The Final Days
The Final Days
Abstract and Keywords
At the end of his long chronicle, the early Tudor historian Edward Hall allows himself one last burst of Burgundian gloire. Although briefer than other extravagant renditions of honour that mark his history, his account of the August 1546 reception for the French Admiral subtly completes his text that otherwise ends abruptly with the burning alive of Anne Askew and her companions in July, the beheading of Henry Howard in the following January, and the death of Henry VIII a week later. Arriving in the Thames off Greenwich with twelve great ships, the Admiral of France Claude d'Annebault, the governor of Normandy, was first greeted and escorted to London by the queen's brother, the Earl of Essex, with the Earl of Derby.
At the end of his long chronicle, the early Tudor historian Edward Hall allows himself one last burst of Burgundian gloire. Although briefer than other extravagant renditions of honour that mark his history, his account of the August 1546 reception for the French Admiral subtly completes his text (the historian himself would die in seven months) that otherwise ends abruptly with the burning alive of Anne Askew and her companions in July, the beheading of Surrey in January, and the death of Henry VIII a week later. Arriving in the Thames off Greenwich with twelve great ships, the Admiral of France Claude d’Annebault, the governor of Normandy, was first greeted and escorted to London by the queen’s brother, the Earl of Essex, with the Earl of Derby. On St BarthoLornew’s eve, 23 August, d’Annebault sailed by barge up the Thames towards Hampton Court with his entourage of 200 nobility and clergy. On the way, at the river-bank at Hounslow, the young Prince Edward rode to meet him, the boy’s horsemanship giving to all who looked an impression of serene control intensified by his dress, especially his crimson and white satin doublet sewn with jewels.
In fact, for this performance, the future king had been carefully preparing himself, even writing to his stepmother, Queen Catherine Parr, about the problem of the Lord Admiral’s Latin and their ability to converse in that language (taught him by Cheke) in which the 8-year-old knew he could exhibit not only control but force: ‘quod si calleat, vellem plus discere quod illi loquar, cum ei obviam venero’ (‘But if he is proficient [in Latin], I should like to learn more of what to say to him when I do meet him’).1 Meeting the admiral with the prince were his uncle Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, the young Earls of Huntingdon and Shrewsbury, the prince’s gentlemen, and 200 yeomen of the guard dressed in cloth of gold (100 attendants for the prince, 40 for his uncle Hertford, 30 for Shrewsbury, 20 for Huntingdon, and, an interesting addition, 20 attendants for Sir Richard Southwell, listed in the riding party). When the French admiral met the boy, the pair embraced ‘in such lowly and honorable maner’, the admiral kissing the boy’s hands and the boy kissing the bearded man on both cheeks—‘that all the beholders gretely reioysed’. Then, in the welcoming speeches, the prince spoke for the first time before so large an audience and out of doors. All the crowd ‘much marueyled at [his] wyt and audacitie’ of discourse. The profile portrait of Prince Edward (p.353) painted at this time reveals him as he may have looked that August afternoon: delicate white skin, even pale features with auburn-gold hair, grey eyes with long lashes and a deliberate gaze ahead.
The next day, a Thursday, marked the climax of the visit: ‘On Barthelemew daye, the kyng rychly appareled, welcomed in great triumph went to the chapel, where the league was sworne and signed.’ Just recovered from a serious physical collapse, the king had summoned considerable energies to make this appearance, although from the time Seymour had led the negotiations with the French in June, Henry VIII had followed every step carefully. On this Thursday Surrey became prominent for the first time. The poet earl was called upon, in a special order of precedence, to greet the French entourage in a series of ceremonies that brings Hall to his most ecstastic: ‘To tel you of the costlye banquet houses, that were built, & of the great banquettes, the costly Maskes, the liberal huntynges that were shewed to hym, you woulde much maruel, and skant beleue’ (867–8). In fact, for that day and evening, the poet earl became the living image of his own last portrait. Surrey’s nobility of blood and his reputation as scholar and poet gave a precedence neither Seymour nor Dudley could ever honorably gain. As one of fifteen who were to prepare horses for the admiral ‘with footcloths’, he also had special duties as royal cup-bearer in serving the admiral to be performed only with the king, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his father. More important, in the order of the receiving line, the arrangement of the nobility of the entire realm, Surrey was to be ranked immediately after the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and above all other earls, whatever their function (even Hertford as the Lord Great Chamberlain), because he was the son of a duke.2 His sister, the widow of a duke, the king’s other son, outranked all the other women (including ‘Geraldine’ in the queen’s privy chamber entourage), the Duchess of Richmond only after the royal ladies, Anne of Cleves and Lady Margaret Douglas. With this precedence, Surrey projected his own body of honour that August evening at Hampton Court, where even the torch-bearers wore cloth of gold.
Anne Askew: A Body on Fire
But another kind of witness and inscription of honour had taken place just the month before in that final summer of 1546. In this martyrdom, Surrey’s presence had strangely figured. This time the influence sprang not from Surrey’s blood (p.354) nobility but from his poetry, from a text that a young Lincolnshire gentlewoman incorporated into her own self-validating ballad before she was burned alive. If anything, the borrowing by Anne Askew of a passage from Surrey’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes confirmed the new prestige of Surrey as text-maker generated by the 1542 Wyatt elegy and his recent Bible translations. It also confirmed Surrey’s revolution in language and social inscription. Whether the reformed Christian hero that July had read the elegy on Wyatt or not, she obviously knew the last phase of Surrey’s poetic career, his religious verse. Here language and ideology joined, the one like the other, as she obviously recognized. Thus, in her own poetic inscription of self before her martyrdom (her Dido soliloquy before her own burning pyre), she took one Surrey passage as her own. Askew put lines from the poet earl’s paraphrase of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes into her famous ballad of death. In these lines, Surrey had given Anne Askew terms to identify the killer of them both, Henry VIII.
The young woman had challenged Henry VIII directly on the specific dogma of the Real Presence, which was held not only by the old king but fervently by the young Edward (who later defended it, in spite of Cranmer, even writing his only poem proclaiming its truth). For Anne Askew, there was no Real Presence on the altar, and what she expressed quietly, with patience and fervour, Surrey’s friend Blagge had announced in the midst of St Paul’s: the Host was a lie. He was immediately arrested. As his pardon, dated 17 July 1546, states, Blagge had declared on the previous 9 May within the congested crowds of St Paul’s Cathedral that ‘the Sacrament of the Altar did not good, neither to the quick nor dead’ and that ‘the good Lord’s body could not in any means be minished ne impaired.’ With sarcasm, Blagge went further in this special public place in the Tudor world: if Christ’s body in the Host were ‘laid up there’ so that ‘a mouse might come’ to the consecrated bread, ‘the mouse would eat it every whit’ and so ‘in his opinion it were well done that the mouse were taken and put in the pix’ (the container for the Host). The mouse was as good as any consecrated Host that falsely pretended to represent the actual body of Jesus Christ. For Surrey’s friend, the world of metaphor and analogy was fast becoming, however literalized, no way to define reality. God could no longer be confined to human metaphor, with its lies and illusions. For Anne Askew, what presence of Jesus Christ there was on any Christian altar could be understood only as Zwinglian memorialism, not even Calvinist actualization through faith nor the more old-fashioned Lutheran consubstantiation.
Luther’s first attack had made the essential point against this central dogma of the old religion: no place or materiality was sacred in itself. Erasmus had told a despairing young German courtier the same thing in 1501: in subjectivity Christ could be found, not in any external sign. Internalizing in the name of Jesus Christ—the self in Christ—determined concrete reality and everything else—not the other way around. No dialectic existed between the sacred and the profane except through interiorizing faith: ‘Sola Fides’ in the Pauline phrase embellished in Luther’s Bible by adding his ‘sola’ or ‘allein’ to Paul’s original passage in Romans (p.355) 3: 28. For Anne Askew, Christ’s internalizing ubiquity meant real presence within each soul, and therefore presence and honour could happen everywhere, as simple as that. Even a woman could become a knight for Jesus Christ or an armed warrior, in her updating of St Paul’s Ephesian imagery. Thus, the young British woman announces at the opening of her ballad: ‘L/yke as the armed knyght / Appointed to the fielde / With thys world wyll I fyght / And fayth shall be my shielde.’ The questing figure of Lancelot du Lac was having a strange British metamorphosis.
John Bale had ‘The Balade whych Anne Askewe made and sange whan she was in Newgate’ first printed in Germany immediately after the young woman’s being burnt alive. The ballad had appeared in Bale’s authorial canonization of her—the first making of a saint from a book in England and probably in Europe. Foxe develops the cult of the righteous woman more completely in his martyrology, and indeed Foxe records how he and Bale met each other, after Bale’s return from exile, in the reformed Christian household of the Duchess of Richmond, presumably at Reigate in Surrey. It was precisely Bale’s works like this account of Anne Askew that laid the basis for the grand revisionist martyrology of John Foxe.3
In order to save the history of this first woman martyr, Bale printed immediately not only her life-story but appended the ballad she had written in prison. Here was a figuration that signalled a new social type, as he determined correctly. Anne Askew represented a new progression in the history of God’s chosen people. Her life typified the true Christian martyr’s history made modern, especially in her updated and quite self-conscious suffering before her death by fire. In the first woodblock of Bale’s text, the figure of Anne Askew emerges from the threat of a dragon, holding the lily of a virgin martyr (like St Agnes) in another variation of the popular woodcut Veritas filia temporis (‘truth is the daughter of time’). In Anne Askew can be seen, Bale argues, a model of early ‘Christen contancye’ as once existed in ‘the Brytayne churche, or the prymatyve church of thys realme, whych neuer had autoryte of the Romysh pope’. The British woman had not reverted to ‘lyenge legendes, popish fables, nor yet old wyves parables’ but to the realism of truth, genuine texts and models: ‘the most lyvelye autoryees and examples of the sacred Bible’. Her authenticity is marked by the fact that in the ‘anguysh and payne of her broken ioyntes and broused armes and eyes’ she saw ‘most pacyent Job, for example of godly sufferaunce’. She never doubted her calling, despite ‘the stinke of Newgate [prison], nor yet the burning fyer of Smithfeld’, where she became a human torch. For this prophetic witness, Bale concludes with mottoes from the Hebrew prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and then defines his new hero: ‘Thus is she a gyant canonysed in Christes bloude, though she never have other canonysacyon of pope, prrest, nor Byshopp.’ By 1546 it is not merely that an underground saint had been immediately born, but ‘a gyant’ who is a woman confirmed as a body of heroic nobility by her authenticity of sacrifice, her burning body of honour.
(p.356) Most of all, Anne Askew’s lyric poem (printed) authenticated this martyrdom: a soliloquy of her suffering before death—textualized by herself about herself—in the popular form of the ballad, a reduction of the Poulter’s Measure line that Surrey used for his Biblical paraphrases. Anne Askew’s ballad written in jail and appended to Bale’s hagiographic text thus confirms a heroic self-election. In her lyric, the woman begins by declaring both her allegiance to the honour of Jesus Christ at the price of the world and her androgynous knight identity. The ballad ends with articulated acceptance of suffering and the coming death in fire. Both as woman and as Christian who must die, Askew contrasts her own act of sacrifice for Christ with the evil of the totalizing enemy who is killing her. Thus, at a key point in her ballad, Askew turns to the poetry of the Earl of Surrey for the portrayal of such a Satanic figure. The importance of this borrowing from Surrey lies in more than the remarkable fact of Surrey’s lines as inspiration for a Protestant martyr. In her act of self-justification, Anne Askew borrows from the avant-garde poet earl to authenticate herself as poet as well as martyr. That is, in the text, just before her paraphrase of Surrey’s paraphrase, the Lincolnshire gentlewoman gives herself the strongest self-inscription. As she writes, it has always been a question for Askew of finding the right language for what she actually felt and saw. Surrey’s is the right language. Now she ‘internalizes’ her own act of writing, as Luther desired, and at that moment Surrey gives her the right poetic genealogy—himself—to express, like Aeneas, her own ‘slaughter’.
- I am not she that lyst
- My anker to lete fall
- For euerye dryslynge myst
- My shyppe substanciall.
- Not oft use I to wryght
- In prose nor yet in ryme
- Yet wyll I shewe one syght
- That I saw in my time.
That ‘syght’ the young woman has seen has been so genuine, so deeply and radically primitive a phenomenon, that she is compelled to ‘express’ it in her own ‘tears’, to use Virgil’s terms. She has no practice as a poet, but the horror of the ‘syght’ is her equivalent of burning Troy or Surrey’s London. Whatever her personal will, she must act. She must write her own poem and so, after her authorial digression, Askew borrows directly from Surrey for the climax of her ballad. It is an indictment of Henry VIII, for her neither Supreme Head nor Sardanapalus but ‘Sathan’ himself:
- I saw a ryall trone
- Where Jutcye shuld haue sytt
- But in her stede was one
- Of modye cruell wytt.
