Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey

Born: 1374

Died: January 7, 1400

Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England (Age 26)

Surrey in History

Thomas Holland was a nephew of King Richard II, being the son of the king's half-brother (another Thomas Holland), who quickly grew into a favorite of his uncle. He accompanied the king on his successful Irish expedition in 1394 and became a Knight of the Garter in 1397, while also inheriting the Earldom of Kent upon his father's death that same year. By this point, the king was in the process of destroying the former Lords Appellant who had humiliated him and executed several of his favorites nine years earlier. Thomas served on the committee to punish the lords and recommended that the Earl of Arundel be executed, an action that was indiscriminately carried out. He was rewarded for his service by the king with several estates from the exiled Earl of Warwick (another of the lords tried and convicted of treason) and was created Duke of Surrey. Surrey was one of several lords awarded a dukedom in that year and was part of a group that has come to be known as the duketti. After Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk was exiled in 1398, Surrey took over his position as marshal of England.

The following year he accompanied the king on his fateful expedition to Ireland in an attempt to subdue the rebellions there. While in Ireland, the duke received several valuable gifts, courtesy of the king. When the king and his followers returned to England, however, they discovered that Henry Bolingbroke had returned from his exile, furious with the fact that his recently deceased father's lands had been seized by the crown to pay for the Irish expedition. Bolingbroke (who was no friend of Surrey's) claimed he only returned for the Duchy of Lancaster (which was rightfully his through inheritance). Soon enough, it became clear that Bolingbroke would also seize the crown from Richard. Many of Richard's followers were arrested, including Surrey, several of whom were executed. King Richard was deposed and imprisoned. Surrey was stripped of his dukedom, and of many of his estates, and sent on his way. In January 1400, Surrey (who was now simply the Earl of Kent once again) joined forces with the Earl of Salisbury and several other lords (all of whom had seen their respective positions in the peerage reduced thanks to the accession of Henry IV to the throne) in rebellion against the new King Henry IV. The plot was that the rebels would murder the king and his sons and place Richard back on the throne. Henry was informed of the plot ahead of time (most likely by his cousin, the Earl of Rutland) and fled the castle. The rebels were forced to flee and were captured by the townspeople at Cirencester. Both Kent (who was a mere twenty-six years of age) and Salisbury were beheaded there on January 7; Kent's head was set on London Bridge, a grim example that rebellion would not be tolerated in the new reign.

Surrey in Shakespeare

Appears in: Richard II

Surrey appears only briefly within Richard II as one of the lords who makes an attempt to place Richard back on the throne. The conspiracy is given away by York's son, the Earl of Rutland, and it is announced that the rebels were arrested at Cirencester - with most of them being executed.


Gillespie, James L. ‘Holland , Thomas, sixth earl of Kent and duke of Surrey (c.1374–1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed 13 Oct 2009]

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