WYATT, Sir Thomas II (by 1521-54), of Allington Castle, Kent.
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Family and Education
Capt. of Bas Boulogne 1545-6; j.p. Kent 1547; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; sheriff 1550-1.3
Thomas Wyatt had only recently come of age when his father died in October 1542; a letter from the elder Wyatt in Spain, written in 1537 or 1538, is endorsed in what appears to be a 16th-century hand, ‘to his son, then 15 years old’. The father exhorted the son, who was already married, to live contentedly with his wife—something Sir Thomas himself had failed to do—and in general to follow the good example of his grandfather rather than the past behaviour of his father; in another letter he advised the study of moral philosophy. Although Sir Thomas Wyatt stood well with Cromwell, the Thomas Wyatt who entered the minister’s household about this time was probably not his son but a namesake, possibly a distant kinsman of Barking, Essex. Wyatt himself was a wild young man, pardoned for robbery in November 1542 and imprisoned in the Tower in April 1543 for eating meat on Fridays and fast days (for which he pleaded a licence) and rioting in London with the Earl of Surrey, a charge which he first denied and then admitted. He was released early in May and a month later was given an outlet for his energies in levying men for the war against France.4
Wyatt grasped eagerly at the prospect of active service. Commissioned to lead 100 foot soldiers of the vanguard, he must have acquitted himself well since in November 1544 he was put in charge of part of the garrison of Boulogne and early in 1545 promoted to be captain of Bas Boulogne and member of the council of the town. He remained there for the rest of the year. Writing to Sir William Petre in December 1545, Secretary Paget recommended him to the King’s service. Already a good keeper of discipline and capable of devising sound schemes of fortification, he would, Paget declared, develop with time and experience into a very able soldier; Paget’s only misgiving was lest Wyatt should have inherited his father’s weakness of ‘too strong opinion’, but he judged him a wise young man for his age. A few days later the Earl of Surrey wrote to the King in the same vein: Wyatt was anxious to pay a visit home and Surrey begged leave for him to report on the progress of the campaign.5
Early in the New Year Wyatt was back in Boulogne, taking part in a raid which cost the English heavy losses. Although unhurt on this occasion, he was wounded at some other time. In March 1546 the Earl of Hertford arrived in Calais and ordered Wyatt and the surveyor of works at Boulogne to sound the harbour of Ambleteuse; they reported considerable silting. In April Wyatt took part in the survey of Boulogne and joined Hertford in the ‘camp near to Newhaven’ by the old port of Ambleteuse. He badly wanted to be given the command of the fortress built there and was indeed appointed its captain by Hertford, but in June news came from England that the King had chosen William Stourton, 7th Baron Stourton; disappointed, Wyatt sought leave to return home. In the following March he was licensed to grant the house of the Crutched Friars in London, which his father had received from Henry VIII, to Admiral Seymour and (Sir) William Sharington. He sat in Edward VI’s first Parliament as a knight of the shire for Kent.6
Early in Edward’s reign Wyatt and others submitted a general scheme for the establishment of a militia to the Protector Somerset and some of the Council. Although approved in principle, the scheme was not carried further, ‘either for the newness of the thing’, Wyatt’s son George later explained, ‘or for that it was not at that season thought so convenient to have the subjects armed, whereof the greater numbers were evil affected to the religion then professed, or for that some division then being amongst those that bore the sway, some hindered that the other liked of’. Wyatt and his friends, who included Sir James Croft, Sir William Pickering, Robert Rudston and Sir James Wilford, thereupon prepared a more detailed plan ‘to be tendered and viewed over by the then lord Protector’s grace to have been established by Parliament’. According to his son, Wyatt’s own contribution, of which two fragments survive, was based upon his observations of military practice ‘in Italy, Germany and France and especially amongst the Switzers’, travels which have not been recorded elsewhere. The proposals again came to nothing but at about the same time Wyatt demonstrated the effectiveness of his ideas by leading the local gentry in the suppression of disorders which broke out in Kent during May 1549. It may have been in part for this service that in June 1550 he was granted the manor of Maidstone, of which his father had been steward. In November 1550 the French ambassador asked that ‘some one man of trust’ might be sent over to Calais to assist the English commissioners in negotiating with France ways of avoiding further quarrels over the boundaries. It had already been decided to send Wyatt to advise the deputy and council of Calais, and on 11 Nov. he was appointed to join in the negotiations. It was only a short visit; on 16 Nov. the Privy Council ordered him to return and a fortnight later he was said to be too ill to take part in the negotiations.7
Whatever Wyatt’s private thoughts on the accession of Mary he supported her (so he later claimed) against the Duke of Northumberland; certainly by 19 July 1553 he had proclaimed her Queen. But the news of the Spanish marriage, announced on 15 Jan. 1554, was more than he could endure. Although the Queen instructed Sir Thomas Cornwallis and Sir Edward Hastings to explain the situation, and offered to arrange a conference with him, it was to no avail. Declaring that 100 Spaniards had already landed at Dover, he called on the people of Kent to follow him and save England from the foreigners and the Queen from her advisers. This proclamation was read at Maidstone and other places on 25 Jan. and the rebellion began. Wyatt had an early success at Rochester against the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, took Cooling Castle, the home of his uncle the 9th Lord Cobham, with little difficulty, and marched on London. But there his fortunes changed. The Londoners would not support him, and after several days of indecision the final assault on the City failed; Wyatt was taken prisoner at Temple Bar and quickly lodged in the Tower. Five weeks later he was brought to trial and pleaded guilty to high treason but protested that he never intended harm to the Queen herself. On 11 Apr. he was beheaded on Tower Hill, maintaining on the scaffold that Princess Elizabeth, the Earl of Devon and others were innocent of any part in the uprising. He also besought Secretary Bourne to intercede with the Queen for his wife and children; and although Bourne made no reply at the time, Mary in June 1554 granted Wyatt’s widow an annuity of 200 marks and in December 1555 she restored some of Wyatt’s lands. In the meantime a bill confirming Wyatt’s attainder had failed in the Commons when on 5 May 1554 an amendment from the Lords was rejected, but in the following Parliament a bill to the same effect had been enacted (1 and 2 Phil. and Mary c.21).8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Helen Miller
- 1. Hatfield 207.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/65/90. Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder ed. Nott, ii. ped.; LP Hen. VIII, xx; CPR, 1555-7, p. 159; DNB.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 85; 1553, pp. 355, 414.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi