In January 1547, Henry Howard, the poet Earl of Surrey, was beheaded. His execution, the last in the reign of Henry VIII, took place on Tower Hill just north-west of the Tower of London. The young earl had walked up Tower Hill, ascended the nine steps of the scaffold, spoken, and then thrust his body forward, hands and arms outstretched and head across the block. After the executioner had raised his axe and brought it down, the poet's head, still bleeding, and his torso, cut loose and also bleeding, were thrown into a waiting wagon. The severed head and body were then taken to the nearby London church of All Hallows, Barking, where they were hastily entombed. Within weeks, the first elegy in a long line went straight to the shock of the event. In his poem, Sir John Cheke is still stunned by Surrey's execution.
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