He was the only son of William Fitzalan, 18th Earl of Arundel, and his second wife Anne Percy, daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, and was named for Henry VIII, who personally stood as his godfather at his baptism.
At 15 Arundel became a page at king Henry's court. When he came of age in 1333 he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Maltravers, a subsidiary title of his father, who was still alive. He attended the trials of Anne Boleyn and her alleged lover Lord Rochford in 1536.
In 1540 he was appointed deputy of Calais. He remained there, improving the fortifications at his own expense, until his father's death in 1543/4. He returned to England to assume the earldom, and was made a Knight of the Garter. War with France soon brought him back to Continent, where he spent much of 1544. He then returned to England, where the king appointed him Lord Chamberlain.
After Henry's death in 1547, Arundel was high constable at Edward VI's coronation. He continued as Lord Chamberlain, and in addition by the terms of Henry's will was designated one of the council of 12 assistant executors. The advent of the new king's uncle Edward Seymour (later Duke of Somerset) as Lord Protector negated Arundel's influence, however, and he soon became a prominent advocate of Seymour's removal in favor of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland).
Seymour was in fact deposed and sent to the Tower of London in 1549, with Arundel and Warwick among the leaders of the new governing group. Warwick soon became jealous of Arundel's influence, created a series of trumped-up charges, and had him removed from office and placed under house arrest. Arundel was eventually cleared of the charges, but the experience pushed him into the camp of the Duke of Somerset (who had been released from the tower). When Somerset was again arrested in 1551, Arundel was implicated in some of his plots, and was himself arrested and imprisoned for a year. He was eventually pardoned from these charges (whose truth was again somewhat dubious) and returned to his place on the governing council.
He found the council contemplating the succession in view of the declining health of king Edward. Arundel opposed Northumberland's plan to declare the king's sisters illegitimate, but after Edward's death he obstensibly went along with the council as they prepared to proclaim Lady Jane Grey the new sovereign. Meanwhile, he secretly wrote to Princess Mary, informing her of her brother's death (which was not yet public knowledge) and warning her of the plans afoot to bypass her. He continued publicly in support of Lady Jane, but at the same time, after secret meetings with other supporters of Mary, arranged for the proclamation of Mary as queen by the citizens of London. Taking the great seal, he then rode off to Framlingham, where Mary was staying.
At Mary's coronation Arundel was for the second time high constable, and was then apppointed lord steward of the royal household. He served in various roles in her court, being, for example, one of the nobles who received her husband Philip II of Spain when he landed at Southampton.
Although Queen Elizabeth did not trust him, he was too powerful to be slighted or ignored, and so he was retained in his various offices when she ascended the throne. For the third time he had a high place at a royal coronation.
Arundel took part in some of the many conspiracies of Elizabeth's reign, and, while he was at times placed under house arrest, he retained his properties and titles.
Arundel married twice. His first wife was Katherine, daughter of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset. By her he had one son, Henry Lord Maltravers (1538-56), and 2 daughters: Jane (d. 1576/7), who married John Lord Lumley, and Mary (d. 1557), who married Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, and whose son Philip, eventually inherited the Earldom of Arundel.
His second wife was Mary, daughter of Sir John Arundell of a prominent Cornish family, and widow of Richard Ratcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex. They had no children.
Arundel's portrait was painted several times, including once by Hans Holbein.