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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517 - January 13, 1547) was an English aristocrat, and one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry.

He was born in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, England, the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his second wife, 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 Duke of Richmond, 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.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

He married Lady Frances de Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford. 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 false charges of treason, and Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17 and was buried at one of the Howard homes, Thetford Abbey. That was also the year Henry -- who took after his father and grandfather in military prowess -- served with his father against the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion protesting the dissolution of the monasteries.

He and his friend Thomas Wyatt were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare later used, and Henry was the first English poet to publish blank verse.

But his political fortunes went up and down and hit the ultimate low when he was executed for treason on 19 January 1547. The king, consumed by his own paranoia, was convinced that Henry Howard had planned to usurp the crown from the king's son, the future Edward VI.

When his father died in 1554, Henry's son Thomas became the next duke of Norfolk.

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