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The Tudor Tournament

Thomas Wyatt vs. Francis Walsingham

Yesterday, Catherine of Aragon walloped her son-in-law, Philip II of Spain. Today’s match should be a little more even. Both contestants had a connection to Elizabeth I – one was labeled as the leader of a rebellion that nearly led to disastrous consequences for her, and the other worked at gathering intelligence on her behalf. In a battle between Thomas Wyatt the Younger and Francis Walsingham, who would you choose?

Thomas Wyatt the Younger

Thomas Wyatt the Younger, best known for Wyatt’s Rebellion

Date:  ?? 1521 – April 11, 1554

Brief Blurb: In many other families, Thomas Wyatt the Younger’s life would have stood out amongst the rest. Wyatt, however, was the only son of Thomas Wyatt the Elder – the same Thomas Wyatt who was a poet, courtier, and a disputed admirer of Anne Boleyn. The younger Wyatt became, as a teenager, an Esquire of the Body at Henry VIII’s court and eventually accompanied his father on a diplomatic mission to Spain. It was while there that he supposedly began his life-long dislike of that nation.

Strengths: Wyatt watched his father survive two visits to the Tower – once on the accusation that he was Anne Boleyn’s lover in 1536, the other on treason charges in 1541. Wyatt gained military experience while fighting against the French in 1543. In 1547, he received a knighthood for his service.

Weaknesses: Wyatt first spent his own time in the Tower of London for, of all things, lying about smashing windows (he was drunk at the time). His more famous stay, however, came after what famously became known as Wyatt’s Rebellion. Although he was only one of four rebel leaders who rose to oppose Mary I’s marriage to Philip II of Spain, Wyatt was the only one who succeeded in raising a considerable threat to the crown. His actions brought suspicion upon Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, who claimed to have no inner knowledge of the rebellion. Wyatt was eventually captured, tried, and executed, but he died without ever bringing additional suspicion upon Elizabeth. Upon his death, his family was stripped of all of their land and titles, but Elizabeth restored them in 1571.

Manner of Death: Beheaded and quartered

A portrait of Francis Walsingham. Despite all of the inaccuracies found within the 1998 movie Elizabeth, Walsingham and Geoffrey Rush look eerily like one another.

Francis Walsingham, Secretary and Spymaster to Elizabeth I

Date: ?? 1532 – April 6, 1590

Brief Blurb: Elizabeth’s nickname for Walsingham was “her Moor.” Walsingham’s personality matched the stereotype that most associated with Moors at the time – he was reserved in dress, and he was not afraid of unceremoniously delivering Elizabeth news and advice in a blunt manner. He could get away with his unconventional attitude for a simple reason: he got results. Walsingham’s overseas connections was born out of the Protestant community he joined after fleeing England during Mary I’s reign. Upon Elizabeth’s ascension, he returned to England and was elected to the House of Commons. In 1569, he was contacted by Robert Cecil to ferret out the Ridolfi Plot. His success led to his eventual placement in Elizabeth’s inner circle.

Strengths: As Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham trapped plotters before they could carry through with their plans. He was the primary architect of trapping Mary, Queen of Scots, in the Babington Plot. He learned of the invasion of the Spanish Armada and helped plan against it accordingly. In addition to all of this, he maintained contacts throughout Europe, studied England’s position in the world, and advocated making England a stronger naval power. Most of the money awarded to him by Elizabeth for his own personal enjoyment (and it was a tremendous sum) was put directly into building his foreign espionage network.

Weaknesses: Walsingham was known for his blunt manner, but his self-sacrificing attitude endeared him to Elizabeth (if not also annoying her by its extent). Walsingham’s greatest misstep is that his methods did not fit in with espionage procedure in this day and age – he has been portrayed as sinister, cunning trickster by some. As a result, he has a bad reputation in some modern accounts, although his methods were not out of step with the times he lived in.

Manner of Death: Natural

Now, vote!



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