Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, KG, Earl Marshal (1517 – 19 January 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.
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 charges of adultery and 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.
Literary activity and legacy
He and his friend Sir 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 in his translation of the second and fourth books of Virgil's Aeneid. Together, Wyatt and Surrey, due to their excellent translations of Petrarch's sonnets, are known as "Fathers of the English Sonnet." While Wyatt introduced the sonnet into English, it was Surrey who gave them the rhyming meter and the division into quatrains that now characterizes the sonnets variously named English, Elizabethan or Shakespearean sonnets.
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