Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tackling Tudor Thomases One At a Time. Today's Thomas: Wyatt the Elder

Thomas Wyatt the Elder - intense good looks, meet intelligence and a way with words. . . #realdeal
Thomas Wyatt the Elder, poet extraordinaire, courtier, lover of horses, tragic and romantic, is a man for whom many a female historian will have a soft spot in their heart.
He was born in a castle in that enviable first-son place, he loved horses in that way you never outgrow and rode like an Olympic champ, he was kidnapped at least once. 
He was arrested and held in the Tower of London in May, 1536, but unlike Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton, Thomas Wyatt walked out of the Tower a free man. 

Wyatt wrote poems about the treacherous Tudor times he lived in; the poems are so beautiful and real that after reading one, it's hard not to put your head down on your desk and just quietly sob. 

For hours. 

His life began in 1503/4 (those pesky, unverifiable sixteenth century dates!) at Allington Castle in Kent. 
Henry Wyatt and Anne Wyatt (nee Skinner, of Surrey) welcomed not only Thomas, but also his sister, Margaret and a brother, Henry, as additions to their family. 
The brother seems to have died in childhood as there are no accounts of him as an adult; no mention in his father's will, for example. 
That type of information is the little fingernail-hold historians use to tease out the truth from the blank, granite wall of What Has Gone Before.

Thomas Wyatt the Elder was born at Allington Castle in 1504. 
As a young man, he was described as handsome, strong, athletic, intelligent - in short, the whole package of what every courtier wanted in their first-born son. 
His love for horses was well-known; his verbal skills were legend as was his quick wit. 
Allington Castle - "I'm still standing, better than I ever did." Presently in private ownership; Wyatt fans not encouraged. :-(
He raised a lion cub at Allington Castle as a young man - not as odd an activity as you might think; there was quite a menagerie at the Tower of London.

The animals at the Tower of London were gifts from ambassadors and heads of state from other realms. 
In point of fact, the King and the caretakers of the animals looked at them as you might look at a Valentine's Day gift of a puppy - "Surprise, darling, I know how you love doggies! I know you'll love this Labrador Retriever puppy - what do you mean, you only have a studio apartment and no time to walk a dog? Of course you do!" - get the picture? 
So it wasn't unusual for the king to farm an animal or two off on a friend. 
We can't know for certain if that's where the Wyatt's lion came from, but it's a good guess.

As the story goes, the teen-aged Thomas Wyatt returned home one day, and the lion (by now, full-sized and feisty) didn't recognize his master. 
He charged Wyatt. (!!!)
Wyatt's fearless Italian greyhound (good doggie!) attacked the lion. 
The dog's attack distracted the lion just long enough for Wyatt to pull his rapier (lol - stop that, it's a knife) out and he stabbed the lion right in the ticker. 
The lion dropped dead.

Upon hearing the story, Henry VIII said of Wyatt, "Oh, he will tame lions," . 
Henry VIII couldn't have known that at a future time, the lion Wyatt would ultimately end up taming would be Henry himself. 
Be sure to watch for more posts on Wyatt to learn more about his and Henry VIII's tug-of-war over the same romantic interest; her name? 
Anne Boleyn

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