Sir Thomas Wyatt was the ambassador, the ‘beloved familiar’ and allegedly the rival in love of Henry VIII. During his rather short but fiery lifetime, he found himself banished from court and clapped in the Tower for offences ranging from affray to a supposed affair with Anne Boleyn. In truth, the legend of this romance rather served Henry’s purposes by the time he decided to be rid of his second queen. Yet towards the end, only the royal whim – and the intervention of influential friends – saved Wyatt from a traitor’s death.
Long after he died in 1542, Wyatt remained one of a select number of models for courtiers with literary and intellectual pretensions. In person, he was also the most obviously regal of English poets: a propertied man of great territorial influence, he closely resembled the subtle giant of a monarch