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