Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) was the first modern voice in English poetry. His poetry holds a mirror to the secret, capricious world of Henry VIII's court, and alludes darkly to events which it might be death to describe. In the Tower, twice, Wyatt was betrayed and betrayer. Thought to be the lover of Anne Boleyn, he was also the devoted 'slave' of Katherine of Aragon. He was driven to secrets and lies, and forced to live with the moral and mortal consequences of his shifting allegiances. As ambassador to Emperor Charles V, he enjoyed favour, but his embassy turned to nightmare when the Pope called for a crusade against the English King and sent the Inquisition against Wyatt. At Henry VIII's court, where only silence brought safety, Wyatt played the idealized lover, but also tried to speak truth to power. Wyatt's life provides a way to examine the Renaissance and Reformation in England. Above all, this new biography is attuned to Wyatt's voice, the paradox within him of inwardness and the will to 'make plain' his heart, which make him exceptionally difficult to kw - and fascinating to explore.
Susan Brigden, Fellow and Tutor of Lincoln College and Reader in the University of Oxford, is author of London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989) and New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603 (Penguin Press, 2000).