Sir Thomas Wyatt died on October 11, 1542. He was lucky to have lived as long as he did. Accused twice of treason in an era when that would get you drawn, quartered, hanged, and beheaded, he escaped the cruel hand of the executioner.
Wyatt is most well known as a poet, and is generally credited with introducing the sonnet into English literature. Born in Allington Castle in Kent, his parents were in the society circle at Court, and were all buddy-buddy with Henry VII. Well, as buddy-buddy as anyone could be with Henry VII.
There were three Wyatt children; his siblings included a brother, Henry, named for His Majesty, and a sister Margaret.
Henry died as an infant, but Margaret grew UP, married Sir Anthony Lee and had a son named Sir Henry Lee, whose descendants move to the Colonies and became the Lees of Virginia.
Wyatt was over six feet tall – rare for the time, handsome, strong, and artsy.
He was a poet.
The ladies loved him.
As an ambassador in service to Henry VIII, he could have his pick of the ladies, but married the sister of the Baron of Cobham. They had a baby, Thomas. This one was apparently spoiled, naughty and rebellious as he lead Wyatt’s Rebellion against Mary I, the Catholic Queen, and tried to place the Protestant Elizabeth on the throne. He was beheaded.
But, I digress, back to Thomas the Elder.
The Baron’s sister turned out to be a skanky-ho, and ran around on the good looking poet. They separated, divorce being a tad tricky, and with Henry VIII trying to dump his Queen to marry Anne, well, it was just a bad idea to push the issue.
Plus, he was in the entourage sent to Pope Clement to get Henry’s divorce.
While in Rome, chatting UP the Pope, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, captured the city, imprisoned the Pope. Thomas was captured as well. He escaped; high tailed it back to Merrie Olde England, was knighted and appointed High Sheriff of Kent.
Wyatt’s goal in life was to civilize the English tongue. Much of his work is made UP of translation and imitations of sonnets by Petrarch. He wrote sonnets using various rhyme schemes generally ended in a rhyming couplet.
I know, I know, get to the good part, the scary and spooky.
As much of his poetry paints the female love interest as hard hearted and cruel, we can only imagine that he’d had a fling or two that ended badly.
Well, there was Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII was hot for Anne, tried to divorce Catherine of Aragon, the Pope wouldn’t play along, Henry broke from the Church, named himself Head of the Church of England, granted the divorce, Catherine went to live in a drafty old castle, Henry married the already knocked UP Anne, and the rest is history.
But, prior to that, the young, lonely, horny, and handsome poet had the hots for Anne.
So much so, that when Henry VIII tired of Anne and looked for a way to rid himself of her, Wyatt was accused as one of her lovers.
One historian claims, “that they did look into each other’s eyes, and felt that to each other they were all too lovely…” I said he was a looker.
In much of his poetry, he calls his mistress Anna, and we know Anne did wind UP with Henry, so she probably yanked out his heart and stomped on it when she got the chance to be Queen of England.
I mean, who wouldn’t?
Right before her marriage to Henry VIII, Anne left for France; it’s where all the stars went to get away from the press. UPon her leaving, Thomas wrote, “…And now I follow the coals that be quent. From Dover to Calais against my mind…”
Sounds like the old boy was love struck and followed her across the Channel.
In a later poem, he said, “There is written her fair neck round about, Noli me tangere, (Do not touch me). Caesar’s I am.”
As Henry VIII and Anne became closer and closer, all her former suitors were ousted from court. Thomas and the King got into a row over a game of bowls (pre-modern day bowling), and Thomas was dispatched on a diplomatic assignment to Italy.
When it was all going downhill in 1536, Wyatt was slapped in the Tower of London on charges of adultery with Anne Boleyn. He was released later that year due to his father’s connections at court, most especially with Thomas Cromwell.
He went back to work.
For a while.
While in the Tower, he witnessed the execution of Anne Boleyn and the other men who were accused along with her.
He later turned it into a poem expressing grief and shock.
Hallmark didn’t pick it UP.
He healed well, taking a mistress and going back to work. By 1540, the King had forgotten the nasty bowling match, and Thomas was the golden haired boy with a new house, Boxley Abbey.
It didn’t last long. In 1541, he was charged with treason again! Henry’s latest wife, and cousin of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, wrangled a full pardon out of the old King. There was one condition, Wyatt had to go home to his trampy, lyin’, cheatin’, skanky ho of a wife.
Suddenly, on October 11, 1542, he became ill and died while visiting friends.
He was 39.
His widow was on the short list for Henry VIII’s sixth wife, but didn’t make the cut.
It is said, that though Wyatt is buried in Sherborne Abbey, his ghost haunts the Tower of London along with that of youthful sweetheart, Anne Boleyn.
None of Wyatt’s poems were published during his lifetime.
His spirit lives on in our language, and of course the Tower, where he can be seen walking, waiting, looking out the window, and his sobs echo throughout the chamber.