Sir Thomas WYATT, "The Elder"

Born: 1503 Allington Castle, Kent, England

Died: 11 Oct 1542, Sherborne, Dorset, England

Buried: 11 Oct 1542, the great church of Sherborne

Father: Henry WYATT (Sir)

Mother: Anne SKINNER

Married: Elizabeth BROOKE 1520


1. Thomas "The Younger" WYATT (Sir)

2. Anne WYATT

Associated with: Elizabeth DARRELL (d. ABT 1556) (dau. of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote and Jane Croft) (m. Robert Strowde)


3. Henry WYATT

4. Francis WYATT

5. Edward WYATT

Wyatt,Thomas(Sir)01.jpg (58057 bytes)

A sketch of Sir Thomas Wyatt.
by Hans Holbein the Younger
The Royal Library, Windsor Castle ©Her Majesty the Queen

For More Information see:

The Wyatt Family History

Son of Sir Henry Wyatt and Anne, daughter of John Skinner of Reigate, Surrey, was born about 1503 at his father's residence, Allington Castle, Kent. The 'inquisition post mortem' of his father, dated 1537, inaccurately describes him as then aged 'twenty-eight years and upwards'.

At twelve years of age Thomas was admitted of St. John's College, Cambridge. He graduated there B.A. in 1518, and M.A. in 1520. There is a vague tradition that he also studied at Oxford. Playmate and friend of Anne Boleyn, had an early love affair with her. He married early in 1520 to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Brooke, Lord Cobham. Marriage arranged by parents and was unhappy. Separated soon after birth of a son, Thomas, the younger. Presumed that Thomas still retained affection for Anne Boleyn, and long after the date of his marriage Wyatt was regarded as her lover. Seventeen years after his marriage, the then Lord Cobham, Elizabethís brother wrote complaining that Thomas Wyatt still refused to make any financial provision for his wife.

He soon sought official employment, and became Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII. In 1524 he was appointed clerk of the King's jewels, but the statement that he succeeded his father as treasurer to the King's chamber is an invention of J.P.Collier, who forged entries in official papers in support of it  (Trevelyan Papers, Camd. Soc.; SIMONDS, Sir Thomas Wyatt and his Poems).

At Christmas 1525 he distinguished himself at a court tournament. Next year he accompanied Sir Thomas Cheney on a diplomatic mission to France and to the Flemish Court.

In Jan 1526-7 he accompanied Sir John Russell, the Ambassador, to the papal court. The story is told that Russell in his journey down the Thames encountered Wyatt, and, 'after salutations, was demanded of him whither he went, and had answer, "To Italy, sent by the King". "And I", said Wyatt, "will, if you please, ask leave, get money, and go with you". "No man more welcome", answered the Ambassador. So, this accordingly done they passed in post together (Wyatt MSS.). While abroad at this time, Wyatt visited Venice, Ferrera, Bologna, Florence, and Rome. Russell broke his leg at Rome, and Wyatt undertook to negotiate on his behalf with the Venetian republic. On  his return journey towards Rome he was taken captive by the imperial forces under the constable Bourbon, and a ransom of three thousand ducats was demanded. Wyatt, however, escaped to Bologna.

On settling again in England Wyatt rejoined the court, but in 1529 and 1530 he chiefly spent his time at Calais, where he accepted the post of high-marshall. His relations with Anne Boleyn continued close until her favours were sought by Henry VIII. Sir Thomas wrote her a sonnet complaining of the broken affair. Then it is said that he frankly confessed to Henry the character of his intimacy with her, and warned him against marrying a woman of blemished character. In 1533 he was sworn of the privy council, and at Anne's coronation on White Sunday of that year he acted as chief 'ewerer' in place of his father, and poured scented water over the Queen's hands. The story of the Spanish chronicler that Henry afterwards banished Wyatt from court for two years in uncorroborated.

Wyatt had been to see Elizabeth Darrell on his visit to England from Spain, the previous Jun. We know this from the evidence of Jerome Ragland, given on 28 Oct (State Papers no 70). In 1534, on his return to England he reported to the King, and afterwards spent some time at Allington Castle, re-united with Elizabeth Darrell, and made some attempt to put his finances in order.

