ABT 1522 - Kent, England
11 APR 1554 - Tower Hill, Middlesex, England
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Sir Thomas Wyatt was a knight and the Sheriff of Kent. He led a failed rebellion against Queen Mary I, was charged with treason and beheaded.
Wyatt Sr was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1536, charged with committing adultery with the King's wife, Anne Boleyn. Anne was executed at the same time. Thomas was eventually released at the urging of Thomas Cromwell. By that time he was already estranged from Elizabeth due to his other affairs and his suspicion that she had cheated on him with King Henry. With his mistress Elizabeth Darrell, he had three more sons. Ambassadorships took Wyatt to countries like Spain and at times he took Thomas Wyatt Jr along. Wyatt Sr again fell from favor with Henry in 1541 was imprisoned for treason before being granted a pardon and returned to an ambassadorship. Soon after being pardoned he became ill and died in 1542.
Thomas Wyatt Jr, as the only legitimate child, received considerable land holdings from his father's estate, but also considerable debts that caused him to sell many properties. He had married Jane Haute about 1638 at the age of 16. They had 10 children.
During his life the poetic works of Thomas Wyatt Sr had never been published under his name although it is believed that they circulated in the King's court. He collected his works in a book that passed to Wyatt Jr. Thomas transcribed additional poems by his father into the book and even copied two letters that his father had written to him into the volume. In the letters Thomas Jr was advised to study moral philosophy, to live contentedly with his wife, and follow the good example of his grandfather rather than the past behavior of his father. The book still survives today and is held by the British Library.
After run-ins with the law for robbery, rioting, and eating meat on Fridays, Thomas became a soldier. He fought in the north of France at Landrecies and Boulogne where he gained a reputation as a strong leader and was given a command. In early 1545 he was named captain of Basse-Boulogne. That same year he was also knighted. In 1547 he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Kent. In 1550 he served as the High Sheriff of Kent. On November 11th, 1550, he was appointed to join negotiations with the French over boundaries at Calais and to advise the deputy and council of Calais.
Henry VIII had died in 1547 and his nine year old son, Edward VI, became King. Edward was the first English monarch to be raised as a protestant and he formalized many of the reformation changes that his father had enacted. Edward became terminally ill in 1553 at the age of 15 with no heir. He named his first cousin once removed, Jane Grey, as his successor, passing over his half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. It was thought that Jane would be more friendly to the protestant cause. Edward died on July 6th, 1553 and Jane Grey was crowned on July 10th. On July 19th she was deposed by Mary Tudor and locked away in the Tower of London.
Thomas Wyatt initially claimed to support Queen Mary I. Thomas had been raised catholic and Mary began her reign by undoing many of the protestant reforms. When Mary announced her plans to marry King Philip of Spain in January of 1554, Thomas changed his mind. It is thought that his experience with father as an ambassador to Spain had given Thomas a negative view of the Spanish government. He met with friends at Allington Castle to plan a resistance but several were arrested. Thomas became the leader of the movement that came to be called Wyatt's Rebellion.
Thomas raised a force of 1,500 men and Queen Mary learned of his plans. She announced that a pardon would be granted to anyone who returned home peacefully within 24 hours and then ordered the Duke of Norfolk to raise a force and march against Wyatt. That fight never occurred because when the two forces met most of the Duke's men defected to join Wyatt and the Duke fled the battlefield. Now with an army of 4,000 Thomas Wyatt marched on London and tried an assault on London Bridge but was unable to advance. He then tried to march around the city to approach the castle from another side. Several skirmishes along the way dwindled the number of his forces. The government discovered his plan and allowed him to enter the city through Ludgate where he and his remaining men were quickly surrounded and captured by the Sheriff of London, William Hewett.
Thomas was held in the tower of London. His trial was described as little more than a formality, with the crown's main objective being to try and withdraw some evidence that Queen Mary's sister, Elizabeth, had role in planning the rebellion so that she could be executed and removed as a threat to Mary's power. Thomas plead guilty to treason but maintained that Princess Elizabeth was innocent even as he was taken to the scaffold. Thomas was beheaded on April 11th, 1554, it is also believed that his body was drawn and quartered.
Queen Mary's marriage to Philip went on, but her reign was short and she died without an heir so her sister Elizabeth became Queen anyway. During Elizabeth's reign the Church of England was formed and the popular changes of the protestant reformation that her father began were then made permanent.
Because Thomas was charged with treason his lands and title were taken by the crown. Queen Mary had paid his widow, Jane, an annuity of 200 marks as an act of compassion and returned a small portion of her dower lands. When Elizabeth I came to power she reversed the remaining penalties against the family of Sir Thomas Wyatt.
- Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham. 2nd edition. (Salt Lake City: the author, 2011), vol. IV, page 383, WYATT 15.
- Wiki Tree. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Wyatt-244.