenninghall, Norfolk, England

Died: 19/21 Jan 1547, Tower Hill, England

Buried: 1614, Framlingham, Surrey, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter. The Howard Papers show him beheaded in 1572. The Complete Peerage vol.XIIpI,p.514 & vol.IX,pp.610-621. 

Father: Thomas HOWARD (3° D. Norfolk)

Mother: Elizabeth STAFFORD (D. Norfolk)

Married: Frances De VERE (C. Surrey) 13 Feb 1532


1. Thomas HOWARD (4° D. Norfolk)

2. Jane HOWARD (C. Westmoreland)

3. Margaret HOWARD (B. Scrope of Bolton)

4. Henry HOWARD (1° E. Northampton)

5. Catherine HOWARD (B. Berkeley)

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Born in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, in 1517, oldest son of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Stafford (dau. of the Duke of Buckingham). On 21 May 1524, at Framlingham Castle, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, died. From him, he inherited his title by courtesy, Earl of Surrey, and his own father became the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Henry was aged 7 at this time. His early years were spent in the various houses belonging to the Howards, chiefly at Kenninghail, Norfolk. He had as tutor John Clerke, who, beside instructing him in the classics, inculcated a great admiration for Italian literature. The Duke of Norfolk was proud of his sons attainments. Surrey and his brother Thomas worked and played with a number of young relations whom the Duke received into his household as pupils and pages; among these were Henry, George and Charles Howard, sons of Lord Edmund and brothers of Catherine; and Norfolk's half brothers, William and Thomas; and a more distant cousin, Richard Southwell. Norfolk was also governor of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, the natural son of Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount. Surrey was a little more than a year older than Fitzroy, and became his companion and friend. Fitzroy was at Windsor from 1530 to 1532, and it must be to these years that Surrey refers in the lines written in prison:

"... at Windsor, where I, in lust and joy, with a kings son, my childish years did pass..."

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Sketch of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
by Hans Holbein the Younger

Anne Boleyn tried to arrange a marriage between her kinsman Surrey and the princess Mary. The Spanish Ambassador, in the hope of detaching the Duke of Norfolk interest from Anne Boleyn in favor of Catalina of Aragon, seems to have been inclined to favor the project; but Anne changed her mind, and as early as Oct 1530 arranged a marriage for Surrey with Lady Frances de Vere, daughter of John De Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford. This was concluded at the earliest possible date, in Feb 1532, but in consequence of the extreme youth of the contracting parties, Frances did not join her husband until 1535.

In 1532 Surrey accompanied his first cousin Anne Boleyn, the King, and the Duke of Richmond to France, staying there for over a year as a member of the entourage of Francois I; Surrey and Richmond were lodged with the French royal princes.

Surrey only returned to England in the autumn of 1533, when the Duke of Richmond was recalled to marry his friends sister, Mary Howard. Surrey made his home at his fathers house of Kenninghall, and here was a witness of the final separation between his parents, due to the dukes relations with Elizabeth Holland, who had been employed in the Howards nursery. Surrey took his fathers side in the family disputes, and remained at Kenninghall, where his wife joined him in 1535. In May 1536 he filled his father functions of Earl Marshal at the trial of his cousins Anne Boleyn and Lord Rochford.

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Sketch of Frances De Vere, countess of Surrey
by Hans Holbein the Younger

In 1536 a single piece of good fortune and a series of disasters came to the Howard family. In Mar Surrey’s eldest son Thomas was born. In May Anne Boleyn, accused of adultery with four men and of incest with her brother, Lord Rochford, stood her trial in the great hall of the Tower. Norfolk presided as Lord High Steward; Surrey sat below him as Earl Marshal, his gold staff of office in his hand. On one side of him was Suffolk, on the other the Chancellor, Lord Audley. Anne was executed.

