21 January 1543 – Henry Howard’s Madding Time

Henry Howard, Earl of SurreyOn this day in history, on the night of 21 January 1543, there was trouble in London. A group of half a dozen young men, including ringleader Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (the famous, Tudor poet, courtier and soldier), and Thomas Wyatt the Younger (son of the poet Thomas Wyatt, and the future leader of Wyatt’s Revolt) went on a five hour rampage smashing windows, shooting prostitutes using stonebows, and shouting obscenities.

The trouble lasted until 2am. The next day, a rather repentant Surrey commented to his friend, George Blagge, that he was very sorry for his actions and wished “it were undone”, but that “we will have a madding time in our youth.”

Surrey may have seen it simply as “a madding time”, but the King’s Privy Council took the violence seriously and witnesses were examined. It was taken particularly seriously because the gang of men went on to break the Lenten fast, obtaining meat from an evangelical butcher. Surrey was called before a meeting of the Privy Council on 1st April 1543:

“Meeting at St. James’s, 1 April. Present : Chancellor, Russell, Hertford, Winchester, Westminster, St. John, Gage, Browne, Wingfield, Wriothesley. Business :—The earl of Surrey being charged with eating flesh and breaking windows at night with stonebows, alleged his licence for the first, and as to the stonebows admitted that he “had very evil done therein.” He was committed to the Fleet. Thos. Wiatt and young Pickering charged with the same offences, alleged their licence for the first and denied the other. Wiatt was sent to the Counter and Pickering to the Porter’s lodge.”

Surrey was soon out of prison and fighting for Henry VIII in Flanders.

Surrey’s poem “A Satire against the Citizens of London” is said to have been written while he was in Fleet Prison and is about the rampage he led:

LONDON! hast thou accused me
Of breach of laws? the root of strife!
Within whose breast did boil to see,
So fervent hot, thy dissolute life;
That even the hate of sins, that grow
Within thy wicked walls so rife,
For to break forth did convert so,
That terror could it not repress.
The which, by words, since preachers know
What hope is left for to redress,
By unknown means it liked me
My hidden burthen to express.
Whereby it might appear to thee
That secret sin hath secret spite;
From justice’ rod no fault is free
But that all such as work unright
In most quiet, are next ill rest.
In secret silence of the night
This made me, with a rechless breast,
To wake thy sluggards with my bow:
A figure of the Lord’s behest;
Whose scourge for sin the Scriptures shew.
That as the fearful thunder’s clap
By sudden flame at hand we know;
Of pebble stones the soundless rap,
The dreadful plague might make thee see
Of God’s wrath, that doth thee enwrap.
That pride might know, from conscience free,
How lofty works may her defend;
And envy find, as he hath sought,
How other seek him to offend:
And wrath taste of each cruel thought,
The just shape higher in the end:
And idle sloth, that never wrought,
To heaven his spirit lift may begin:
And greedy lucre live in dread,
To see what hate ill got goods win.
The lechers, ye that lusts do feed,
Perceive what secrecy is in sin:
And gluttons’ hearts for sorrow bleed,
Awaked, when their fault they find,
In loathsome vice each drunken wight,
To stir to God this was my mind.
Thy windows had done me no spight;
But proud people that dread no fall,
Clothed with falsehood, and unright
Bred in the closures of thy wall.
But wrested to wrath in fervent zeal
Thou hast to strife, my secret call.
Indured hearts no warning feel.
O! shameless wh*re! is dread then gone?
Be such thy foes, as meant thy weal?
O! member of false Babylon!
The shop of craft! the den of ire!
Thy dreadful doom draws fast upon.
Thy martyr’s blood by sword and fire,
In heaven and earth for justice call.
The Lord shall hear their just desire!
The flame of wrath shall on thee fall!
With famine and pest lamentably
Stricken shall be thy lechers all.
Thy proud towers, and turrets high
Enemies to God, beat stone from stone:
Thine idols burnt that wrought iniquity:
When, none thy ruin shall bemoan;
But render unto the righteous Lord,
That so hath judged Babylon,
Immortal praise with one accord.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1542 – Bill of Attainder passed against Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. Click here to read more about it.
  • 1556 – Death of Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador at the English court from 1529-1545, at Louvain. He was laid to rest in the Chapel of Louvain College, the college he had founded. Click here to read more about Chapuys.

