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Henry Howard (Earl of Surrey) (?1517-47)

Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey was the son of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and was probably born at at Kenninghall Palace - but was brought up at Windsor where he was the childhood companion of Henry VIII's illegitimate son the Duke of Richmond.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Like his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt, Surrey was influenced by Italian writers and especially Petrarch. He and Wyatt popularised the use of the sonnet in English but it was Surrey who is credited with inventing the English version of the sonnet which had three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet (abab cdcd efef gg)  - as opposed to the Italian sonnet which had 2 quatrains and a sestet. It was this new type of sonnet which was used by Shakespeare in his renowned sonnet sequence. Surrey also invented blank verse with his translation of books 2 and 4 of Virgil's Aeneid.

The Duke of Norfolk built Surrey House (on Surrey Street) for his son for when he was visting Norwich. Nothing now remains of the original house - but George Skipper's Surrey House was built on the same spot in 1903.

Surrey House, Surrey Street, Norwich

Surrey also built for himself a magnificent mansion on Mousehold Heath - overlooking the City - which was known as Mount Surrey. It was built on the site of the remains of St Leonard's Priory and was set in acres of land. The location of St Leonard's Priory can be seen on the map below:

Site of St Leonard's Priory, Norwich (Norfolk County Council)

Surrey was a quick-tempered individual and was involved in numerous wrangles. He was accused of various minor offences but eventually he was tried and executed on the charge of treasonably quartering the royal arms. He is buried in Framlingham Church in Suffolk. After his death, Mount Surrey fell into decay - but the ruins were later used by Robert Kett as a place to keep his prisoners during his 1549 rebellion. Kett's troops were stationed at St Michael's Chapel - the remains of which are still present today. This location is now known as Kett's Heights and commands a spectacular view over the City. 

The Norwich poet Ron Nevett has written a fine sonnet about Surrey, his mansion and his contribution to English literature:

On the Earl of Surrey

Ah, Surrey! How you lost your plumèd
Head to pride is not for fourteen lines
Nor war in France, nor all the rumoured
Plots your squint eye spots in those Holbeins

No, Surrey, you deserve a sonnet's fame
For fashioning three-quatrains-and-a-couplet
That Shakespeare gave his loves to and his name:
But you were first to wear his satin doublet

As, riding to your high-built Norwich mansion,
You mourned for Windsor walls and tender Clere
And conquered Virgil into English scansion
And wept for Wyatt as your only peer

And cantered up Gas Hill on borrowed time
To candle-lit Mount Surrey and sweet rhyme

Surrey's Grave




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