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A Persona of Renaissance Poet Thomas Wyatt

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Sir Thomas Wyatt, born in 1503 in at Allington Castle, was fated to become one of English literature’s most important Renaissance period poets. Wyatt’s father, Henry Wyatt, was a Lancastrian who followed a similar life as his son in that he was arrested under the reign of Richard III and was released by Henry VII and rewarded with multiple grants and titles. Wyatt’s father was an executor of Henry VII’s will and a Privy councilor in 1509 and continued to server under King Henry VIII and was eventually knighted. During Watt’s childhood, it is said that he was raising a lion cub when one day the cub turned on Wyatt to which Wyatt stabbed his rapier through the lion’s heart. King Henry VII caught wind of this story and commented “Oh, he will tame lions”. Thomas Wyatt attended St. John’s College in Cambridge which was well known for its humanism. In 1520 Wyatt married the daughter of Lord Cobham, Elizabeth Brooke, and they had a son for whom had the Duke of Norfolk as his standing godfather. These early life experiences, along with those to come in Wyatt’s future, played a key role in the development of the influences on his works as his relationships with others, his, so called, relationships with Anne Boleyn, and his legal difficulties with arrests and imprisonments (Anne Boleyn Files, “Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder”).

Through Wyatt’s father, his friend Cromwell, and many other famous poets before him Wyatt was influenced and shaped by these relationships. Sir Henry Wyatt, Thomas Wyatt’s father was not a direct influence on the works of his son but was indeed a direct influence on the life of his son which in turn was a key reason for which Wyatt’s life and works went down the path which they did. The most evident of these influences was Henry Wyatt’s influence on his son to pursue a diplomatic career, leading to Thomas Wyatt’s many important position under King Henry VIII much like his father’s. Along with Thomas Wyatt’s similarities to his father in the diplomatic career, the both of them had arrests and imprisonments. These, along with the happenings in the diplomatic environment led to several of Thomas Wyatt’s most famous works as a poet. Cromwell, Wyatt’s most notable friend, performed the apprehension of Thomas Wyatt. Once arrested Cromwell helped Wyatt out by talking to the tower guard and making sure that Wyatt was as comfortable as possible during his imprisonment, promising that Wyatt would be out soon. Thomas Wyatt is believed to have mourned the loss of his dear friend in “The Pillar Perished” which was written following Cromwell’s execution. However, this was not Thomas Wyatt’s only friend. He wrote about several other deaths of close friends such as “Weston, that pleasant was and young” for whom “all we should weep that thou [Weston] are dead and gone” (Lean, “Sir Thomas Wyatt :”). Elizabeth Brooke, Thomas Wyatt’s wife, cause him much grief and pain throughout their marriage and is believed to have been the reason for which Thomas Wyatt translated Petrarch’s sonnets with an angered and frustrated lover as the narrator of the works (Lean, “Sir Thomas Wyatt :”).

Wyatt was not only influenced by friends and family, but also other writers of his time and times before him. Francesco Petrarch, a 14th century esteemed Italian Poet, was translated by Wyatt. These translations were not mere practice performed by Wyatt to improve his skills, but these translations maintained their same style and form under Wyatt’s pen but they also acquired new concepts and ideas which came together to form a uniquely English style of poetry. These translations; however, seemed to have diverted original questions on severely controversial and significant themes like those of political intrigue and courtly betrayal. Even preceding these translations of Petrarch were Wyatt’s translations of Plutarch. Plutarch wrote chronicles based on the lives of Roman and Greek leaders which used extremely engaging details to communicate the deeds of Plutarch’s characters. Wyatt was also an admirer of the works of Chaucer, with whom he had many similarities, but Wyatt wanted the English Literature to be developed into a more respected and elevated form of literature. Lastly is the famous Plato, who which was mentions in Wyatt’s poem “Farewell Love” as a source of contemplation and solace (Lean, “Sir Thomas Wyatt :”).

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Wyatt is acclaimed to have had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn following her arrival to the English courts in 1522. In fact, George Wyatt, who was Thomas Wyatt’s grandson wrote that his grandfather was “surprised by the sight there of “(Anne Boleyn Files, “Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder”) when Anne Boleyn was first sighted by Wyatt. Three years after Anne Boleyn’s arrival to the courts in 1522 Thomas Wyatt parted from his wife and his unhappy marriage which is believed to have been partly due to his acquaintance with Anne Boleyn. Even though the love match between Anne Boleyn and Wyatt would nearly have been impossible due to the admiration which the King had for Boleyn, she is still indirectly mentioned numerous times in the works of Wyatt. For this reason the love between Boleyn and Wyatt is considered to have been purely ‘one-way’. However, a story in The Chronicle of King Henry VIII depicts Wyatt visiting the home of Anne Boleyn where he found her in bed and they had physical relations until interrupted by the sound of the footsteps of her lover. Yet another story told by Wyatt’s grandson, George Wyatt, tells of Wyatt entertaining Boleyn with his poetry while she performed some needle work. Wyatt had seen a hanging jewel around Boleyn’s neck and snatched it as a trophy. Later on when Wyatt was playing bowls with the King the two were arguing over a shot to which Wyatt took out the jewel he had swiped from Boleyn and used it to measure the shot. The King recognized the jewel and stormed off to question Anne Boleyn about it. Multiple works of Wyatt’s were indirectly attributed to Anne Boleyn including “What Wourde is that that Changeth not”, “The Lover Confesses Him in Love with Phyllis”, and “Whoso list to hunt”, which was developed off the story of Caesar’s deer who bore the collar of Caesar (Anne Boleyn Files, “Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder”). Wyatt compares Boleyn to Caesar’s deer with its “graven with diamonds in letters plain/there is written her fairneck round about:/Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am” (Wyatt, “Thomas Wyatt Poetry”) in which Caesar represent the King with his jewels being worn around the neck of Anne Boleyn.

Thomas Cromwell, one of Wyatt’s dear friends, apprehended Wyatt in 1536 by order of the King. This first arrest is believed to have been in conjunction with Anne Boleyn. Cromwell assured Wyatt that he would watch out for him but that he would have to be imprisoned in the tower for the time being. Wyatt said that he was stainless and had no reason to fear. Thomas Wyatt watched from his window in the bell tower the executions of Weston, Bereton, Norris, Smeato, and George Boleyn. These sights from the tower led to one of Wyatt’s most famous poems, “Innocentia Veritas” (Anne Boleyn Files, “Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder”). These sights, as described in Innocentia Veritas, were said that “The Bell Tower showed me [Wyatt] such sights that in my head stick day and night”. Thomas Wyatt was promptly released from the tower as he had already regained the favor of King Henry VIII (Academy of American Poets, “Thomas Wyatt).

In conclusion, following Thomas Wyatt’s rather eventful childhood with his ‘taming’ of the lion, he attended the humanism esteemed St. John’s College in Cambridge, went on to lead a diplomatic career much like his father, and married having one son. Through Wyatt’s father, Petrarch, Plato, Chaucer, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, and the multiple arrests of Thomas Wyatt, his woks developed into some of the first reputable English poetry written and showcased his relationships with others including Anne Boleyn and his arrests and visits to the bell tower which showed him inspiration for one of his most dramatic poems.

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A Persona of Renaissance Poet Thomas Wyatt. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from
“A Persona of Renaissance Poet Thomas Wyatt.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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