- Absorpt was ryghtwysnesse
- (p.357) As of the raging floude
- Sathan in hys excesse.
- Sucke up the gyltelesse bloude
- Then thought I Jesus lorde
- Whan thu shalt iudge us all
- Harde is it to recorde
- On these men what wyll fall.4
Surrey’s text, probably written in the previous spring after his ignominious return from France, is more elaborate, its paraphrase revising the Book of Revelation source:
- I saw a royal throne whereas that Justice should have sit;
- Instead of whom I saw, with fierce and cruel mode,
- Where Wrong was set, that bloody beast, that drunk the guiltless blood.
- Then thought I thus: One day the Lord shall sit in dome [judgement],
- To view his flock and choose the pure: the spotted have no room.
Askew’s borrowing from Surrey recognizes Surrey’s originality in 1546 and his transformation in the early modern coding of both honour and nobility. For both of them, what became finally clear was that, in the perspective of a final judgement and the horror of ‘that bloody beast’ who drinks innocent blood, the old structures of blood nobility would not necessarily be wrong, just not sufficient. They may not be enough for a new moral being, poet or martyr or nobleman. Before the nightmare of history, as both the male severed head of Surrey and the female burning body of Askew would witness, nothing could be guaranteed, except that honour—the sense of self both entering and transcending history—would always seek new forms for the deepest self who survives the violence of history. Survival was sure, the Lincolnshire woman was asserting in her new ballad; she herself had written about her own ‘resistance’ to death and Satan. For this sense of ‘resistance’ of a higher genealogy (blood, poetic text, prophecy) to breakdown and violence, honour and its forms served not only to encode but to assert any special self surviving history. As Albert Camus affirmed 400 years later, ‘honour, like pity, is the irrational virtue that carries on after justice and reason have become powerless.’5
Arrest and Forced March
(p.358) No act dramatized Surrey’s loss of honour at the English court more than his forced march on 12 December 1546. Alone, but under guard, the poet earl had to walk from the Lord Chancellor Wriothesley’s house in Ely Place to the Tower of London—a mile and a half of shame. It was a Roman humiliation, the opposite of the imperial triumph through the streets the heir to the Duke of Norfolk might have expected a year earlier in France, and greater than Wyatt’s humiliation, when arrested, at being tied by the hands. Arrested ten days earlier at Whitehall Palace, Surrey had been deceived, at least as narrated in the Spanish Chronicle, into his final capture by the explicit order of Henry VIII to his halberdier guards in yellow and red (144). In consultation with the Privy Council, who had orchestrated the steps of the arrest, especially its surprise, Henry VIII ‘ordered the captain of the guard very secretly to take the Earl’ and swiftly. Early Thursday afternoon, 2 December, entering the palace ‘after dinner’, Surrey saw the captain of the halberdiers walking towards him down the stairs in the hall of the Tudor palace. ‘Welcome, my lord,’ said the captain, Sir Anthony Wingfield (Surrey’s cousin by marriage), who had already, at the king’s direct command, a dozen halberdiers waiting in an adjoining corridor. The captain then began to lead the young earl towards the corridor away from his entourage, remarking, ‘I wish to ask you to intercede for me with the Duke, your father, in a matter in which I need his favour, if you will deign to listen to me.’ Surrey graciously consented. Known for his approachability, Surrey had acted as protector for both men and women at Henry VIII’s court. The two had hardly disappeared from the crowded hall before the other halberdiers ran out, seized the young man, and, in the carefully planned kidnapping, hustled him, ‘without attracting notice’, to the river-landing of the Renaissance palace of honour that Henry VIII had built for Anne Boleyn. A boat was waiting on the Thames and the young poet was whisked away so fast that not until that night was Surrey’s arrest first known. The Howard heir apparent had been forced to submit, without word to friend or family, to an arrest and capture he had known, for years, was always possible.
Surrey’s anger rose at the audacity and deceit of his capture. His enemies had used a menial—the captain’s request had brought out the generosity evident in all of Surrey’s recent letters and military dispatches from France—to trap him. An outright chivalric encounter he might have expected, but his life at court had ended not in heroic struggle but in banality. From Whitehall his boat travelled probably to the Blackfriars landing and from there, the mile up to Ely Place, the former palace of the East Anglian bishop used by the Lord Chancellor as headquarters, and next to it, the church of the Anglo-Saxon saint from Ely, St Etheldreda. There Surrey remained under strict guard for ten days of interrogation and deposition. Then came the Sunday march from Ely Place to the Tower, on foot through Holborn, an act of specific shame and dishonour.
(p.359) The Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley, first cousin of the Lord Chancellor, recorded this Sunday march on 12 December. On this vigil day before St Lucy’s, the winter solstice in the old calendar and a popular saint’s day celebrated with lights and candles, the young Surrey had been forced, surrounded by guards and himself on foot, through the streets of Holborn—a humiliation for any nobleman but multiplied for Surrey. Before lively Sunday (pre-Puritan) shopping crowds on a holiday eve, he walked completely alone, with no servant or aide (even in the Tower he always had a servant). Most disgraceful of all, not only did he lack a horse to ride like his own bay jennet, and the accoutrements such a horse required, but he wore no proper dress for his rank, especially in public. Gone were trumpets with silken banners showing the Howard arms that preceded him and the large entourage of thirty to fifty horsemen about which the Lord Chancellor had scribbled during Surrey’s interrogation: ‘Ryding wt many men in the streetes’ of London. It was a specially calculated insult to the young man about whom the Lord Chancellor had also jotted down: ‘My lord of Surrey’s pride and his gown of gold’ and ‘My lord of S. dissembling.’ All signs and images of power were gone. Even his father had been arrested on that Sunday and sent to the Tower. The most powerful nobleman in the kingdom, Norfolk had rushed back to London from Kenninghall in East Anglia at the news of his son’s arrest. Then, after a few days, he was seized himself (his letters to the Bishop of Winchester had been intercepted). The Lord Chancellor and the rest of the Privy Council must have realized it would have been pointless to make the old man walk in shame, strong though he was. A dramatic spectacle of terror was necessary, however, to threaten any other older nobility of the blood (or new nobility) who dared to challenge the new dispensation of the realm. Surrey’s forced march made the point. All his splendour and glamour could be seen as the lie it really was. As the Windsor Herald details: ‘The 12th daie of December the Duke of Norfolke and the Earle of Surrey, his sonne, were sent to the Towre of London prisonners, the duke going by water, but the Erle of Surrey was lead openlie from my Lord Chauncelor’s in Holborne throwe London by Sir Anthonie Wyngfield, Capteine of the gard, and the lieutenante of the Towre [Sir Walter Stonor]’ (1: 176). The march to the Tower had sealed Surrey’s fate. Once in the Tower he was lost, as no one less than Henry VIII had explained to the naïve Cranmer only a few years before: ‘O Lorde God! What fonde [foolish] symplicitie have you: so to permitt yourself to be ymprisoned, that every enemy of yours may take vantage againste you,’ for once in prison three or four ‘false knaves’ (much more than the required two or one) could make witness and condemn you, ‘whiche els now being at your libertie dare not ones open thair lipps or appere before your face’.6
Descended from heralds, the Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley had himself arranged this humiliation of the walk, as he probably stage-managed the (p.360) depositions and the trial. Wriothesley had been one of numerous ambitious lower gentry who had risen to power under Henry VIII, a ‘new erected man’. Because of his close connection with heraldry, Wriothesley probably devised the single charge against Surrey that stuck: the Howard heir had fabricated a coat of arms that spelled treason. He had been active at first on the side of Cromwell and the reformers. The 1538 Holbein miniature of Wriothesley, with his upward look and bright, almost ecstatic blue eyes, discloses a young man on the rise, soon to marry the niece of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. In fact, he had been particularly useful to Cromwell in acts of iconoclasm against the ancient centres of Canterbury and Winchester. At the latter cathedral, in his desire to loot ecclesiastical wealth for the Crown, he had smashed ancient statues and stained glass and then, at his most useful, in the middle of the night, demolished the ancient pilgrimage tomb of St Swithin (such a cultural artefact that on St Swithin’s July feast-day, all English weather had been forecast). Also during that fatal night, to his uncle’s further dismay, Wriothesley had eradicated the 700-year-old tomb and shrine of Alfred the Great at nearby Hyde Abbey, the body of the Anglo-Saxon king lost forever. He would break all forms of transcendence, the old myths and the old forms of honour. The Bishop of Winchester, who influenced his life, later defined for Cranmer the connection of the two iconoclasms: ‘The destruction of images conteineth an enterprise to subvert religion and the state of the worlde with it; and specially the nobilitie, who, by images, set forth and spread abrode, to be red of all people, their linage and parentage, with remembrance of their state and acts.’7 Later, with the same obedience but on a different side, Wriothesley had dutifully twisted the rack to break the reformed Christian Anne Askew’s body, although he could not be counted on by the Howard conservatives. Before her beheading he had interrogated ruthlessly Queen Catherine Howard, as well as the aged widow of the ‘Flodden Duke’ and all the family involved. Then, as Seymour and Dudley returned to the court in late summer and Norfolk realized, as Bess Holland said in her trial evidence, that he was being excluded from, as she called it, The Privy Privy Council’ (HB 737), the Lord Chancellor quietly switched sides. He soon orchestrated the single charge—the misuse of heraldic forms—against Surrey in the bill of indictment, after the initial charges of striking a gentleman and fomenting a coup d’état were discarded. The Lord Chancellor understood best of the Privy Council the intricacies of such a conspicuous heraldic display.
Yet, on that festival Sunday, Surrey’s forced march to the Tower may have had an unexpected effect. The crowd was neither hostile nor indifferent to the young man, who had been, just a year before, a general at Boulogne and whose daring and bravery recalled the legendary Tlodden Duke’ still praised in ballads. An anonymous figure wrote down a single entry for the day in the strangely continuous Chronicle of Grey Friars of this period. Just who this observer was—a former (p.361) Franciscan gray-robed monk (their great centre had been near Ely House) operating underground, as were certain formerly cloistered men and women, or someone keeping a record—is not clear. ‘This yere the XIIth day of December,’ the observer wrote, ‘the dewke of Norffoke and the yearle of Sorre hys sonne were comyttyd unto the tower of London: and the dewke went be watter from the Lorde chaunseler’s place in Holborne, and soo downe unto the wattersyde and so be [by] watter unto the tower; and hys sonne the yerle of Sorre went thorrow the cytte of London makynge grete lamentacion.’8 The grammar of the terse final phrase, with its ambiguous participle, underscores the intensity of the event. If Surrey were himself lamenting, was it with violence, an un-Puritan hero like Achilles bellowing on the beaches before Troy? Or was it the cry of ‘the most proud foolish boy in England’, as the evangelical Dean of Westbury told George Constantine in 1538, a Surrey finally confronted with the results of his immature dangerous game-playing? It was certainly not Victorian silent manly suffering. Words and sounds poured out loud enough to still a holiday crowd or at least be heard above it. Or does the participle ‘making’, as in a French or Latin position, refer to ‘the cytte of London’ and its crowds? Were they captured, as the romantic Bapst believes, by the sight of this descendant of Plantagenet kings so reduced? Antony Antony, another mysterious observer of Henry VIII’s last days,9 is less ambiguous: both Surrey and his father were locked up in the Tower by four o’clock that Sunday afternoon, that is, by nightfall in the northern European winter.
