In late 1553 to early 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger plotted a rebellion against the Queen, Mary, and in particular her plan to marry the Catholic King of Spain, Philip (*).
The aims of the rebellion were to overthrow Mary; to put in her place her half-sister Elizabeth; and to have Elizabeth marry the Protestant Earl of Devon, Edward Courtenay.
These aims were to be achieved by force of arms, with each of the four main rebel leaders responsible for assembling an army in his respective corner of the country before marching on London: Wyatt in Kent; Henry Grey (the father of Lady Jane Grey), the Duke of Suffolk, in Leicestershire; Sir James Croft in Herefordshire; and Sir Peter Carew in Devon.
In the event, only Wyatt succeeded in raising much of a rebel army, which grew further on its march to London through desertions from forces sent to oppose it, and eventually became some four thousand strong.
The army arrived in Southwark on this day, February 3rd, in 1554, to find its way into the City of London blocked at London Bridge by further forces, responding to Mary’s stirring rallying-call at the Guildhall two days earlier (the army was also threatened by cannon in the Tower of London, commanded by the Lieutenant of the Tower, John Bruges or Brydges, who intimated that he was prepared to put them to use). It then withdrew, wheeled west to Kingston to cross the river there, marched back east and attempted to enter the City again at Ludgate, on February 7th or 8th (sources differ)where it was again faced down, and where it broke up.
After the failure of his rebellion, Wyatt was tortured at the Tower before being tried, convicted and eventually executed (on April 11th). His torturers had evidently hoped that he would somehow implicate Elizabeth, but he did not. Elizabeth was herself temporarily imprisoned in the Tower while her supposed complicity was further investigated, but none was ever proven. She eventually became Queen after Mary’s death in 1558, and restored to the Wyatt family the titles and lands that Mary had confiscated after the failed rebellion of four years before, including Allington Castle near Maidstone (substantially destroyed in a fire in the seventeenth century, and subsequently restored in the twentieth).
The Tower of London, where Wyatt was executed, is visited on various of our walks, including the “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.
Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(*) His father, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder (1503-1542), was, among other things, a fine poet, widely credited with introducing the Petrarchan sonnet into English literature. Wyatt the Elder was himself twice imprisoned in the Tower, the first time, in 1536, for his supposed adultery with Anne Boleyn.