Thomas Wyatt, the Elder
Thomas Wyatt, the Elder
By 5th May 1536, two other men had been imprisoned in the Tower of London and another courtier had been ordered to London for questioning.

In 1538, Robert Hobbes, Abbot of Woburn, made a declaration “as touching the accusations of his adversaries proposed against him unto the King’s most honourable Council” and mentioned Sir Francis Bryan being interrogated in May 1536:

“At the fall of queen Anne Mr. Bryan was sent for by the lord Privy Seal in all haste “upon his allegiance.” At his next repair to Ampthill the abbot went to visit him, being in the Court with lord Grey of Wilton and others. Sir Francis espied the abbot at the gate, and of his gentleness came to meet him. Said, “Now welcome home and never so welcome.” He, astonished, asked, Why so? Said he would explain at leisure. Afterwards, in the great chamber with the others, drew a parallel between the fall of Lucifer and that of queen Anne, congratulating Sir Francis that he was not implicated. He replied it was true that when he was suddenly sent for he marvelled; but knowing his truth to his prince he never hesitated but went straight to my lord Privy Seal, and then to the King, and there was “nothing found” in him.”1

Bryan, who had been referred to as the “Vicar of Hell” by Thomas Cromwell2 and who was related to both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, was questioned but not imprisoned. Cromwell’s move, in ordering Bryan back to London for interrogation, may well have been done for show, a tactical move. Alison Weir, in Henry VIII: King and Court, writes that his interrogation “may have been a charade to lend credibility to the other arrests, since Bryan was unquestionably Anne’s enemy and in fact profited from the fall of her co-accused.”3 Bryan had previously distanced himself from the Boleyns and allied himself with the Seymours, so perhaps it was that that saved him. He was soon back in favour, if in fact he was ever out of favour, and was the courtier chosen to tell Jane Seymour the news of Anne Boleyn’s execution on 19th May 1536. He was also made Chief Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber.

Click here to read more about Sir Francis Bryan’s life.

Two men who weren’t as lucky as Bryan, but who were luckier than Norris, Brereton, Smeaton, Weston and the Boleyns, were Sir Richard Page, a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and a former favourite of Thomas Cromwell, and Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, poet and courtier. The Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England (The Spanish Chronicle) tells of Wyatt being apprehended at the May Day joust:

“It seems that the King sent Cromwell to tell him to have Wyatt fetched in order to examine him. When they arrived in London Cromwell took Master Wyatt apart, and said to him, “Master Wyatt, you well know the great love I have always borne you, and I must tell you that it would cut me to the heart if you were guilty in the matter of which I wish to speak.” Then he told him all that had passed; and Master Wyatt was astounded, and replied with great spirit, “Sir Secretary, by the faith I owe to God and my King and lord, I have no reason to distrust, for I have not wronged him even in thought. The King well knows what I told him before he was married.” Then Cromwell told him he would have to go to the Tower, but he would promise to stand by his friend, to which Wyatt answered, “I will go willingly, for as I am stainless I have nothing to fear.” He went out with Richard Cromwell, and nobody suspected that he was a prisoner, and when he arrived at the Tower Richard said to the captain of the Tower, “Sir Captain, Secretary Cromwell send to beg you to do all honour to Master Wyatt.” So the captain put him into a chamber over the door…”4

However, we do not know exactly what date Thomas Wyatt and Richard Page were taken to the Tower. What we do know is that Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, mentioned them as prisoners in a letter he wrote to Thomas Cromwell, which is undated and badly damaged by fire but which is thought to have been written on the 5th May.5

In Letters and Papers, there is a letter from Wyatt’s father, Sir Henry Wyatt, to Cromwell in which he writes that he:

“Received his letter on the 10th, and thanks him for the comfortable articles therein touching his son Thomas and himself. Asks Cromwell when it shall be the King’s pleasure to deliver him, to show him “that this punishment that he hath for this matter is more for the displeasure that he hath done to God otherwise,” and to admonish him to fly vice and serve God better. Alington, 11 May.”6

This shows us that Cromwell had written to Sir Henry regarding his son and had offered him some comfort. Sir Henry is obviously grateful for that but is worried that his son’s moral conduct would be his undoing. This was not to be the case. Sir Thomas Wyatt was not mentioned in the Middlesex or Kent indictments and was not tried with Weston, Norris, Brereton and Smeaton on the 12th May. In a letter written on the 12th May to Lord Lisle, John Husee writes: “Mr. Payge and Mr. W[y]at are in the Tower, but it is thought without danger of life”,7 although he changes his mind in his next letter to Lord Lisle on the 13th May, where he says that: “This day, some say, young Weston shall scape, and some that none shall die but the Queen and her brother; others, that Wyat and Mr. Payge are as like to suffer as the others.”8

