Who Was … Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey?


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He was executed on Tower Hill just days before Henry VIII’s death in 1547 for treason. Surrey was one of the founders of English poetry who, along with Thomas Wyatt, introduced the sonnet into English. He had been raised with Henry VIII’s bastard son by Bessie Blount, Henry Fitzroy, and his sister, Mary, would marry Henry Fitzroy.

Name: Henry Howard

Title/s: Earl of Surrey / Knight of the Garter

Birth: 1517 (exact date unknown) at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire (England)

Death: 19 January 1547 (beheaded on Tower Hill, London for treason)

Burial: Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham, Suffolk (England)

Spouse: Frances de Vere, Countess of Surrey c.1516-1577

Children: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk c.1535-1572 / Jane Neville, Countess of Westmorland c.1537-1593 / Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton c.1540-1614 / Margaret Scrope, Baroness Scrope of Bolton c.1542-1592 / Catherine Berkeley, Baroness Berkeley 1539-1596

Parents: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk 1473-1554 & Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk c.1494-1558

Siblings: Catherine Stanley, Countess of Derby ?-1530 / Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond 1519-1557 / Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindon c.1520-c.1582

Noble Connections: Henry Howard was the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk and would have been the 4th Duke of Norfolk, but he died before his father. His mother was descended from the Dukes of Buckingham, so he could trace his ancestry to both Edward III and Edward I. His sister, Mary, married the bastard son of Henry VIII, Henry Fitzroy. His cousins, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, were both married to Henry VIII.

Controversy: Henry Howard was executed for treason just days before Henry VIII’s death. His father only escaped the axeman because of Henry VIII’s death.

Works of Fiction:

  • Darcey Bonnette, Secrets of the Tudor Court (2011)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • David O’Hara, The Tudors, 2010, 9 episodes

Further Reading:

  • Edmond Bapst, Two Gentleman Poets at the Court of Henry VIII: George Boleyn and Henry Howard (2013)
  • Jessie Childs, Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (2006)
  • Robert Hutchinson, House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty (2011)
  • Robert Hutchinson, The Last Days of Henry VIII (2005)
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey 1546
  • Henry Howard Funeral Effigy at Framlingham

Discussion Questions – ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ by Darcey Bonnette


Darcey Bonnette's 'Secrets of the Tudor Court' (2011).
Darcey Bonnette’s ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ (2011).

This book focuses on the life of Mary Howard, who married Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.

  1. Discuss how Mary’s character changes throughout the novel.

The main that Mary undergoes in the novel is her loss of innocence. At the beginning she truly believes in her father and in the king. The turning point in the relationship with her father is when she sees him beat her mother, and finds out about his relationship with Bess Holland. With the king, there are a lot of little things, but the major event is his actions against her cousin Anne Boleyn. Mary is still essentially innocent until her husband, Henry Fitzroy dies, and she realises that she has to become more forward and ruthless in order to live. Other events which contribute to her loss of innocence are her relationship with Cedric Dane, the executions of Katherine Howard and Henry Howard, and the actions of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Mary’s perception of loyalty also changes, as she realises that loyalty to the king should come first and foremost in order to survive, and loyalty to your family should come after. The examples of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard illustrate this. Self-preservation is also an important motivator for Mary, particularly in the case of the accusations against her brother and father. Her mother and Cedric Dane encourage this. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ by Darcey Bonnette”

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