In the first week of Jul 1536 the King and his new Queen, Jane Seymour; Surrey; Richmond and all the Court attended the triple marriage of Surrey's brother-in-law Lord John de Vere with Lady Dorothy Neville, of Lord Neville with Lady Anne Manners, and of Henry Manners, Lord Roos with Lady Margaret Neville, in Shoreditch. The Nevilles brides and groom were the child of the Earl of Westmoreland, who had been Surrey’s mother’s childhood sweetheart and has subsequently married her sister Catherine. Surrey escorted Lady Margaret from the church after the ceremony. The prolonged and splendid festivities, during which Henry took the opportunity to appear in a masque disguised as a Turk, were followed, three weeks later, by Richmond's death at St James's Palace. The news reached Surrey at Kenninghall, and he fell ill from grief. From this, the heaviest blow of all, he seems to ha ve taken years to recover. Henry had given instructions that Surrey should receive his friend's favourite horse, a black jennet, with the black velvet saddle and harness that had been made for the funeral at one of the Howard homes, Thetford Abbey.

Also in 1536, Surrey served with his father against the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion which protested against the king's dissolution of the monasteries. Although he had supported the royal cause, insinuations were made that he secretly favored the insurgents. Hasty in temper, and by no means friendly to the Seymour faction at court, he struck a man who repeated the accusation in the park at Hampton Court. For breaking the peace in the kings domain he was arrested (1537), but thanks to Cromwell, who had yielded to the petition of the young mans father, he was not compelled to appear before the privy council, but was merely sent to reside for a time at Windsor. During this imprisonment and the subsequent retirement at Kenninghall, he had leisure to devote himself to poetry.

After this, Surrey moved Frances and the children out of Kenninghall and into the old manor house of Fersfield and later to Shottisham Hall. Finally, he moved everyone to the family mansion in Norwich. While in Norwich, Surrey decided to begin building his own home on some land he obtained from his father. Construction began on the house which was to be called Mount Surrey when Surrey asked to go to France and join the siege of Boulogne.

In 1539 he was again received into favor. In May 1540 he was one of the champions in the jousts celebrated at court. The fall of Thomas Cromwell a month later increased the power of the Howards, and in Aug Henry VIII married Surrey cousin, Catherine Howard. Surrey was knighted early in 1541, and soon after he received the order of the Garter, was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and, in conjunction with his father, grand seneschal of the university of Cambridge. He apparently preserved the royal favor after the execution of Catherine Howard (at which he was present), for in Dec 1541 he received the grant of certain manors in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 1542 he was imprisoned in the Fleet for a quarrel with a certain John Leigh, but on appeal to the privy council he was sent to Windsor Castle, and, after being bound over to keep the peace with John Leigh under a penalty of 10,000 marks, he was soon liberated. Shortly after his release he joined his father on the Scottish expedition. They laid waste the country, but retreated before the Earl of Huntly, taking no part in the victorious operations that led up to Solway Moss. To this year no doubt belong the poems in memory of Sir Thomas Wyatt. His ties with Wyatt, who was fifteen years his elder and of opposite politics, seem to have been rather literary than personal. He appears to have entered into closer relations with the younger Wyatt. In company with Mr Wyatt, he amused himself by breaking the windows of the citizens of London on 2 Feb 1543. For this he was accused by the Privy Council, a second charge being that he had eaten meat in Lent. In prison probably he wrote the satire on the city of London, in which he explains his escapade by a desire to rouse Londoners to a sense of their wickedness.

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Sketch of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
by Hans Holbein the Younger

In Oct he joined the English army co-operating with the imperial forces in Flanders, where he and Sir Francis Bryan were received by the Emperor's sister, the Regent of the Netherlands. On his return in the next month brought with him a letter of high commendation from Carlos V; and sortly after the King received another recommendation from Sir John Wallop.

In Jul 1545, Mount Surrey was nearly completed when he was offered a position in another English campaign in France. In the campaign he served as field marshal under his father, and took part in the unsuccessful siege of Montreuil. In Aug 1545 he was sent to the relief of Edward Poynings, then in command of Boulogne, and was made lieutenant-general of the English possessions on the Continent and governor of Boulogne. Here he gained considerable successes, and insisted on the retention of the town in spite of the desire of the Privy Council that it should be surrendered to France. But eventually, his control and authority failed while his personal debts mounted. He was spending his own money conducting the campaign and knew it was unlikely he would be recompensed. The campaign was overwhelming and he missed his wife Frances and children. He wrote asking the king’s council for permission to bring his family overseas but the council refused his request. A reverse on 7 Jan at St Etienne was followed by a period of inaction, and in Mar Surrey was recalled.

