Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

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Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, c.1519-1554

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (c.1519-1554) was an English soldier who fought in the Italian Wars before returning to England, where he led a dangerous revolt against Mary I.

Wyatt was the son of the diplomat Thomas Wyatt the Elder. The son had a more turbulent reputation. In 1543 he was imprisoned for his part in a riot, and later in the same year he left the country to seek military adventure abroad. Despite his troubles with the law he fought with Henry VIII during the successful siege of Boulogne (19 July-14 September 1544).

After a successful career, mainly in the French service, Wyatt returned to England in 1549 or 1550. He was appointed sheriff of Kent in 1551, and he used his experience to create a military structure in the county.

In July 1553 he supported the succession of Mary I. He began to turn against her when she prepared to marry Philip II of Spain. Wyatt felt that this went against England's honour. The Spanish marriage wasn't popular, and Wyatt was able to find other plotters, amongst them the Earl of Devon.

In January 1554 Devon revealed the plot to the Lord Chancellor, Stephen Gardiner. Most of the leaders were arrested, but Wyatt managed to raise an army in Kent. Mary sent Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, to deal with this threat, but his army deserted to Wyatt.

On 3 February 1554 Wyatt entered London at the head of 3,000 men. Mary was able to rouse popular support for her cause, and London failed to rise against her. Wyatt's men fought a short skirmish in the city, but Wyatt then surrendered. He was tried and condemned on 15 March and executed on 11 April 1554. In his last months Wyatt had come under great pressure to implicate Mary's sister Elizabeth in the plot, but refused. The failure of Wyatt's revolt ended open opposition to Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain, but as Mary's popularity faded Wyatt began to be seen as a martyr.

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger - History

—Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Elder (1503-1542), was born to Henry and Anne Wyatt at Allington Castle, near Maidstone, Kent, in 1503. Little is known of his childhood education. His first court appearance was in 1516 as Sewer Extraordinary to Henry VIII. In 1516 he also entered St. John's College, University of Cambridge. Around 1520, when he was only seventeen years old, he married Lord Cobham's daughter Elizabeth Brooke. She bore him a son, Thomas Wyatt, the Younger, in 1521. He became popular at court, and carried out several foreign missions for King Henry VIII, and also served various offices at home.

Around 1525, Wyatt separated from his wife, charging her with adultery it is also the year from which his interest in Anne Boleyn probably dates. 1 He accompanied Sir Thomas Cheney on a diplomatic mission to France in 1526 and Sir John Russell to Venice and the papal court in Rome in 1527. He was made High Marshal of Calais (1528-1530) and Commissioner of the Peace of Essex in 1532. Also in 1532, Wyatt accompanied King Henry and Anne Boleyn, who was by then the King's mistress, on their visit to Calais. Anne Boleyn married the King in January 1533, and Wyatt served in her coronation in June.

Wyatt was knighted in 1535, but in 1536 he was imprisoned in the Tower for quarreling with the Duke of Suffolk, and possibly also because he was suspected of being one of Anne Boleyn's lovers. During this imprisonment Wyatt witnessed the execution of Anne Boleyn on May 19, 1536 from the Bell Tower, and wrote V. Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei. He was released later that year. Henry, Wyatt's father, died in November 1536.

Wyatt was returned to favor and made ambassador to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in Spain. He returned to England in June 1539, and later that year was again ambassador to Charles until May 1540. Wyatt's praise of country life, and the cynical comments about foreign courts, in his verse epistle Mine Own John Poins derive from his own experience.

In 1541 Wyatt was charged with treason on a revival of charges originally levelled against him in 1538 by Edmund Bonner, now Bishop of London. Bonner claimed that while ambassador, Wyatt had been rude about the King's person, and had dealings with Cardinal Pole, a papal legate and Henry's kinsman, with whom Henry was much angered over Pole's siding with papal authority in the matter of Henry's divorce proceedings from Katharine of Aragón. Wyatt was again confined to the Tower, where he wrote an impassioned 'Defence'. He received a royal pardon, perhaps at the request of then queen, Catharine Howard, and was fully restored to favor in 1542. Wyatt was given various royal offices after his pardon, but he became ill after welcoming Charles V's envoy at Falmouth and died at Sherborne on 11 October 1542.

None of Wyatt's poems had been published in his lifetime, with the exception of a few poems in a miscellany entitled The Court of Venus. His first published work was Certain Psalms (1549), metrical translations of the penitential psalms. It wasn't until 1557, 15 years after Wyatt's death, that a number of his poetry appeared alongside the poetry of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in printer Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey and other. Until modern times it was called simply Songs and Sonnets, but now it is generally known as Tottel's Miscellany. The rest of Wyatt's poetry, lyrics, and satires remained in manuscript until the 19th and 20th centuries "rediscovered" them.

Wyatt, along with Surrey, was the first to introduce the sonnet into English, with its characteristic final rhyming couplet. He wrote extraordinarily accomplished imitations of Petrarch's sonnets, including 'I find no peace' ('Pace non trovo') and 'Whoso List to Hunt'—the latter, quite different in tone from Petrarch's 'Una candida cerva', has often been seen to refer to Anne Boleyn as the deer with a jewelled collar. Wyatt was also adept at other new forms in English, such as the terza rima and the rondaeu. Wyatt and Surrey often share the title of "father of the English sonnet."

1. So states Rebholz (p20). According to The Dictionary of National Biography,
they had been acquainted since childhood.

Foley, S. M. Sir Thomas Wyatt.
Boston: Twayne, 1990.
Heale, Elizabeth. Wyatt, Surrey, and Early Tudor Poetry .
New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.
Jentoft, C. W. Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, A Reference Guide .
Boston: G. K. Hall, c1980.
Mason, H. A., ed. Sir Thomas Wyatt: A Literary Portrait.
Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1987
Muir, Kenneth. Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt .
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1963.
Rebholz, R. A. Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems. Repr.
New York: Penguin, 1994.
Thomson, Patricia, ed. Thomas Wyatt: The Collected Critical Heritage.
New York: Routledge, 1995.

Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of Sir Thomas Wyatt." Luminarium.
2 Aug 2010. [Date you accessed this article].

Site copyright ©1996-2018 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on June 3, 1996. Last updated December 21, 2018.

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger - History

SIR THOMAS WYATT, the Younger (1521?-1554), conspirator, was the eldest and only surviving son of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Brooke, third lord Cobham. He was brought up as a catholic. He is described as 'twenty-one years and upwards' in the 'inquisitio post mortem' of his father, which was dated 8 Jan. 1542-3. The Duke of Norfolk was one of his godfathers. In boyhood he is said to have accompanied his father on an embassy to Spain, where the elder Sir Thomas Wyatt was threatened by the Inquisition. To this episode has been traced an irremovable detestation of the Spanish government, but the anecdote is probably apocryphal. All that is positively known of his relations with his father while the latter was in Spain is found in two letters which the elder Wyatt addressed from Spain to the younger, then fifteen years old. The letters give much sound moral advice.

In 1537 young Wyatt married when barely sixteen. He succeeded on his father's death in 1542 to Allington Castle and Boxley Abbey in Kent, with much other property. But the estate was embarrassed, and he parted with some outlying lands on 30 Nov. 1543 to the king, receiving for them £3,669 8s. 2d. In 1542 he alienated, too, the estate of Tarrant in Dorset in favour of a natural son, Francis Wyatt, whose mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Darrel of Littlecote. Wyatt was of somewhat wild and impulsive temperament. At an early age he had made the acquaintance of his father's disciple, Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and during Lent 1543 he joined Surrey and other young men in breaking at night the windows of citizens' houses and of London churches. They were arrested and brought before the privy council on 1 April, and they were charged not merely with acts of violence, but with having eaten meat during Lent. Surrey explained that his efforts were directed to awakening the citizens of London to a sense of sin. Wyatt was inclined to deny the charges. He remained in the Tower till 3 May.