Wyatt and Page did not “suffer as the others”, they had a lucky escape. They were both eventually released, probably in June 1536, but Page was “banished the King’s court for ever.”9 Henry VIII made Wyatt an ambassador to the court of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, following Anne Boleyn’s fall. However, Wyatt got into trouble again in 1541 when he was charged with treason for making rude comments about the King and for dealing with Cardinal Pole. Wyatt was once again imprisoned in the Tower of London and this time he had no father to secure his release because his father had died in November 1536. This time, it was Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, who secured his pardon and release, but Wyatt had to agree to return to his estranged wife. In 1542, Wyatt was back in favour and had been restored to his office of ambassador. However, his return to favour was shortlived because Wyatt was taken ill after receiving the emperor’s envoy at Falmouth. Sir Thomas Wyatt died on 11th October 1542 at Clifton Maybank House, the home of his friend Sir John Horsey, in Sherborne Dorset. He was laid to rest at Sherborne Abbey. His plain tomb can be found in the Wykenham Chapel of the Abbey.10

Also on this day in history…

  • 1542 – Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, was pardoned after spending nearly five months imprisoned in the Tower of London after the fall of her step-granddaughter Catherine Howard. Click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  1. L&P xiii. part 1 981
  2. L&P x.873 Letter from Cromwell to Gardiner and Wallop
  3. Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court
  4. Hume, Chronicle of King Henry VIII. of England, 63–64.
  5. L&P x.798
  6. L&P x. 840
  7. Ibid., 855
  8. Ibid., 865
  9. Ibid., 855
  10. Snippet taken from The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway

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6 thoughts on “5 May 1536 – More interrogations and arrests”
  1. Hi today is my 21 again several times over birthday, but just where all these people housed in the Tower?

    Now the Tower is a great complex, had many cells and rooms, but all these people are high born, save Mark Smeaton, you cannot just stick them in a cell or dungeon, they were kept according to status and charged for the privilege. Henry had to provide money for Anne at the Tower for her needs, even though she was in the royal suite. All the others are knights and gentlemen and need to be kept as well. I cannot think that the Tower was full of suitable rooms, so where do you put a gaggle of high born prisoners? And what about when Katherine Howard was arrested, over 100 or so of the relatives were arrested, or at least a big number and the sources say that so many of them were in the Tower, that they had a problem finding places to put them all.

    I think Wyatt was charmed, he escaped now, got off with the help of Katherine Howard, but have you read the defence and explanation of the charges, his submission, it is long but very good, well done, eloquent, learned, beautifully phased and legally spot on, it is preserved for prosperity in the poetical works of Thomas Wyatt. I would have let him off as well. I love the conditions of his release, he is to return to the wife he abandoned years ago, perhaps Henry thought she would stabilize him. Ironically Wyatt died a year after his release.

    1. Many happy returns Bandit Queen, Thomas Wyatts wife was unfaithful to him so I heard , so I bet he didn’t want to go back to her, I’m just wondering if the reason Wyatt died a year later was because of the trauma that he must have suffered, so many of the people involved with Anne died not long after her execution, her parents, the Earl of Northumberland who had once been in love with her, if only those walls of the Tower could talk, what tales they would tell.

      1. That is what I said, 1542, the year after his release when he was arrested in 1541. I am talking about a second arrest for treasonous talk and activities, which Katherine Howard was credited with interceding for his release. He was released, but on!y after he wrote a full explanation of everything. In this he credited Suffolk with his arrest at the time of Anne Boleyn and the other men. I doubt Suffolk had anything to do with it, but we all blame someone for things which go wrong in our lives. Wyatt in 1541_chose to blame Suffolk as a way of protesting his innocence. You can find it in the Poetical Works of Thomas Wyatt which contains his poets, political works and his commentaries as well. The main conditio of his release was to return to the wife from whom he had been separated from for a number of years. The following year he died. Henry’s ironic order is made even stranger by the adventures he had in the marriage department.

  2. Where is the drawing shown of Wyatt now? I thought I saw it hanging at Thornbury Castle.

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