Actually, it was not just Sir Thomas Wyatt, it was also Richard Page. These were the last two arrests in connection with Anne Boleyn’s downfall – and both men escaped the trap.
From all appearances, Wyatt was arrested on the basis of his prior (failed) romance with Anne. Page was arrested because he believed the Queen to be innocent (apparently he made enough of a nuisance of himself that Cromwell merely wanted to get him out of the way until the ordeal was over). It would appear that this was a ploy by the crown to appear to be fair and impartial – first, because Wyatt was known to be a good friend of Thomas Cromwell’s, but more important, if these two men could prove their innocence then it stood to reason that the others must be guilty. It would also have constituted a strong message that any defense of the Queen would be dangerous (which people already knew!).
The legend is that Wyatt’s Tower cell overlooked Tower Green, so that he saw Anne’s execution. He wrote a poem while he was in there, entitled Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei. It translates to “Innocence, Truth, Wyatt, Faith, My enemies surround my soul.” It’s based on Psalm 16.9 (“My enemies surround my soul”), and adds Wyatt’s name between innocence, truth and faith. Its ongoing refrain, circa Regna tonat, means “It thunders through the realms,” and is from Seneca’s Phaedra, (and the first two stanzas of the poem paraphrase lines from that play). It’s an amazing piece of poetry, not as well known as Whoso List to Hunt but much more poignant. After all, who can remain unmoved by the line, these bloody days have broken my heart…
Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.
The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.
These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.
The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.
By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat
Luminarium, The Encyclopedia Project
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[…] Sir Thomas Wyatt was one of the bright poetic lights at the court of Henry VIII, often credited along with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey for introducing the sonnet from Italy into England. Anne Boleyn fans will remember the poem he is said to have written about her in her youth, Whoso List to Hunt, as well as the moving Circa Regna Tonat (It Thunders Through the Realm) on her arrest (I’ve posted it – read it here). […]