5 May 1536 – The Poet, the Friend and the Vicar of Hell
Posted By Claire on May 5, 2011
News has just reached us here at The Anne Boleyn Files that the celebrated poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt, has been arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London1. He is not the only one to be taken to the Tower, Sir Richard Page, a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and a former favourite of Thomas Cromwell, has also been arrested. There are now seven men in the Tower – Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, Lord Rochford, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Richard Page – and it looks like an eighth could soon be joining them…
Yes, the courtier and diplomat, Sir Francis Bryan, ‘christened’ the “Vicar of Hell”2 by Thomas Cromwell, has been ordered to London for questioning. This is an interesting move as Bryan, although related to Queen Anne Boleyn and having benefited from her patronage in the past, is no friend of the Queen and is very good friends with Sir Nicholas Carew, the man said to be coaching the Lady Jane Seymour. Lady Alison Weir, an expert on the goings on at the Tudor Court, commented to us that she thought that the questioning of Sir Francis Bryan could simply “a charade to lend credibility to the other arrests”3, we’ll just have to wait and see if Bryan is thrown in the Tower.
But let’s get back to Sir Thomas Wyatt, why has this poet and favourite of King Henry VIII been arrested? We sent Sir Tim to dig into his background and to talk to some of his friends.
Sir Thomas Wyatt
Thank you, Lady Claire. Sir Thomas Wyatt’s arrest is actually no surprise here at court because his name has been linked romantically to the Queen in the past, well before her marriage to the King obviously. After some digging into the Queen and Wyatt’s past, it appears that his love for the Queen was unrequited and Wyatt was married anyway, albeit unhappily. The King put a damper on Wyatt’s ardour by claiming Anne Boleyn for his own, and there is a story at court of the two men arguing over her:-
“Wyatt was entertaining Anne one day as she did needlework and he playfully grabbed a jewel hanging from her pocket and decided to keep it as a trophy, wearing it around his neck. When the King and Wyatt were playing bowls one day, they argued over a shot. Wyatt declared that it was his, but the King declared “Wyatt, I tell thee it is mine” as he pointed to the wood with the finger on which he wore Anne’s ring. Wyatt saw the ring and replied “If it may like your majesty to give me leave to measure it, I hope it will be mine” and he took the jewel from around his neck and began to measure the cast with the ribbon. This angered the King who broke up the game and then demanded an explanation from Anne Boleyn, who assured him that Wyatt had stolen the jewel from her and that it was no love token.”4
Although The Spanish Chronicle5 is reporting that Wyatt was apprehended at the May Day joust, there has been no mention of him in Sir William Kingston’s dispatches to Cromwell until today. We do not know the full details of his arrest but rumours are that Cromwell himself apprehended Wyatt and that he promised to stand by him!6 Is Wyatt’s arrest just another “charade”? We’ll just have to wait and see.
As far as Sir Richard Page is concerned, he is known to be a close friend of Queen Anne Boleyn, a man she exchanged gifts with7, so perhaps Master Secretary Cromwell is trying to make out that these gifts were payments for services rendered, if you catch my drift! If courtly love flirting can be twisted into adultery then I’m sure that the Queen’s gifts to Page, which will be recorded in her debts, can be twisted into something they’re not.
Sir Thomas Wyatt has been heard muttering the words “circa regna tonat”, “about the throne the thunder rolls”, how apt!
What do you think of these latest arrests and interrogations? Are they just some sort of charade? What is Cromwell up to?
We’d love to hear your views on what you think is going on in these very dark days.
Want More Details?
I wrote two very detailed posts on this subject in my countdown to 19th May last year so please do read them:-
- Circa Regna Tonat – About the Throne the Thunder Rolls – An article on Sir Thomas Wyatt’s arrest and his relationship with Anne Boleyn
- Sir Richard Page and Sir Francis Bryan – Find out more about who these two men were.
I have also written an article on Sir Thomas Wyatt’s life – Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder – and you can read some of his poetry on our Thomas Wyatt Poetry page.
- L&P x.798, Letter from Sir William Kingston to Cromwell
- L&P x.873, Letter from Cromwell to Gardiner and Wallop
- Henry VIII: The King and His Court, Alison Weir (I have this on my Kindle so cannot give a page reference – sorry!)
- “The Life of Queen Anne Boleigne”, George Wyatt, p424
- The Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England p63-64
- Anne Boleyn by Paul Friedmann, ed. Josephine Wilkinson, p235