‘That conjured league’
According to most accounts, correct or incorrect, Surrey’s cousin Sir Richard Southwell betrayed the poet in a single act, accusing him of displaying a false coat of arms. Southwell did not act alone, as his accusation shows. He had switched sides. Surrey refers, in his paraphrase of Psalm 55 written in the Tower, to a conspiracy against him. In two vivid examples of apostrophe, the violence of which does not exist in the Latin Vulgate from which he is translating, Surrey’s speaker cries out: ‘Rayne those unbrydled tungs! breake that conjured league!’ The ‘league’ (a word of love in the Clere sonnet) pursues him like wild animals: ‘My foes they bray so loud, and eke threpe on so fast, / Buckled to do me scathe, so is their malice bent.’ Was this ‘league’ Surrey’s paranoid delusion, or did it exist as the natural reaction of a healthy realm in defending itself against so totally disruptive and neurotic a force or simply as a political faction that did not support Surrey or the Howards but only had to sit still and let the young heir destroy himself? In any case, conspiracy is certainly what the later Renaissance saw. Conspiracy destroyed the poet earl—so testify voices from Mary I and Hadrianus Junius to (p.362) Challoner (and implicit in the myths of Nashe and Drayton) to Sir Walter Raleigh to the Jacobean Earl of Arundel and Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who wrote: ‘Divers at the king’s council disaffected [Surrey], and particularly the Earl of [Hertford (Seymour)], as knowing that after the king’s death (now thought to be imminent) none was so capable to oppose him in the place he aspir’d to of protector. All which circumstances concurring, and being voiced abroad, encouraged divers of [Surrey’s] adversaries to declare themselves’ (737). And ‘declare’ they did, whether telling the truth or not, Wriothesley announcing, to the resident and foreign ambassadors in London, immediately after Surrey’s arrest the charge (never in the actual bill of indictment but implicit in the trial) that both Howards had intended to seize the king and his son, murder most of the council, and take over the kingdom. Ironically, the scenario of taking over the realm was already taking place in another quarter, the accusers themselves.
Lord Herbert had singled out from the ‘divers of his adversaries’ Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford (Plate 25), through his mother’s descent of royal lineage. Surrey had a special animosity towards Seymour, according to his sister (HB 737), but the soon-to-be Duke of Somerset had always been a leader of considerable sophistication who may have held a profound admiration for the poet earl. They had been visiting friends, in fact, in the late 1530s when Surrey was beginning his Aeneid. When, by the end of January 1547, Seymour became the Lord Protector and virtual ruler of the realm for the next two years before his own beheading, he had gained exactly what the poet earl had desired and sought in the last years of his life: the Lord Protectorate of the new young king, who was to describe the new Roman role of his uncle in a proclamation issued on 4 June 1550: ‘by the Advise and Consent of our most dearely beloved Uncle Edward Duke of Somerset Governor of our Person, and Protector of all our Realmes, Dominions, and Subjects…’ As the new Protector, Seymour quickly took over both of the imprisoned Norfolk’s offices, Lord Treasurer and Earl Marshal, leaving for Dudley the office he had earlier taken from Surrey’s wife’s family (the de Veres), that of Lord Great Chamberlain. Most of all, Seymour assumed, within two months of Surrey’s death, the venerated title of Duke of Somerset, previously associated with the family of Henry VIII’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort and the Lancastarians, and given in 1525 to Henry Fitzroy. With these titles, Seymour was soon using the royal ‘we’.10
As the Duke of Somerset, Seymour was to follow a judicious policy towards ultimate reformation of the kingdom, always keeping, as Bush notes, ‘the classical principle of measure as the touchstone of conduct’. This measure might include considerable iconoclasm, the vivid process of which can be viewed in one of its few visualizations in an allegorical picture Aston has analysed (Plate 24): Henry VIII in bed points to his son and the new Somerset beside him and then the other (p.363) new succession of power, behind which men is an inset picture showing two statues (one a tall pillar with the Virgin Mary and Child) being efficiently toppled. In this newly organized society based on reformed Christianity and on the new elite meant to rule it, Seymour kept ‘the consideration of how man should conduct himself’ as a central focus, a good humanist principle. This focus could also mean that the purest Christian principles and the amassing of enormous wealth from the ruin of others could resolve themselves into a matter of formal governance and urbane styling (what Somerset seized from Surrey House illustrates the Protector’s excellent taste). Elegance performed as a kind of ultimate truth as it literally tore down the old world for the purer.11 Almost four years to the day after Surrey’s execution, on 22 January 1552, Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, was beheaded on Tower Hill. This time he had been trapped by John Dudley, then the Duke of Northumberland and, after Somerset’s annihilation, the only duke except for the boy Suffolk left in the kingdom. So, even in 1546, within Surrey’s ‘conjured league’, new hatreds were rising. In another of his scribbled notes at Surrey’s trial, Wriothesley had perceived a force that did not include him: ‘Things in common. Paget, Hertford [Seymour], Admiral [Dudley], Denney’
The Lord Admiral in 1546, John Dudley, the future grandfather of Sir Philip Sidney, became virtual ruler of the realm after 1552 and reigned with even more power than Somerset (although he deliberately eschewed the dangerous title of Protector) until his own capture and beheading by the new Queen Mary I. As an indication of what lay ahead, already in the first months of Edward VI’s reign, Dudley had appeared at court with an entourage of a hundred, forty gentleman in black velvet with white and black sleeves, sixty in simpler cloth.12 The third of Surrey’s ‘adversaries’, like Lepidus in the old Roman triumvirate, represented the new kind of strategist who arranges everything but does not pull the trigger himself. Sir William Paget also personified the superb civil service Cromwell had transformed out of the offices of Wolsey and the efficient late Yorkist and early Tudor bureaucracies into a universal model for centuries of government service. After his arrest, Surrey recognized his own deception by this ambiguous if thoroughly competent hatchet man, who had always expressed friendship, though less so as the earl’s power waned. Behind this loose triumvirate stood, of course, the greater practical power of the Privy Chamber and the absolute guardian of the king in his last months, Sir Anthony Denny. To this power, the only one Surrey might reach, Surrey dedicated a poem from the Tower.
Denny may earlier have distributed Surrey’s poems to Anne Askew. Whether Anne Askew read the Wyatt elegy and Surrey’s new heroic conception of the poet or not, her court supporters probably had, including Denny. These friends at court had come under considerable political pressure because of their sympathy for the helpless gentlewoman from Lincolnshire in Newgate prison, and the (p.364) women, particularly the beautiful Lady Denny, as well as Lady Hoby, the Countess of Hertford, the fiery young Duchess of Suffolk, all under the patronage of the third Queen Catherine, exemplified for Bale the holy women around Christ, who followed him from Galilee and gave of their own substance. To the queen’s weekly devotional readings and instructive sermons by Bishop Hugh Latimer and other reformed humanist Christian intellectuals, these women (with their husbands and relatives like the future translator of Castiglione, Sir Thomas Hoby) brought stylish religious texts they could commend. It is possible that to these readings Surrey’s own brother brought manuscripts of the earl’s biblical paraphrases, copied as they were in a collection and seldom separately (the earl could not himself attend, for obvious reasons). In fact, in the last Lent of 1546 Lord Thomas Howard argued indiscreetly in his reformed fervour about scripture with other young gentlemen of the court; in the queen’s chamber he vented his rage against conservative Christians and ranted elsewhere at court, to the extent that he had been arrested. The Howard presence, brother and sister, was thus not unknown to elite reformed Christianity. Indeed, in these groups Surrey may have found one last audience. What would have been more natural for Queen Catherine’s circle than to read together (or even sing) an elegant recent ‘Englishing’ of the Bible’s wisdom literature by England’s greatest living poet? Who better could have admired not only Surrey’s choice of reformed diction but experimental rhythms that promised a language of the future—the vernacular Luther wanted—for their religion of the future?
To a powerful member of this circle, Sir Anthony Denny, ‘the courtier par excellence of the last years of the reign’ of Henry VIII, Surrey dedicated one of his Psalm translations in the Tower in December 1546. He added a prefatory lyric. The poet earl knew Denny synthesized in his person both the humanism and the religion that drove the late Henrician and Edwardian courts. Surrey’s Davidic text, with its careful Erasmian equivalence of translation, thus served as a medium for his real message. Denny had been trained at St Paul’s under Lely, the greatest Latinist in England, and then at St John’s, Cambridge, during the ascendancy of Bishop Fisher. In this same year as Surrey’s arrest, the printer to the young Prince Edward had declared Denny ‘a favourable supporter of all good learning and a very Maecenas of all towards wits’. The powerful courtier had already shown patronage to both the older Sir Thomas Elyot and the younger Roger Ascham and had been praised by Sir John Cheke for his ‘desire of knowledge of antiquities’.13 Although this early courtly model of Puritan humanism appears to lack Burgundian chivalry or Castiglione’s sprezzatura, in his painting by Holbein he certainly possesses the gravitas Castiglione in the first book of The Courtier required, the intensity stemming as much from Denny’s humanism and Roman modelling as from his religious commitments. For Surrey, he may have appeared as an updated Roman amicus principis.
(p.365) But he also had charge of all access to the private apartments of the king. In a period when the king was increasingly sedentary although as politically alert as ever, Denny acted as conduit for both monarch and court. On call twenty-four hours a day, he provided a sounding-board for the king after, or before, discussions and debates with Paget or Seymour or the jester Will Somer or anyone else at court. In 1546 Denny also controlled, with his brother-in-law, John Gates, the dying king’s ‘dry stamp’ for the royal signature. He could conceivably control executions. Most of all, as Surrey knew, Denny’s power would hold until the last day of Henry VIII’s reign, as it did, in fact. When the king was dying on the afternoon of 27 January 1547, Denny had the courage and objectivity (after all, he had been Groom of the Stool for a long time) to tell the monarch that not even the Supreme Head could escape death. The king must prepare himself, soul and body. After hearing this from Denny, Henry VIII replied, assured of his own real presence as ever: ‘Yet is the mercy of Christ able to pardon me all my sins, though they were greater than they be.’14
If Denny might determine the use of the ‘dry stamp’, then Surrey’s poem to him acts, by no surprise, as an apologia (but with no outright confession). In Surrey’s eyes, fashionable Davidic contrition might lead to official forgiveness, especially if expressed in the kind of stylish syllogism Denny and the humanist court would appreciate. The one-sentence prefatory lyric, in the musical form of a strambotto, begins with a long subordinate clause of self-justification, with familiar themes (‘reckless youth’) bordering on whining in a series of abstract nouns. Then they rise to what might have been a genuine act of contrition; but the subjective act is arrived at by rigorous logic. Thus, in its form as enthymeme, the minor premise suppressed, the poem heads immediately, after the introductory major premise, to an accusation of self—‘My Denny, then mine error, deep impressed, / Began to work despair of liberty’—and then to the conclusion of sudden grace, the leap from ‘despair’ to the one figure of ‘David, the perfect warrior’, who alone, it seems, will teach this earl humility.
It is a question if Surrey achieves the announced intention of penitence in the paraphrased text of Psalm 88 that followed in long lines of Poulter’s Measure. The speaker does ask the Lord to ‘Grant that the just request of this repentant mind / So pierce thine eares that in thy sight some favor it may find.’ But the real centre of Surrey’s paraphrase emerges angrily with the question: ‘Within this careful mind, burdened with care and grief, / Why dost thou not appear, Oh Lord, that shouldst be his relief?’ Surrey directly catalogues the consequences of ‘blind endured [hardened] hearts’ who cannot see a poet prophet in their midst. A poet alone can give God the right kind of honour and praise.
Of all the ‘conjured league’, only Denny could understand the value of that ‘trump’ in English culture in 1546. Surrey tried in the Tower to reach one of the few hopes left him by using his greatest asset now, not his power of blood but language. It would not be enough.
Sir Richard Southwell
Although each of Surrey’s ‘adversaries’ had the will to survive and win the spoils in the breakdown of the Henrician state, Sir Richard Southwell had a greater motive and greater fear: his own extinction with his Howard cousin benefactors. Sir Richard Southwell must have acceded to the temptation of betrayal by summer or early autumn of 1546. Whatever role he actually played, Southwell remained in the later Howard family cult as the evil genius of the young father’s tragic death. The effect appeared to them all the more Judas-like because Southwell, orphaned in 1515, had been brought up with Surrey, thirteen years his junior, remaining close at hand for all of Surrey’s short life. In the 1590s, seemingly quite consciously, the betrayal was redeemed, in another twist of genealogy, by Richard Southwell’s grandson (through illegitimacy). The poet and Jesuit martyr Robert Southwell (also canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970) acted as chaplain to the Countess of Arundel, the wife of the imprisoned future saint Philip Howard. In Arundel House, Southwell wrote not only his famous Christmas lyric ‘The Burning Babe’ (with its influence on Donne and Crashaw) but the devotional tracts that reveal the steadfastness the East Anglian saint would have under the rack and torture of Topcliffe and other pursuivants. Southwell was also tutor to the future ‘Collector Earl’, Surrey’s great-grandson, who years later exchanged, from his room in Arundel House that held over thirty Holbeins in oils, Holbein’s portrait of ‘the man who had brought his ancestor the poet Earl of Surrey to his knees’.15 With no sorrow, except to lose such a work of art, Arundel gave the portrait to Cosimo II of Florence so that today, watching the crowds in the Uffizi, is the long face, slightly receding chin (with scars Holbein adroitly marks), and the eyes (Holbein calls them ‘yellow’) of the man whose career began with committing murder for his kinsman Norfolk and ended as a true servant of Queen Mary.
