A matter of delicacy

Surrey-tombThis is the fine painted alabaster tomb of ‘The Poet Earl’. Erected in 1614 it is the funereal monument for Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey and his wife, Frances, the Countess of Surrey. This monument is one of several Howard tombs at St Michael’s, Framlingham in Suffolk.

poet earl, earl of surrey
Detail of the Earl of Surrey tomb showing his sons Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk (front) and Henry, 1st Earl of Northampton (behind).
Painted alabaster, 1614.
St Michael’s, Framlingham.
(Thomas like his father also lost his head on Tower Hill.)
Detail from the tomb of the Duke of Richmond.
Detail from the tomb of the Duke of Richmond.
The Earl (1517-47) was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and great friend and brother-in-law to Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond. Although, widely acknowledged as the King’s son, Richmond was illegitimate and as such when he died of consumption at just 17 years old he was buried with the Howards at Thetford Priory. The dissolution of the monasteries brought about the closure of Thetford Priory in 1540 and the tombs and their contents were moved to St Michael’s Framlingham.

The tomb of the Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII.
The tomb of the Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII.

More interestingly Henry Howard, the Poet Earl, was also friends with another Tudor poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42). Together with Wyatt, the Earl is credited with introducing the sonnet form of poetry into English.

Detail of heraldic sculpture on Earl of Surrey tomb. After centuries of neglect the tomb was restored in 1976.
Detail of heraldic sculpture on Earl of Surrey tomb. After centuries of neglect the tomb was restored in 1976.

During the reign of Henry VIII the ‘Norfolks’ were in and out of favour with the King and towards the end of his reign both Thomas (father) and Henry (son) ended up in the Tower of London. Following much court intrigue the pair were found guilty of treason and in January 1547 Henry Howard, the Poet Earl, was beheaded at the Tower. His father’s execution date was set for 29 January 1547 but King Henry died the day before. Following the death of Henry VIII the old Duke of Norfolk was not executed, but instead spent the next six years in the Tower. As a Catholic he was finally released on the accession to the throne of Queen Mary. He died a year later aged 80 years old at his Kenninghall residence – a Norfolk Howard that was not executed.


Effigy of The Poet Earl atop his tomb in St Michael's, Framlingham, Suffolk.
Effigy of The Poet Earl atop his tomb in St Michael’s, Framlingham, Suffolk.


DIVERS thy death do diversely bemoan :
Some, that in presence of thy livelihed
Lurked, whose breasts envy with hate had swoln,
Yield Cæsar’s tears upon Pompeius’ head.
Some, that watched with the murd’rer’s knife,
With eager thirst to drink thy guiltless blood,
Whose practice brake by happy end of life,
With envious tears to hear thy fame so good.
But I, that knew what harbour’d in that head ;
What virtues rare were tempered in that breast ;
Honour the place that such a jewel bred,
And kiss the ground whereas the corpse doth rest ;
With vapour’d eyes : from whence such streams availe,
As Pyramus did on Thisbe’s breast bewail.

Further poems from the Poet Earl can be found at Luminarium.

Following their parents, at the back of the tomb are the Earl of Surrey's three daughters, Jane, Katherine and Margaret.
Following their parents, at the back of the tomb are the Earl of Surrey’s three daughters, Jane, Katherine and Margaret.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

17 thoughts on “A matter of delicacy”

  1. I like the blue boar. As I’m reading the Wolf Hall / Bringing Up the Bodies trilogy I guess news of the death of Thomas Wyatt is a spoiler! To be honest I get them all mixed up and couldn’t tell you if he is dead already before the final book comes out.

    1. Oooo – loved both books and actually have read Bring Up the Bodies twice! Am huge Thomas Cromwell fan and one of the reasons I went to Framlingham was to see the tomb of his old arch enemy, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. I didn’t mention his, Norfolk’s, ‘fancy’ tomb in this post as it is so special (wouldn’t you just know) that it will need a post all of its own. Easy to get them all mixed up – if they’re not called Thomas then they’re called Henry.

      On another matter . . . are you commenting on the new Dr Who here or anywhere?

      1. Yes I am surprised how readable they are and how fast I got through them for being such big books. It was the same with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy (technically the Millennium trilogy) which must be something close to two thousand pages between them and despite this I just zipped through.