In the autumn of 1543 Wyatt joined a regiment of volunteers which Surrey raised at his own expense to take part in the siege of Landrecies. Wyatt distinguished himself in the military operations, and was highly commended by Thomas Churchyard, who was present. In 1544 Wyatt took part in the siege of Boulogne and was given responsible command next year. When Surrey became governor he joined the English council there (14 June 1545). Surrey, writing to Henry VIII, highly commended Wyatt's hardiness, painfulness, circumspection, and natural disposition to the war. He seems to have remained abroad till the surrender of Boulogne in 1550.

In November 1550 he was named a commissioner to delimit the English frontier in France, but owing to ill-health was unable to act. Subsequently he claimed to have served Queen Mary against the Duke of Northumberland when the duke attempted to secure the throne for his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey. But he took no well-defined part in public affairs at home until he learned of Queen Mary's resolve to marry Philip of Spain. He regarded the step as an outrage on the nation's honour, but, according to his own account, never thought of publicly protesting against it until he received an invitation from Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, to join in a general insurrection throughout the country for the purpose of preventing the accomplishment of the queen's plan. He cheerfully undertook to raise Kent. Help was vaguely promised him by the French ambassador.

The official announcement of the marriage was published on 15 Jan. 1553-4. Seven days later Wyatt summoned his friends and neighbours to meet at Allington Castle to discuss means of resistance. He offered, if they would attempt an armed rebellion, to lead the insurgent force. Like endeavours made by Courtenay, the Duke of Suffolk, Sir James Crofts, and Sir Peter Carew, to excite rebellion in other counties failed. The instigators elsewhere were all arrested before they had time to mature their designs. Wyatt was thus forced into the position of chief actor in the attack on the government of the queen. He straightway published a proclamation at Maidstone which was addressed 'unto the commons' of Kent. He stated that his course had been approved by 'dyvers of the best of the shire.' Neighbours and friends were urged to secure the advancement of 'liberty and commonwealth,' which were imperilled by 'the queen's determinate pleasure to marry with a stranger.'

Wyatt showed himself worthy of his responsibilities and laid his plans with boldness. Noailles, the French ambassador, wrote that he was 'estimé par deçà homme vaillant et de bonne conduicte' and M. d'Oysel, the French ambassador in Scotland, who was at the time in London, informed the French king, his master, that Wyatt was 'ung gentil chevallier et fort estimé parmy ceste nation.' 1 Fifteen hundred men were soon in arms under his command, while five thousand promised adherence later. He fixed his headquarters at the castle of Rochester. Some cannon and ammunition were secretly sent him up the Medway by agents in London batteries were erected to command the passage of the bridge at Rochester and the opposite bank of the river.

When the news of Wyatt's action reached the queen and government in London, a proclamation was issued offering pardon to such of his followers as should within twenty-four hours depart peaceably to their homes. Royal officers with their retainers were despatched to disperse small parties of Wyatt's associates while on their way to Rochester Sir Robert Southwell broke up one band under an insurgent named Knevet Lord Abergavenny defeated another reinforcement led by a friend of Wyatt named Isley the citizens of Canterbury rejected Wyatt's entreaties to join him, and derided his threats. Wyatt maintained the spirit of his followers by announcing that he daily expected succour from France, and circulated false reports of successful risings in other parts of the country.

Some of his followers sent to the council offers to return to their duty, and at the end of January Wyatt's fortunes looked desperate. But the tide turned for a season in his favour when the government ordered the Duke of Norfolk to march from London upon Wyatt's main body, with a detachment of white-coated guards under the command of Sir Henry Jerningham. The manoeuvre gave Wyatt an unexpected advantage. The duke was followed immediately by five hundred Londoners, hastily collected by one Captain Bret, and was afterwards joined by the sheriff of Kent, who had called out the trained bands of the county. The force thus embodied by the government was inferior in number to Wyatt's, and it included many who were in sympathy with the rebels. As soon as they came within touch of Wyatt's forces at Rochester, the majority of them joined him, and the duke with his principal officers fled towards Gravesend.

Wyatt set out for London at the head of four thousand men. He found the road open. Through Dartford and Gravesend he marched to Blackheath, where he encamped on 29 Jan. 1553-4. The government acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, and sent Wyatt a message inviting him to formulate his demands, but this was only a means of gaining time. On 1 Feb. 1554 Mary proceeded to the Guildhall and addressed the citizens of London on the need of meeting the danger summarily. Wyatt was proclaimed a traitor. Next morning more than twenty thousand men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. Special precautions were taken for the security of the court and the Tower many bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down all peers in the neighbourhood of London received orders to raise their tenantry and on 3 Feb. a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered the captor of Wyatt's person.

The same day Wyatt entered Southwark, but his followers were alarmed by the reports of the government's activity. Many deserted, and Wyatt found himself compelled by the batteries on the Tower to evacuate Southwark. Turning to the south he directed his steps towards Kingston, where he arrived on 6 Feb. (Shrove Tuesday). The river was crossed without difficulty, and a plan was formed to surprise Ludgate. On the way Wyatt hoped to capture St. James's Palace, where Queen Mary had taken refuge. But his schemes were quickly betrayed to the government. A council of war decided to allow him to advance upon the city and then to press on him from every quarter. He proceeded on 7 Feb. through Kensington to Hyde Park, and had a sharp skirmish at Hyde Park Corner with a troop of infantry. Escaping with a diminished following, he made his way past St. James's Palace. Proceeding by Charing Cross along the Strand and Fleet Street he reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8 Feb. The gate was shut against him, and he was without the means or the spirit to carry it by assault.

His numbers dwindled in the passage through London, and he retreated with very few followers to Temple Bar. There he was met by the Norroy herald, and, recognising that his cause was lost, he made a voluntary submission. After being taken to Whitehall, he was committed to the Tower, where the lieutenant, Sir John Brydges (afterwards first Lord Chandos), received him with opprobrious reproaches. On his arrest the French ambassador, De Noailles, paid a tribute to his valour and confidence. He wrote of him as 'le plus vaillant et asseuré de quoye j'aye jamais ouy parler, qui a mis ladicte dame et seigneurs de son conseil en telle et si grande peur, qu'elle s'est veue par l'espace de huict jours en bransle de sa couronne.' 2 On 15 March he was arraigned at Westminster of high treason, was condemned, and sentenced to death.

On the day appointed for his execution (11 April) Wyatt requested Lord Chandos, the lieutenant of the Tower, to permit him to speak to a fellow-prisoner, Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire. According to Chandos's report Wyatt on his knees begged Courtenay 'to confess the truth of himself.' The interview lasted half an hour. It does not appear that he said anything to implicate Princess Elizabeth, but he seems to have reproached Courtenay with being the instigator of his crime. Nevertheless, at the scaffold on Tower Hill he made a speech accepting full responsibility for his acts and exculpating alike Elizabeth and Courtenay. After he was beheaded, his body was subjected to all the barbarities that formed part of punishment for treason. Next day his head was hung to a gallows on 'Hay Hill beside Hyde Park,' and subsequently his limbs were distributed among gibbets in various quarters of the town. His head was stolen on 17 April.