Notes and Sources

  • LP xviii. Part 1. 327, 347
  • Ryrie, Alex (2003) The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation, p208
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–47). The Poetical Works. 1880, www.bartleby.com/256/44.html
  • The poems of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, ed. by sir N.H. Nicolas, xxvii

Related Post

6 thoughts on “21 January 1543 – Henry Howard’s Madding Time”
  1. That’s like most young men today particularly the aristocracy they think it’s funny to go to restaurants and smash them up, and run wild thru London making a nuisance of themselves, they think their above the law because daddy sits in the House of Lords etc

    1. “That’s like most young men today” – do you really mean that? As the mother of two boys, one who is aged 17 and one who is 12, I can say that I don’t know a single young man who has smashed up a restaurant or run through any town “making a nuisance of themselves”. I think there’s always a minority that we hear about in the press, be it local press or national press, but the majority of young men are normal boys getting on with their lives and trying to steer clear of trouble.

  2. Oh I know you only hear about the ones in the papers and on television but London has a high crime rate and there was an incident the other year or before that in Whitehall when the son of a Lord climbed onto the Cenotaph, he made such an exhibition of himself and everyone was appalled not least his parents, most boys I know are very pleasant to but some members of noble and very wealthy family’s do act silly, in Spain probably that doesn’t happen much after all it’s the binge culture over here, Manchester London and Birmingham have both had a lot to deal with the drinking problems of young people, the cities have been likened to Hogarths Gin Alley painting, the A and E are flooded with young people Friday and Saturday nights all thru drink, abroad the young are brought up to just drink little and often, they respect it, but over here sometimes it’s like bedlam.

  3. I have never seen any young men, here or in London run wild to smash up restaurants. You may find young people making trouble after they have been on the town, being noisy, loud and from time to time they may resort to anti social behaviour, but for the most they make idiots of themselves. However you cannot say what class they come from, they appear to come from mainly middle-class or working class in our area, but may come from upper in others, there is no evidence that one class are worse than others when they have been drinking. As for young men, many of the people I have witnessed are groups of loud young woman, behaving worse than some men.

    However there people are not representative of the majority but a very loud minority, so it is wrong to label young woman or men as being a group who run around the central areas of our towns and cities crashing everywhere up. This is a terrible general nonsense statement based on no evidence. The examples that have been stated are few and far between. Yes there are serious incidence of gang trouble, there are plenty of problems with drink but again it is a loud minority. The only time people have been destroying property on the scale feared above are during riots, which are not every weekend events and begin with serious social incidents that effect large communities. When people from the upper class show off, they are being idiotic, not because they are above the law. The majority of people at public events do not cause trouble or show off in the way mentioned above. The fact that the media reports this condemns those who act as fools, drunken morons and idiots proves that their behaviour is not acceptable to the majority of us, showing such people to not be above public or legal censor.

    Henry Howard was not a normal nobleman, he was a creative and restive genius, he was rebellious and popular. Whatever sparked this event of, it was not the first time he or his mates were in trouble. Nor did he get away with it. He was fined and spent time in the Fleet prison. The fact that these young people were acting in this way proves that groups of stupid males or females being idiotic is not new, they existed in every century.

  4. Just a PS the poem reads for me almost as a manifesto justification that the violence has a purpose against the lust and desolate living of the streets and taverns of London. Considering Howard spent time in the taverns this is laughable but his statement about the shores may reflect a moral high ground and the male double standard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *