By Michelle Diener
Thank you again to Natalie for having me back as a guest blogger. I know Natalie’s particular interest is Anne Boleyn, and while Anne plays an off-stage role in my Tudor-set Susanna Horenbout and John Parker series in the current books, Thomas Wyatt is a prominent secondary character in Keeper of the King’s Secrets, the second book in the series (released 3 April). Because Wyatt’s history is entwined with Anne Boleyn’s, I thought it might be fun to talk about Thomas a bit, and how I’ve portrayed him in Keeper of the King’s Secrets.
Wyatt is well-known for his poetry, and for the apparent unrequited love he had for Anne Boleyn. Their Kent family estates were close to one another, and it seems they grew up together. Wyatt is said to have behaved jealously in front of Henry VIII when Henry was pursuing her, making it obvious he was very interested in her, as well. My favorite story regarding this is the incident, recounted by Wyatt’s grandson, that Wyatt stole one of Anne’s lockets and refused to return it, no matter how often she asked. In retaliation, Henry took one of her rings. A few days later, Henry, Suffolk, Bryan and Wyatt were playing bowls and a dispute arose between Henry and Wyatt as to who was the winner. Henry pointed to Anne’s ring on his finger and said ‘I tell you, it is mine.’ Wyatt took off the locket, and used the chain to measure the balls, and said, ‘I hope it will be mine.’
Anne denied any feelings for Wyatt when Henry questioned her, and that does seem to be the case. Or in any event, there is no evidence she ever encouraged him.
The interpretation I’ve used in Keeper of the King’s Secrets is that while Anne and Wyatt are long-time friends, and Wyatt does have strong feelings for her, Anne has made it clear she will not be a married man’s mistress. And yes, the irony of Wyatt recounting Anne’s standpoint to Susanna and Parker, my main characters, given this is 1525 and really just months before Henry starts pursuing Anne, was delicious to write.
Wyatt was married (hence Anne not being interested), very unhappily, and had one son. His wife was apparently very promiscuous, and in Keeper of the King’s Secrets, I’ve created the backstory of Wyatt being forced into a marriage he didn’t want, to a woman who had some feelings for him. As her handsome husband takes mistress after mistress, she retaliates in kind, until there is no hope of a reconciliation. His father was very distressed by Wyatt’s habitual infidelity, and I’ve used that in Keeper of the King’s Secrets to affect the job Wyatt has at court.
Wyatt’s father was Master of the King’s Jewels, and Wyatt was Clerk of the King’s Jewels. They would have been the keepers of the Mirror of Naples, the magnificent jewel Mary Tudor illegally took from the French Crown Jewels and gave to Henry as part of her apology for marrying Charles Brandon without his permission. As a large part of the plot of Keeper of the King’s Secrets hangs on the disappearance of the Mirror of Naples, this puts Wyatt firmly in the frame, and his rocky relationship with his father is part of the problem. I also use his infatuation with Anne as part of the plot.
Another reason Wyatt was a perfect secondary character from my point of view was his connection to the Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk is one of the antagonists in Keeper of the King’s Secrets (and in the first book in the series, In a Treacherous Court), but he also happened to be Wyatt’s sponsor at court, and the godfather to Wyatt’s son. Poor old Wyatt is caught between a rock and a very hard place, being played by men far more ruthless than he.
He seems to have much preferred country life and spoke very disparagingly of court politics and dramas. He obviously also thought Henry’s infatuation with Anne was a passing fancy, and when, in 1527, it became clear Henry was very serious indeed, Wyatt actually asked the King for permission to leave the country for a bit, and laid very, very low at court when he finally returned. He was probably seriously regretting teasing the King with Anne’s locket at that point.
It was a gift for me, as a writer, to have a beautiful, blond poet, all brooding with unrequited love, whose carelessness and self-indulgence, as well as his misplaced trust, put him in an incredibly tight corner. He is a wonderful foil to Parker, one of my main characters, who is dark, straightforward and has never been careless in his life.
I’d like to end with one of Wyatt’s poems, which is thought to be about Anne Boleyn, entitled “Of His Love, Called Anna”:
What word is it that changeth not,
Tho’ it be turned and made in twain?
It is mine Anna, God it wot,
And eke the causer of my pain,
Who love rewarded with disdain.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether you have an opinion on Wyatt, or not, and will be giving away a copy of Keeper of the King’s Secrets to a lucky commenter.
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