        I haven’t commented on Doctor Who. One of the hard lessons of blogging I learnt is that going off on every tangent didn’t do for keeping readers. I have tried a couple of times, not to review the programme, but to review the audience as I went to see it in the cinema again and it was a very different experience than last time. I’ve tried to make it work, but not sure it does, or is entertaining. So it might appear, although may not. But I tried…

      2. Ah yes your readers – well I guess you can’t please everyone all the time, but if you’re not happy with your piece then it’s author’s prerogative not to publish. Shame I would like to have read about it.

  2. Well just for you here, as this is unlikely to appear elsewhere, I’ll say that when Steven Moffat introduced Matt Smith he did the genius thing of making it an hour. The first episode in 2005, Rose, suffered from having to introduce so much that there was no room for plot within the 45 minutes. Thus, within an hour in 2010, there was all the introductions and time for a decent plot. I thought that was a good episode. However long Capaldi got, much more than an hour, there was again no good plot that made for a satisfying story. From one end it was just harking back to the old ‘Girl in the Fireplace’ story and at the other it was all generated by the new series ongoing plot of which we don’t yet know: Missy, we are led to believe, who put the advert in the newspaper.

    This harks back to the time Moffat brought back the Weeping Angels, which should have been remembered as being brilliant, but the story was only resolved by the ongoing “crack in time” plot which meant the story wasn’t self-contained.

    I did think it was too long, padded out perhaps for the cinema audience, and all those gadget I believed were the result of a Blue Peter competition. It was better on a second watching though and I still think Capaldi is brilliant. The scene with the tramp was my favourite (if you are a fan you might like to know the tramp was Sarah Jane Smith’s real life husband) and I thought it did all look beautiful as they had a big movie director in for that one.

    1. Thank you kindly, thank you for sharing your thoughts and I didn’t know that about the tramp. I am, I suppose a lightweight fan, because I couldn’t stand Matt Smith, but now we have Mr Capaldi I’m most certainly back with it. I thought the second episode last night was much better (still a bit too much banging and crashing for me though).

      I was beginning to think it was just me but I agree with you the first episode was all over the place without a decent, tight plot. I felt as if they were busy trying to justify their choice of an older Doctor. Peter Capaldi is a brilliant actor, they chose him and they should write with the courage of their convictions. It’s not as if Moffat wasn’t writing for this show and this audience pre Matt Smith.

      As for the cinema event, I guess a big cinema screening allows you to appreciate the special effects both sound and visuals, but even the best direction in the world can’t make up for a lightweight plot and lacklustre script. Thanks again for the info on the ‘event’. It is very interesting to think that people are paying to share a cinema screening of a TV programme – pole opposite to watching on a mobile!

      1. It was worth every penny to see the fiftieth anniversary special in the cinema because of the live audience reaction. There were lots of ooh and ahh moments. Not so much for Deep Breath.

        From numbers I’ve found on-line (different sources) the November screening took £1.7M in UK cinemas whereas last week it was £522,908. That was probably somewhere in line with my own observations.

      2. I suppose the BBC must have done the market research, before making the offer. Get the feeling it’s all about the brand with an eye on the international revenue for selling the series overseas. I hope they don’t sell the soul of the show, too, which is delightfully, weirdly British.

  3. I loved looking at this and then reading about what it meant. I admit to a real enjoyment of tombs and especially when they are as elaborate as this one. Not the kind of thing I see around my area at all often, which makes this even better. Thanks.

    1. Yes, it is elaborate and bright, but I think the restoration is probably fairly accurate. We are so used to seeing pale and faded that we forget that often it would have been quite colourful when first crafted.

      1. It reminds me of when we visited George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, some time ago, and the rooms were all painted in very bright (almost garish) colors. And we were told that what we think of as “colonial” colors are actually nothing of the sort – way too muted! Personally I liked it a lot better in bright.

        I also remember learning that marble statues in the ancient world were painted.

        Makes you think, doesn’t it? We think of the past as faded, but it is as colorful as our day. In a lot of ways!

      2. Absolutely. It always makes me smile when people discuss the past as though it was so ‘muted and tasteful’, particularly those now off-white marbles statues!

  4. Interesting post and I too was wondering about the accuracy of the colours in the restoration. I also found out an unexpected lot about the new Dr Who by reading the comments!

    1. Ah yes – mmm – Dr Who, forgot I was on a post of mine when I asked the ‘Who’ question, but I hope you enjoyed the digression and the interesting replies. A little wandering off topic every now and then adds some richness to life’s muted tapestry don’t you think?

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