The Life And Times Of Henry Howard, Earl Of Surrey.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, is best known as one of the founding fathers of English poetry, whose work shaped a literary tradition that stretches from Shakespeare to the present day. But even if he hadn’t written a single verse, Surrey’s life would still be one of the most extraordinary of the Tudor period. He was, in the words of David Starkey, ‘one of the most remarkable men of the age'.
A pioneer of the English Renaissance, Surrey had his portrait painted more often than anyone apart from Henry VIII himself. The soap opera of his life – replete with drunken escapades, illicit duels, battlefield heroics, conspiracy and courtroom drama – is breathtaking.
Surrey was the son and heir of England’s premier nobleman and first cousin to two of Henry VIII’s wives – Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. As godson to the King, he spent his formative years at the royal court where he developed a lifelong friendship with Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Beginning his career as a teenage diplomat in France, Surrey became, at the age of twenty-eight, Lieutenant General of the English Army. Celebrated for his chivalrous deeds, both on and off the battlefield, Surrey’s life as a courtier, soldier, cosmopolitan and poet embodied the ideals of the ultimate
Yet his confident exterior concealed a mind in turmoil. As a leading member of the conservative faction at court, he had to keep his evangelical beliefs a secret. As a military commander away from his family in France, he felt torn between love and duty. As the self-styled guardian of the old nobility, he railed against the ‘newly erected men’ of the court. Unlike his Machiavellian colleagues, Surrey refused to dissemble. Yet as the King metamorphosed from prince charming to bloody tyrant, Surrey’s life ended on the executioner’s block, the casualty of a brutal conspiracy and Henry VIII’s final victim.