Monday, December 5, 2011

Roguish Rake: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey has been called "Henry VIII's last victim." But was he really a victim? Or did he deserve his fate on the scaffold?

Surrey was a well known poet in Tudor England, writing many verses including "The Means to Attain a Happy Life," "Love That Doth Reign and Live Within My Heart," and even Sir Thomas Wyatt's Epitaph. Surrey, along with Thomas Wyatt, were the first Englishmen to use the Sonnet form when writing poetry. Shakespeare later adopted the style. Surrey is also credited with the invention of Blank Verse, and giving the sonnet form its rhyming meter.

Along with being a poet, Surrey was rumored to have had his hand in match making. When it was suggested that his sister, Mary, marry Thomas Seymour, Surrey objected (as did Mary). The wedding did not take place. Rather, Surrey suggested to his sister that she should seduce the King in order to "wield as much influence on him as Madame d'Etampes doth about the French King..." Mary, having seen the way two of her cousins had gone, volunteered to go ahead and cut her own throat then wait for the King to do it.

Mary Howard
In 1547, Surrey was arrested and tried for treason. His crime? Bearing the arms of Edward the Confessor, which solely belonged to the King. Most historians agree that this was a trumpet up charge to bring down the Howards. Many speculate that the King was paranoid that the Howards were vying for the throne (hum...imagine that. He put two of them on the throne himself). Surrey was beheaded at the Tower of London on Jan. 19th. His father, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was scheduled to follow him shortly after, but was saved by the death of the King. He was later released.

Now it's up to you to decide. Was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey a victim of the times? Was he an innocent poet who fell victim to trumped up charges? Or did he deserve his fate? Was he, in fact, vying for the throne? Did he attempt to use his sister to get close to the King and eventually take the crown? Pin It


  1. Not sure that he deserved his fate. But did seem a little ambitious, then again so did most of the Howard family. Seems clear the Howard's really wanted some one in the family on the throne and to have a royal line. Perhaps one of them should have gone so far as to try to be ruler. Not sure why he did the thing with the coat of arms, must have been a fool to do so. I think he knew it would upset the king. I think at most he should have lost his rank, maybe banished but not killed. There are not many reasons to kill a person I think. But then again Henry did what he felt he needed to do so there would be no contenders. The war of the roses was a very good remainder to him, on such things.

  2. Now here is a Tudor rake I like: Henry Howard. Breaking windows in the palace grounds, getting drunk, fighting, defying some of the fasting laws, basically doing what he pleased and not as what was expected of him. He also had a long and distinguished military career and recovered from the disgrace in France in 1546, when he lost many men and officers. He also saw off the enemy, and it seemed as if he had regained his reputation. Then he was set up for a fall, due to some silly words and jealous enemies in the Seymours. He had every right to have the royal arms quartered with his own: he was a cousin to the Plantagenet. If you look at the scenes from the Tudors, the flags and colours around the body of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk include the royal standard. This was due to his marriage with royalty. Many old families have the right even now to have the royal arms: it should not have been seen as a threat by anyone.

    The last story connected with Harry Howard was his daring escape attempt from the Tower. He really did remove the bricks under the privy and the loo itself and attempt to climb down the hole and into the latrine and out of the Tower. He hesitated and wasted time and was caught. This also could be punishable by death if added to the other charges of treason. Not a smart idea: but hey: this is Henry Howard; a true gentleman rake.