In this year Wyatt was involved in an affray with the sergeant of London one of whom killed. Wyatt was imprisoned in Fleet prison but released after one month. In the spring of 1535 he was engaged in a heated controversy with Elizabeth Rede, Abbess of West Malling, who declined to obey the orders of the government to admit Wyatt to confiscated property of the abbey. He was in attendance on the King early in 1536, but soon afterwards the discovery of Anne's post-nuptial infidelities created at court an atmosphere of suspicion, which threatened to overwhelm Wyatt. Cromwell had her spied upon and a secret commission was set up. She was suddenly accused of treason, adultery and incest. The indictment - or frame up - alleged, with dates, that over the past three years she has procured five men to "violate her". The accused included her brother George Rochford; Sir Francis Weston, of the Kingís privy Chamber; and Mark Smeaton, a musician; Sir Henry Norreys, Squire of Kings Bodyguard; William Brereton, of Cheshire. Though all denied the charges they were found guilty and executed, much of the evidence being secured under torture. On 5 May 1536 Wyatt was committed to the Tower. He was bound and fettered and marched to the Tower, by Archers of the Kingís Bodyguard, "No one dare say a word for him". When arrested Wyatt replied "the King well knows what I told him before he was married". Cromwell wrote to Wyatt's father on 11 May that his life was to be spared. No legal proceedings were taken against him, and he was released on 14 Jun. His sister Mary attended Queen Anne on the scaffold. Wyatt made allusion to the fatal month of May in one of his sonnets; but he had not forfeited the king's favour, and the minister Cromwell thenceforth treated him with marked confidence. In Oct 1536 he was given a command against the rebels in Lincolnshire in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and he was knighted on 18 Mar 1536/7. In 1537 he became sheriff of Kent.

He was embarrassed financially, in spite of inheriting fatherís large fortune, due to his own extravagant expenditure.

In Apr of the 1536 he was appointed Ambassador to the Emperor, in succession to Richard Pate, and he remained abroad, mostly in Spain, till Apr 1539. The negotiations in which he was engaged were aimed at securing friendly relations between the Emperor and Henry VIII. The diplomacy proved intricate, and although Wyatt displayed in its conduct sagacity and foresight, he achieved no substantial success. He found time in 1537 to send interesting letters of moral advice to his son (printed by Nott). In 1537 an attempt was made by the Brooke family to force a reconciliation between husband and wife, but Wyatt refused to take her back. In May 1538 Edmund Bonner and Simon Heynes were ordered under a special commission to Nice, where the Emperor was staying, to join Wyatt in disuading him from taking part in a general counsel convened by the Pope at Vicensa. Wyatt entertained Bonner and his companion at Villa Franca, where the English embassy had secured apartments remote from the heat and crowd of Nice; but Wyatt resented the presence of coadjutors and treated them with apparent contempt. Bonner retaliated by writing to Cromwell (from Blois, 2 Sep 1538) that Wyatt was engaged in traitorous correspondence with Reginald Pole, lived loosely, and used disrespectful language to the King (cf. Inner Temple Petyt MS. No. 47, f. 9; printed in Gent. Mag. 1850, i. 563-70). Cromwell, a staunch friend of Wyatt ignored the accusation, and on 27 Nov 1538 wrote to him in terms of confidence. At Cromwell’s suggestion, Sir Thomas Wriothesley wrote to Wyatt, informing him of the arrest of the Marquis of Exeter and Lord Montague on a charge of treason. Cromwell knew that Wyatt was acquainted with at least one member of the Marquis of Exeter’s household, Elizabeth Darrell, who had already been forced to give evidence, and who had mentioned Wyatt’s visit to her when he was last in England. It is probable that she was already his mistress, and that he was naturally disturbed at Exeter’s alleged treason (State Papers). Wyatt was recalled to England in Apr 1539.

In the following Dec he was dispatched to Flanders to interview the Emperor, who was on the point of paying a visit to the King of France in Paris. Thither Wyatt followed the Emperor. In Jan 1540 Wyatt was especially requested to procure from the French court the arrest of a Welshman named Brancetor, an ally of Cardinal Pole, who had taken service in the household of the Emperor, and was with him in Paris. Wyatt failed to secure the arrest of the man, who appealed to the Emperor and to the French government for protection. Wyatt pressed the matter in an audence with the Emperor, but he proved unconciliatory. Henry VIII on hearing from Wyatt of his difficulties instructed him to remain firm. Wyatt followed the Emperor to Brussells and boldly renewed his entreaties without result. Wyatt's inablity to improve the relations between Henry VIII and the Emperor were in part responsible for Cromwell's fall. In 1540 he returned to the Low Countries.

