George Wyatt

Thomas Wyatt

George Wyatt, the youngest son of Sir Thomas Wyatt and Jane Wyatt, was born at Allington Castle, near Maidstone, in 1553. (1) His father had led a rebellion against Queen Mary in January 1554 in an attempt to prevent Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain. Based at Rochester Castle, Wyatt soon had fifteen hundred men under his command.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, aged 80, agreed to lead the Queen's army against the rising led by Wyatt. As David Loades, the author of Mary Tudor (2012), pointed out "that venerable warrior, the Duke of Norfolk, set out from London with a hastily assembled force to confront what was now clearly a rebellion". (2) Unfortunately, most of Norfolk's troops consisted of the London militia, who were strongly sympathetic to Wyatt. On the 29th January, 1554, they deserted in large numbers, and Norfolk was forced to retreat with the soldiers who were left.

When Mary heard about Wyatt's actions, she issued a pardon to his followers if they returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Some of his men took up the offer. However, when a large number of the army were sent to arrest Wyatt, they changed sides Wyatt now controlled a force of 4,000 men and he now felt strong enough to march on London.

Thomas Wyatt Rebellion

On 1st February, 1554, Mary addressed a meeting in the Guildhall where she proclaimed Wyatt a traitor. The next morning, 20,000 men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. The bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down and on 3rd February, a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered to the person who captured Wyatt.

By the time Thomas Wyatt entered Southwark, large numbers of his army had deserted. However, he continued to march towards St. James's Palace, where Mary Tudor had taken refuge. Wyatt reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8th February. The gate was shut against him, and he was unable to break it down. Wyatt now went into retreat but he was captured at Temple Bar. (3)

The Wyatt rebellion persuaded Queen Mary that Bishop Stephen Gardiner was right and that she had been too merciful to her rebels. Thomas Wyatt and over a hundred of his supporters were executed. (4) Wyatt went to the block on Tower Hill on 11th April, 1554. His corpse was taken to Newgate to be parboiled, after which it was cut into four pieces, and each quarter displayed in different parts of the city. His head was placed on top of the gibbet at St. James. (5)

George Wyatt - Historian

Thomas Wyatt's land was confiscated but Jane Wyatt did receive an annuity from Queen Mary in 1555 to a total value of about £200 per annum. George Wyatt was granted a small property at Wavering by the crown, and entered Gray's Inn in 1571. He married Jane Finch, the daughter of Thomas Finch, in 1582 and she gave birth to five sons and four daughters. This included Francis Wyatt. Thomas Wyatt saw active service as a soldier and was present at the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom in 1588. (6)

During this period he began work on a biography of Anne Boleyn. His work was based on the reminiscences of his family and those who had known her, such as her former maid of honour, Anne Gainsford. (7) He dismissed the claim made by Nicholas Sander that she had six fingers on her right hand. "There was found, indeed, upon the side of her nail, upon one of her fingers, some little show of a nail, which yet was so small... albeit in beauty she was to many inferior, but for behaviour, manners, attire and tongue she excelled them all... she was indeed a very wilful woman." (8)

In 1618 he inherited his mother's properties at Boxley and Southfleet, and in 1622 he recovered his family's possession of Boxley Abbey. He died there in August 1624 and was buried in the parish church. (9)

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Primary Sources

(1) David Loades, George Wyatt : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

George Wyatt was the obscure son of a famous father, and the obscure father of famous sons. Hawte, who died in 1638, was the father of Edward, the progenitor of the Virginia Wiatts, and Wyatt's son Sir Francis Wyatt, who died in 1644, was the first royal governor of Virginia. George's main claim to fame is the papers which he wrote and collected in the latter part of his life, which provide some vivid and proximate insights into the careers of his father and grandfather, and into the military problems of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. One of the most interesting is his eulogistic treatise in defence of Anne Boleyn (c.1605)... Virtually everything which is known about George Wyatt derives from these papers, and particularly those which were put together into a commonplace book by his descendant Richard Wyatt in 1727. This commonplace book was edited for the Camden Society by David Loades in 1968.

(2) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007)

Pierre de Bourdeille Brantôme remembered Anne Boleyn in his later years as "the fairest and most bewitching of all the lovely dames of the French court". according to Lancelot de Carles, her most attractive feature was "her eyes, which she well knew how to use. In truth, such was their power that many a man paid his allegiance." She used her eyes, he tells us, to invite conversation, and to convey the promise of hidden passion. It was a trick that enslaved several men...

Anne's charm lay not so much in her physical appearance as in her vivacious personality, her gracefulness, her quick wit and other accomplishments. She was petite in stature, and had an appealing fragility about her. Her eyes were black and her hair dark brown and of great length; often, she would wear it interlaced with jewels, loose down her back. But she was not pretty, nor did her looks conform to the fashionable ideals of her time. She had small breasts when it was fashionable to have a voluptuous figure, and in a period when pale complexions were much admired, she was sallow, even swarthy, with small moles on her body. George Wyatt says she had a large Adam's apple, like a man's... Wyatt, grandson of the poet Thomas Wyatt and Anne's first biographer, who compiled his work at the end of the sixteenth century from the reminiscences of his family and those who had known her, such as her former maid of honour, Anne Gainsford.

Anne did have a small deformity, which her enemies sometimes delighted in describing as a devil's teat. Wyatt tells us she had a second nail "upon the side of her nail upon one of her fingers", about which she was rather self-conscious, for she took pains to hide it with long hanging over-sleeves, another of her fashionable innovations. Nicholas Sander described it as a sixth finger, as did Margaret Roper, the daughter of Sir Thomas More.

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(1) David Loades, George Wyatt : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) David Loades, Mary Tudor (2012) page 145

(3) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) pages 134-136

(4) Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs (2002) page 55

(5) Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor: England's First Queen (2009) page 224

(6) David Loades, George Wyatt : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(7) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) pages 151-152

(8) George Wyatt, wrote this account in the 1590s and was published in The Papers of George Wyatt (1968)

(9) David Loades, George Wyatt : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)