Henry Howard: Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard: Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard: Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard: Earl of Surrey

Excerpt

In August, 1539, when the name of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was mentioned to John Barlowe, Dean of Westbury and ardent adherent of the Reformation, he exclaimed, "It ys the most folish prowde boye that ys in Englande."

Although both of his companions on the journey to Slebech, in South Wales, were zealous Reformers and shared the Dean's hostility to the political and religious conservatism of the Howards, one of them, George Constantyne, retorted ironically, "What, man, he hath a wife & a childe, & ye call hym boye?" Then, finding his irony wasted, he questioned directly the use of the phrase "folish prowde" and ridiculed it as equally inept.

Soon after Surrey's execution, however, the point of view exemplified by Constantyne's refusal to take the Dean's remarks seriously began to be modified by misleading traditions. These traditions, accumulating authority by being repeated for century after century, gradually distorted the conception of Surrey's character and the interpretation of his actions until the justice of the Dean's phrase came to be, and continues to be accepted without question.

That Surrey, the active heir to the leadership of the old, conservative nobility, was "prowde" admits little doubt. But I am convinced that he can be considered "folish prowde" only by those who believe all men "folish" who choose to die rather than renounce their beliefs or their principles. To those who admit that there may be merit in justice as administered by Artegall and in courtesy as practiced by Sir Calidore, I wish to . . .

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