Wyatt married in 1537 Jane, daughter of Sir William Hawte of Bishopsbourne, Kent. Through her he acquired the manor of Wavering. She bore him ten children, of whom three married and left issue. Of these a daughter Anna married Roger Twysden, grandfather of Sir Roger Twysden, and another Charles Scott of Egerton, Kent, of the family of Scott of Scotshall. The son George was restored to his estate of Boxley, Kent, by Queen Mary, and to that of Wavering by Queen Elizabeth in 1570. He collected materials for a life of Queen Anne Boleyn, the manuscript of which passed to his sister's grandson, Sir Roger Twysden. In 1817 there was privately printed by Robert Triphook from a copy of Wyatt's manuscript 'Extracts from the Life of Queen Anne Boleigne, by George Wyat. Written at the close of the XVIth century.' The full original manuscript in George Wyatt's autograph is among the Wyatt MSS. Twysden also based on Wyatt's collections his 'Account of Queen Anne Bullen,' which was first issued privately in 1808 it has little likeness to Wyatt's autograph 'Life.' The Wyatt MSS. contain letters and religious poems by George Wyatt, as well as a refutation of Nicholas Sanders's attacks on the characters of the two Sir Thomas Wyatts. George Wyatt, who died in 1623, was father of Sir Francis Wyatt.

1. Ambassades de Messieurs de Noailles en Angleterre, iii. 15, 46.
2. ibid. iii. 59.


Lee, Sidney L. "Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger."
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. LXIII. Sidney Lee, Ed.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1900. 187-189.

Fletcher, A. and D. MacCulloch. Tudor Rebellions.
Longman, 2008.

to Queen Elizabeth I
to Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Elder
to Luminarium Encyclopedia

Site ©1996-2010 Anniina Jokinen. All rights reserved.
This page was created on April 27, 2009. Last updated March 31, 2010.

Wyatt History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Wyatt is a name that was brought to England by the ancestors of the Wyatt family when they emigrated following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Wyatt comes from Guyat, a pet form of the Old French given name Guy.

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Early Origins of the Wyatt family

The surname Wyatt was first found in Sussex though the name "has gone through the various forms of Wyat, Wiat, Wyot, and Guyot, or Guiot. The last-named three are used indifferently in the time of King John, and clearly prove the derivation of the name as a diminutive, from the Norman-French personal name Gui or Guido, which we have also received in the form of Guy. The name Guyatt is still found in West Sussex." [1]

There are scat records of the name in Scotland as Black notes "Maucolum Wyet of county Anegos rendered homage, 1296. Nothing more is known of him. " [2]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 proved the widespread use of the name both as a forename and surname: Ayote uxor Wyot, Shropshire Henry Wyot, Cambridgeshire Wyott le Carpentier, Buckinghamshire and Wyot de Dudelebury in Shropshire. [3]

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Early History of the Wyatt family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wyatt research. Another 167 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1554, 1746, 1813, 1460, 1537, 1503, 1542, 1536, 1521, 1554, 1550, 1623, 1588, 1644, 1616, 1685, 1663, 1731 and 1663 are included under the topic Early Wyatt History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Wyatt Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years the English language had no fixed system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations occurred commonly in Anglo Norman surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Wyatt were recorded, including Wyatt, Wyat and others.

Early Notables of the Wyatt family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Henry Wyatt (1460-1537), an English courtier from Yorkshire and his son, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), an early English language poet and statesman, knighted by Henry VIII in 1536 Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (1521-1554), an English rebel leader during the reign of Mary I of England his rising is traditionally called "Wyatt's rebellion" George.
Another 63 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Wyatt Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wyatt migration +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Wyatt Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Sir Francis and Lady Margaret Wyatt, who settled in Virginia in 1621
  • John Wyatt, who settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1631
  • Thomas Wyatt, who settled in Virginia in 1642
  • George Wyatt, who arrived in Virginia in 1662
  • Christopher Wyatt, who settled in Barbados with his servants in 1680

Wyatt migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Wyatt Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Wyatt, English convict from Berkshire, who was transported aboard the "Adamant" on March 16, 1821, settling in New South Wales, Australia[4]
  • Mr. John Wyatt, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for life, transported aboard the "Asia" on 5th November 1835, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land)1836 [5]
  • Mr. James Wyatt, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 20th July 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[6]
  • George Wyatt, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "John Renwick" in 1837 [7]
  • Sarah Wyatt, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "John Renwick" in 1837 [7]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Wyatt migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Wyatt Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Benjamin Wyatt, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "New Era" in 1855
  • Mr. William Wyatt, (b. 1832), aged 23, British joiner travelling from London aboard the ship "Grasmere" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 4th May 1855 [8]
  • Mr. Michael Wyatt, (b. 1840), aged 15, British labourer travelling from London aboard the ship "Grasmere" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 4th May 1855 [8]
  • Mr. James Wyatt, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Martaban" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 8th October 1856 [8]
  • Col. Wyatt, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Sandford" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 9th July 1856 [9]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Wyatt (post 1700) +

  • John Wyatt (1825-1874), English army surgeon, eldest son of James Wyatt of Lidsey, near Chichester, yeoman
  • John Wyatt (1700-1766), English inventor, eldest son of John and Jane Wyatt
  • James Wyatt (1746-1813), English architect, born at Burton Constable, Staffordshire
  • Henry Wyatt (1794-1840), English painter, born at Thickbroom, near Lichfield
  • Robert "Bob" Elliott Storey Wyatt (1901-1995), English cricketer for Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the English cricket team, active 1923-1951
  • Stephen Wyatt the Younger (b. 1948), award-winning British writer
  • George Harry Wyatt (1886-1964), English recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Richard James Wyatt (b. 1795), British sculptor
  • Sir Matthew Peter Cromwell Wyatt (1820-1877), British architect and art historian
  • Derek Murray Wyatt FRSA (b. 1949), British Labour Party politician
  • . (Another 56 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Historic Events for the Wyatt family +

Halifax Explosion
  • Master Arch  Wyatt, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [10]
HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. Eric William Wyatt (1921-1941), Australian Telegraphist from Port Lincoln, South Australia, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking [11]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Jeffrey A F Wyatt (b. 1920), English Marine serving for the Royal Marine from Wimborne, Dorset, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [12]
HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Harold Walter William Wyatt, British Musician, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and died in the sinking [13]

Related Stories +

The Wyatt Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Duriora virtus
Motto Translation: Virtue tries harder things.

  1. ↑ Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. 4 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham, 2nd edition. (Salt Lake City, UT: the author, 2011), vol. IV, page 383 WYATT 16.
  2. ↑ Loades, David. "Wyatt, George (1553–1624), landowner and writer" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. May 24, 2008. Oxford University Press. Accessed online 8 Nov 2019 at (with subscription). Foster, Joseph. The Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521-1889. (London: Hansard Pub. Union, 1889), online at HathiTrust, page 41, folio 609 "George Wyate". Loades, David M. The Papers of George Wyatt Esquire, of Boxley Abbey. (Royal Historical Society, 1968). Not available online. Fausz, J. Frederick, and John Kukla. “A Letter of Advice to the Governor of Virginia, 1624.” in The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 1, 1977, pages 104–129. Online at JSTOR.
  3. ↑ 6.06.1 Hasted, Edward. "Parishes: Boxley" in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4. (Canterbury: W Bristow, 1798). Accessed online 19 Nov 2019 at British History Online, pages 324-353.
  4. ↑ Cave-Browne, John. The History of Boxley Parish. (Maidstone: E. J. Dickinson, 1892), online at (includes parish register beg. 1594): pages 10, 119, 146-147, 152, 162-3 (burial record of daughters Katherine and Anne), 166 (burial record in latin). Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham. (Salt Lake City: the author, 2013), vol. II, page 589.
  5. ↑ Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham. (Salt Lake City: the author, 2013), vol. IV, page 412.
  • Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. 2nd ed., 4 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham (Salt Lake City, UT: the author, 2011). See also WikiTree's source page for Magna Carta Ancestry.
  • Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families. 5 vols., ed. Kimball G. Everingham (Salt Lake City, UT: the author, 2013). See also WikiTree's source page for Royal Ancestry: vol. V, pages 412-413.
  • Faris, David C. Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth-century Colonists. (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996), online at, page 289.
  • Notes and Queries (London, England: G. Bell, 1850-). Online at, c.1, ser 3, vol. 3 (3 Jan 1863) page 9-10: transcribed inscription of the Wiat family monument at Boxley, Kent.
  • Find A Grave, database and images (accessed 18 Nov 2019), memorial page for [Sir] George Wiat (1550–1624), Find A Grave: Memorial #41897434, citing St Mary the Virgin and All Saints Churchyard, Boxley, Maidstone Borough, Kent, England Maintained by Cousins by the Dozens (contributor 46904925): photo of memorial plaque. : profile of George Wyatt.

