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144384. Sir Henry Wyatt or Wyott

A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF Sir Henry Wiat (AD 1460--1537) WRITTEN 1963 BY ERIC NORMAN SIMONS, Novelist and Writer, from The Queen and the Rebel: Mary Tudor and Wyatt the Younger, pp. 15ff., Chapter 1: The Men of Allington Castle From Yorkshire to Allington Castle Two Years In Prison Wiat Uprooted A Trusted Minister of Kings Henry Prospers Henry's Life Comes To an End From Yorkshire to Allington Castle. The Great North Road, that bold Roman slash across the face of Britain, and down it, one fine day in 1492, a cavalcade, jingling and trotting towards the remote south! This cavalcade had come from the little village of Sothange (South Haigh or Upper Haigh) in the township of Kexbrough, near Darton, a trifle north-east of the Yorkshire town of Barnsley. At its head rode a remarkable man — Henry Wiat. Two Years In Prison. He was remarkable because, though Yorkshire born, he supported the cause of Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian who claimed the throne of England. For this he had been jailed in Scotland in 'stocks and irons' for two years by Richard III, who is said to have watched him undergo torture. Among other things, he was forced to swallow mustard and vinegar, and was on the verge of death from starvation. Then, so the story went, he made a pet of and fondled a stray cat, whom he 'laid … on his bosom to warm him'. Puss grew so attached to him that each morning she deposited at his feet a pigeon pilfered from a neighbouring dovecote, which was later cooked for him by his compassionate jailer. The family of Wyatt cherished for many years a half-length portrait of Henry in his cell. There in the picture, sure enough, is the cat, dragging through the grating of the cell a pigeon, which she is about to deliver to the prisoner. The painting is, however, not contemporary, having been produced long afterwards. It is, nevertheless, recorded that thereafter Henry Wiat 'would ever reck much of cats'. In fact, as a token of gratitude, he introduced to the dovecotes of Allington castle a strain of brown pigeons from Venice, which are as numerous there today as in his own time. The basis for this story is a document preserved among the Romney Papers in the National Portrait Gallery, and if not true, it is certainly ben trovato. Wiat Uprooted. The branch of the Wiat (or Wyatt) family of which Henry was the head sprang from Adam Wiat, whose spouse was the daughter of Wigen de Northwoods. Henry himself was the son of Richard Wiat and Margaret Bailiff, daughter and heiress of William Bailiff of Barnsley. He lived at Haigh Hall, the family seat, and both he and his family were Yorkshire through and through. At the time of this journey down the Great North Road he was 32. Henry VII had now been on the throne for about seven years, and the young man, his supporter, had high hopes of preferment at the King's hands. Strong in conviction and admirable in integrity, he had probably found life for the supporter of a man of the House of Lancaster (red rose) in the county of Yorkshire (white rose) far from being a bed of roses. Learning one day that the great castle of Allington in Kent was for sale, he had bought it from its owner, Robert Brent, and was now on his way to take possession. Since Allington was within convenient riding distance of Westminster, he could now become a full-time courtier, and seek fortune at its proper source. A Trusted Minister of Kings. It was not, indeed, many years before Henry Wiat became a man of influence and wealth, When Henry VII came to power, he granted Wiat by Letters Patent a 'parcel' of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1485, and the Yorkshire squire also bought from the marquis of Dorset an estate and mansion house known as 'The Mote', on the south side of Maidstone. In 1502 he married Anne Skinner, daughter of John Skinner of Reigate in Surrey. (One historian states that this young woman was a sister of the Earl of Surrey, but produces no evidence.) In the following year, a son and heir was born at Allington, and was christened Thomas. He was to become famous. Henry Wiat continued to enjoy the favour of the King for many years and eventually became an executor of his will. When the boy of 9, Henry VIII, came to the throne, the Countess of Richmond nominated Henry Wiat a member of the Council for the management of affairs of State. This acted in the King's name until the youth was old enough to exercise full authority. The new King Henry must have liked his guardian, for he granted to him the lands of Sir Richard Emson, namely the manor of, and right of appointing clergy to, Wooton. He also gave him some land at Quinton in Northamptonshire. Seneschal of Tickhill and Bradford, and of the lordship of Hatfield and Conisborough, Henry Wiat was also Constable of Lonestall and Armounderness. A seneschal was in effect a steward. A constable controlled the military forces of the King in the area concerned. Henry Prospers. In 1507 he had the patronage of Barnes, which again gave him the right to present a suitable person to the benefice or office, and he was also the owner of several estates in Surrey, particularly at and near Camberwell. He was thus a man of enormous wealth and influence, and more important even than this — for the world in which he lived was one of great insecurity, and his posessions could all have been taken from him by a stroke of the pen — he was not only a close friend of the King, but also of his powerful Master Secretary, Thomas Cromwell [his son's namesake]. He had not gone without honours of a less material kind, for he had been made a Knight of the Bath at Henry VII's coronation, and because he fought skilfully and well at the Battle of Spurs in 1513, when the English in France won a notable victory, taking Tournai and Thérouanne, he was made Knight Banneret. In 1521 he was appointed Keeper of the King's Jewels, a position of great trust and, in the following year, received a special licence from Henry VIII to 'disgavel' his lands in Kent. This meant that he was no longer compelled to divide them equally among any heirs he might have. In 1524, he was made Treasurer of the King's Chamber, an office he held till 1528. Henry's Life Comes To an End. So this able man prospered until, in 1528, when he was rapidly becoming old, he gave up all his offices and retired to his castle, where he remained — accepting only in 1533 the nominal office of royal Sewerer--till his death in 1537. He was buried at Milton, near Gravesend. A monument is said to have been erected to his memory at Boxley, in Kent, and old inhabitants of that village are recorded as saying, 150 years ago, that they recalled the figure of a pigeon affixed to it, commemorative of his resuscitation by the cat; but sceptics have retorted that this bird was probably 'meant for an ostrich'. [Possibly a phoenix?] Henry Wiat had a younger brother, who resided at Barking in Essex, and a sister who married a Drax of Woodhall. Haigh hall, his original home, passed into the hands of the Urtons, and so to a family of ironmasters named Cotton. Besides the celebrated Thomas Wyatt, he left two other children: Henry, who remained a private citizen, living in Kent; and Margaret, who married Sir Anthony Lee.

updated 16 July, 2007 Copyright© 1999 - 2007 by John R. Taylor

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