The betrayal came quickly. In the first days of December 1546, after a conversation with the poet earl, Southwell supposedly received an insulting letter from (p.367) Surrey. He took the insulting letter to the council and through them to the king, a replay of the summer and Surrey’s letter to Dudley. As a result of writing this letter with insults and threats—far worse than voicing them—Surrey was arrested. On 2 December, Southwell came forth, saying ‘he knew certain things of the earl, that touched fidelity to the king.’ Although no witnesses were actually needed for crimes condemned by the Succession Act of 1536 and only one witness was needed for conviction in other crimes if the judges deemed that witness of good character,16 Southwell was especially needed because soon in December the first two charges against Surrey were deemed too weak for proof. A charge that would stick had to be found. Wriothesley, the son of heralds, found one that could be manipulated by himself and the heralds, and be made believable to the dying king. In the indictment, whether Southwell or not, someone reported that on last 7 October he had seen at Kenninghall Palace, the greatest of the Howard mansions, a treasonably designed coat of arms. He had probably seen this coat of arms also at Surrey House since, as Surrey’s letter from Hussey specifically mentions, Southwell had been commissioned to buy glass for the many windows of a new mansion that required the display of such arms. According to the accusation, Surrey had displayed a coat of arms that showed in the first quarter of the design the royal arms of the Anglo-Saxon king St Edward the Confessor, who ruled England from 1042 to 1066 (roughly the same time as Surrey’s putative ancestor, Hereward the Wake, a coincidence of much interest to the examining Wriothesley in his fourth, sixth, ninth, and tenth interrogatories to Surrey). Even though he had the silver labels in this quarter to show its difference from the royal arms, these could also indicate the arms of the Prince of Wales, so the young earl was considered by the realm to have identified himself with the heir to the throne and to have made a claim to royal power.
Surrey was astounded at this first in a series of betrayals by friends and family. In the 2 December confrontation, just after his arrest, before the Lord Chancellor, Seymour, Dudley, Paget, and others at Ely House, the poet earl had been almost speechless, then turned ‘vehemently’ and ‘affirmed himself a true man, desiring to be try’d by justice, or else offering himself to fight in his shirt with Southwel’ (HB 737). The strange request of a challenge confirmed the Romance world of Lancelot du Lac, in which fantasy, his sister said, he always lived. Although as late as the 1520s Charles V had offered trial by single combat, ‘in his shirt’, and Surrey himself had offered this challenge in France in 1545, this form of fighting, like trial by ordeal, had virtually disappeared. Proving his innocence in this type of single combat was to give Southwell the advantage of wearing armour while Surrey wore only the linen shirt beneath such armour—in short, as designed in the highest codes of chivalry, the poet earl would allow God to justify his innocence. Hearing this request, the Privy Council, meeting that December in Seymour’s (p.368) house, may have been inwardly delighted at this pathetic gesture of the Howard heir so out of political reality and now so vulnerable. For the moment, the Privy Council committed both Surrey and Southwell—the equation an insult—to confinement. In a few days they forced Surrey to march through London to the Tower. Southwell was freed.
But there was one sole power behind all the ‘divers’ forces attacking Surrey. Neither the triumvirate, Denny, nor Southwell could dare act if the king himself were not implicitly giving the sign that the young poet must be killed. If the men in control of the government saw theirs as a God-given future without limit, an inevitable progression of a reformed Christianity and a new Roman renovatio that had come to birth through the power and genealogy of the grand figure straddling the wall of the Privy Chamber at Whitehall, the absolute king gave them the power to dream their future. The future itself regarded the king and the Privy Council and Surrey’s last days rather differently.
For that future (at least before the English Revolution) neither the king nor the Edwardian makers of a newly elected kingdom were considered either absolute or particularly just. Raleigh gave language to the new attitude towards the first Supreme Head: ‘If all the pictures and Patternes of a mercilesse Prince were lost in the World, they might all againe be painted to the life, out of the story of this King.’ Sir Walter Raleigh saw Surrey, for example, as a victim who had embodied the highest nobility at the same time that Surrey’s grandfather Buckingham became a special martyr of honour for James I. In the same Jacobean world, the Jesuit Robert Parsons tallied up the executions by Henry VIII of two queens, three chancellors, three cardinals, two dukes, two earls, one marquis, two countesses, and five peers. Although the underground Jesuit and friend of Surrey’s martyred grandson Philip Howard does not count Lutheran martyrs like Robert Barnes or the Anabaptists or Sacramentarians like Anne Askew, or his fellow Catholics (strangely silent on the execution of commons and nobles in the Pilgrimage of Grace or the disappearance and execution of resisting monks in the 1530s), the inaccurate tally nevertheless makes its point. In Parsons’s eyes, Henry VIII set out to destroy the old nobility of England and thereby the basis of an ancient civilization that neither demanded nor needed a violent change of social order, certainly not one ending in a Dudley as tyrant ruler.17
But the Elizabethan Jesuit misses a finer point, as does Raleigh. When the 18-year-old Henry had ascended the throne in 1509, he had inherited a nobility of (p.369) twelve high noblemen and thirty barons. In the early years of his reign he had added four barons by the restoration or revival of titles. By the end of Henry VIII’s reign, not only was the old blood nobility reduced by 33 per cent from natural and artificial causes, but 41 per cent of the new nobility created by Henry VIII were also reduced.18 Thus, if any philosophical conception of blood nobility appears seriously in doubt after Erasmus’ attacks in his 1501 Handbook of a Christian Soldier, so was the presence of any nobility in jeopardy, in the new Henrician realm of the one and the many, unless sanctioned by the state in the person of the Supreme Head. Whether a White Rose noblewoman like the aged mother of Reginald Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, or a new Christian martyr like Anne Askew, no man or woman, young or old, was to be spared. This was the new equality of justice.
The irony was that finally not even the Supreme Head could control either the order or definitions in the progression of history he had unleashed. He could not assure the succession beyond the reign of his son to his daughters or to his sister’s great-grandson and the Stuarts and, least of all, avoid the English Revolution and its consequences for the next centuries that would deny ideologically any validity of total royal presence. In his last days, the dying king clearly brooded over the indeterminacy before him. Immediately he had to secure the succession and life of his young son, remembering all too well the horrors of the Wars of the Roses, caused by the boy King Henry VI and into which indeterminacy Edward V with another Protector Uncle had disappeared. As long as he was alive, the old king may have determined that no one, not even Surrey’s ‘conjured league’, could act without his direction. That Christmas of 1546 Henry VIII was so caught up in directing history, in saving his son by condemning the Howards, that he never left London at all after he dashed back from Oatlands. Unusually he sent the queen and most of the court on to the palace at Greenwich for Christmas without him. He had spotted in the Howards a threat to his genealogy, especially the poet earl, as one who aspired to be not only a stylish Protector but a Renaissance monarch. When Henry VIII found evidence of such aspiration in Surrey and was deliberately lied to by Wriothesley and the Garter King of Arms, his leading herald, about Surrey’s coat of arms, he felt justified in destroying the Howards, especially the son who threatened his own.
Bill of Indictment and Judgement
The bill of indictment and judgement finally given against Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, spells out the exact terms, in the eyes of the English realm, of his dishonour and the reason for his execution. The bill was based on an Act passed hurriedly ten years before, in July 1536, part of which (C. 7) was designed as an Act of (p.370) Succession and part of which (C. 4) specifically to declare as a traitor to the Crown Surrey’s uncle, Lord Thomas Howard, who had secretly married Lady Margaret Douglas. Updated and rephrased for Surrey’s situation in 1547, the act’s three traditional parts correspond to a syllogism: the act itself, the facts of the particular case, and then the judgement based on the conjunction of the major and minor premises; or whoever does A should die, Surrey did A, therefore Surrey should die. The major premise of Surrey’s Latin bill of indictment stipulated that no person or persons may ‘maliciously or wilfully’ cause ‘through words spoken, written, or printed, or through any external deed or act’ not just harm but ‘danger’ to ‘the royal bodily presence [celsitudo in the Latin text] of the said Lord now King’ or to ‘those persons of his blood or of his succession having to do with the state of this realm of England’. Thus ‘if any person or persons by art have imaged, invented, or attempted through the colour of any pretext to deprive the said Lord King, the Queen, or the heir legitimately procreated from the body of the said Lord King’ of any of their ‘titles, names, ranks, or royal state or royal power’—no matter who this person or persons be—‘let them be adjudged High Traitors’ and their offence ‘High Treason’. Once convicted, such traitors are to suffer the death penalty.
Surrey’s treason was egregious. It was a matter of falsely ‘imaged’ honour that threatened ‘to deprive’ the king’s ‘heir’ of his ‘titles’ and all the other marks of his royal honour. Since ‘the most excellent Illustrious and Mighty our Lord Henry VIII by grace of God king of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and on earth Supreme Head of the Church of England and Ireland is the true and indubitable king of this realm of England,’ he has ‘carried, borne, displayed and used certain arms and insignia of the highest nobility’, that is, the arms of St Edward the Confessor as described by heralds: ‘“viz. Azure, a cross fleury, between five martlets [birds] gold.” ’ This ‘aforesaid present Lord King and his ancestors of the highest nobility, one and all, kings of this realm of England, from the time beyond the memory of man’ had displayed such arms that ‘uniquely belong to and appertain to the present Lord King and his said ancestor-kings and throne of this kingdom of England’ and are ‘not for any other persons whatsoever in the same manner and form’ as the king and his ancestors have displayed them. Furthermore, ‘since also the most excellent Lord Edward now prince of this kingdom of England and Son and Heir-Apparent of the said excellent most mighty Lord present King’ can also hold, bear, and use ‘by pure and absolute right [de mero jure]’ the ‘said arms and insignia’ but designated by ‘“three labels silver” ’ to indicate he is the true heir apparent, it is treason that the young Earl of Surrey should display a coat of arms with the arms of Edward the Confessor in the first quarter, even if they are differenced from the king’s by three silver labels. This difference belongs only to an heir apparent, in this case, to the throne of England. Did Surrey see himself as a prince who was an heir to the throne? Did he plan an insurrection? Would he be king?
The terrible act, therefore, of ‘Henry Howard recently of Kenninghall in County Norfolk, holding the highly noble Order of the Garter otherwise called (p.371) Henry Earl of Surrey, not having God before his eyes but seduced by diabolical incitement and not at all weighing his owed loyalty’ but acting ‘as a false and malicious traitor and public enemy to the said most mighty and most serene Lord present King’ occurred ‘on the 7th day of October in the 38th year of the reign of the said Lord King , at Kenninghall in the said County of Norfolk.’ On that day Henry Surrey ‘falsely, maliciously, and treasonably and indeed openly and publicly held, displayed, and bore, and used’ the arms of St Edward the Confessor. He was thereby ‘willing, wishing, and desiring, and, with all his nefarious art and talent, imaging, inventing, practicing, and attempting to deprive the aforementioned most illustrious and serene our King of the rights, dignity, titles, and names of his royal state.’
For that painted display at Kenninghall, possibly on a glass window, Surrey ‘no less treasonably then and there did cause to be made and painted together and joined with his own proper arms and insignia of Henry Howard himself the said arms and insignia of the said Lord now King with three labels called “Three labels silver” ’. It should be noted that no such coat of arms, not even that listed in the inventory of the ransacked Surrey House, was ever brought forward as evidence. Yet the indictment assumed that Surrey committed this act for nothing less than ‘the purpose of undermining, destroying, annihilating, and scandalizing the true and indubitable title of the said Lord King now on the throne of his kingdom England’. Although he had used the labels of difference, he had a diabolic intention in doing so: ‘no less treasonably for the purpose of disinheriting and cutting off the same most excellent Lord Prince Edward from his true and indubitable title and from the throne of this kingdom England.’
In his October display Surrey had given enough ‘occasion by which the same Lord King could now be shaken and cut off’ and led ‘into scandal, peril, derogation, and contempt’ of his reign and ‘his said legitimate title to his said throne of England’ threatened. There was yet a larger offence. By these signs, Surrey intended rebellion. In a age when, as Anglo notes, even more than a prince’s or nobleman’s own person, his coat of arms was known everywhere,19 the bill intimates that use of such arms had threatened the ‘peril’ of a future rebellion like the recent Pilgrimage of Grace. In the language of the text—stated even before the offence against king and prince—Surrey had ‘falsely, maliciously, and treasonably’ schemed ‘to extinguish utterly and annihilate the heart-felt love and obedience which the true and faithful subjects of the said Lord King of this his realm of England bear to the same Lord King and by right are held to bear.’ In this desire, the young earl intended to break up the bond between king and people rendered on the title-page of the 1539 Bible. He would ‘stir up sedition between the said Lord King and all the faithful subjects of the King and cause the same Lord King to be deprived and disinherited from the throne of this his kingdom of England and his other honor, his preminences and power.’ In this scheming, Surrey had offended not only (p.372) ‘against the form and effect of the aforementioned statute and diverse other statutes of this kind by chance recently published and passed but also against the peace of the said Lord King, his throne and his dignity’, his real presence.
