The failure of the Wyatt rebellion

The Wyatt rebellion failed for a combination of reasons including the actions of Mary (remaining calm and level-headed), the failings of Wyatt’s army and other factors.

The most significant reason as to why Wyatt’s rebellion failed was the actions of the Queen. During the rebellion, Mary kept her cool and refused to leave London or call on the Spanish Imperial Guard for fear of alienating her people. Mary handled the situation in a very skilful manner; instead of moving from London and confronting the rebels, leaving London open to attack, she waited and forced the rebels to try to take the city. Meanwhile, she used the time to fortify the capital, again demonstrating her skills in a crisis. Deliberate destruction of the bridges over the Thames near the city and the deployment of the troops at Ludgate once she had discovered the plot thwarted Wyatt’s attempts to cross. Wyatt was forced to use London’s narrow streets, leaving him open to being trapped by armed Londoners that had been influenced by Mary’s propaganda and flattery. In addition, her persuasive and defiant speech to London helped lead to the defeat of Wyatt.

The support for Mary came from the Great Chain of Being leading to Wyatt’s defeat. There was little support for the rebellion due to the prevailing belief that the Queen was chosen by God; loyalty to the Queen took precedence over concern about Mary marrying a foreigner (Philip of Spain). Those in the Midlands did not want to commit treason, leaving Wyatt with a force of just 140 men from there. Further loyalty to the Queen meant that the ‘uprisings’ in the West Country were also a failure as few gave the support needed for the rebellion’s success.

Despite these, the actions of Wyatt do hold some significance in explaining his own defeat. Secrecy was a major issue. When the Imperial Ambassador found out about the plot, he immediately told Stephen Gardner, who started questioning members of the conspiracy; from this moment, the rebellion was destined to fail because Wyatt began to panic and rushed into acting on the plot months too early. The rebellion started in the worst month in terms of weather – January. The roads that they had planned to use to transport both men and equipment had become unusable due to rain. Carriages and equipment therefore had to be left behind.

Wyatt himself made two mistakes. In at least two instances her delayed, instead of moving quickly into London. This gave the Queen a chance to prepare herself and fortify the capital.

Of all the rebellions in the Tudor period, it could be argued that the Wyatt rebellion was the most threatening. However, it failed due to a combination of poor leadership, decision making and co-ordination, along with the rebels having no clear aims and objectives (some wanted to control Mary, whilst others aimed to remove her from the throne). However, despite being the most threatening (due to how close they actually came to the monarch), it was one of the least successful since Mary still continued to reign and married Philip meaning that none of the rebel’s objectives and demands were ever met.

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