Surrey had always been an enemy to the Seymours, whom he regarded as upstarts, and when his sister, the Duchess of Richmond, seemed disposed to accept a marriage with Sir Thomas Seymour, he wrote to her insinuating that this was a step towards becoming the mistress of Henry VIII. By his action in thwarting this plan he increased the enemity of the Seymours and added his sister to the already long list of the enemies which he had made by his haughty manner and brutal frankness. He was now accused of quartering with his own the arms of Edward the Confessor, a proceeding which, it was alleged, was only permissible for the heir to the crown. The details of this accusation were false; moreover, Surrey had long quartered the royal arms with his own without offence. The charge was a pretext covering graver suspicions. Surrey had asserted in the presence of a certain George Blagge, who was inclined to the reforming movement, that on Henry's death, his father, the Duke of Norfolk, as the premier duke in England, had the obvious right of acting as regent to Prince Edward. He also boasted of what he would do when his father had attained that position. All of this was construed into a plot on the part of his father and himself to murder the King and the Prince.

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The Duke of Norfolk and his son were sent to the Tower on 12 Dec 1546. Every effort was made to secure evidence. The Duchess of Richmond was one of the witnesses against her brother, but her statements were too doubtful to add anything to the formal indictment. Having collated the evidence of the Duchess of Richmond, Bess Holland, Southwell, Knevett, Blagge and several other courtiers and officers of heraldry, the Council then examined the witnesses for Surrey's defence, of whom the principal — and the only one of value — was his secretary, Hugh Ellis. Ellis maintained his denials of his master's guilt, but his replies show that he did not grasp the extent to which Surrey had offended in altering his escutcheon.

On 3 Jan 1547 Surrey defended himself at the Guildhall on the charge of high treason for having illegally made use of the arms of Edward the Confessor, before judges selected for their known hatred of himself. He was condemned by a jury, packed for the occasion, to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. This sentence was not carried out. Surrey was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 19th of the month, and was buried in the church of All Saints, Barking. His remains were afterwards removed by his son the Earl of Northampton to Frainlingham, Suffolk. His father, who was charged with complicity in his sons crime, was, as a peer of the realm, not amenable to a common jury. The consequent delay saved his life. He was imprisoned during the whole of the reign of Edward VI, but on Mary accession he was set free, by an act which also assured the right of the Howards, as descendants of the Mowbray family, to bear the arms of the Confessor.

He was the last person to be executed during the reign of Henry VIII. His father, the Duke of Norfolk, was spared only because King Henry died before the order of execution could be carried out.

Surrey name has been long connected with the 'Fair Geraldine', to whom his love poems were supposed to be addressed. 'Geraldine' was the daughter of the Earl of Kildare, Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who was brought up at the English court in company of the princess Elizabeth. She was ten years old when in 1537 Surrey addressed to her the sonnet 'From Tuskane came my ladies worthy tace', and nothing more than a passing admiration of the child and an imaginative anticipation of her beauty can be attributed to Surrey. A 'Song... to a lady that refused to dance with him, is addressed to Lady Hertford, wife of his bitter enemy; and the two poems are addressed to his wife, to whom, at any rate in his later years, he seems to have been sincerely attached His poems, which were the occupation of the leisure moments of his short and crowded life, were first printed in 'Songs and Sonettes written by the ryght honorable Lorde Henry Howard late Earle of Surrey', and other (apud Richardum Tottel, f 557). A second edition followed in Jul 1557, and others in 1559, 1565, 1567, 5574, 1585 and 1587. Although Surreys name, probably because of his rank, stands first on the title-page, Wyatt was the earlier in point of time of Henrys courtly makers. Surrey, indeed, expressly acknowledges Wyatt as his master in poetry. As their poems appeared in one volume, long after the death of both, their names will always be closely associated. Wyatt possessed strong individuality, which found expression in rugged, forceful verse. Surrey contributions are distinguished by their impetuous eloquence and sweetness.

The tomb of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and his wife Frances at Framlimgham Church


The effigy at the foot of Surrey on the tomb is Thomas who became 4th Duke of Norfolk and kneeling at his side next to the wall is Henry Earl of Northampton.

At the head end are three girls, Jane who wears a coronet who became Countess of Westmoreland, in the center is Catherine who married Henry, Lord Berkeley and next to the wall is Margaret who married Lord Scrope of Bolton.

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