(1st D. Somerset)
Born: ABT 1500 / 1506
Died: 22 Jan 1551/52, Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England
Buried: St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, London, Middlesex, England
Notes: Knight of the Garter. The Complete Peerage vol.XIIpI,p.59-65.
Father: John SEYMOUR (Sir)
Mother: Margery WENTWORTH
Married 1: Catherine FILLIOL (b. 1499 - d. BEF 1535) (dau. of Sir William Fillol of Woodlands and Dorothy Ifield) ABT 1527
1. John SEYMOUR
2. Edward SEYMOUR (Sir Sheriff of Devon)
Married 2: Anne STANHOPE (D. Somerset) BEF 9 Mar 1534/35
3. Edward SEYMOUR (B. Beauchamp) (b. Feb 1537 - d. 1539)
4. Edward SEYMOUR (2° E. Hertford)
5. Anne SEYMOUR (C. Warwick)
6. Henry SEYMOUR
7. Mary SEYMOUR
8. Elizabeth SEYMOUR
9. Jane SEYMOUR (Maid of Honour)
10. Catherine SEYMOUR
11. Margaret SEYMOUR (b. 1540)
12. Edward SEYMOUR (b. 1547 - d. 1574)
Duke of Somerset (1547), Earl of Hertford (1537), Viscount Beauchamp (1536), Baron Seymour (1547), Knight of the Garter, Earl Marshal (1547), Privy Council, Great Chamberlain (1543-7), Protector of the Realm (1547), Protector of the King’s Person (1547).
Edward Seymour, brother of Jane, Queen Consort (1536-37) to Henry VIII and mother of Edward VI, being 2nd but 1st surviving son and heir of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Wilts (d. 21 Dec 1536), by Margery (d. Oct 1550), daughter of Sir Henry Wentworth, K.B., of Nettlestead, Suffolk, was born about 1500; is said to have been educated at Oxford and Cambridge; Page of Honour to Mary Tudor, Queen of France, Oct 1514; Constable in survivorship, (with his father) of Bristol Castle, 15 Jul 1517; was early in Wolsey's service, and in that of the Emperor, Carlos V, before 20 Mar 1520/1; took part in the Duke of Suffolk's expedition to France, Aug-Dec 1523, being Knighted there at Roye (by Suffolk), 1 Nov 1523; Master of the Horse to the Duke of Richmond, Jul 1525; was in Wolsey's suite on his embassy to France, 1527; an Esquire of the Body, 1530, attending the King to France at his meeting with Francois I, Oct 1532; Carver to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Coronation of Anne Boleyn, 1 Jun 1533.
Soon after his sister's marriage with the King, he was created (v.p.) 5 Jun 1536, Viscount Beauchamp, with rem. to heirs male of his body hereafter to be begotten. Capt. of the Isle of Jersey and Castle of Mont Orgueil, 7 Jul 1536; Joint-Chancellor of North Wales, 16 Aug 1536; P.C. 1537. He carried the Princess Elizabeth at the christening of his nephew, Prince Edward, and 3 days later he was created, 18 Oct 1537, Earl of Hertford, with 20 pounds per annum in support of the title, and with rem. to his issue male already begotten or to be begotten of his then wife, or to be begotten of any subsequent wife.
He married 1stly, Catherine, daughter and coheir of Sir William Fillol (d. 9 Jul 1527, aged 74), of Woodlands, in Horton, Dorset, by Dorothy, daughter and heir of John Ifield of Standon, Herts. In a will made in 1519, Catherine’s father named her as his executor. In a second will, however, made in May 1527, he changed the provisions, so that Catherine was to receive nothing but a pension of £40 a year and that only as long as she lived “in some honest house of religion of women”. After William Fillol’s death, Edward Seymour and Sir Edward Willoughby of Wollaton, husband of Catherine’s sister Anne, had the will overturned by an act of Parliament (1530). Catherine was living in 1530/1 but is said to have been repudiated and died, probably before 1535. There has been considerable speculation among scholars that John Seymour had embarked on a love affair with his new daughter-in-law; when it was discovered, the marriage was annulled, their children declared bastards, since their legal grandfather might be their biological father, and Catherine was imprisoned in a local convent. The scandal damaged the Seymour family's reputation for many years afterward. Divorce being almost impossible, Catherine’s estranged husband then had to wait until she died to remarry. In 1539 he obtained permission from Parliament to alter the normal rules of inheritance and cut both sons from his first marriage out of the succession so that his titles would pass to the eldest son of his second marriage. He does not, however, seem to have cut the boys off completely. Both of them were prisoners in the Tower with him at the time of his execution and the older son died there later that same year.
He married 2ndly, before 9 Mar 1534/5, Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope of Rampton, Notts., by Elizabeth, sister of John, Earl of Bath, daughter of Fulke Bourchier, Lord FitzWarin.
