He became the leader of the Wyatt Rebellion against Queen Mary I. Biography of Sir Thomas Wyatt
Elizabeth - focus of Protestant Conspiracies
On 6 July 1553 - Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, was proclaimed Queen of England. Mary was a fanatical Catholic and was determined to return England to the true Catholic faith. Elizabeth was in mortal danger - she was heir to the throne, a Protestant and her half-sister Queen Mary did not trust her. After attending Court for a short time Elizabeth retreated to Hatfield away from the intrigues of the court. Elizabeth was the focus of all Protestants and in danger of being implicated in conspiracies to overthrow her Catholic half-sister Mary. It did not take long for a Protestant rebellion to erupt which was sparked by the news that Queen Mary intended to marry the fanatical Catholic King Philip II of Spain. Protestant Englishmen were terrified that the terrible Spanish Inquisition would come to England and that Mary and Philip would produce a Catholic heir to the throne.
The Wyatt Rebellion Conspirators
The attempt by John Dudley to put his Protestant daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne of England had failed. Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford had been imprisoned in the Tower of London. John Dudley had been executed on 23 August 1553. The Catholics were in power. The news about the intended Catholic marriage between Mary and Philip leaked out in the autumn of 1553. The Duke of Suffolk, who had supported Lady Jane Grey, his three brothers, Edward Courtenay Earl of Devon and Sir Edmund Warner initiated the Protestant conspiracy. Their prime objective was to replace Mary with Elizabeth. But their other objective was to arrange the marriage of Elizabeth to Edward Courtney. Elizabeth was again the centre of a plot by powerful men. The French Ambassador, De Noailles, had promised French support once the support of the people had been establish.
Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Conspiracy
Thomas Wyatt was invited to join the conspirators by Edward Courtney. Wyatt was horrified at the prospect of Spanish rule. He was young, 33 years old, reckless and hot-heated. He readily agreed to lead the men of Kent in a country-wide rebellion. The rising was fixed to start on 18 March 1554. But the numbers involved in the conspiracy grew and the 'secret' was out. Sir Thomas Wyatt met close friends at Allington Castle on 22nd January and decided that it would be too dangerous to wait until March. The date for the rebellion was brought forward to Thursday 25th January - coinciding with market day at Maidstone. He raised 4000 men in Maidstone and marched on London.
Letters sent by Sir Thomas Wyatt
Letters informing of the plan were sent to his co-conspirators in other parts of the country - the letter to the Duke of Suffolk was intercepted by Government agents. Sir Thomas Wyatt also sends a letter to Elizabeth informing her of the forth coming rebellion - which is also intercepted by Government agents. Queen Mary issues a proclamation stating any rebels who should return to their homes within 24 hours would be pardoned. Sir Thomas Wyatt was declared a traitor.
Elizabeth and the Wyatt Rebellion
When Sir Thomas Wyatt sends the letter to Elizabeth informing her of his intentions to overthrow Mary he brings Elizabeth into terrible danger - the letter is intercepted by Government agents. Another letter to the French Ambassador, De Noailles, is also intercepted and the letter is worded in such a way that it could be read that Elizabeth had prior knowledge of the rebellion.
Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Rebels reach London
On the 3rd February 1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt and his rebel army entered London. Londoners were frightened that the rebels would sack London. They were also terrified of the dire consequences which would befall any traitors who were involved in such a revolt. There were some sympathisers, but the majority of Londoners backed Queen Mary - after all she was King Henry VIII's daughter and the rightful Queen. Barricades were set up in the City of London to trap and halt the progress of the rebels. Sir Thomas did not receive the expected support from his co-conspirators. He went pass Charing Cross, along the Strand until he reached Ludgate. The gate was shut against Wyatt and the rebels and he retreated to Temple Bar.
The Bell Savage Inn and Wyatt's Rebellion
It was in the yard at the Bell Savage Inn that Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion against Queen Mary I came to an inglorious end. "Adjoining Ludgate Hill was the tavern know as "La Belle Sauvage" a coaching house and Inn-yard. Wyatt entered the courtyard and sat down on a bench, with only a handful of men left. His rearguard was cut off and dispersed and he had no means of forcing the gate. He decided to retreat and with only 60 men turned back to Charing Cross." He was met at Temple Bar by the Norroy Herald to whom he submitted. His opponents had totalled over 10,000 men. The Wyatt Rebellion was over.
Sir Thomas Wyatt taken to the tower
Sir Thomas Wyatt was taken to Whitehall and then imprisoned in the Tower of London with the other nobles caught up in the rebellion. He was questioned about those others who were involved in the rebellion. Torture was used on Wyatt. Sir John Bourne questioned Wyatt and wrote to Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, on 25th February stating that he had:
"laboured to make Sir Thomas Wyatt confess concerning the Lady Elizabeth ... but unsuccessfully,
though torture had been applied".
On March 15th he was called before a court at Westminster to answer a charge of high treason. He was condemned and sentenced to death. His sentence was to be hung, drawn and quartered.
Carnage in London
The common rebels from Kent were hunted down. Nearly 100 were sentenced to the terrible traitor's death of being hung, drawn and quartered. Their mutilated bodies were hung from the different gates of the City of London. This had to be seen as an example to everyone of the fate of anyone who rebelled against the Queen. Other rebels, were however, allowed to return home with their lives.
Prisoners in the Tower of London
Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley had been imprisoned in the Tower of London following their arrests in July 1554. The Queen had showed them clemency. But the Wyatt rebellion put an end to this. They must have both been terrified when they heard about the Wyatt Rebellion. On 12th February 1554 Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley were executed at the Tower of London - they could not be left alive. The remaining members of the Dudley and Grey families must have been expecting a similar fate...
Sir Thomas Wyatt in the Tower of London
The wretched Sir Thomas Wyatt was imprisoned in the White Tower of the Tower of London. Tortured. And aware that the tragic Lady Jane Grey and her young husband Guildford Dudley had been executed. He would also have been aware of the executions of many of his loyal supporters. Death was everywhere. Wyatt knew his turn was next. But he had not implicated Elizabeth. His execution was set for April 11th.
The Execution of Sir Thomas Wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt was escorted to the Tower Hill scaffold on April 11th 1554 for his public execution. He was 33 years old. Wyatt was allowed to make a speech on the scaffold. He bravely accepted responsibility for the rebellion and continued to assert the innocence of Elizabeth. He also defended Edward Courtney. These are the words he spoke:
"I assure you that neither they nor any other now in your durance (the Tower) was privy to my rising".
He was then beheaded and his poor body was mutilated. He was quartered as his traitor's sentence dictated. His body was then hung in various parts of the City of London - Newington, Mile End Green, St Georges Church near the Kent Road, Southwark and besides St Thomas of Waterings, at the second milestone from the city. His head was placed on a pole at the Tyburn gallows at Hay Hill. On April 17 his head was stolen and never recovered, just as Sir Thomas More's head many years before.
Queen Elizabeth I
So ends the story of the Wyatt Rebellion and the start of the terrifying nightmare of Elizabeth.
Elizabeth taken to the Tower of London