On the 11th October 1532, Thomas Wyatt the Elder died. He died at Clifton Maybank House, the home of his friend Sir John Horsey, in Sherborne Dorset.
Wyatt was born in 1503 at Allington Castle, Kent. His parents were Henry Wyatt and Anne Skinner. Henry Wyatt had become a Privy Councillor under Henry VII and Anne Skinner was famed for her hospitality.
In 1524, Wyatt followed his father’s example and started a career at court. He became a Clerk of the King’s Jewels before being made Esquire of the Body in 1525.
In 1520, Wyatt married Elizabeth Brooke, the daughter of Thomas Brooke, 8th Baron Cobham. A year later, the couple had a son who was also named Thomas Wyatt. However, their marriage was not a happy one. Elizabeth was charged with adultery and they separated around 1525. We know that, just after his marriage to Elizabeth, Wyatt fell in love with Anne Boleyn. George Wyatt, Wyatt’s grandson, wrote that when Wyatt first saw Anne he was ‘surprised by the sight thereof’. Anne probably did not love him back, as she was seeing Henry Percy at the time and then moved on to Henry VIII. It was most likely an unrequited love, with Wyatt writing poems for Anne and loving her from afar.
During 1536, Wyatt was investigated as to his involvement with Anne Boleyn. For a while, he was imprisoned in the Tower, but was one of the lucky few that escaped the other men’s fates. On the 17th May, Wyatt watched the men’s executions, even writing a poem about it:
‘The Bell Tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.
By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonal.’
Even though he escaped that fate, later on Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower once again. This was in 1541 and he was charged with treason for making rude comments about the King and dealing with Cardinal Pole. This time Catherine Howard, the current Queen at the time, secured his pardon and release. In 1542, Wyatt was back in favour, although this was short lived. He was taken ill, although he had been complaining of severe headaches for a few years beforehand. He was 39 years old when he died.
The Life of Queen Anne Boleigne, George Wyatt
Portrait of Thomas Wyatt the Elder.