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Magna Carta Project

This profile was re-reviewed/updated to meet current standards by Traci Thiessen 18 November 2019. George Wyatt appears in Magna Carta Ancestry in a Richardson-documented trail between Gateway Ancestors Sir Francis Wyatt and Hawte Wyatt and Magna Carta Surety Baron William Malet that was reviewed/approved by the Magna Carta Project in 2015 and re-reviewed in April 2020. See the Magna Carta Trails on the profile of Hawte Wyatt to view the profiles in this trail. See Base Camp for more information about Magna Carta trails. See the project's glossary for project-specific terms, such as a "badged trail".

1. Henry Wyatt 2. George Thomas Wyatt 3. Anne Wyatt 4. Elinora Wyatt 5. Sir Francis Wyatt, b. 1575, d. 1644 6. Rev. Haute Wyatt, b. 04 Jun 1594, Allington Castle, Maidstone,,Kent,England , d. 31 Jul 1638, Boxley Parish, Maidstone,,Kent,England 7. Thomas Wyatt, b. 1603, d. Yes, date unknown

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Sir Thomas Wyatt

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Sir Thomas Wyatt, Wyatt also spelled Wyat, (born 1503, Allington, near Maidstone, Kent, Eng.—died Oct. 6, 1542, Sherborne, Dorset), poet who introduced the Italian sonnet and terza rima verse form and the French rondeau into English literature.

Wyatt was educated at St. John’s, Cambridge, and became a member of the court circle of Henry VIII, where he seems to have been popular and admired for his attractive appearance and skill in music, languages, and arms. Wyatt’s fortunes at court fluctuated, however, and his association with the Boleyn family, as well as a rumoured affair with Anne Boleyn, likely contributed to his first arrest and imprisonment, in 1536 he was again arrested (1541) after the execution of his ally Thomas Cromwell. During his career, he served a number of diplomatic missions and was knighted in 1537, but his fame rests chiefly on his poetic achievements, particularly his songs. His poems are unusual for their time in carrying a strong sense of individuality. They consist of Certayne Psalmes…drawen into Englyshe meter (1549) three satires, and Songes and Sonettes, published in Tottel’s Miscellany (1557) and songs identified in manuscript, published in 19th- and 20th-century editions.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kathleen Kuiper, Senior Editor.


Family and Education b. by 1504, 1st s. of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle by Anne, da. of John Skinner of Reigate, Surr. educ. St. John’s, Camb. BA 1518, MA 1520. m. by 1521, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Brooke, 8th Lord Cobham, 1s. Sir Thomas II 2s. illegit. by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote, Wilts. 1 da. (?illegit.). Kntd. ?28 Mar. 1535. suc. fa. 10 Nov. 1536.2

Esquire of the body by 1524 clerk of the King’s jewels 21 Oct. 1524 marshal, Calais by Sept. 1529-24 Nov. 1530 sewer extraordinary by 1533 sheriff, Kent 1536-7 ambassador to the Emperor 1537-40 Councillor by 1540-d. commr. sewers, Kent 1540 steward, manor of Maidstone, Kent Mar. 1542.3

Biography Sir Henry Wyatt was treasurer of the chamber and his son, after taking a degree at Cambridge, began his career in the royal household whence he quickly moved into diplomacy. Early in 1526 he accompanied Sir Thomas Cheyne on an embassy to France, returning briefly to England in May with letters to the King and Wolsey, which he supplemented from his own observations, and a commendation from Cheyne. His next mission arose, so tradition has it, from his having met Sir John Russell sailing down the Thames on his way to Italy on the King’s service and having offered to accompany him. They travelled to Rome together and were ceremoniously received by the pope. Then as they set out for Venice, Russell’s horse fell and he had to return to Rome with a broken leg, responsibility for their mission devolving upon Wyatt. On his way home from Venice, wanting to see the country he visited Ferrara although he had a safe conduct from the duke he was captured by the Spaniards but managed to escape. Wyatt was next briefly marshal of Calais. A list of officers there, probably dating from 1528, includes his name, and it was as marshal that in September 1529 he was granted a license to import wine and woad from France but his patent of appointment was not issued until June 1530 and in November he was replaced by Sir Edward Ryngeley.4

In 1533 Wyatt attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn, acting as chief ewerer in the place of his father. According to Nicholas Harpsfield it was believed that Anne had been Wyatt’s mistress and that Wyatt had confessed as much to Henry VIII, who although taken aback had merely bound him to secrecy. The story receives some colour from Wyatt’s sudden imprisonment in May 1536 when Anne’s infidelities were officially proclaimed. At one point it was rumoured that Wyatt would die with her other alleged lovers, but probably it was never intended that he should be more than a reserve witness against her. On 10 May Cromwell wrote a reassuring letter to Sir Henry Wyatt, who in June received his son home at Allington, advising him—so he assured Cromwell—to obey the King and treat the minister as a father, although both Sir Henry, and Thomas himself after the event, considered that his fault lay less in disobeying human authority than in flouting the law of God.5

Cromwell did much for Wyatt in the next few years when he was in need of friends. Although not ostracized by the King, whom later in 1536 he was called on to attend and to support with men against the rebels in the north, Wyatt never rose to high office or wielded power in England. He was a Councillor, but whether he often attended is doubtful his presence is not recorded in the register kept from 1540. He is not known to have been justice of the peace in Kent, although he had a year as sheriff and he was named to a commission of sewers.6

In these years, however, Wyatt was much abroad, returning home on visits in 1538 and 1539 and for good in May 1540. In January 1537 Henry VIII decided to send him as resident ambassador to the Emperor and in March he was given his instructions. Wyatt’s harping on this reversal of fortune—‘Was not that a pretty sending of me ambassador to the Emperor, first to put me into the Tower and then forthwith to send me hither?’—was one of the complaints made against him by Bishop Bonner, who was joined with him in the embassy in 1538. The fall of Cromwell undermined Wyatt’s position and on 17 Jan. 1541, some months after he had completed his embassy and been rewarded by an exchange of lands with the King, confirmed by a private Act (32 Hen. VIII, c.77), he was arrested and led, bound, to the Tower. The affair created a great stir. The French ambassador described Wyatt as a courtier, one of the richest gentlemen in England, very popular, although no one now dared speak up for him, and considered that this, his third visit to the Tower—the writer was probably including Wyatt’s brief imprisonment in the Fleet in May 1534 for a riot in London—was likely to be his last, since Cromwell’s enemies were determined to bring him down. Wyatt vehemently denied the most serious charge, of treasonable correspondence with Cardinal Pole, and defended himself with wit and spirit. Yet formally he submitted himself to the King’s mercy and in March 1541 was pardoned for the treason which it seems unlikely that he ever committed: far from being a supporter of Catholicism Wyatt declared that he had been in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition, and after his death he was mourned as a zealous Protestant.7

