He became the leader of the Wyatt
Rebellion against Queen Mary I.
Biography of Sir
Elizabeth - focus of Protestant
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
Sir Thomas Wyatt in
the Tower of London
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
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:
assure you that neither they nor any other now in your durance (the Tower)
was privy to my rising".
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