The poet was condemned to die. Although finally commuted to beheading, the immediate judgement of the indictment was that the body of the poet earl was to be drawn and quartered at inglorious Tyburn, the details spelled out in the text of, first, his hanging, after which, still breathing, head to be severed and the body of the young man to be split into four parts, and then head and split body to be placed where ‘the said Lord King would want to assign them.’20
Ransacking of Kenninghall and Surrey House
Everything was now taken away from the still living Henry, Earl of Surrey. By the time he began writing Psalms in the Tower, the young poet had doubtless heard (probably through his single servant) of the terror that had come to his family, especially his pregnant wife, and the almost total ransacking of Kenninghall and Surrey House in Norwich and the general destruction of all that the Howards had held in honour for generations. The comprehensive report on this ransacking disappeared as have almost all documents in this matter in which Southwell was concerned.21 The records that do remain tell a great deal, not least the report of a commission to discover evidence of treason that set out immediately for East Anglia on the vigil of St Lucy’s ‘betwixt three and foure of the clock in the after-none’, the northern European sky already dark. The authority for this commission—Southwell, another Howard cousin Wymond Carew, and Sir John Gates, Denny’s brother-in-law and keeper of the king’s stamp—came from the highest level in the king’s palace. They rode steadily and ‘arrived at your highnes Towne of Thetforde seven Miles from Kennynghall the mondaie at night following and were at the Duke of Nofffolk his house this tuesdaie the fourteneth of this instant by the breke of the daie so that the first newes of the Duke of Norffolk and his Soone cam thether by us.’ The shock was, of course, extreme for the retinue of over 200 servants and the Howard women left behind in the palace on the plain of western Norfolk. After first locking the gates and back doors of the great house (p.373) so no one could escape in the first light, they ‘dyd declare our desire to speak with the Duchesse of Richmond and Elizabeth Holland’, the old duke’s young mistress for over fifteen years. Although the women were ‘newlie risan and not redie’, after learning who the men were, ‘they cam unto us without delaie.’ In the dining chamber, the men ‘imparted unto them the case and condicion wherin the said Duke and his Soon without your great mercy dyd stonde’. The young Duchess of Richmond was ‘sore prelexed’ and began ‘trimbleng’ and in her shock ‘like to fall downe’. But ‘commyng unto herself agayne,’ the letter continues, ‘she was not we assure your maieste forgetfull of her dewtie and did most humblie and Reverentlie upon her knees humble herself in all unto your highness,’ that is, the Duchess of Richmond, Henry VIII’s only daughter-in-law, knelt down before the three male agents, two of whom were either cousins or former family friends, and blurted out: ‘althoughe nature constrained her soore to loove her father whom she hathe ever thought to be a trewe and faithfull Subject and alsoo to desire the well doeng of his Soon her naturall brother whom she noteth to be a rasshe man yeat for her part she woolde nor will hide or conceill any thing from your maiestes knowledge speciallie if it be of weight or otherwise as it shall fall in her remembraunce.’ She preferred to write down any information to help the investigation. The interrogators were touched by ‘her humble conformity’ and her ‘trothe and franknesse’, but desired to see her ‘chambers and coofers’. Not only did they find no writings worth sending but found in her private world ‘her coofers and chambers soo bare, as Your Maiestie woold hardlie think her Juelles suche as she hadde solde or laide to gage to paie her debtes as she her maydens and the Almoner doe saie.’ It was a different situation with the old duke’s mistress Elizabeth Holland, in whose chamber they found ‘gerdelles, beades buttons of golde pearle and Ringes sett stones of diverse sortes’, so much that the three began to make their first of many inventories.
‘And as we have begonne here at this hedde house,’ the three would send out their ‘most discreat and trustie Servauntes’ to the other Howard houses in Norfolk and Suffolk ‘to staie that nothing shalbe embeaseled’ until they could get there. Already the Almoner has promised to send the gold and silver plate along. There was no immediate cash on that morning of 14 December but the Steward may, the commissioners thought, have some ‘upon this last accompt’ and in the next dispatch the three promise the king they will let him know all about the jewels found here or elsewhere and of ‘the clere yerelie valewe of his [Norfolk’s] possessions and all other his yerelie Revenue’. Robert Holditch, Norfolk’s controller who had written the Latin household book in 1519, now turned over £1480 in cash (and was to pay sums of ready cash until January 1549). In a few months, another Howard steward, Richard Fulmerston, to whom Surrey owed money, bought the ancient Thetford Priory from the new Protector who, with Dudley, made quick sale after quick sale of Howard estates throughout the realm.22
(p.374) There was now the question of what to do about ‘therle of Surrey his wief and children with certen women in the Norsery attending upon them’. Close up the house? Or keep part open as ‘shall seme meat tattend upon the said Earle his wief lookeng her tyme to lye inne at this next Candelmasse [2 February]’? With Surrey’s wife, the young countess, ready to have her child in six weeks, at the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, what should they do? The men beseech ‘your highnis to signify unto us where and in what place your pleasour is to bestowe her for the tyme and also whom it pleaseth your grace to appoint for the defraieng of the chardges of thousehold’. The three men knew they could not take Surrey’s wife with them because, even if she could travel, the young woman would become, by her swollen body, a witness particularly unwanted by the Privy Council. It was decided to move her—at least a revealing item about Surrey’s wife in a later inventory indicates that. From the apparel of the old Duke of Norfolk, there had been taken ‘a night gown of black satin much worn, and furred with coney and lamb, which was delivered to the Lady of Surrey to put about her in her chariot.’ The expectant Frances de Vere Howard, who was obviously being moved from Kenninghall, had been waiting in her ‘chariot’, and had become chilled and weakened in the roar and collapse of the December morning. After her departure and that of the Duchess of Richmond and Bess Holland the next day, the central Howard estate was closed and handed over to Southwell until the Princess Mary arrived there to live out the Edwardian years.
Finally ‘All the said Duke his writenges and bookes wee have taken unto our chardge and shall withall diligence peruse them and further doo as the waight of them shall requere.’ Surrey’s holograph manuscripts both at Kenninghall and Surrey House and in London at Lambeth were also seized (some or most forever lost or, if Sir John Harington was in the search party, held by him). With that, the three agents pray that God will ‘preserve your roiall Maiestie in longe and hartie helthe’, and signed off ‘ffrom Kennynghall betwixt the houres of vi and vii in the evening this tuesdaie’ 14 December 1546, ‘in the xxxviiith of your most victorious and happie Reigne.’ They added an immediate postscript: the Duchess of Richmond and Elizabeth Holland ‘take their iourney towardes London in the morneng or the next daie at the furthest’ for interrogation. The agents wrote across their letter ‘hast hast post hast for thy lif.’23
Anger as Transcendence
Once in the Tower of London, his whole world on fire like Aeneas’, Surrey began to write. New poems expressed an ancient mode of survival: anger, Surrey’s fury (p.375) at his fate, Seneca’s ‘Medea superest’. Even now Surrey had not surrendered but was following Medea’s and Seneca’s ‘sense of reality’, as Braden remarks, which arrives ‘not from the unchangeable truth of past history but from the turmoil of affective experience, where history is taken up and remade’. Writing itself was the ‘affective’ instinct of the young man who had invented for a decade most of the original literary forms of his time and whose power of representation would have its own genealogy. Even now, accelerating towards death in the most terrible location in his world, Surrey could write new poems, probably in Beauchamp Tower, today near the Queen’s House but in Henry VIII’s time a place for imprisoned noblemen of the highest rank and the official residence of the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Walter Stonor. Consisting of three storeys (of which the middle one—where Surrey probably resided—is almost the height of the ramparts), Surrey’s father was probably here for the next six years. In a greater irony, both Surrey’s heir and then his heir’s heir, those offspring of his blood for whom he had been re-textualizing concepts of nobility, were imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower for conspiracy against their Howard cousin Elizabeth I.
Denounced by her for his putative role in the Mary Stuart conspiracy (the Scottish queen might have become his fourth wife), Thomas, fourth Duke of Norfolk, was beheaded at 37 on the same scaffold as his father after spending three years in the Tower. Surrey’s son declared on his scaffold his innocence and his allegiance as a reformed Christian, his tutor and lifelong friend John Foxe by his side. Surrey’s grandson, Philip, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, became the most famous recusant of his day, spending over twelve years in the Tower and never seeing his only son Thomas, the future ‘Collector Earl’, before he languished in 1595, the victim at 38 of the last Tudor monarch. All three—Surrey, son, grandson—had a view from their cell, clearer on the rampart, of what Foucault calls the ‘spectacle of the scaffold’, the ever-visible ‘zero-degree of torture’. St Philip’s own handwriting above a fireplace in the Beauchamp Tower survives to relate his transcendent terms for escaping that ‘zero-degree’. ‘Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro’ (‘The more suffering for Christ in time, so much more glory with Christ to come’). His grandfather had another kind of transcendence, however, for his last days and the ‘zero-degree’: anger, writing in anger.24
All the biblical paraphrases written in the Tower carry the wildness of the laments along Holborn streets, but Surrey’s paraphrase of Psalm 55 goes further. Horrible (p.376) animal images focus on the traitor who had accused him of displaying a false coat of arms. This last of the complete Bible paraphrases was written after both his paraphrases of Psalm 88, with its prologue to Denny, and of Psalm 73, with its prologue to George Blagge. Although Surrey’s last major poem may lack the relative contrition of earlier paraphrases, its anger only David’s anguished voice could convey. The result is a jagged totally solipsistic text—the collapsing personality and violence of a modern twentieth-century post-structuralist text like the sonnets (based on Surrey’s form) of the later Robert Lowell or John Berry man. In breakdown, the imprisoned Howard heir confronts his steady progress into annihilation. In drumming end-stopped lines that also typify his epic verse, Surrey combines alliterative Anglo-Saxon diction, strong verbs, and a terrifying combination of abstract subjects with concrete modifiers: he has become so trapped an animal that ‘Care pierceth my entrails and travaileth my spirit’ and a ‘grisly fear of death environeth my breast; / A trembling cold of dread clean overwhelmeth my heart.’
For this translation, Surrey abandons the melody of Poulter’s Measure used for the other paraphrases. He invents a blank verse of hexameters—certainly the first lyric use in English of a consciously imitated classical line like the alexandrine he may have heard at Fontainebleau. Thus, the poem that soon passed through court circles to Sir John Cheke reveals a special terror: he is being reduced not just at court but in the scale of being, to the ‘zero-degree’ of annihilation. Driven by this recognition and the sight of the scaffold, the speaker’s mounting fury is almost breathless until the disjunction of the last lines and their final breakdown into the original Latin that Surrey adapts from the Vulgate. Towards this breakdown, Surrey’s alexandrines help to control the rising fury but do not reduce it. Early in the poem the speaker attacks the source of the violence against him: ‘For I deciphered have amid our towne the strife’ where ‘Guile and wrong’ keep ‘the walls’ of London ‘both day and night’, and ‘mischief with care’ keeps ‘the market stead’ and ‘wickedness with craft in heaps swarm through the street.’ In this terrible city, adding to the Vulgate, Surrey writes that it was not his ‘declared foe’—was this Seymour or Henry VIII himself?—that ‘wrought’ him ‘all this reproach’. All this ‘harm so looked for, it weigheth half the less.’ Surrey had become cunning; he knew how to fight such a ‘foe’ as Seymour. ‘For though mine enemies hap had been for to prevail, / I could have hid my face from venom of his eye.’ Rather, his betrayal came from a beloved friend, in Surrey’s Chaucerian oxymoron, ‘a friendly foe’, traditionally identified as Sir Richard Southwell, who had been sent by Cromwell in the year that Holbein had painted him to the Tower to take away all his books from Sir Thomas More. A biblical certainty follows in the speaker’s curse operating like Dido’s final malediction on Aeneas and his descendants: ‘Such sudden surprise quick may them whole devour.’ The speaker’s certainty of history supports his hope that ‘It was the Lord’—not the ‘our Lord’ of the old Christianity used earlier in Surrey’s Psalm 8 translation—‘that broke the bloody compacts of those / That prelooked on with ire to slaughter me and mine.’ (p.377) ‘Prelooked’ is a neologism that combines Latin and basic English, and its syncretic effect of diction and imagery continues in domestic figures such as the transferred simile from Coverdale: ‘Butter falls not so soft’ as does the patience of God. From this point in the text, Surrey writes his own poem. He abandons any biblical source. A ‘Friowr whose harme and tongue presents the wicked sort / Of those false wolves’ intensifies the speaker’s rage. In fact, the fury cannot contain itself in English. The final line is in Latin and in ‘th’other Psalm of David find I ease,’ says the speaker. Jones identifies this ‘Psalm’ as an untranslated line from the original Vulgate source.25 In fact, the Latin from this line ends his poem: ‘lacta curam tuam super dominum et ipse te enutriet’ (‘Throw yourself upon the Lord, and He will nourish you’). Although the ending in Latin hardly resolves the anger of the poem into contrition, it does offer solace—trust as much in the Latin that had marked his life as in God.