Wyatt soon recovered from this crisis, as he had in 1536. It was rumoured in April 1541 that he had been appointed to command 300 horse at Calais and in August 1542 that he would be captain and vice-admiral of the fleet prepared for action against France. In fact he seems to have spent these 18 months at Allington Castle, which he made more splendid by the addition of a long gallery and more comfortable with panelling and fire places and a new kitchen. In December 1541 he was elected knight of the shire for Kent, and in the following month was appointed bailiff of the manor of South Frith and given the manor of Bayhall, Kent in March 1542, described as the King’s servant, he was granted, with the stewardship of the manor of Maidstone, three ex-monastic properties, including the Carmelite priory at Aylesford, Kent, in exchange for other lands in the county. In 1540 he had been much occupied in the preparation of private bills for the confirmation of his estate and his exchange of lands with the King (31 Hen. VIII, c.28 32 Hen. VIII, cc.75, 77) but nothing is known of his role in the House during his Membership.8

In the autumn of 1542 Wyatt was sent to meet the imperial ambassador at Falmouth and escort him to London. On the way there he died at the home of Sir John Horsey at Clifton Maybank in Dorset, and he was buried in the Horsey vault in Sherborne abbey on 11 Oct. He was lamented as a friend and poet by the Earl of Surrey, who with him popularized the sonnet in England, and by John Leland. Two drawings and several paintings of Wyatt survive. His widow, from whom he had separated about 1525, married Sir Edward Warner.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558 Author: Helen Miller Notes 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament. 2. Date of birth estimated from education. DNB Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt ed. Nott, ii. ped. Pprs. Geo. Wyatt (Cam. Soc. ser. 4, v), 5, 6 C142/65/90, 82/64 LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xix Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xxv. 135 information from Dr. D. R. Starkey Jnl. Eng. and Germanic Philology, lx. 268-72. 3. LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv, v, xi, xvi, xvii P. T. J. Morgan, ‘The govt. of Calais, 1485-1558’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1966), 295 Works, ii. p. lxxiv. 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv Gent. Mag. 1850 (ii), 237 CSP Ven. 1527-33, no. 50. 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, x, xiii N. Harpsfield, A Treatise on the Pretended Divorce (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxi), 253. 6. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xvi. 7. Ibid. vii, xii-xvi Gent. Mag. 1850(1), 565-8. 8. LP Hen. VIII, xv-xvii Arch. Cant. xxviii. 355-6. 9. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii Works, i.p. lxxiv R. C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 338-9 Holbein (The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace 1978-9), 119-21 Harl. 6157, f. 10.

Sir Thomas Wyatt was a Statesman and Poet. He is credited with introducing the sonnet into English.

He was born at Allington Castle, near Maidstone in Kent, the son of Annie Skinner and Sir Henry Wyatt. His father "had been one of Henry VII's Privy Councillors, and remained a trusted adviser when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509". "In his turn, Thomas Wyatt followed his father to court after his education at St John's College, Cambridge".

Thomas was reputedly in love with Anne Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII. In 1509 he was made a Knight of the Bath on the accession of Henry VIII and he held various court offices. In 1536 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, perhaps to incriminate Queen Anne Boleyn, but was released after a month. Knighted in 1537 he was sent as the King's ambassador to the Emperor Charles V. Subsequently he fell from Henry's favor but was later restored. He died of fever whilst escorting the Emperor's ambassadors from Falmouth to London.

"None of Wyatt's poems were published during his lifetime—the first book to feature his verse, Tottel's Miscellany of 1557, was printed a full fifteen years after his death."

On this date in 1554, rebel leader Thomas Wyatt the Younger tied on his own blindfold and laid his head on the block, having declared that not “any other now in your durance [i.e., the Tower] was privy to my rising”.

That remark exculpated the Princess Elizabeth, who just days before had been ominously rowed to the Tower on suspicion of having known of or involved herself in Wyatt‘s abortive revolt.

And Wyatt had had to do more than talk the talk to keep the future Queen Elizabeth I out of the executioner’s way.

Sore afraid that Wyatt’s rebellion had been engineered with the connivance of her Protestant half-sister, the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor had had Wyatt tortured to implicate her.

Wyatt held firm to Elizabeth’s innocence.

Had he not, the princess might have followed her mother to the scaffold, instead of becoming one of the realm’s most illustrious monarchs* — a fraught situation aptly portrayed at the outset of the 1998 Cate Blanchett flick Elizabeth.

It wasn’t only religion that made the political situation in 1550s England so perilous.

Mary Tudor’s marriage to Philip of Spain had roused fears of Spanish political domination. This, much more than theology, triggered the plot that took Thomas Wyatt’s head off his shoulders.

Against this specter of Iberian influence, Wyatt and some fellow-nobles attempted to raise coordinated insurrections in early 1554. Most fizzled or were busted by authorities before they could get going. Wyatt’s alone, in quarrelsome Kent, ignited: he marched 4,000 men on the city of London and for a moment seemed to have a real prospect of capturing it before the crown rallied the city.

A paroxysm of vengeful executions in February 1554 claimed nearly 100 participants in the rebellion, their mutilated bodies demonstratively hung up around town. (It also claimed Lady Jane Grey, the lately defeated rival contender for Mary’s throne, whom the latter now realized was too dangerous to be left alive.)

It could have been uglier, though.

Despite her “Bloody Mary” reputation, the Queen went fairly easy on this dangerous challenge to her authority, making some high-profile examples but paroling most of the rank-and-file traitors in a hearts-and-minds clemency campaign.

The namesake rebel, however, was never going to be in that bunch. He was kept on a bit in the Tower while Mary’s goons “laboured to make Sir Thomas Wyatt confess concerning the Lady Elizabeth … but unsuccessfully, though torture had been applied.”

“Much suspected by me, nothing proved can be, Quoth Elizabeth prisoner”

Having kept his head under torture, Wyatt lost it on this date — and readied Elizabeth’s to wear the crown.

If you find the Elizabethan age worth celebrating, spare an extra thought this date for Thomas Wyatt the Younger’s eponymous old man.**

This Henrician poet is supposed to have been Anne Boleyn‘s last lover before Henry VIII.

In Henry’s snakepit, youthful frolics could come back to bite you Wyatt the elder was actually imprisoned for adultery with the queen, only ducking the fatal charge thanks to some pull with Thomas Cromwell.

Wyatt pere wrote a melancholy poem about this depressing turn of his fortunes, but considering his times, you’d have to say he was born under a good sign.

A few years later, he was again on the hook for treason, and (Cromwell having been beheaded in the interim) saved by the fortuitous influence of Queen Catherine Howard, who was herself not long before a fall and a chop. (After that, Lady Wyatt, famous for her gallantries, was supposed to be in the running to become King Henry’s sixth wife even though she was still married to Thomas.)

The elder Wyatt managed to die naturally before trying his luck with a third treason charge.

* Many a slip ‘twixt a cup and a lip, but that turn of ill fate for Elizabeth could have set Mary, Queen of Scots on her way to becoming one of England’s most illustrious monarchs, instead of going to the scaffold.

