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February 7, 1554 – Wyatt Surrenders

Thomas Wyatt the Younger, by Holbein
Thomas Wyatt the Younger, by Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Wyatt the Younger (son of the poet who grew up with, and adored, Anne Boleyn), was one of the leaders of an uprising in 1554 meant to prevent the unpopular marriage of Queen Mary I to Philip of Spain. The other leaders were Sir James Croft, Sir Peter Carew, and Duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, but the uprising became known as the Wyatt Rebellion because Wyatt was the only one who was actually able to raise a real force (four thousand men).

Mary’s religious changes were also part of the impetus for the rising as it was impossible to separate the political from the religious. And the ultimate goal was unclear – beyond replacing Mary on the throne.  Most scholars agree that the rebels planned to replace Mary with her half-sister Elizabeth – who would be married to Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon (who descended from Edward IV and had his own claim to the throne) but Henry Grey’s presence muddied the water as it was assumed he was working to have his daughter reinstated.

In the end, both Elizabeth and Courtenay were arrested, but nothing could be proved against either of them. Instead, it was Jane Grey who suffered the brunt of the punishment – even though she had been safely locked away in the Tower the entire time after the whole “nine days queen” thing (yes, she had been convicted of treason, but Mary had made it clear she did not intend to proceed further). When Henry Grey threw his hat in with the rebels, he signed not only his own death warrant but also that of his daughter’s…

But I digress (it’s hard not to!). Wyatt’s rebellion failed after he overreached: Mary and her Council sent a deputation to ask for his terms, and when he demanded that the Tower be surrendered to him and the Queen put under his charge, Mary fought back. She rallied the capital with a rousing speech at Guildhall (an amazing speech which many say was the basis for Elizabeth’s famous Armada speech – you have the links, feel free to judge for yourself!) and Wyatt’s forced were overwhelmed – hence his surrender…

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