Sir Thomas Wyatt was born into a family already in favor with the court. His father had served and prospered under Henry VII and Henry VIII, holding a series of important offices, and purchasing as his principal residence Allington Castle in Kent, where the poet was born. Young Wyatt made his first court appearance in 1516 and probably entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, the same year. He was suitably married in 1520 to Elizabeth Brooke, the daughter of Lord Cobham, with whom he had a son; but in 1526, they separated because of her infidelity. He was sent on important diplomatic missions, in 1526 to France and in 1527 to Italy, where he traveled extensively.
It is plausibly conjectured that Wyatt was a lover of Anne Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII. Some of his poems were probably written to or about her, and his imprisonment in 1536 seems to have been connected with her downfall. He was quickly released to his father’s custody, however, and continued to enjoy the king’s favor. Knighted, he was sent as ambassador to Spain to improve relations between Henry VIII and Emperor Charles V and to prevent an alliance of the latter with France. On later embassies to France and Flanders, he continued this mission. In 1540, because of a shift in policy, his patron, Thomas Cromwell, was arrested and executed. Slanderous accusations found among Cromwell’s papers led to Wyatt’s imprisonment in 1541 and his subsequent preparations to reply to the charges. He was soon released, however, on condition that he leave his mistress, Elizabeth Darrell, who had borne him a son, and return to his wife. He continued to occupy important offices, serving as member of Parliament for Kent and vice admiral of the fleet. At about age thirty-nine, he died in Sherborne, Dorset, of a sudden fever contracted on a diplomatic mission to meet the Spanish envoy at Falmouth.