Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey KG was an English aristocrat, and one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry.
He was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his second wife, the former Lady Elizabeth Stafford (daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham), so he was descended from kings on both sides of his family tree. He was reared at Windsor with Henry VIII's illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and they became close friends and, later, brothers-in-law. He became Earl of Surrey in 1524 when his grandfather died and his father became Duke of Norfolk.
In 1532 he accompanied his first cousin Anne Boleyn, the King, and the Duke of Richmond to France, staying there for more than a year as a member of the entourage of Francis I of France. In 1536 his first son, Thomas (later 4th Duke of Norfolk), was born, Anne Boleyn was executed on charges of adultery and treason, and the Duke of Richmond died at the age of 17 and was buried at one of the Howard homes, Thetford Abbey. In 1536 Surrey also served with his father against the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion protesting the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Literary activity and legacy
He and his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt
were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare later used, and Surrey was the first English poet to publish blank verse in his translation of the second and fourth books of Virgil's Aeneid. Together, Wyatt and Surrey, due to their excellent translations of Petrarch's sonnets, are known as "Fathers of the English Sonnet". While Wyatt introduced the sonnet into English, it was Surrey who gave them the rhyming meter and the division into quatrains that now characterizes the sonnets variously named English, Elizabethan or Shakespearean sonnets.
Death and burial
Henry VIII, consumed by paranoia and increasingly ill, became convinced that Surrey had planned to usurp the crown from his son Edward. The King had Surrey imprisoned - with his father - sentenced to death on 13 January 1547, and beheaded for treason on 19 January 1547 (his father survived impending execution only by it being set for the day after the king happened to die, though he remained imprisoned). Surrey's son Thomas became heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk instead, inheriting it on the 3rd Duke's death in 1554.
He is buried in a spectacular painted alabaster tomb in the church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham.
Marriage and issue
He married Lady Frances de Vere, the daughter of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford and the former Elizabeth Trussell.
They had five children:
Lady Jane Howard, married Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (10 March 1536 – 2 June 1572) married (1) Mary FitzAlan (2) Margaret Audley (3) Elizabeth Leyburne
Lady Margaret Howard, married Henry Scrope, 9th Baron Scrope of Bolton
Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton
Lady Catherine Howard, married Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley