Open main menu

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wyat, Sir Thomas (conspirator)

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

WYAT, SIR THOMAS (d. 1554), English conspirator, son of the preceding, was over twenty-one in 1543, but the date of his birth is uncertain. He is said to have accompanied his father on his mission to Spain, and to have been turned into an enemy of the Spaniards by the menaces of the Inquisition. In 1537 he married Jane, daughter of Sir William Hawte of Bishopsbourne in Kent, by whom he had ten children. Wyat was noted in his youth as dissipated, and even as disorderly. He is known to have had a natural son, whose mother Elizabeth was a daughter of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote. In 1542 he inherited the family property of Allington Castle and Boxley Abbey on the death of his father. From 1543 to 1550 he saw service abroad as a soldier. In 1554 he joined with the conspirators who combined to prevent the marriage of Queen Mary with Philip the prince of Spain, afterwards King Philip II. A general movement was planned; but his fellow-conspirators were timid and inept, the rising was serious only in Kent, and Wyat became a formidable rebel mostly by accident. On the 22nd of January 155; he summoned a meeting of his friends at his castle of Allington, and the 25th was fixed for the rising. On the 26th Wyat occupied Rochester, and issued a proclamation to the county. The country people and local gentry collected, but at first the queen's supporters, led by Lord Abergavenny and Sir Robert Southwell, the sheriff, appeared to be able to suppress the rising with ease, gaining some successes against isolated bands of the insurgents. But the Spanish marriage was unpopular, and Kent was more affected by the preaching of the reformers than most of the country districts of England. Abergavenny, and Southwell were deserted by their men, who either disbanded or went over to Wyat. A detachment of the London train-bands sent against him by Queen Mary, under the command of the duke of Norfolk, followed their example. The rising now seemed so formidable that a deputation was sent to Wyat by the queen and council to ask for his terms. He insisted that the Tower should be surrendered to him, and the queen put under his charge. The insolence of these demands caused a reaction in London, where the reformers were strong and were at first in sympathy with him. When he reached Southwark on the 3rd of February he found London Bridge occupied in force, and was unable to penetrate into the city. He was driven from Southwark by the threats of Sir John Brydges (or Bruges), afterwards Lord Chandos, who was prepared to fire on the suburb with the guns of the Tower. Wyat now marched up the river to Kingston, where he crossed the Thames, and made his way to Ludgate with a part of his following. Some of his men were cut off. Others lost heart and deserted. His only hope was that a rising would take place, but the loyal forces kept order, and after a futile attempt to force the gate Wyat surrendered. He was brought to trial on the 15th of March, and could make no defence. Execution was for a time delayed, no doubt in the hope that in order to save his life he would say enough to compromise the queen's sister Elizabeth, afterwards Queen Elizabeth, in whose interests the rising was supposed to have been made. But he would not confess enough to render her liable to a trial for treason. He was executed on the nth of April, and on the scaffold expressly cleared the princess of all complicity in the rising. His estates were afterwards partly restored to his sou George, the father of the Sir Francis Wyat (d. 1644) who was governor of Virginia in 1621–26 and 1639–1642. A fragment of the castle of Allington is still inhabited as a farm-house, near Maidstone, on the bank of the Medway.

See G. F. Nott, Works of Surrey and of Sir Thomas Wyat (1815); and Froude, History of England.