Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time

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Wyatt used to be imagined as a lover, courtier and chivalric hero. The ambiguities of courtly love were supposed to have prepared him for the veiled language of international diplomacy. But Brigden shows Wyatt’s world to have been tougher than this – as tough as anything in Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall. For the Wars of the Roses – a nobility vying for power and control of the Crown, eliminating rivals and enemies – ended in barbarism. Honour was reduced to tribal loyalty, and revenge commonly meant beheading. Wyatt’s father, Sir Henry Wyatt, had been interrogated by Richard III: force-fed a mustard-and-vinegar emetic, he remained silent, faithful to Henry Tudor. Thomas was a hard man like his father, a ruthless agent of Henry VIII. At the age of twenty, he was entrusted with carrying a huge sum in gold to pay the garrison of the northern marches. Wyatt probably was brought up as a page in a noble household, much as he himself later arranged for his nephew Henry Lee, the future Champion of Queen Elizabeth. The curriculum included theory of chivalry, horsemanship, swordsmanship and the mimic war of hunting.

more from Alastair Fowler at the TLS here.

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