Thomas Wyatt the Younger was the son of Thomas Wyatt, the Court poet in the reign of Henry VIII famously arrested for having a romantic liaison with Anne Boleyn. He was born in 1521, the only child from his father’s unsuccessful marriage to Elizabeth Brooke. He was known to have three younger illegitimate half-brothers, Henry who died as a child, born sometime after 1538, Francis born in 1541, and Edward, all as a result of Thomas the Elder’s relationship with Elizabeth Darrell. Judging by Thomas the Elder’s will, it is entirely likely that he died in 1542, before Edward was born, as he makes provision for both Francis and Elizabeth in the form of money and lands, particularly those around his house in Boxley but doesn’t mention Edward.
Thomas was described by some as wild and impetuous, after his father’s death he sold some of his inheritance in the form of land to the crown, to release nearly £4000. He turned over further lands to both his half-brother Francis and Elizabeth Darrell, however the source appears to incorrectly allude to ‘a natural son – Francis – of Elizabeth’ as though he were his own son rather than his brother. He married young to Jane Haute, and had nine children, five sons, and four daughters. His grandson would later become the first Governor of Virginia in 1621.
Thomas was arrested for his part in some minor property damage, smashed windows and such, and for the charge of eating meat during Lent, with a group of youths including his father’s protégée, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in March 1543, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower, for a number of weeks. Surrey was the instigator of the affair, his defence that they were awakening the residents to their sins. Surrey and Wyatt later absolved themselves by raising an army of volunteers and crossing to France to assist in the sieges that took place between the Summer of 1543 and ending with the siege of Boulogne in 1550. Surrey wrote to King Henry to praise Wyatt’s efforts during the earlier campaign. Despite being offered a further commission in France, Wyatt, due to ill-health was forced to decline and subsequently returned home.
Despite being implicated in the Lady Jane Grey matter, in 1553, alongside his Uncle the Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley, Wyatt strenuously denied involvement, claiming that he was sworn to support the crown of Queen Mary, against the Duke in his plot. The Duke was executed as a result of the plot along with his son Guilford and the unfortunate Jane.
It was the following year, when Wyatt learned of the plans for Mary to marry the Spanish Philip II that things began to go wrong for him. Although he would later swear that it was never his intention to have Mary removed from the throne, his unnerving experience when serving with his father during the Inquisition, and their narrow escape from the round-up during the kidnapping of the Pope by the Spanish, left him suspicious of the Nation. He would state that his participation was limited to mustering a force to ensure the marriage plans were abandoned.
Approached by Edward Courtenay, who had recently been released after 15 years incarcerated in the Tower for his family’s alleged involvement in a Catholic uprising under Reginald Pole, by Henry VIII, (which led to his father’s execution) Wyatt readily agreed to assist the group, including Peter Carew, James Crofts and others, in gathering strength of men to persuade Parliament and the Queen to withdraw from the wedding. The alternative choice was Courtenay himself. Mary found out about the plan, and had several of those involved arrested. Around this time Wyatt found himself the Leader. Unknown to him a larger army than he anticipated was raised to defend the Queen, and Wyatt’s entry to the city prevented at Southwark. As he made his way to the alternative Ludgate, many of his men fled or switched sides. Mary issued the offer of a general pardon to any that laid down their arms and returned to their homes. Wyatt was able to enter into the city, where he was surrounded and arrested.
During his imprisonment in the Tower, awaiting his execution for Treason, Wyatt begged to speak with Courtenay, and asked him to confess his part in the action. He later had a change of heart and declared that his friend and the Princess Elizabeth were innocent of involvement.
Wyatt was executed on the 11th April 1554 on Tower Hill, and after his head was hung from a gallows to be later stolen, his limbs were sent to be nailed to walls in various towns as was customary. It is rumoured that his youngest half brother, Edward, died during the rebellion fighting alongside Thomas.