Portrait of Henry Howard

Tudor poet Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, was born in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, England. He was the son of the third Duke of Norfolk. Associated with the royal court, he grew up at Windsor, where he was a childhood companion to the Duke of Richmond, son of Henry VIII. Surrey was also a first cousin to Anne Boleyn. Educated by tutors, he lived an eventful life as a soldier and a courtier, eventually marrying Lady Frances de Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford.

In 1532, he traveled to France with Henry VIII and stayed at the French court for almost a year. He was made Knight of the Garter in 1541 and served as a soldier in France. After Anne Boleyn’s execution, Surrey and his father ran afoul of the new English court on several occasions. Eventually charged with treason, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed in 1547.

Surrey’s poetry is often associated with that of Thomas Wyatt, whose work was published alongside Surrey’s in Tottel’s Miscellany (1557). A major poet of the 16th century, Surrey is credited with developing the Shakespearean form of the sonnet. He wrote love poems and elegies and translated Books 2 and 4 of Virgil’s Aeneid as well as Psalms and Ecclesiastes from the Bible. He also introduced blank verse to English—a form that he used in his translations of Virgil.