WYATT, Sir Thomas I (by 1504-42), of Allington Castle, Kent.
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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
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.