After Cromwell's execution Bonner and Heynes renewed their old attack upon Wyatt. The opposing faction renewed attacks on Thomas Wyatt: he was charged with disrespectful references to the King when Ambassador to Spain; with relations with the traitor Cardinal Pole; with living a wild and extravagant life. Their charges were now treated seriously, and Wyatt was sent to the Tower at the same time as another innocent ally of Cromwell, Sir John Wallop. When Wyatt was a arrested the Privy Council instructed Sir Richard Southwell to proceed to Allington Castle and confiscate, for the King, all the plate, household stuff, armoury, guns and horses, and also to "discharge from thens, the Lady Poynings and yong Wyattes wief". He was also instructed to ask Elizabeth Darrell "Wither she intended to go to any such place wheras she shuld be ordered... untill the King’s highnes further pleasur we knowen therin". Wyatt was privately informed of the accusation, and sent an elaborate paper of explanations, denying with much spirit that any treasonable intent could be deduced from any reports of his conversation (cf. Harl. MS. 78, arts. 6, 7; first printed by Horace Walpole in Miscellaneous Antiquities, 1772, ii. 21-54, from a transcript made by the poet Gray). But according to a letter sent by the lords of the council to Sir William Howard on 26 Mar 1541, Wyatt 'confessed upon his examination, all the things objected unto him, in a like lamentable and pitifull sorte as Wallop did, whiche surely were grevous, delyvering his submission in writing, declaring thole history of his offences, but with a like protestation, that the same proceeded from him in his rage and folishe vaynglorios fantazie without spott of malice; yelding himself only to his majesties mercy, without whiche he sawe he might and must needes be justely condemned. And the contemplation of which submission, and at the greate and contynual sute of the Quenes Majestie, His Highnes, being of his owne most godly nature enclyned to pitie and mercy, hathe given him his pardon in as large and ample sorte as his grace gave thother to Sir John Wallop, whiche pardons be delyvered, and they sent for to come hither to Highnes at Dover'. He was later released at the request of Queen Catherine Howard, whose mother was a Culpepper, friend and neighbour of Wyattís of Kent; "on condition that he take back his wife from whom he had been separated fifteen years". He had been separated from his wife for upwards of fifteen years. Wyatt had cast her away on account of adultery, and had not seen her for many years; he will now be obliged to receive her, and should he not do so, and not lead a conjugal life with her, or should he be found to keep up adulterous relations with one or two other ladies that he has since lived with, he is to suffer pain of death and confiscation of property. It is assumed that Elizabeth Darrell was his mistress. In 1540 Following the execution of Cromwell, Wyatt retired to Allington; Elizabeth Darrell, Lady Poynings, Wyattís son and daughter-in-law; were also there.

Thenceforth the King's favour was secure. He had added the estate of Boxley to his large Kentish property, and now received grants of land at Lambeth and elsewhere, exchanging some of his land in Kent for other estates in Dorset and Somerset.

On 27 Mar Wyatt was again with the King at Dover and by 10 Apr was employed again being made captain of 300 light cavalry who were to protect Calais until the new fortifications were built, and there were soon proofs of the Kingís complete trust in him. At this time Wyatt was described by Marillac, the French Ambassador as Ďone of the richest gentleman in England, having an income from his patrimony of six to seven thousand ducats a yearí. Leland described him as "tall in stature, with powerful muscles and sinews. His abundant hair was golden in youth, which he lost by degrees, and became bald, but there grew up instead a thick growth of his long beard". He was highly intelligent, witty, fearless of speech to the point of indiscretion, impulsive and unsteady, spoilt by an admiring father and friends. Roger Ascham declares that Ďhe was one of the best translators of the Latin poets of the age in which he livedí. his fame rests chiefly on his poetry and diplomacy; his early friendship with the accomplished Earl of Surrey, doubtless helping him to stimulate his poetic tastes and give him a status in the literary world. Henryís court was a sophisticated centre of music, literature and learning. By far the best poet was Wyatt, with the Earl of Surrey, both of whom had travelled in Italy and there heard the stately measures of Dante, Aristo and Petrach.