** The illustrious family ties go the other direction, too. Thomas Wyatt the Younger was the grandfather of Francis Wyatt, the first English royal governor of the New World territory named for Queen Elizabeth: Virginia.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

No poet represents the complexities of the British court of Henry VIII better than Sir Thomas Wyatt. Skilled in international diplomacy, imprisoned without charges, at ease jousting in tournaments, and adept at writing courtly poetry, Wyatt was admired and envied by his contemporaries. The distinction between his public and private life was not always clearly marked, for he spent his life at various courts, where he wrote for a predominantly aristocratic audience who shared common interests. Through and in this milieu he created a new English poetics by experimenting with meter and voice and by grafting Continental and classical forms and ideas to English traditions. Wyatt wrote the first English sonnets and true satires, projecting through them the most important political issues of the period: the Protestant Reformation and the centralization of state power under the reigns of the Tudors. For this combination of formalistic innovation and historical reflection, he is today considered the most important poet of the first half of the sixteenth century.

Born around 1503 at Allington Castle in Kent, England, Wyatt was the son of Sir Henry Wyatt of Yorkshire and Anne Skinner Wyatt of Surrey. Imprisoned more than once by Richard III, Sir Henry had become under Henry VII a powerful, wealthy privy councillor, and he remained so after Henry VIII&rsquos accession. John Leland writes that Wyatt attended Cambridge, and although there is no record to confirm the statement, it seems plausible that he did. It is often assumed that in 1516 he entered Saint John&rsquos College, Cambridge, but his name may have been confused with another Wyatt matriculating there. After marriage to Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of Thomas, Lord Cobham, in 1520 and the birth of a son in 1521, Wyatt progressed in his career at court, as esquire of the king&rsquos body and clerk of the king&rsquos jewels (1524). He probably acquired these posts through a combination of innate abilities and his father&rsquos influence. Stephen Miriam Foley suggests in Sir Thomas Wyatt (1990) that the positions were more significant than their titles might imply, for they helped to entrench him in the king&rsquos household. Members of that household sought power, struggling with the king&rsquos councillors to influence the king.

Sometime after the birth of his son, perhaps around 1525, Wyatt seems to have become estranged from his wife all editors and biographers assume the reason to be her infidelity, for such were the rumors during his life. The Spanish Calendar, for instance, gives this detail: &ldquoWyatt had cast [his wife] away on account of adultery.&rdquo It is certain that in 1526, when Sir Thomas Cheney embarked for the French court on an official delegation, Wyatt accompanied him.

Around 1527 Queen Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, asked Wyatt to translate Petrarch&rsquos De remediis utriusque fortunae. Wyatt translated in its place a piece he found less tedious, Guillaume Budé&rsquos Latin version of Plutarch&rsquos De tranquillitate et securitate animi. It was soon published by Richard Pynson as The Quiet of Mind (1528), and as several scholars have pointed out, the echoes of &ldquoquiet mind&rdquo in Wyatt&rsquos poetry indicate that the piece continued to hold philosophical importance for him. From around 1528 or 1529 to November 1530, Wyatt held the post of high marshal of Calais, and in 1532 he became commissioner of the peace in Essex. Around 1536 Wyatt formed an attachment to Elizabeth Darrell, who became his mistress for life. Some of his poems, such as &ldquoA face that should content me wondrous well&rdquo and &ldquoSo feeble is the thread,&rdquo almost surely allude to this relationship.

The woman with whom Wyatt has been notoriously associated, however, is Anne Boleyn, second queen of Henry VIII. Careful scholars acknowledge that although Wyatt&rsquos poetry is suggestive, the hard evidence for his role as Boleyn&rsquos lover, or scorned lover, is so bedeviled by legend and rumor as to affect even the most cautious statements. One poem long considered to allude to Boleyn is the riddle &ldquoWhat word is that that changeth not&rdquo (no. 54), for its solution (anna) is penned above the poem in the Egerton manuscript (though not in Wyatt&rsquos or the scribe&rsquos hand and, it seems, after the poem was copied there.) The third line of the poem puns on the solution: &ldquoIt is mine answer&rdquo (mine Anne, sir). There is nothing, however, to indicate that the poem is about any specific Anne. Although anecdotes have circulated of the rivalry between Wyatt and Henry, it is very difficult and perhaps even impossible to gauge the extent of Wyatt&rsquos relationship with Boleyn, especially when Henry decided to divorce Catherine and marry her. Henry&rsquos doing so resulted in the Act of Supremacy (1534), whereby he broke from the hegemony of the pope and the Catholic church and proclaimed himself head of the church in England. This move had severe domestic and international consequences, and in 1536 Wyatt was arrested a few days after the arrests of Anne and five men alleged to have been her lovers.

Wyatt was soon restored to favor, though, made sheriff of Kent, and asked to muster men and to attend on Henry VIII. In November 1536 his father died, and in 1537 he once again undertook a diplomatic mission, this time as ambassador to the court of Emperor Charles V. On his journey Wyatt wrote to his son, advising him to emulate the exemplary life of Sir Henry Wyatt rather than Wyatt&rsquos own: &ldquoAnd of myself I may be a near example unto you of my folly and unthriftness that hath as I well deserved brought me into a thousand dangers and hazards, enmities, hatreds, prisonments, despites, and indignations.&rdquo He further admonished his son to &ldquomake God and goodness&rdquo his &ldquofoundations.&rdquo An epigram in Wyatt&rsquos hand in the Egerton manuscript, &ldquoOf Carthage he, that worthy warrior,&rdquo ends with a reference to Spain: &ldquoAt Monzòn thus I restless rest in Spain&rdquo (no. 46). Henry VIII wished to prevent Charles V from forming what would amount to a Catholic alliance with Francis I and thus to prevent a concerted attack on England. Wyatt returned home in mid 1538 but when Charles and Francis, without Henry, reached a separate accord at Nice, the danger of an attack against England grew more grave. Wyatt&rsquos poem in ottava rima, &ldquoTagus, farewell&rdquo (no. 60), probably dates from this period. With this poem, as with the letter to his son, scholars have tried to establish Wyatt&rsquos character. Despite his sufferings and despite his criticisms of the king and his court, he was a loyal servant to Henry VIII. In the last lines the speaker looks forward to returning to London: &ldquoMy king, my country, alone for whom I live, / Of mighty love the wings for this me give.&rdquo

Once more ambassador to the emperor in 1539, Wyatt was to watch his movements through France and to ascertain his intentions regarding England. But by mid 1540, after Henry VIII&rsquos marriage to Anne of Cleves threatened to create a Protestant league, and in the event of growing distrust between Charles and Francis, the danger of an attack against England was no longer imminent, so Wyatt returned home. On 28 July his patron, Cromwell, was executed. Historians attribute Cromwell&rsquos fall in part to factional resistance to his foreign and religious policies and in part to Henry&rsquos severe dislike of Anne of Cleves. He had married her sight unseen and claimed that descriptions of her beauty were untrue (historian John Guy notes that he called her &ldquothe Flanders mare&rdquo). An account found in the Spanish chronicle claims that at the execution Cromwell asked Wyatt to pray for him but that Wyatt was so overcome by tears he could not speak. Cromwell&rsquos papers were investigated after his execution, and in 1541 Wyatt was arrested and imprisoned on the weight of old allegations that he had met with the traitor Reginald Pole and had otherwise misrepresented the king&rsquos interests. Wyatt had been cleared of those charges in 1538, but Cromwell&rsquos death left him open to further attack from his court enemies.

A poem addressed to Sir Francis Brian (no. 62) has traditionally been dated to this last period of incarceration:

Sighs are my food, drink are my tears

Clinking of fetters such music would crave.

Stink and close air away my life wears.

Innocency is all the hope I have.

