Thomas Wyatt was a poet and ambassador in the service of Henry VIII. Although Wyatt's literary output was rather small in his short life, he is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the history and development of English literature. Although poetry of quality had been written in English since the days of Geoffrey Chaucer, poetry in England, like poetry across the European continent, would not truly come into its own until the revolutionary developments of the Renaissance.
The Renaissance played an important role in reconnecting Western civilization with its classical Greek and Roman roots, which together with its Judeo-Christian heritage form its basis. While the Renaissance in literature began centuries earlier in Italy and France, England remained largely isolated from many of the innovations of the Italian masters such as Petrarch until Thomas Wyatt first introduced them in the sixteenth century. In particular, Wyatt is credited as the first author in the English language to utilize the Petrarchan sonnet.
Although it would not be until several decades after Wyatt's death (with the publication of the popular sonnet sequences of Sir Philip Sidney) that many of the forms that Wyatt helped to pioneer in the language would become widely recognized, nonetheless scholars are in agreement that Wyatt was the principal figure in recognizing the formal innovations of the Renaissance and adapting them to English poesy, thus helping to harmonize England with the traditions of the European continent.
Wyatt was a statesman as well as a poet, serving as ambassador to Spain
and later as Henry's special envoy to Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire
. Wyatt, a good friend of Thomas Cromwell, Henry's chief minister, played a tangential role in the English Restoration in the aftermath of his ex-communication from the church following his unsuccessful attempt to petition the pope to annul his marriage of Catherine of Aragon
so that he could marry Anne Boleyn
, with whom Wyatt had been linked.