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.

Wild-Boar-Surrey

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.

OF THE DEATH OF SIR THOMAS WYATT.

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.
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