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The Tudor Society

What did Thomas Wyatt see in May 1536?

In today's Claire Chat's I discuss Wyatt's words "The bell tower showed me such sight, That in my head sticks day and night" and what he was referring to. Did he see the executions? Did he see Queen Anne Boleyn get beheaded?

You can read Wyatt's execution poetry in May's magazine - see https://www.tudorsociety.com/may-2015-tudor-life-magazine/, page 44 onwards.

Click here to see my Claire Chats video on Anne Boleyn and Thomas Wyatt.

Here is a plan of the Tower of London as it was at the end of the 16th century. Click on the image to see a larger version. The Lieutenant's Lodgings next to the Bell had not been built in 1536 and so would not have impeded Wyatt's view.

Tower of London, c.1597

Tower of London, c.1597

Key

  1. The Bell Tower
  2. Anne Boleyn's route to the scaffold
  3. The spot where it is believed that Anne Boleyn was executed.
  4. Route men would have taken from Tower to scaffold on Tower Hill.
  5. Tower Hill scaffold site.

And here's a photo Tim took of the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower is on the right with its windows overlooking the Thames (which is to the left of the photo, the other side of the wall).

bell_tower

There are 3 comments Go To Comment

  1. < /

    Thomas Wyatt the Elder and his father Henry played such important, decisive roles in the Tudor dynasty, yet they fly a bit under the radar. You do such a beautiful job researching, and staying on-point with your topics, Claire. Interpreting Wyatt’s poetry against the backdrop of the events of the time with an overlay of how other poets techniques were standard props in his poetry isn’t an easy thing to do!

    1. < / Post Author

      Thank you! I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Wyatt, I think he truly loved Anne and it’s so sad that he couldn’t be with her. I’d highly recommend Nicola Shulman’s book on him, it’s really interesting and very well written.

  2. L /

    Great analysis and attention to details, as always Claire! Thomas Wyatt’s poems, especially these about the executions, always make me emotional, just thinking about what he likely witnessed, even if it was just the commotion of Anne and/or the men walking to their executions sites. We can only imagine the affect that this experience had on him… Thanks so much for the post.

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What did Thomas Wyatt see in May 1536?