‘The seed of kings’
Within hours of arriving in the Tower on the afternoon of 12 December, Surrey had met one more victim, in fact, a cousin who was more of a Plantagenet than himself, the nephew of Cardinal Pole. Within days he had written a text about the young man who, in the poet’s eyes, needed a protector—a role the earl had been playing since his entry into court in 1529. Now he denounced a victimization as terrible as his own. The reference to Edward Courtenay, a descendant of the Yorkist White Rose, appears in a biblical translation. During his final five weeks in the Tower, Surrey composed paraphrases not only of Psalms but also of chapters from Ecclesiastes. The sixteenth-century musical term ‘paraphrase’ implies an interweaving of texts rather than a strict translation, as Erasmus had shown in his new Latin Ecclesiastes in 1536. Surrey is the first man of letters in England, at least the first practising poet with a popular secular audience, to translate into English the Hebrew wisdom book. In such stylish weaving of the original Vulgate Latin, his main source, and the Latin commentary of the Lutheran Campensis, Surrey introduces a story that oddly paralleled his own. In 1538 Edward Courtenay, aged 12, had been sent to the Tower with his father, the Marquess of Exeter, who had (p.378) been promptly beheaded in a ‘logical sequel to the defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace’ and the terror it brought. Eight years later, in the last weeks of Henry VIII’s life, the new political order still could not endure another Plantagenet, especially in the interval between kings. But at least in one way young Edward Courtenay could be grateful he was still in the Tower; Montague’s child, arrested at the same time and the last male heir of the Poles, had simply disappeared there, probably in 1542 after the demise of Catherine Howard and her faction. At 20 in December 1546, Courtenay remained imprisoned long after Surrey’s beheading, one of three still in prison throughout the entire reign of Edward VI (in fact, on the scaffold, Sir John Gates specifically apologized for his hatred in having kept the young man so needlessly in prison). Courtenay only found freedom, as one of many, on the accession of Mary I in 1553, then to reveal a mental deterioration ‘simply intoxicated by unaccustomed freedom’ that led to death in Venice, perhaps by Spanish poisoning, of this ‘last sprig of the White Rose’.26
Surrey’s biblical text for his cousin turns on the threatening figure of Henry VIII. The paraphrase moves from biblical wisdom literature to one of Surrey’s original prophetic outbursts.
- In better far estate stand children, poor and wise,
- Than aged kings wedded to will that work without advice.
- In prison have I seen, ere this, a woeful wight
- That never knew what freedom meant, nor tasted of delight;
- With such unhoped hap in most despair hath met,
- Within the hands that erst wore gyves [shackles] to have a sceptre set.
- And by conjures the seed of kings is thrust from state,
- Whereon aggrieved people work oft-times their hidden hate.27
A Psalm from the Tower: George Blagge
Hardly had this translation been dispatched than Surrey wrote another. It involved another betrayal, probably stemming from a fight in the late spring before. In fact, the acceleration of what the later Renaissance called a ‘conspiracy’ to kill Surrey may have begun in an argument between Surrey and his old acquaintance George Blagge. Mentioned by Leland in his Naeniae as one of Wyatt’s three closest friends, Blagge had also been with Surrey in early trips to France, if not as his servant, as Casady claims, and Blagge had rebuked the Howard heir after (p.379) Surrey’s night on the town in 1543. The close friendship also involved the reading and appreciation of Surrey’s poems and linguistic experiments, as the Surrey texts in Blagge’s manuscript illustrate. Even the violent response of each young man to the other in the summer of 1546 shows the level of friendship that may have existed before Blagge joined, quite actively, the forces that would now kill the poet. Where betrayal of Surrey by Southwell had come from fear of not surviving after the succession, Blagge’s betrayal (if it can be called that) came from genuine ideological difference. Only weeks before, Blagge had been tried and convicted in three quick days in Newgate prison, condemned, like Anne Askew, to be burned alive. When his male connections to the Privy Chamber had rescued him, the king had cried out to the square-bodied young man, ‘Ah! my Pig!’ Blagge had replied: ‘Yea, if your Majesty had not been better to me than your bishops were, your Pig had been roasted ere this time!’ The degree to which Blagge, who would die in three years at 39, was radicalized by this arrest and near-death can be seen in his famous epitaph two years later on the death of the politically disgraced Wriothesley, who killed himself in a mental breakdown ‘by giving himself a dose’28 Blagge called him ‘picture of pryde, of papistrye the platt, / in whome treason, as in a Throne did sytt’ his blue eyes ‘glearing lyke a Catt’ (AH 1: 344; 2: 442).
Yet, as Surrey’s dedicatory lyric and the diction in his Psalm 73 demonstrate, the earl’s general sympathies were with the religious position of Wyatt and Blagge. Now, in 1546, the difference between Surrey and a Blagge or a Sir Anthony Browne (the old Christian opposite in the political spectrum from Blagge) lay in an ideology more immediate than religion: a differing view of how to construct the Tudor state after the succession—the question of the Protectorate. Who should have the enormous power waiting just ahead? The reported conversation of Blagge and Surrey echoes like the conversations reported about Surrey’s grandfather Buckingham. What are the rights of true blood nobility in a period of breakdown? Is Blagge, in refusing to accept the Howards’ role, telling Surrey that the Tyndalian concept of the state as absolutized in a king is the only way of personal and social salvation for its citizens, including the blood nobility?
What is significant is that Blagge himself did not testify to the summer fight. There is no deposition of any kind from him. Another courtier, Edward Rogers, a member of the queen’s household, had, however, a precise recollection of Blagge ‘speaking of the matter’.29 The fact of the fight and its language turned out to be pivotal and formed, in many ways, the foundation for all other depositions in (p.380) December 1546. Blagge’s narrative led to Rogers’ juicier revelation (reinforced by details about Blagge by Sir Gawain Carew when, from the sidelines at the Hampton Court reception in August 1546, Carew and Rogers had gossiped as they watched Surrey and his sister take precedence ‘when the Admiral of France was here’). In Rogers’ retelling of Blagge’s retelling of his conversation with Surrey, Blagge appears noble and direct, declaring outright to the young earl, once his friend, that the king should ‘specially appoint thereto’ those courtiers ‘meetest to rule the Prince in the event of the King’s death’. Hearing this, Surrey must have recognized at once that Blagge was assuming the new Henrician code of honour as a premise for such an act: the king, not the honoured estates of the kingdom, determined all. Those ‘meetest to rule’ in this scenario could only mean the currently active Privy Council and ‘new erectyed men’, to whom Henry VIII was increasingly passing on his total authority in his realm. Surrey’s answer was immediate and, for him, perfectly logical. He replied with calm—Rogers’ evidence does not suggest otherwise—that ‘his father was meetest [to be Protector], both for good services done and for estate.’ As a friend who had observed Surrey’s portraits and read closely the texts of his last years, what had Blagge expected the earl to say? It should be noted that Surrey names his father as ‘meetest’ and nowhere names himself as a possible Protector.
In the next sequence of Rogers’ testimony, Blagge becomes immediately aggressive, even insolent. He attacks the poet’s father whose conservative position he had no doubt grown to fear and loathe. If the Duke of Norfolk should become Protector, and by implication, the friend before him, Blagge resounds, then ‘the Prince should be but evil taught.’ Here was a full attack not from enemies but from a friend, one even closer to Wyatt. The shock to Surrey must have come now not only from the recognition that their friendship had failed but that even a friend so close to Wyatt had not accepted his political strategies of the last years. At that moment of recognition and shocked silence for the poet earl (isolated as Aeneas in Troy), Blagge’s aggression escalated. Without waiting for an answer to ‘evil taught’, Blagge plunged into another violent personal insult almost as if he were baiting his friend: ‘Rather than it should come to pass that the Prince should be under the government of your father or you, I would bide the adventure to thrust this dagger.’ It is Blagge who brings in Surrey’s name for the first time as a possible Protector.
The calm Surrey of this dialogue, at least as Rogers gives it in his deposition, could hardly be characterized as hysterical or ‘folish’. Instead, as Rogers explicitly notes, Surrey merely replied that Blagge was ‘very hasty’ and then used a proverb that generalized the violence but did express Surrey’s growing hurt: ‘God sent a shrewd cow short horns’—the same proverb Norfolk had written to Cromwell at a critical juncture, Norfolk adding ‘veritas liberabit’ (‘the truth shall set free’).30 Had Surrey’s laconic phrasing hinted at Blagge’s short thick body with (p.381) a phallic insult as well? The limited control that describes the tempers of most Renaissance aristocrats began to break. Rogers is clear about Blagge’s answer: ‘Yea, my lord (quod Blage), and I trust your horns also shall be so short as ye shall not be able to do any hurt with them.’ Rogers ends the argument here, but his narrative continues. The poet earl, left to himself, began to brood: ‘Afterwards the Earl, who at the time had no weapon, took sword and dagger and went to Blage’s house and said unto him that of late he [Blagge] had been very hasty with him.’ Then Rogers stops his testimony abruptly, with no more facts.
What actually happened? For one thing, at Blagge’s house, whether Surrey banged on the door or not (as Casady fictionalizes), no physical attack was made, despite what Rogers hints, or how the whole court repeated and used the episode at his trial. Of course, whatever its truth, the episode could be used to frame Surrey. He was now totally vulnerable. The reported violence and display of temper on Surrey’s part could be used to augment the young Howard’s reputation as violent. Most of all, the story would divulge to the court Surrey’s horrifying and illegal ambitions, the ‘diabolical’ pretensions named in Surrey’s bill of indictment. What is unspoken in Roger’s December testimony is, of course, the singular fact that now, in Blagge, Surrey saw vividly—and probably for the first time—the total failure of all his political strategies. Not only did enough not survive. With Blagge, Surrey’s enough could never survive in the inevitable future of the Protectorate. Surrey was being perceived, even by his friends, even by a surrogate for his beloved Wyatt, as a figure who could bring no true social order to his world, his Roman roles and language utterly meaningless for such a new state. This was the terrifying subject of Surrey’s Psalm 73 dedicated to George Blagge: an approaching total annihilation is already at work. He is losing everything.
All the various witnesses who follow Rogers accelerate the theme of Surrey’s wicked, illegal ambition aiming towards the Protectorate, at least in evidence that survives. Sir Gawain Carew not only added that Surrey had told him personally (but ‘place and time now out of my remembrance’) that ‘those men which are made by the King’s Majesty of vile birth hath been the distraction of all the nobility of this realm’ but he repeated the testimony of Rogers who had, so Carew said, ‘told me of the Earl’s saying “If God should call the King’s Majesty unto His mercy” (whose life and health the Lord long preserve) that he thought no man so meet to have the governance of the Prince as my lord his father.’ The roundabout evidence continued. From the queen’s household, Sir Edward Warner came forth. Another friend from East Anglia (his mother’s Blennerhasset family had been in service to the Howards), Warner had recently married the widow of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, probably with the help of Surrey who had dedicated, at least in one manuscript, a poem to his friend. Although Warner himself had heard Surrey say nothing ‘that was ony prejudys to the kinges majesty or his posteryte’, he did recall an incriminating conversation ‘last summer’ with one of the lively young men in Queen Catherine Parr’s pious entourage, ‘Master [Richard] Devereux’, the heir apparent to Lord Ferrers. Warner’s friend was told of ‘serteyne commounycaciones (p.382) off the pryde and vayne glory of the seyd erll’ and particularly in one, Devereux had ‘sayd what yff he [Surrey] be accusyd to the Kyng that he [Surrey] shold say yff god shold call the kyng to this mercy who was so meete to governe the prynse as my lord hys father’. When Warner asked if such an eventuality of Norfolk as Protector were possible, the young Devereux, the ancestor of the Elizabethan Earl of Essex, answered: ‘yt may be so.’ Warner then fully ‘lookyd every day to see hyme [Surrey] In the cass that he ys nowe’.31 Surrey had condemned himself with his own words—at least as Devereux reported it to Warner, who was reporting it, of course, in turn to Paget, who in turn was taking the information back to Seymour and Dudley and the Privy Council. In this sequence building from the initial Blagge episode, Surrey’s first cousin Knyvet’s testimony would act as a kind of climax: the court would not forget the phrase ‘new erectyd men’ nor Surrey’s aggressive ‘I malice not so low. My malice is higher. My malice climbs higher.’ For such a sequence of witnesses, the attack on Surrey’s coat of arms and Southwell’s evidence simply provided the trigger. That false and idolatrous sign exhibited in October 1546 at Kenninghall marked the visible manifestation of an enormous ‘diabolical’ pride almost equal to the Pope’s in Rome.
