Friday, 30 August 2013

Wyatt's Rebellion

Sir Thomas Wyatt was the "Wyatt" in question who began the rebellion alongside the Duke of Suffolk and Carew. It began in 1554 when the news of Mary I's intention to marry Philip of Spain had spread to the wide part of the population - and it was not a popular match. It was not so much the Spanish King who was the problem but rather the religious oppression he would bring with him; the English had just gotten used to a more liberal church and desperately wanted to prevent the Spanish Inquisition from sweeping through England.

The overall plan was to overthrow Mary and replace her with her half-sister Elizabeth who was then to marry Edward Courtenay whom Mary had already rejected as a husband (a bit slighted..?). In order for this plan to succeed the rebels would have to stage the rebellion at three key places: Kent, the Midlands and the West Country. Meanwhile a French fleet - who was fearing that a Spanish husband with Habsburg blood would pose to much of a threat - would take up the main part of the English Channel so that continental aid could not reach Mary. As with all rebellions all this was to take place without the Parliament's knowledge.

But then it went wrong. First of all the Parliament already knew that something was happening thanks to Simon Renard who was the Imperial Ambassador who contacted Stephen Gardiner. This would normally be reason enough to "cancel" a rebellion but the disaster was not over yet. It would seem that Wyatt had grossly misplaced his key locations for the rebellions. The West Country's population was mainly Catholic and as such would never have seen it as a problem that their Catholic Queen married a Catholic King. The loyalty that Mary had been promised at her coronation was still clear in the memories of the people of the Midlands who did not want to commit treason against their Queen. Consequently, the Duke of Suffolk found himself with only 140 men and in a very dangerous position.
Meanwhile, Stephen Gardiner had taken Edward Courtenay into interrogation. Because of his noble descent Courtenay would normally not be tortured but the protocols mentions that the interrogation was "robust" - perhaps an indicator that Gardiner disregarded Courtenay's privileges. Either way Courtenay soon began talking and told them everything he knew off.

It was only Thomas Wyatt himself who had had any sort of success with raising an army of 4000 men and now lead them towards London. The Duke of Norfolk was sent on behalf of Mary's government but the Duke had never expected 500 of his men to suddenly change their allegiance and join Wyatt! Wyatt failed to take advantage of this when he decided to wait before entering London - this meant that the city had plenty of time to secure itself. Ludgate was the gate that Wyatt had intended to cross to get to the heart of the city but it had been raised and he had to take his rebels through the narrow gates nearby. And this is where it all ended. Narrow streets are any soldier's nightmare because they leave you open to ambushes. This is was happened to Wyatt's troops and it would be the end of the rebellion.

What happened next?
Mary had been convinced that severe punishments would only help to estrange herself from her people so the punishments were surprisingly mild - for a Tudor, that is. It was about 90 people who were executed including Thomas Wyatt and the Duke of Suffolk. Others were simply let go. Prior to his execution Wyatt had been tortured in order to implicate Princess Elizabeth but he never caved in and as such no evidence could be found.
But there were two other nobles who could no longer count themselves save any more. Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley were both beheaded because it was considered too dangerous to have Lady Jane Grey as a figure whom people could support instead of Mary. So, despite having played no part in the rebellion Lady Jane Grey had to put her head on the block. The Wyatt Rebellion might have been put down but the displeasure of Mary's marriage was still widely felt by the population which would later add to Mary's rising unpopularity.

Thomas Wyatt

Claimed to be Wyatt's list of arms
Depiction of Wyatt's execution

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