He was made high steward of the manor of Maidstone, and early in 1542 he was sent to Falmouth to conduct the Imperial Ambassador to London. The heat of the weather and the fatigue of the journey brought on a violent fever, which compelled him to halt at Sherborne in Dorset.

There Wyatt died, and on 11 Oct 1542 he was buried in the great church of Sherborne. The register describes him as 'vir venerabilis'. The 'inquisitio post mortem', dated 8 Jan 1542-3, enumerates vast estates in Kent (34 Hen. VIII, Kent, m. 90).

Various authors and authorities give conflicting accounts of Elizabeth Darrell’s connection with the Wyatts.

Elizabeth Darrell (sometimes spelt Darrall) was the daughter of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote (Wilts) (b. 1466 - d. 9 Mar 1531), Chamberlain to Catalina of Aragon and among the mourners at her funeral, by his first wife, sometimes called Anne or Jane Croft. She was one of Catalina of Aragon's gentlewomen. She asked to join the household of Queen Jane Seymour but is next found as servant of the Marchioness of Exeter. When Catalina died in 1536 she left Mrs Darrell with £200 for her marriage, though none was in prospect. When Gertrude and others were arrested on suspicion of treason, Elizabeth was forced to give evidence against the Marchioness. In her interrogation on 6 Nov, she confessed that she had heard that the King had sent Peter Mewtas into France to kill Cardinal Pole with a handgun. After 1538 she became the mistress of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder. She bore 3 sons of Sir Thomas: Henry, who died in infancy, Francis, born in 1540, who took the name of Darrell, and Edward, whose date of birth has not been traced and who was executed among the rebels after the Wyatt's rebellion of 1554. Elizabeth Darrell was openly living with Wyatt, as his mistress, at Allington Castle in Kent, in Jan of 1541, when Wyatt was arrested. Because she was pregnant at the time, she was allowed to remain in one of Wyattís confiscated houses. There was another attempt made at that time to force him to take back his wife, but following his release from the Tower, he returned to his mistress. Sir Thomas left Elizabeth properties in Dorset with the right of reversion to her son Francis. In 1543 properties were confirmed as being held, by Elizabeth. She also received the estate at Tarrant given to her in 1544 by Sir Thomas, the younger. Elizabeth apparently got along well with Wyattís legitimate son, Thomas, which is probably what gave rise to the identification of her as his mistress rather than his fatherís. Elizabeth Darrell eventually married Robert Strowde in 1554. The parsonage at Stoke, Somerset was leased to Elizabeth in 1548 and around 1554, at about the same time Queen Mary seems to have paid Elizabeth a legacy left to her by Queen Catalina of Aragon. In 1560, he was living in the provost's house at Stoke.

Stanley Wyatt, in "Cheneys and Wyatts" Page 111, definitely states that she became the mistress of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the younger, by whom she had a son Francis, with a passing reference to "another little Wyatt" who may be Edward.

According to A. R. Simons in "The Queen and the Rebel", Edward was the natural son of Sir Thomas, the younger, and he gives a full description of the boy’s attendance at the early meetings of the main conspirators, his torture in the Tower and his execution, probably at Maidstone, on the 17th, with Thomas Cobham.

Muir, in his book "Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt", (the elder) 1503-1542, states she was the mistress of Sir Thomas, the elder, quoting Letters and Papers of Henry VII, Henry VIII, No 674. Thomas the Elder visited Elizabeth in 1538, but the date could fit either father, aged 35, or the son aged 17, who had been ever persuaded by his parents into marriage with Jane Hawte when he was 16, and form whom he later became estranged.

Dr William Hawte Wyatt, (Indiana University), states she had three children by Sir Thomas (the elder or younger is not given) Henry, Francis and Edward. He states that Edward was a boy of 13 or 14 when he was caught up in Thomas the younger’s rebellion, an age which makes either man the possible father.

Edward Wyatt was living at Allington with Sir Thomas, the younger, at the time of the Rebellion, and followed him in the march, was finally captured and tortured (to see what he knew of the suspected connection between Sir Thomas and the future Queen Elizabeth) and executed, which seems to suggest he was the son of Sir Thomas the younger.

Edward Wyatt is mentioned by Loades in his edited version of George Wyatt’s papers as "the suppositious son of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder".

Cross references fit the cases of both men - is it possible that she became the mistress of both men?

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