Besides its graphic depiction of the speaker&rsquos suffering and humiliation&mdash &ldquo this wound shall heal again / But yet, alas, the scar shall still remain&rdquo&mdashthis poem echoes &ldquoWho list his wealth and ease retain&rdquo in its claim of the speaker&rsquos innocence. Wyatt had in 1536 suffered imprisonment in the Tower and, if scholarly dating is correct, had written of it. &ldquoSighs are my food,&rdquo though shorter, is more bitter in tone than the earlier poem. When commanded to answer in writing the accusations against him, Wyatt provided a declaration of his innocence. He insisted that &ldquofor my part I declare affirmingly, at all proofs whereby a Christian man may be tried, that in my life in crime toward the Majesty of the King my master or any his issue, in deed, word, writing or wish I never offended, I never committed malice or offense, or (as I have presently said before you) done thing wherein my thought could accuse my conscience.&rdquo He then prepared a lengthy, sharply worded defense of his actions, turning the case against his accusers. At its end he declares: &ldquoThus much I thought to say unto you afore both God and man to discharge me, that I seem not to perish in my own fault, for lack of declaring my truth and afore God and all these men I charge you with my innocent truth that in case, as God defend, you be guilty of mine innocent blood, that you before his tribunal shall be inexcusable.&rdquo No evidence of a trial survives but the Privy Council later mentioned Wyatt&rsquos confession and pardon, both of which may have been wrought from this defense. At the time, the pardon was believed to have been urged by Queen Catherine Howard and to have rested on the removal of Elizabeth Darrell and the reinstatement of Wyatt&rsquos wife. In 1541 Wyatt made his will, providing for Darrell and their son, Francis, and for his legitimate son, Thomas. There are indications that Wyatt was restored to favor, for later in 1541 he received some of the awards of Thomas Culpepper, who was charged with adultery with Queen Catherine Howard, and made an advantageous exchange of property with Henry VIII. Early in 1542 Wyatt was probably member of Parliament for Kent, and it is possible that he was to be made vice admiral of a fleet. On 11 October 1542, on his way to Falmouth to meet and escort to London the Spanish envoy, he died of a fever at the home of Sir John Horsey at Sherborne in Dorset.Every aspect of Wyatt&rsquos poetry has been widely debated: the canon, the texts, the prosody, the occasion, the personae or voices, the significance of French and Italian influences, and the representation of court life. Wyatt&rsquos poems circulated widely among various members of Henry&rsquos court, and some may first have been published in a miscellany or verse anthology, The Court of Venus, of which three fragments survive. In most of his poetry Wyatt worked both with English models, notably Geoffrey Chaucer, and Continental sources. This combination gives his poems their peculiar characteristic of following the conventions of amour courtois yet implicitly rejecting those conventions at the same time. His canon falls into two subgenres: courtly poetry and religious poetry. The courtly poetry may be divided, with some difficulty, between the love poems and the satiric poems. The love poetry predominates and includes work in several forms, such as sonnets, epigrams, and what have traditionally been called songs. Many of Wyatt&rsquos Petrarchan sources had been set to music by the early sixteenth century, but recent scholars have doubted whether he wrote his poems for musical accompaniment.

Most scholars recognize the importance of the &ldquocourtly&rdquo context for Wyatt&rsquos oeuvre. According to scholar Raymond Southall, the love complaints, besides being personal expressions of love or pain, may also be stylized verses designed to win the favor of court ladies who could offer political advancement to a courtier. Southall notes that many of Wyatt&rsquos poems repeatedly stress the insecurity of a man&rsquos fortunes, an attitude consistent with the realities of court life. Others have suggested that love poetry masks the pursuit of power at court, and it now seems clear that Wyatt&rsquos metaphors serve a double purpose. This courtly context has been filled in by historicist scholars, who have more thoroughly explored the role-playing, submission to authority, and engaging in intrigue required for success at Henry VIII&rsquos court.

One of Wyatt&rsquos greatest poetic achievements is his adaptation of the sonnet form into English. Although he has been criticized by modern scholars for imitating the self-conscious conceits (extended comparisons) and oxymora (oppositions such as &ldquoice / fire&rdquo) of his sources, such language and sentiments would have found an appreciative audience at the time. A clear example of this type of sonnet is his translation of Petrarch&rsquos Rime 134, &ldquoPace non trovo e non ho da far guerra.&rdquo Wyatt&rsquos poem (no. 17) begins:

I find no peace and all my war is done.

I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice.

I fly above the wind yet can I not arise.

And naught I have and all the world I seize on.

Each succeeding line expresses a contradiction in the lover&rsquos situation: he feels both freedom and constraint he wishes both life and death he is both blind and seeing, mute and complaining, loving another and hating himself, sorrowful and joyful. The last line of this poem is typical of Wyatt in indicating that such internal divisions derive from the beloved: his &ldquodelight is causer of this strife.&rdquo

By far the most widely held view is that when Wyatt&rsquos poetry defies the beloved and denounces the game of love, or rejects the devotion to love found in his models, it approaches the anti-Petrarchism of the sort evident later in Elizabethan poetry. His sonnet beginning &ldquoWas I never yet of your love grieved / Nor never shall while that my life doth last&rdquo (no. 12), a translation of Petrarch&rsquos Rime 82, &rdquoIo non fu&rsquo d&rsquo amar voi lassato unqu&rsquo anco,&rdquo declares that &ldquoof hating myself that date is past&rdquo and ends with the lines that project the speaker&rsquos disdain:

If otherwise ye seek for to fulfill

Your disdain, ye err and shall not as ye ween,

And ye yourself the cause thereof hath been.

If this frustration of the beloved&rsquos satisfaction seems vengeful and petty, one must remember that it is bred by a system that seems arbitrary in its delegation of power and responsibility but is in fact closed and dependent on personal loyalties.

A sonnet often cited as an example of Wyatt&rsquos anti-Petrarchism is one for which no source has yet been found,&rdquoFarewell, Love, and all thy laws forever&rdquo (no. 31). As the first line indicates, the speaker has renounced love he will replace it with the philosophy of Seneca and Plato and adopt a more Stoic attitude toward love. He decides to set no more store by such &ldquotrifles&rdquo and bids love &ldquoGo trouble younger hearts.&rdquo The rejection of love as a waste of one&rsquos time and a sure means to suffer is complete in the couplet: &ldquoFor hitherto though I have lost all my time, / Me lusteth no longer rotten boughs to climb.&rdquo A similar theme is sounded in another poem whose source is likewise unknown, &rdquoThere was never file half so well filed&rdquo (no. 32). Here the speaker intends to abandon the passion or &ldquofolly&rdquo of youthful love for the &ldquoreason&rdquo of maturity. Expressing regret for wasted time and wasted trust, the poem ends by claiming that one who deceives should not complain of being deceived in return but should receive the &ldquoreward&rdquo of &ldquolittle trust forever.&rdquo Both these poems are more severely critical views of the artificiality and duplicity of courtly life than the one to be found in a translation such as &ldquoI find no peace and all my war is done&rdquo and yet its juxtapositions of opposites may also indicate the underlying insecurity of that life.

Some of Wyatt&rsquos sourceless poems that are not sonnets, such as &ldquo My lute, awake&rdquo (no. 109), also convey a markedly anti-Petrarchan attitude. The several copies of this eight-stanza song, including those in the Stark and Folger fragments of The Court of Venus, suggest the extent of its popularity. It begins with the standard lover&rsquos complaint but then abandons the courtly love game and pronounces what amounts to a curse on the beloved:

Vengeance shall fall on thy disdain

That makest but game on earnest pain.

Think not alone under the sun

Unquit to cause thy lovers plain

Although my lute and I have done.

May chance thee lie withered and old

The winter nights that are so cold,

Plaining in vain unto the moon.

Thy wishes then dare not be told

Care then who list for I have done.

