Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (1521 – 11 April 1554) was a rebel leader during the reign of Mary I of England; his rising is traditionally called “Wyatt’s rebellion”. He was also the son of the English poet and ambassador Sir Thomas Wyatt.
Wyatt was the son of Sir Thomas Wyatt and Elizabeth Brooke, the daughter of Thomas Brooke, 8th Baron Cobham, by Dorothy Heydon, daughter of Sir Henry Heydon and Elizabeth or Anne Boleyn, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn. He was the grandson of Sir Henry Wyatt and Anne Skinner, the daughter of John Skinner of Reigate, Surrey.
Thomas Wyatt the Younger was raised Catholic. His godfather, the Duke of Norfolk had a significant influence on Wyatt’s upbringing. Throughout childhood, Thomas accompanied his father on a delegation to Spain where the Inquisition began. Subsequently, at the young age of sixteen, Thomas Wyatt the Younger was married. He soon prospered off his father’s death in 1542 to Allington Castle and Boxley Abbey in Kent. Due to personal reasons, Wyatt the Younger fled the property and had a child named Francis Wyatt, whose mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Darrel of Littlecote. Autumn of 1543, Wyatt joined a group of volunteers to take part in the siege of Landrecies. Wyatt established himself as a prominent figure in the military and was highly recognized by Thomas Churchyard. Next, Wyatt took part in the siege of Boulogne with responsible command. In 1547, he was elected Member of Parliament for Kent. In 1550, he was given the title of commissioner to delimit the English frontier in France but became ill and incapable. Later, Wyatt claimed to have assisted Queen Mary against the Duke of Northumberland when the Duke threatened the throne for his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey.
Stemming from experiences with the Spanish Inquisition while accompanying his father, Wyatt developed an aversion to the Spanish government, which greatly affected him when he learned of Queen Mary’s decision to marry Philip of Spain. Thomas Wyatt viewed this decision as an injustice to the nation. According to Wyatt he never planned on protesting against the Queen’s marriage until he was approached by Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon, who wished to prevent the Queen’s plan.
When the official marriage announcement was published on January 15, 1553–54, Wyatt and friends joined at Allington Castle to discuss plans of resistance. After several instigators were arrested, Wyatt became the leader of the rebellion. He then published a proclamation at Maidstone stating that his plan had been approved by ‘dyvers of the best shire’. People were told to secure the advancements of ‘liberty and commonwealth’ which were being threatened by ‘the Queen’s determinate pleasure to marry with a stranger.’
Wyatt proved himself to be a responsible leader, earning the praise of the French ambassador, de Noailles. Soon, Wyatt was responsible for commanding 1,500 men. He set up his command headquarters in Rochester.
Shortly after he had established his headquarters, Queen Mary was informed of Wyatt’s plan. The Queen offered a pardon to followers of Wyatt who retreated peacefully to their homes within twenty-four hours. Despite this, Thomas Wyatt encouraged his followers to stay by falsely announcing imminent support from France and victorious uprisings in other areas. He was given a surprising advantage when the government instructed the Duke of Norfolk to approach Wyatt and his forces. The Duke’s forces were inferior to Wyatt and the rebels. When the Duke came into contact with Wyatt, many of his own men joined the rebellion, which led the Duke to flee to Gravesend.
Following these events, Wyatt and the four thousand men who accompanied him marched through Gravesend and Dartford to Blackheath in January of 1553–54. The government addressed this issue with great seriousness. In an effort to gain time, the government offered Wyatt an opportunity to establish demands; however, this was only a formality. By this point, Wyatt had been deemed a disloyal adversary in the eyes of the monarchy. On February 2, 1554, over twenty thousand men volunteered to aid the Queen as defenders against Wyatt and his troops. In addition to these precautions, other security measures were also taken. The court and the Tower were under especially heavy guard. Furthermore, a lucrative reward was offered in exchange for Wyatt’s capture: a valuable sum of land would be awarded to anyone who handed Wyatt over as captive.
Upon entering Southwark, Wyatt and his companions soon discovered the high security measures that had been implemented. As a result, many of his followers abandoned him, forcing him to leave Southwark. He instead headed towards Kingston, with new plans to surprise Ludgate and intentions to capture the Queen’s refuge in St James Palace. The government soon found out about his strategy, and responded by allowing him to progress into the city, only to corner him from all sides. After several skirmishes along the way, with the numbers of his followers dwindling continually, Wyatt eventually admitted defeat. On March 15, he was sentenced to death for high treason.
On April 11, 1554, the scheduled date of his execution, Wyatt asked permission of Lord Chandos, the lieutenant of the Tower, to speak to the Earl of Devonshire, Edward Courtenay. During their half-hour long meeting, Wyatt knelt down before Courtenay and begged him “to confess the truth of himself,” as Wyatt believed Courtenay was the original instigator of the crime. However, when at the Tower, Wyatt confessed his own blame and was determined to exculpate the Princess Elizabeth and Courtenay. After Wyatt was beheaded, his body was further punished to the standards of treason. His head, before it was stolen on April 17, was hung from a gallows. His limbs were then circulated among towns and also hung up.
Marriage and issue
In 1537, Wyatt married Jane Haute, the daughter of Sir William Haute (d.1539) of Bishopsbourne, Kent, by Mary, the daughter of Sir Richard Guildford. They had five sons, George, Richard, Charles, Arthur and Henry, and four daughters, Joyce, Ursula, Anne, and Jane. Three of their children married and continued the lineage. Anne married Roger Twysden, whose grandson was Sir Roger Twysden. Sir Roger inherited Wyatt the Younger’s son George Wyatt’s manuscript on Anne Boleyn’s life, entitled Extracts from the Life of Queen Anne Boleigne, by George Wyat. Written at the close of the XVIth century.
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 Grade 1 listed building, near Maidstone, on the bank of the Medway. A great-grandson of note was explorer and interpreter, Captain Henry Fleete of Maryland and Virginia,