Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, son of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the poet and suitor of Anne Boleyn
by Unknown artist,painting,circa 1550
Sir Thomas Wyatt the younger (1521 – 11 April 1554) was a rebel leader during the reign of Queen Mary I of England; his rising is traditionally called "Wyatt's rebellion".
He was born at Allington Castle, the only son of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the famous poet, and Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of the 8th Baron Cobham. His father was a well-known poet, courtier and ambassador, who has, by legend but without incontrovertible evidence, been presumed to have been deeply in love with Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, before Henry became attracted to her; he may later have pursued another of Henry VIII's lovers, Mary Shelton. His mother was involved in similar scandals, and his parents separated because of her open adultery. She was a very attractive woman, who in February 1542 attracted the attention of Henry VIII, whose fifth wife was then in the Tower awaiting execution. The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, reported that she could possibly end up as wife number six, despite still being married to Wyatt.
The Duke of Norfolk was his godfather. At the age of fifteen he became a squire at the court of King Henry VIII, and Joint Constable of Conisborough Castle. In the same year, his father was imprisoned after a feud with the king's brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, on the false charge of adultery with Queen Anne. The Queen was beheaded, but the elder Wyatt was released, He was imprisoned again in 1541 and only released after the intervention of Queen Catherine Howard. Thomas himself married Jane Hawte, daughter and co-heiress of Sir William Hawte of Bishopsbourne, by whom he had several children. He is also thought to have had an illegitimate son by Elizabeth Darrell, a daughter of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote who had been the long-term mistress of his father.
He accompanied his father on a mission to Spain and his experiences - reportedly his witnessing the activities of the Spanish Inquisition turned him into an enemy of the Spain. On his father's death in 1542, he inherited Allington Castle and Boxley Abbey. There were rumours that after his father's death, Wyatt the younger became the lover of his father's long-term mistress, Elizabeth Darrell. She had given birth to three children by Wyatt, but Wyatt the younger may have been the father of her third son, Edward.
He was of a wild disposition, and became a boon companion of the Earl of Surrey (the Duke of Norfolk's son). In 1543, they were arrested for breaking windows in London while drunk. He was tried before the Privy Council and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
England was then at war with France in alliance with Emperor Charles V. On his release, Wyatt joined the English troops fighting for Charles in Flanders, obtaining valuable military experience. In 1543 he took part in the siege of Landrecies, and in the following year was at the siege of Boulogne. He was commended for his service, and was knighted in 1547. He remained abroad until 1550.
Returning to Allington, he lived quietly until the death of Edward VI in 1553, when he joined the Duke of Northumberland's abortive attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne in place of Mary I.
Wyatt escaped punishment by Queen Mary. He took no further part in politics until Mary's betrothal to Philip of Spain. In 1554 he joined a conspiracy to prevent the marriage. A general movement was planned; but his fellow-conspirators were timid and inept. The rising was serious only in Kent, and Wyatt became a formidable rebel mostly by accident.
Wyatt proclaimed his rebellion on 26 January in Rochester. Many of the country folk responded. The royal forces sent against him deserted or joined him, including part of the London trainbands under the Duke of Norfolk (his godfather).
With 4,000 men Wyatt marched on London, but was turned back at London Bridge and Ludgate. His men deserted and he surrendered.
He was brought to trial on 15 March, and could make no defence. Execution was for a time delayed, no doubt in the hope that in order to save his life he would say enough to compromise the queen's sister Elizabeth, afterwards Queen Elizabeth, in whose interests the rising was supposed to have been made. But he would not confess enough to render her liable to a trial for treason. It was only through Elizabeth's dignity and composure that she managed to escape from the scandal unharmed, although she was spied upon and placed under house arrest for the rest of her sister's reign.
He was executed on 11 April, and on the scaffold expressly cleared the princess of all complicity in the rising. After he was beheaded, his body was quartered.
His estates were afterwards partly restored to his son, George. George's son, Sir Francis Wyatt (d. 1644), was governor of Virginia in 1621–26 and 1639–42. A fragment of the castle of Allington is still inhabited as a farm-house, near Maidstone, on the bank of the Medway.