December 12 – Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, is led to the Tower in a walk of shame

On this day in Tudor history, 12th December 1546, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was led through the streets of London.

Surrey’s walk of shame took him from Ely Place, where he had been held since his arrest on 2nd December, to the Tower of London.

It was meant to be a humiliating walk for the earl, but instead of booing him, the citizens of London appeared to be sympathetic to his plight.

Find out what happened on this day, and also what happened to his father, who had also been arrested…

You can find out more about the earl’s arrest in this video:
And his execution in this one:


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, is led to the Tower

On this day in Tudor history, 12th December 1546, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was led through the streets of London from Ely Place, where he had been held since the 2nd December, to the Tower of London.

There, he was joined by his father, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who was taken to the Tower by barge along the Thames.

The aim of this walk through London was to humiliate Surrey, but instead of booing and jeering the people of London appear to have been sympathetic to his plight. Surrey’s biographer, Edmond Bapst wrote: “the crowd offered nothing but loud sympathy, saying aloud that it was a pity to put so fair a knight in the Tower”.

Surrey and his father had been interrogated after accusations had been made regarding Surrey incorporating the royal arms into his coat of arms, showing that he had “monarchic ambitions”, and allegedly telling his sister, Mary, widow of the Duke of Richmond, to try and become the King’s mistress so that her family would be favoured. There were, of course, many at court who wanted to see the fall of this powerful family and who could twist the truth to bring them down. As I said in my talk on Surrey’s arrest, Surrey had been accused of improper heraldry by his former friend Robert Southwell, who claimed that Surrey had used the arms of his ancestor Edward the Confessor in a shield he’d had painted at Kenninghall, something which only the King was entitled to do, and that he had placed the arms of England in the first quarter of his shield, indicating that he had a direct claim to the crown. This wasn’t actually true, though.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, pleads for mercy

A desperate Duke of Norfolk wrote to the King the following day, proclaiming his innocence, confirming his loyalty, and offering the King his lands:

“Begs for grace. Some great enemy has informed the King untruly; for God knows, he never thought one untrue thought against the King or his succession, and can no more guess the charge against him than the child born this night. Desires that his accusers and he may appear before the King, or else the Council. Knows not that lie has offended any man, or that any are offended with him, “unless it were such as are angry with me for being quick against such as have been accused for Sacramentaries.” As for religion I have told your Majesty and many others that knowing your virtue and knowledge I shall stick to whatsoever laws you make; and for this cause divers have borne me ill will, “as doth appear by casting libels abroad against me.” Begs that he may recover the King’s favour, the King taking all his lands and goods; and that he may know what is laid to his charge and have some word of comfort from his Majesty.”

Unfortunately for the duke, the king ignored him.

Norfolk made a confession on 12th January 1547, in a last bid to save himself, but that didn’t work either, and on 27th January 1547, eight days after his son’s execution by beheading, Norfolk was found guilty of treason by attainder. Fortunately for Norfolk, the king died before the duke was due to be executed so his execution never went ahead. He remained in prison until Mary I pardoned and released him in 1553.

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