In this context of evidence-building being orchestrated, especially by Wriothesley, to kill him, Surrey wrote, a few weeks before his death, his poem to Blagge. The former friend was now in a position of political connection that could control Surrey’s life or death. Introducing his paraphrase of Psalm 73, Surrey’s lyric to Blagge delivers a calculated exercise in sincerity, perhaps genuine. At least it keeps a traditional threefold performance of contrition, if not humiliation, to dramatize the moral righteousness of his life. Blagge himself (and all the court readers) would have observed in this shortened sonnet (a totally new form)32 more, however, than a modern reader: from its opening ship image to its final allusion to King David, Surrey’s text to Blagge evokes Wyatt without a mention of the name, reminding ‘Tom Thumb’ of another world where they had shared a beloved friend. ‘The sudden storms that heave me to and fro / Had well near pierced faith, my guiding sail,’ says Surrey’s speaker, setting up the same syllogistic frame as in his poem to Denny: eleven lines announce the crisis in a major premise and suppressed minor only to leap in a couplet to the conclusion and the redeeming figure of David (now significantly not a warrior but a king succouring the poet): ‘But now, my Blagge, mine error well I see’ because of the ‘goodly light King David giveth me’. Admitting only ‘error’, the poet earl is set straight, so the logic suggests, by an act in which grace comes from his self-advertised ability not only to read a holy Davidic text but to write one.
The Psalm paraphrase that follows is in Poulter’s Measure and dramatizes the annihilation settling into the poet earl’s consciousness for the first time. Its ‘many (p.383) interpolations of the poet’s thoughts, and so many departures from the strict sense of the Latin’ demonstrate the terror of this discovery (AH2:106). Within the general order of the Vulgate Latin, with interpretations from commentaries and translations of reformed Christians like Coverdale and Campensis, Surrey builds a more dichotomous structure than those of any of his sources. Logically, he pits the wicked against the suffering ‘elect’ with their gifts of language. The penitence built into the basic poetic structure in the original Hebrew and Latin is dramatically shifted here into a long discourse in which self-justification is the tenor of the Psalm and its vehicle, the Psalm’s Davidic argument (transferred to Surrey) that enough survives within the poet. In the first part of his paraphrase, Surrey’s line ‘Whose glutton cheeks sloth feeds so fat as scant their eyes be seen’ evokes the engraving in 1544 of Henry VIII by the Flemish Cornelis Matsys, the monarch’s last portrait. Surrey indicts, however, the whole court: ‘Unto whose cruel power most men for dread are fain / To bend and bow with lofty looks, whilst they vaunt in their reign.’ With ‘bloody hands’ and ‘cruelty’ they ‘scourge the poor’ and ‘To tempt the living God they think it no offence, / And pierce the simple with their tongues, that can make no defence.’
In such indeterminacy, bewailing ‘the woeful state wherein thy chosen stand’, the speaker finds in the second section ‘no wit could pierce so far’ God’s ‘holy dooms’, the hidden reasons for all this pain and seeming chaos of history. Once more, Surrey uses reformed Christian diction for his own purposes: the Vulgate ‘filiorum tuorum’ and Campensis’ ‘thyne owne chyldren’ become Surrey’s ‘thy chosen’. So the poet’s final vision of the just and unjust builds on a fantasy where wicked men shall see ‘their glory fade, thy sword of vengeance shall / Unto their drunken eyes in blood disclose their errors all.’ Here the judgement scene of sheep and goats from St Matthew’s Gospel is transposed by Surrey into a bitter quite original key: ‘And when their golden fleece is from their back yshorn, / The spots that underneath were hid, thy chosen sheep shall scorn.’ But ‘till that happy day’, in another original line (emphasized by rare internal rhyme), ‘My eyes yield tears, my years consume between hope and despair.’ All this defeat could have led the speaker to suicide. ‘But when I stood in dread to drench, thy hands still did me stay’ and have been ‘my guide’ with ‘grace to comfort me therein’ even as ‘withered skin unto my bones did cleave’—one of the earliest Renaissance poetic figurations of melancholy. In this self-described ‘internalized’ state of grace, the speaker/poet now sees his role in history. In his closure, the voice of God in the poet prophet will triumph.
- Where I that in thy word have set my trust and joy,
- The high reward that ‘longs thereto shall quietly enjoy.
- And my unworthy lips, inspired with thy grace,
- Shall thus forespeak thy secret works in sight of Adam’s race.
Surrey’s Last Letter
(p.384) A few days after his forced march, Surrey wrote his final letter. In it, the poet earl submits himself to that tribunal that will make judgement, not at the end of Christian time on the spotted and unspotted goats and sheep, but in England 1547. It shows how out of touch with the shifts at court he had become. His autograph letter to the Privy Council proposes a daring solution for his forthcoming trial, the daring alone demonstrating that Surrey had yet fully to understand Tudor judgement and that death will not escape him. The poet earl sets the stage for this ‘bold’ request by developing an ethos of youth used before in oration letters, but now youth is collapsing in body and horrified that he has entrapped his aged father.
- yt may leke your honorable Lordships that sythe the begynnyng off
- my durance the dysplease [displeasure] off my master [the king] /
- myche losse off blood with other dystemperance off nature / with my
- sorow to see the long aprovyd trewght off myne old father browght in
- questyon by auny stuere [stir] betwene Southwell and me / hath sore
- feblyd me as is to be sene / wherof lest sycknes myght folow by meane
- wheroff my wittes shuld not be so ffreshe to unburden my conscyence
- off suche matter / as I have replyd in expectation off som off your
- Lordships to have bene sent from the kynges Maiestie to have takyn
- my examynacyon I have resolved most humbly to make thys sute.
This long Ciceronian sentence, with its balancing of subordinate clauses and effects of gradatio, reveals a sharp humanist intelligence still at work in the Tower. After such an exordium and narratio, Surrey comes directly to his proposition. He would name his own judges: Wriothesley, Russell, Winchester, and Browne. They had examined him ‘iiij yeres past’ in ‘the examynacyon of matteres touchyng alegeance that layd to my charge wherin God knowyth with what daunger I eskapyd norwithstanding my inocency’ But three of these—Surrey could not know—will not help him at all, the Bishop of Winchester now exiled from the presence of the king, Wriothesley now his active enemy, and Russell, who would shift with the winds of power. Surrey is almost childish in his hope. Not only will he reveal to them ‘suche matter off importans as depend’—and in the manuscript the rest of this line is torn away—but he trusts ‘his Maieste shall hold him contentyd the with [therewith] when I am hard’—a recall to Surrey’s power of language. In particular, he is furious at the lawyer Sir John Baker, a ‘new erectyed man’ in the Privy Council who would be ‘present at the formall examyncyon’ and had already interrogated him relentlessly about his rights of inheritance. Although he does not want him at his trial, the Howard heir is gracious to all in his peroratio: ‘neverthe lesse my matter is preiudycyall to no creatur onlesse to my selfe and that the almyghty preserve you / your Lordships myserable humbly to commaund,’ signed ‘henry Surrey’.33
(p.385) If this letter reveals a serious misreading of court politics, the text’s practical concerns, realism, and suffering contrast with the romantic description of Surrey’s attempted escape in the Spanish Chronicle, as dashing and swashbuckling as anything Nashe invented fifty years later. In this narrative, immediately after the arrest of Surrey’s father and the stripping of the painting that had caused his arrest (and the revealing of the secret motto ‘Till then thus’), Surrey turns to his servant (in the chronicle named ‘Martin’) and tells him to bring a dagger. The Chronicler places Surrey at St Thomas’ Tower, better known as the Watergate giving access to the Tower from the river—for Surrey an impossibility in 1546 as St Thomas’ formed part of the Tudor royal apartments—and from there Surrey planned to escape through his latrine that emptied directly into the river. Having chosen a midnight to escape, Surrey announced he was unwell to the two guards and then later ‘took the lid off the closet and saw that there was only about two feet of water’ and so proceeded to drop himself into the Thames. But ‘at that instant’ the guards did not find him in bed and soon seized him before he dropped into the river. Although Surrey was unable to resist, he was, says the Chronicler, ‘so courageous that he would have killed them both before anyone knew of it’. To prevent more escapes, in this version of Surrey’s last days, the trial was set immediately (146–8).
The Last Poem
Surrey’s very last poem—a fragment that resembles a Petrarchan sonnet—projects the same prophetic theme as in his coat of arms and last portrait: the poet earl is the noble self (with generations within that self) who acts as a prophetic sign against a violent history. The chaotic lyric, the angriest of all, is consumed with righteous fury, far from the patience that Surrey as Davidic poet had described for himself to Blagge and Denny. The actual lyric text reads, however, less like prophecy, less like the noble first Duke of Norfolk on Bosworth Field sacrificing himself for an exalted body of honour, but more like an incoherent scream. Even so, Surrey can textualize the scream. The poet earl attempts to frame this reflection on the absurdity of his death with an objective context. He gives a solipsistic Latin title, ‘Bonum est mihi quod humiliasti me’ to the lyric, taken almost verbatim from the Vulgate Psalm 118: 71–2 (‘It is good for me that you have humiliated me’), its next line in the Psalm continuing with ‘because I may learn your justifications.’ Surrey’s attempt at objectivity and distancing obviously made its point. His poem had a texture his second son, the long-surviving Henry, the Jacobean Earl of Northampton, remembered. Drawing on his father’s fame in dedicating a 1580s text ‘A dutifull defence of the lawfull regiment of weomen,’ to his second cousin Elizabeth I (his father’s first cousin once removed), the son tells, at a climactic part of his text, what the queen may have remembered about her (p.386) elegant poet cousin, that this poem was the last Surrey wrote: Therefore I confesse that David in his thankfull sonet after long experience…made his understanding ripe, and my father in his last thing that he wrote before his end “Domin [sic] est michi [sic] quod humiliasti me.” ’34
The son was more perceptive than the centuries have presumed. The poem does portray an ‘understanding ripe’ of life and history. It is not the result of serenity, however. At first the earl may announce ‘The storms are past, these clouds are overblown, / And humble cheer great rigor hath repressed’ or that Surrey has ‘patience graft in a determined brest’. This way of patience may even lead in the text to Cicero’s famous description of the noble Scipio Africanus in De officiis (III, i) as never less alone than when alone: ‘And in the heart where heaps of griefs were grown’ revenge ‘hath planted mirth and rest’ so that ‘No company so pleasant as mine own.’ The poet may remark how ‘Thraldom at large hath made this prison free’ echoing his Windsor elegy and the cultural image originated by the imprisoned Boethius. Surrey may even echo Aeneas’ cry of encouragement to his desperate survivors ‘forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit’ (I: 203) in ‘Danger well past remembered works delight.’
But such serenity makes it barely through ten lines. As Surrey closes his poem and ends a life of writing, he reverses the earlier strategy with a gesture of outrage. ‘Understanding ripe’ was not serene. In this absolute last moment of any Surrey text, the poet earl looks, not surprisingly, into a mirror. Obsessed with the historical roles subjectivity must play, he recognizes his loss in that mirror of self, ‘the cureless wound that bleedeth night and day’. An image from Boethius and Michaut, recapitulated in Chaucer’s ‘Thus gan he [Troilus] make a mirrour of his mind’ (1: 365), the mirror becomes more immediate and historical in Surrey. Surrey sets the topos, in fact, for Shakespeare and the later Renaissance, with Sackville’s transforming the genealogy for his Induction to the Mirrour for Magistrates: ‘the glas / of brittell state of cares’ (164–5).35 For Surrey, the mirror (p.387) reveals nothing less than the continually bleeding wound of his intimate self. Subjectivity will not disappear but only intensify as it reaches death. In his closure, Surrey desires the mirror to reflect both the Howard loss and the possible extinction of the Howard line in himself, a metonymic disappearance for blood nobility itself. For Surrey, that loss of blood signals the death of any hope for renewed English culture and nobility or for a higher new civilization, the Renaissance he had hoped to bring: ‘To spill that blood that hath so oft been shed / For Britain’s sake, alas, and now is dead.’
Instead of despairing or smashing the mirror as Shakespeare’s Richard II does, Surrey is angered by what he sees. Looking, Surrey compares himself to another courtier, probably his betrayer Southwell, whom he had challenged, ‘a wretch that hath no heart to fight,’ as the Howards had fought with ‘heart’ and honour for over two centuries. He still cannot comprehend why such abandonment should be happening to him: ‘To think, alas, such hap [success] should granted be’ to the ‘wretch’ and to the new society he exists in, the ‘thraldom at large’. Surrey may appear as absurd as Seneca’s Medea in her failure to understand her actual situation, but his anger before oblivion—of self, dynasty, cultural vision—never retreats to nostalgia or resignation. Above all, it is no leap to transcendence. Blood anchors him to reality. His own ‘blood’—the blood of the poet as well as of the Howards—had prepared him for a triumphant role as leader of a new Renaissance civilization like the promised one he had viewed unfolding at Fontainebleau. If only he could not disappear but live, he could renew genealogies, first, as the new fourth Duke of Norfolk, the possible Protector of the new young King Edward, the new Earl Marshal, head of the College of Arms, and then as master of a new complex language, the maker of the completed Virgilian epic for the English Renaissance in British heroic metre. It was poetry others could use in a mastery that might make his beloved English language universal. What Surrey does not hide is the fact of the blood that will soon pour from his severed head ‘that bleedeth day and night’. It is the blood of the poet as well as of the trapped young earl.
(1) Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixths ed. J. G. Nichols, FSA, printed for the Roxburghe Club (1867), 22 (Letter 23).
(2) Complete Peerage, vol. 9, 616 (g). When the second Duke of Norfolk, the ‘Flodden Duke’, dropped the earldom of Surrey to provide his heir with the title, the future third duke, Henry Howard’s father, was thereafter treated as a junior marquess holding precedence over all the earls. Although the poet earl was only a courtesy peer (who could sit in the House of Commons), he enjoyed the same rank of junior marquess as his father had. Thus, at the Hampton Court peace conference in August 1546, he was placed above the earls of Hertford (Seymour) and Shrewsbury (the title that still designates the premier earl).
(3) Harris, Bale, 119, 111.
(4) The first examination of Anne Askew, lately martyred in Smithfelde, by the Romysh popes upholders, with the elucydacyon of Johan Bale (1546) STC 848, 3, 49, 62–3. Other references to this work are given in the text. See also The Examinations of Anne Askew, ed. Elaine V. Beilin (1996) for a comprehensive introduction and textual history. Cf. also the full discussion of the Anne Askew episode in Brigden, London, 370–6. See also Derek A. Wilson, A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women, and Society in Reformation England (1972).
(5) ‘In the conflicts of this century, I have felt close to all obstinate men, particularly to those who have never been able to abandon their faith in honour. I have shared and I continue to share many contemporary hysterias. But…honour, like pity, is the irrational virtue that carries on after justice and reason have become powerless.’ Camus’ definition was given just before his accidental death in Jean Bloch-Michel, ‘The Obstinate Confidence of a Pessimistic Man,’ Reporter, 17 (28 November 1957), 37.
(6) LP, vol. 21,ii, 555 (18); PRO SP 1/22.7, f. 129. ‘Anecdotes and Character of Archbishop Cranmer, by Ralph Morice, his Secretary’, in Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, ed. J. G. Nichols, Camden First Series, 77 (1849), 255.
(7) Gardiner, Letters, 308. The tomb of Alfred the Great was not the only royal tomb destroyed in the Dissolution. The tombs of Henry I at Reading and Stephen at Faversham were destroyed and the bodies lost.
(8) Chronicle of Grey Friars, ed. J. G. Nichols, Camden Society, 53 (1852), 52.
(9) Bapst, Deux gentilshommes-poètes 352; Bodleian Library Delta MS 624, handwritten notes in margin of 565 based on the original diary of Antony Antony.
(10) LP, vol. 21,ii, 697, 555 (18). Garter Register, vol. 1, p. xxv. For the range of Edward Seymour’s extraordinary executive ability, see Report, ed. Blatcher (HMC), x–xi, 12 ff., 16, 23, 29, 35, 45, 55 and, for his first letter as Somerset using the royal ‘we’, 108.
(11) M. L. Bush, The Government Policy of Protector Somerset (1975), 112. For a discussion of the iconoclastic signs in this picture, see Aston, The King’s Bedpost, esp. 89–96, 108–12.
(12) Wilbur Kitchener Jordan, Edward VI (1968–70), vol. 1, 94.
(13) Starkey, Reign, 142,133–6. Cf. King, Tudor Royal Iconography, 54–6 and passim.
(14) Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 495. Because Denny was made an executor of Henry’s last controversial will, he was also involved in the crucial takeover of the new Edwardian state. But ultimately he received no position of high rank. In a final twist in his relationship with Surrey, Denny was named one of King Edward’s leaders against Rett’s rebellion in 1549 and fought in Norwich against the rebels in Surrey House.
(15) Howarth, Arundel, 71. For the place of Southwell and the whole métier of the Howard household, see Susan Vokes, ‘The Early Career of Thomas, Lord Howard, Earl of Surrey and Third Duke of Norfolk, 1474–c.1525’, esp. ch. 4 and Part III.
(16) Richard Marius, Thomas More: A Biography (1984), 508. But for proof of the validity of the two-witness rule (and Wriothesley’s use of it to condemn Surrey), see Peter R. Moore, ‘Hamlet and the Two Witness Rule’, Notes and Queries, 242 (new series, 44) (1997), 498–503.
(17) Sir Walter Raleigh, The History of the World, ed. C. A. Patrides (1971), 56. Philip Hughes, SJ, The Reformation in England (1954), vol. 2,101. For a carefully documented analysis of just what was being lost in terms of social and communal inscription, see Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, especially the concluding chapter on Elizabeth I.
(18) H. Miller, Henry VIII, 38–41.
(19) Sidney Anglo, Images of Tudor Kingship (1992), 28–38.
(20) I have translated the Latin in Nott, vol. 1, pp. lxxvii–xxx, following also the transcription in The Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (1842), 2.67 from PRO KB8/14. This report also includes records of the oyer and terminer hearings at Norwich Castle on 31 December 1546, 1, 7, 10, and 11 January 1547. The Writ of Certiorari ‘commanding’ the indictment to be returned to the Chancery and the Justices’ Precept was addressed to the Constable of the Tower. He was to ‘bring up the Earl of Surrey at Guildhall on Thursday the 13th of January’ at which time ‘The Lord Chancellor, pursuant to the Writ of Certiorari ad the Precept of the Justices, brings [would bring] the Indictment into Court.’ At his trial Surrey pleaded not Guilty and the ‘Venire of Jury from the county of Norfolk awarded instanter’ then gave their verdict of GUILTY ‘but as to what goods or chattels, lands or tenements the said Sir Henry Howard possessed, the Jury know not.’ The ‘Judgment, as is usual of High Treason’ was ‘execution to be had at Tyburn.’
(21) Casady, Henry Howard, 195.
(22) PRO LR. 2/113/129; 2/115/1. CPR 1547–8 33; 126; 171; 201; 211 detail these sales. For the background, see H. Miller, ‘Henry VIII’s Unwritten Will’, 84–105. For a full account of what happened to the Howard estates after 1547, see Head, Ebbs, ch. 10 and 11. Some of Surrey’s best horses went to Sir Anthony Browne, who was Master of the King’s Horses: ‘Coursers of the late Erle of Surrey iiij’ in the Inventory of Henry VIII in Society of Antiquaries MS 129, f. 444r.
(23) The entire letter is found in PRO SP 1/227, ff. 82–83v. Cf. LP vol. 21,ii, 548; also SP, vol. 1,ii, 264 (888–90).
(24) Gordon Braden, Renaissance Tragedy and the Senecan Tradition: Anger’s Privilege (1985), 40. APC, vol. 2, 381. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (1977), 43.
(25) Poems, ed. Jones, 153–4. See Brigden’s interpretation of ‘Friowr’ in ‘Henry Howard’, 511. For a fuller analysis of Surrey’s religious paraphrases, especially in their context as a 16th-century tradition, see Rivka Zim, English Metrical Psalms: Poetry as Praise and Prayer 1535–1601 (1987). See also the perceptive contextualizing of these poems in Heale, Wyatt, Surrey and Early Tudor Poetry, ch. 5, and my own setting for them in ‘Surrey’s Psalms in the Tower’, in Sacred and Profane: Secular and Devotional Interplay in Early Modern British Literature, ed. H. Wilcox, R. Todd, and A. MacDonald (1996), 16–31. For the shift in Surrey’s performances here, see Lerer, Courtly Letters, 65, on the definition of the word ‘sad’ in this period and ‘the veracity of word and deed that counteracts the glib per-formativity of courtliness’.
(26) For details and sources of the Courtenay story, see Miller, Nobility, 68, 65. Cf. Reports of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records 3, Appendix ii: 255–7; also, David M. Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (1989), 200; and for the Venetian events, see Emma Gurney-Salter, Tudor England Through Venetian Eyes (1930), 59–60. Also King, Tudor Royal Iconography, 215.
(27) The new language is so caustic and vehement that, for Hughey (AH, vol. 2,118), the lines with ‘septre’ and ‘seade of kyngs’ give the unmistakable hint of a possible conspiracy.
(28) Casady, Henry Howard, 186. Casady writes an elaborate fictional scene based on the trial evidence concerning both Blagge and Southwell. The Blagge manuscript was discovered in this century and recorded in Kenneth Muir, ‘Surrey Poems in the Blagge Manuscript’, Notes and Queries, 205, NS 7, 10 (Oct. 1960) 368–70. For Blagge’s pardon, see LP, vol. 21,i, 1383, and for the response to the king, see Patrick F. Tytler, England under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (1839), vol. 1, 146. Also cf. Starkey, Reign, 140,149–50. For the demise of Wriothesley, see Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, vol. 3, 430.
(29) For Rogers’ testimony and that of Carew, see LP, vol. 21,ii, 555 (4). Also, for all the depositions, see Casady, Henry Howard, 194–200.
(30) LP, vol. 11, 1138.
(31) PRO, SP 1/227, ff. 99–99v, 101–102v.
(32) H. A. Mason, ‘Wyatt and the Psalms—II’, Times Literary Supplement (6 Mar. 1953), 160. See also his ‘The First Two Printed Texts of Surrey’s Poems’, Times Literary Supplement (4 June 1971), 656. Also, see Eckert, ‘Poetry of Henry Howard’, 56.
(33) PRO SP 1/224, f. 76.
(34) Bodleian Library MS 903 (Arch. A 170) (2953) ff. 6r-v. Humiliation would be a lesson this long-surviving son would learn. In his 1594 portrait, the son Henry stands gaunt, holding a globe of knowledge; in his background is a flower covered by a cloud, as his hopes and family fortunes and honour had been darkened; so suggests Linda Levy Peck, Northampton: Patronage and Policy at the Court of James I (1982), 12. Reduced to the slight income his sister Lady Berkeley gave him, the future Jacobean Earl of Northampton became the only nobleman of the Elizabethan era to teach at a university. Although ‘obsessed with his family heritage’, he was ‘frequently forced to abase himself before men of lesser lineage’. But the reversal of his affluent childhood did produce one clear result: ‘a strong will to survive’ and, towards that end, an almost fatal attraction to young courtiers like Essex and James’ Scottish favorite Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, ‘who were much like his father, his hope perhaps to regain the golden days of his childhood’.
(35) Poems, ed. Jones, 131. Sackville praised Surrey in a poem even before he had adapted Surrey’s blank verse for the theatre in 1561, in the Roman drama Gorhoduc, written with the Calvinist Thomas Norton. Later, as the powerful Earl of Dorset, Sackville had married his heir to Surrey’s granddaughter (the loving sister of Philip Howard, who may have brought her grandfather’s portrait to Knole). At James I’s court, Sackville was therefore part of a specially interested audience for the theatre with his fellow Privy Councillor, Surrey’s surviving son, the Earl of Northampton. There, in court performances of plays like King Lear, as Professor Jones has remarked to me, he and the surviving Henry would have heard once more the blank verse invented by the elderly Howard’s father over sixty-five years before and adapted to theatre by Sackville himself over forty years earlier. In Shakespeare, they would have heard the mirror topos used once more in a living setting.