It is unclear whether the poem&rsquos bitter tone is a projection by Wyatt or by the speaker and although its message may be traditional, it is a stark reminder of the importance of youth in Henry&rsquos court. These poems have an edge to them that jars with the very concept of courtly love poetry but that matches the tone of traditional court satire from other sources, including earlier English poets. This rejection or theme of lost beauty is carried to a misogynistic extreme in another of Wyatt&rsquos better-known poems, &ldquoYe old mule&rdquo (no. 7). Here the faded beauty is compared to a worn-out beast of burden: she can no longer choose her lovers but must buy what is available.

In these and later anti-Petrarchan poems in English, the lover&rsquos pain is blamed on the beloved&rsquos artifice, guile, deceit, dissembling, fickleness, and hard-heartedness in Wyatt&rsquos poems the lover&rsquos constancy is repeatedly compared to the beloved&rsquos lack of faith. In &ldquoThou hast no faith of him that hath none&rdquo (no. 6), the lover, rather than begging for mercy or favor, is angered at having been betrayed:

I thought thee true without exception.

But I perceive I lacked discretion

To fashion faith to words mutable:

Thy thought is too light and variable.

To change so oft without occasion,

Many of Wyatt&rsquos poems treat mutability as an undesirable characteristic for a lover, a servant, a patron, or a king changefulness or betrayal is his common theme. It is not always clear, however, whether in these poems Wyatt speaks in his own voice or creates various personae. Some of the poems project a great deal of venom over personal and political events and seem to reveal an intelligent courtier struggling to define himself against a political structure he both criticizes and enjoys. Some scholars thus see Wyatt as a rebellious figure in a corrupt and corrupting system others see him as hopelessly caught in that system and its dynastic concerns.

The Best Sir Thomas Wyatt Poems Everyone Should Read

The poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42) is that rare thing: both of interest from a historical perspective (he lived through one of the most interesting periods of English history) and genuinely innovative and stylistically accomplished. Here are ten of Thomas Wyatt’s best poems, with some information about each of them.

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow …

Like many poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42), ‘Whoso List to Hunt’ – one of the earliest sonnets written in English – is a loose reworking of a poem by the Italian poet Petrarch. But Wyatt may have been drawing on very personal romantic experience when he penned this poem, which sees him ‘taking himself out of the running’ when it comes to pursuing a beautiful woman. The woman, it has been suggested, is Anne Boleyn, now involved with no lesser a person than the King, Henry VIII. This is one of Wyatt’s best-known poems – and one of the finest.

My lute awake! perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And end that I have now begun
For when this song is sung and past,
My lute be still, for I have done …

Another poem about giving up – just as Wyatt, in the sonnet above, wishes to take himself out of the ‘hunt’ for the ‘hind’. Here, Wyatt calls on his lute – the stringed instrument more or less synonymous with Tudor music – to help him ‘perfourme the last / Labour’ that he wishes to perform. Why? Because a woman has spurned Wyatt: ‘she’ repulses his ‘suyte and affection’.

The pillar perish’d is whereto I leant,
The strongest stay of my unquiet mind
The like of it no man again can find,
From east to west still seeking though he went,
To mine unhap …

Like ‘Whoso List to Hunt’, this sonnet is based on one of Petrarch’s. ‘The piller pearisht is whearto I lent’, as the original spelling has it: somebody on whom Wyatt relied and depended has died, and he is destined to live out the rest of his days in sorrow and pain, till death releases him from his ‘dolefull state’.

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change …

Like ‘Whoso List to Hunt’, this poem – written in rhyme royal (a poetic form introduced into English literature by Geoffrey Chaucer) – is possibly autobiographical, and may refer to Wyatt’s relationship with Anne Boleyn. The women who used to seek Wyatt out for romantic trysts now shun him. Wyatt also draws on the image of a formerly tame woman who is now wild (like the ‘hind’ from ‘Whoso List’).

The longë love that in my thought doth harbour
And in mine hert doth keep his residence,
Into my face presseth with bold pretence
And therein campeth, spreading his banner.
She that me learneth to love and suffer
And will that my trust and lustës negligence
Be rayned by reason, shame, and reverence,
With his hardiness taketh displeasure …

Another sonnet modelled on a Petrarchan original, ‘The longe love, that in my thought doeth harbar’ uses military imagery to describe love. Love sets up camp in Wyatt’s ‘face’, but being restrained by the woman who rejects Wyatt’s loving (and lustful) advances, he flees to the ‘forest’ of Wyatt’s heart, hiding there. Wyatt decides to set out into the ‘field’ with love, and to join him in battle there – in other words, to be bold and reveal his love to his mistress. The final lines of this sonnet might be crudely paraphrased as: ‘No guts, no glory.’

Forget not yet the tried intent
Of such a truth as I have meant
My great travail so gladly spent,
Forget not yet.

Forget not yet when first began
The weary life ye know, since whan
The suit, the service, none tell can
Forget not yet …

This short poem, using the repeated refrain ‘Forget not’, sees Wyatt entreating those who have shunned him to remember that he was steadfast and true to them. Is this another veiled reference to Wyatt’s possible romantic involvement with Anne Boleyn? Biographers and critics have speculated, but what we can say for sure is that this is a fine poem about a spurned lover and onetime favourite. Life at the Tudor royal court was tough and competitive, with back-stabbers lurking round every corner, one could find oneself quickly out of favour…

Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat

The rather less-than-catchy Latin title of this wonderful poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42), a pioneer of English poetry in the Renaissance, translates as ‘my enemies surround my soul’. But the poem is better-known for its use of another Latin phrase, the refrain ‘circa Regna tonat’: ‘it thunders around the realm’.

And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay, for shame,
To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and grame
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!

And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath loved thee so long
In wealth and woe among?
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay …

Sir Thomas Wyatt is perhaps the English poet to read when you’ve had an acrimonious break-up with a lover – hardly anybody writes with more passion and feeling, yet in such a wonderfully stylistically controlled way, about being abandoned by a loved one. Once again, we have a repeated refrain, and once again, a plaintive and slightly disgruntled address to a woman who has spurned him: ‘Say nay, say nay!’

Mine own John Poynz, since ye delight to know
The cause why that homeward I me draw,
And flee the press of courts, whereso they go,
Rather than to live thrall under the awe
Of lordly looks, wrappèd within my cloak,
To will and lust learning to set a law:
It is not for because I scorn or mock
The power of them, to whom fortune hath lent
Charge over us, of right, to strike the stroke …

We know this poem has its roots in Wyatt’s own life, as he had a friend named John Poins. But once again, Wyatt shows his skill at reworking Italian forms into the English vernacular: this poem is based on one by Alamanni, though it uses the terza rima form perfected by Dante in his Divine Comedy. Addressing his friend, Wyatt explains why he has been exiled from court and sent ‘homeward’.

Stand whoso list upon the slipper top
Of court’s estates, and let me here rejoice
And use me quiet without let or stop,
Unknown in court, that hath such brackish joys …

This short poetic fragment is another translation, this time from Roman writer Seneca’s play Thyestes. The sentiment of this ten-line poem is one that we find elsewhere in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s best poems: the life at court is an uncertain one, and there is something to be said (as Paul Scofield, as Thomas More, put it in A Man for All Seasons) for ‘the quiet life’. Sure enough, Wyatt would avoid the chopping block and would die in his bed.

Discover more of Wyatt’s poetry with the first poetry anthology in English and one of the finest publications of the sixteenth century, Tottel’s Miscellany: Songs and Sonnets of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Others (Penguin Classics).

The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English at Loughborough University. He is the author of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History and The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem.

Image: Portrait of Sir Thomas Wyatt by Hans Holbein, published by J. Chamberlain in 1812, Wikimedia Commons.

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