Henry Howard, earl of Surrey from 1524, was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk. The elder Howard, one of the most powerful leaders of the old nobility, saw to it that his heir received an excellent education. At the age of twelve, Surrey was translating Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish and practicing martial skills. He was selected as the companion of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son who had been created duke of Richmond. The youths, both proud, impetuous, and insecure, were settled at Windsor in the spring of 1530. Surrey was married in 1532 to Lady Frances de Vere; the couple began living together a few years later, and he was evidently devoted to her for the rest of his life.
Surrey and Richmond accompanied the king to France in the autumn of 1532. The young men resided with the French court, then dominated by Italian culture, for most of the following year. Surrey acquired courtly graces and probably became acquainted with the work of Luigi Alamanni, a Florentine writer of unrhymed verse. Shortly after Surrey and Richmond returned to the English court, the king’s son married Surrey’s sister Mary.
In 1540, Surrey was appointed steward of the University of Cambridge in recognition of his scholarship. Having also distinguished himself in martial games, in 1541 he was made Knight of the Garter. His military education was completed when he was sent to observe the King’s continental wars. The first...
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