Thomas Wyatt the Younger
gigatos | April 1, 2022
Thomas Wyatt (Chatham, September 20, 1521 – London, April 11, 1554) was a rebel leader during the reign of Queen Mary I of England.
He was born at Allington Castle, the only child of the poet Thomas Wyatt and Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of Thomas Brooke, third lord Cobham. The Duke of Norfolk was his godfather. At the age of fifteen he became a valet at the court of King Henry VIII, and keeper of Conisborough Castle. In the same year, his father was arrested after a quarrel with the king”s brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, and tried on a false charge of being Anne Boleyn”s lover. Thomas” father was later released and arrested again in 1541 and released only after the intervention of Queen Catherine Howard. Thomas married Jane Hawte, daughter and co-heiress of Sir William Hawte of Bishopsbourne, with whom he had several children. He is also known to have had an illegitimate child.
Thomas was raised as a Catholic. However, he is said to have become an enemy of the Spanish after witnessing the activities of the Inquisition while accompanying his father on a mission to Spain. When his father died in 1542, he inherited Allington Castle and Boxley Abbey. He served in the war against France, and was knighted in 1547. During the reign of King Edward VI, he was arrested breaking windows, visibly drunk. He was tried by the council and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Upon his release, Wyatt went to fight for the Habsburg emperor and King of Spain Charles V in Flanders, gaining valuable military experience. In 1543 he took part in the siege of Landrecies, and the following year he was at the siege of Bologna.
Returning to Allington, he lived quietly until the Duke of Northumberland”s uprising to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Escaping punishment by Queen Mary, he took no further part in any political issues until the Queen”s plans to marry Prince Philip became public. In 1554 he joined the conspirators who intended to prevent the union. A widespread movement was planned and on January 22 he called a meeting in Allington and they scheduled the uprising for the 25th. But his fellow conspirators were timid and inept and the uprising was only serious in Kent.
On the 26th Wyatt occupied Rochester, and issued a proclamation to the county of Kent. The masses of the country and the local nobility joined in, but the Queen”s supporters, led by Sir Abergavenny and Sheriff Sir Robert Southwell, seemed to be able to suppress the uprising easily. Yet marriage was unpopular, and Kent was more affected by the reformers” appeal than most of England”s counties. Much of Abergavenny and Southwell”s men deserted or defected to the side of the rebels, who now numbered over 3,000 men. A detachment of London trainbands sent to attack Wyatt also joined the rebels, bringing their number to 4,000.
At this point the uprising seemed so formidable that a delegation was sent to Kent representing the queen and the council to negotiate its terms. Wyatt insisted that the government should surrender to him, and the queen imprisoned. The insolence of these demands caused a reaction in London, where the reformists were strong and sympathetic to the rebellion. When he reached Southwark on February 3 he found London Bridge blocked by troops and was unable to penetrate the city. He was pushed back to Southwark by threats from Sir John Brydges (or Bruges), who was prepared to set fire to the suburb with his guns posted in the tower.
He could not find boats to cross the river at Middlesex or Essex, so he led his troops up the Thames to Kingston, where he found the bridge destroyed. They repaired it and crossed the Thames, and Wyatt followed with part of the troops to Ludgate. Some of his men were left behind and others deserted. His only hope was that an uprising would occur at Ludgate, but the forces loyal to the crown maintained order, and after a futile attempt to force their way into London Wyatt surrendered.
He was brought to trial on May 1, and was not allowed to defend himself. The execution was postponed for some time, no doubt in the hope that by keeping him alive he would not say anything that might compromise the Queen”s sister Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I of England, for whose sake the uprising would have been carried out. But Wyatt did not confess enough to save her from a treason trial. It was only with extreme dignity and composure that Elizabeth managed to escape the scandal, but she was kept under surveillance and put under house arrest for the rest of her sister”s reign.
Wyatt was executed on April 11, and on the scaffold he exonerated the princess of any complicity. After he was beheaded, his body was butchered.
Part of his estates were later restored to his son, George, father of Sir Francis Wyat who was governor of Virginia between 1621-1626 and between 1639-1642. A fragment of Allington Castle is still inhabited. It constitutes a country house near Maidstone.