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Poetic Life, and a Beheading

January 14, 2015 6 Comments

This week in #ROW80 I found a world of information and poetry in apps and podcasts.  This vast free library of poems and poets would keep me occupied forever, but I have started a new ritual that is intended to create an atmosphere conducive to creating poetry.  I now listen to my daily podcast poems  while I draw my first art piece of the day.  I am also, for an unrelated reason, soaking my feet in hot water with epsom salts for about an hour while I drink tea and coffee.  I am not sure which element is most important, but I am enjoying the soaking in both hot water and poetic streams first thing in the morning.  The Poetry Foundation features information about poets’ lives.  I was curious to find Frances DeVere, wife of Henry Howard, in the data base.  She is missing, but he is a very big figure in the history of poetry.  I started to read his work and study the details of his life.  His maternal grandfather was beheaded before him in the Tower.  His father narrowly escaped death because the king died the day before his scheduled execution.  This non-fiction story is full of twists.  There is shocking drama in this real history of my DNA.

In the court of Henry VIII life could be very opulent, but all that could turn in the blink of an eye.  Henry was capricious to say the least.  The most famous of all the English monarchs wielded power with great vigor.  In the year 1547 my was charged with treason.  He was beheaded on Tower Hill after a one day trial.  When he was under house arrest he wrote poetry.  When he was sentenced to die, he wrote poetry and translated the Bible. He was a real troubadour in Tudor England.  Some scholars believe he created the sonnet and was first to use free verse in English.  His wife Frances was also a poet, but I have not found any of her work.  I think the double whammy of dualing poets in the Tudor court should be a big advantage to me.  I should be able to make some poems about them, or somehow inspired by their lives.  During the next week I plan to make some stabs at this idea.  The anniversary of his beheading is in 5 days.  Maybe I can come up with a tribute of sorts.


 St Michael’s at Framlingham

St Michael’s at Framlingham

Henry Howard (1517 – 1547)

is my 15th great grandfather
Thomas Howard (1536 – 1572)
son of Henry Howard
Margaret Howard (1561 – 1591)
daughter of Thomas Howard
Lady Ann Dorset (1552 – 1680)
daughter of Margaret Howard
Robert Lewis (1574 – 1645)
son of Lady Ann Dorset
Robert Lewis (1607 – 1644)
son of Robert Lewis
Ann Lewis (1633 – 1686)
daughter of Robert Lewis
Joshua Morse (1669 – 1753)
son of Ann Lewis
Joseph Morse (1692 – 1759)
son of Joshua Morse
Joseph Morse (1721 – 1776)
son of Joseph Morse
Joseph Morse III (1752 – 1835)
son of Joseph Morse
John Henry Morse (1775 – 1864)
son of Joseph Morse III
Abner Morse (1808 – 1838)
son of John Henry Morse
Daniel Rowland Morse (1838 – 1910)
son of Abner Morse
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Daniel Rowland Morse
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

On this day in history, the 19th January 1547, the poet, courtier and soldier Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was executed by beheading on Tower Hill. He was laid to rest at All Hallows-by-the-Tower (All Hallows Barking) but was moved in 1614 by his son Henry, Earl of Northampton, to a beautiful tomb in the family church, St Michael’s at Framlingham.

He had been found guilty of treason on the 13th January 1547 at a common inquest at Guildhall, where evidence was given “which concerned overt conspiracy as well as the usurpation of the royal arms”1. It was alleged that “he had on 7 October 1546 at Kenninghall displayed in his own heraldry the royal arms and insignia, with three labels silver, thereby threatening the king’s title to the throne and the prince’s inheritance”2, yet when he had been arrested in December the questions had focused on “his determination for the rule of the prince; his procuring his sister to be the royal mistress; his slandering of the royal council; and his plans to flee the realm”3, not his use of the royal arms and insignia. His trial lasted a day and he gave a spirited defence but it was no good, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Historian Susan Brigden writes of how Surrey spent his last days in the Tower writing, paraphrasing Psalms 55, 73 and 88, “the prayers of the psalmist abandoned and betrayed, thinking upon death and judgment”4. His work showed not only his sense of betrayal but also his evangelical religious beliefs.

He was executed on Tower Hill on the 19th January 1547 but his father, the Duke of Norfolk, who had also been setenced to death for treason, escaped execution because Henry VIII died before his scheduled execution. Norfolk was released and pardoned by Mary I in 1553 and died naturally on 25th August 1554.

Susan Brigden writes of how Surrey was “the first poet in English to explore what might be said without rhyme” and he is viewed as one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry and “Father of the English Sonnet”, along with Thomas Wyatt and, I believe, George Boleyn. You can find Surrey’s poetry and also his paraphrases of Psalms 55 and 88 at Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature5. I’ll leave you with one if his poems:-

Set me whereas the sun doth parch the green…
Set me whereas the sun doth parch the greenOr where his beams do not dissolve the ice,
In temperate heat where he is felt and seen;
In presence prest of people, mad or wise;
Set me in high or yet in low degree,
In longest night or in the shortest day,
In clearest sky or where clouds thickest be,
In lusty youth or when my hairs are gray.
Set me in heaven, in earth, or else in hell;
In hill, or dale, or in the foaming flood;
Thrall or at large, alive whereso I dwell,
Sick or in health, in evil fame or good:
Hers will I be, and only with this thought Content myself although my chance be nought.

Notes and Sources
Susan Brigden, ‘Howard, Henry, earl of Surrey (1516/17–1547)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature

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