Commr. for the fortification of Guisnes and Calais, Feb 1538/9, and to treat with the French at Calais, Jan 1540/1; el. K.G. 9 Jan, and inst. 22 May 1541; Warden of the Scottish Marches, Oct-Dec 1542; Lord High Admiral, Dec 1542 - Jan 1542/3; Great Chamberlain of England, 16 Feb 1542/3-Feb 1546/7; Commr. to treat with the Ambassadors of Carlos V, 26 Dec 1543 and 9 Oct 1544.
|As Lieut.-Gen. in the North, 12 Feb-Jun 1544, he took the towns of Edinburgh and Leith in May and laid waste co. Haddington. Though app. a Councillor for the Regency 9 Jul 1544, he joined the King before Boulogne 13 Aug, and treated with the French at Hardelot Castle, before the surrender of that town, 14 Sep 1544; and being sent to survey the defences of Guisnes in Jan, he defeated Marshal Du Biez outside Boulogne, 5 Feb 1544/5. He was again made Lieut. and Capt. Gen. in the North, 2 May 1545, and carried out another extensive and successful raid into Scotland in Sep; Lieut. in the parts beyond sea and C.-in-C. of the Army there, 21 Mar-Jul 1546. He was one of the executors of the will of Henry VIII, 30 Dec 1546, on whose death he was constituted by the Council, 31 Jan 1546/7, Gov. of the person of his nephew, Edward VI and Protector of the Realm; Treasurer of the Exchequer, 10 Feb, and Lord High Steward of England for the Coronation, 20 Feb 1546/7, at which he bore the Crown. Having (though an Earl) no Barony vested in him, he was created, 15 Feb 1546/7, Baron Seymour, with a special rem. to his issue male by his then wife, Anne, with rem. to Edward, 2nd son by his former wife, Catherine, and the heirs male of his body, and ultimate rem. to the heirs male of his own body by any subsequent wife; and on the next day, 16 Feb 1546/7, he was created Duke of Somerset, with a like special rem. Earl Marshal of England, 17 Feb 1547.|
As Capt. Gen. within and without the Realm, 11 Aug, he invaded Scotland and won the battle of Pinkie, 10 Sep 1547, afterwards occupying Leith. High Steward of Cambridge, 1547, and Chancellor of Cambridge Univ., 14 Nov 1547 till his death.
|Somerset's best qualities were his
religious tolerance and his genume concern for the sufferings of the poor.
These contrasted with his insufferable arrogance towards his fellow
councillors, who resented the favour he showed to the Iower orders of society.
With the young King he was
excessively strict, keeping the boy continually short of pocket money and
banning any pursuits that might tempt him to be extravagant or frivolous.
During the protectorate of Somerset, Richard Whalley appears to have shared with Sir John Thynne the office of steward to the Duke, a position which, coupled with his intriguing disposition, brought him into prominence.
For two and a half years acted as King in all but name. He managed to free himself from the restrictions of the council and wielded almost royal authority in effecting major Protestant reforms in the church and in relaxing such measures as the heresy and treason laws. He was ably seconded by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and their efforts resulted in the adoption of the first Book of Common Prayer, whose use was required by an Act of Uniformity in 1549. His attempt to check enclosure (the transfer of land from common to private ownership) offended landowners and his moderation in religion upset the Protestants. Meanwhile Somerset tried to enforce a marriage treaty arranged by Henry VIII between the young Edward VI and Mary Queen of Scots. Somerset tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Scots to join a voluntary union with England, but, when his appeal was rejected, he destroyed all chances of reconciliation by invading Scotland and defeating the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie (10 Sep 1547), and completely alienated the Scots when he laid waste to SE Scotland.
In domestic affairs, the Protector proceeded with moderation in consolidating the Protestant Reformation in England. He repealed Henry VIII's heresy laws, which had made it treason to attack the king's leadership of the church; the first Book of Common Prayer, which was imposed (1549) by an Act of Uniformity by Somerset, offered a compromise between Roman Catholic and Protestant learning. Nevertheless, these and other apparently moderate measures stirred up antagonisms that resulted in Catholic uprisings in western England in 1549.
The fall and execution (1549) of his brother, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, lord high admiral, was a strong blow to the protector’s authority and power, and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland) took advantage of this and other misfortunes. Somerset attempted to aid the rural poor by forbidding enclosures -that is, the taking of arable common land by the propertied classes to use as pasturage--and this action led to his downfall. The landowners foiled his efforts; the desperate peasants revolted in Norfolk under the leadership of Robert Kett; and in Oct 1549 Somerset was swept from power and imprisoned, 14 Oct 1549 - 6 Feb 1549/50, by a coalition of Warwick and the propertied classes. Joining Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, and others, Warwick deprived Somerset of the protectorate and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Somerset attempted to recruit Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, when the Earls of Warwick, Arundel and Southampton, with Sir Richard Southwell and Thomas Arundell, began to plot against him. But Shrewsbury joined the large majority of Counsellors that was opposed to him.
When the coalition broke down, Somerset was released from the Tower on 6 Feb 1550, and he went directly to the house of Sir John York, Sheriff of London, in Walbrook where Warwick frequently stayed and met the council. After dining there with Warwick, Somerset, a free man, departed to his own residence at Sheen and ostensibly reconciled with his rival. He was restored to the positions of P.C., 10 Apr, and Gent. of the Privy Chamber, 14 May 1550; Lord Lieut. of Bucks and Berks, 10 May 1551.
Paget told the Imperial Ambassador Van der Delft that while Somerset had governed badly, he would come back into authority "because there is no one else to take his place". The remark closely paralleled the one made by Chapuys in 1547 that Hertford and Lisle were the only men capable of governing after Henry VIII. Only conjectures may be advanced to explain why Paget believed Somerset to be the indispensable man in 1550. Certainly his kinship with the King made him a formidable power in the realm. Warwick, Northampton, Arundel, or Paget himself, might retire in disgrace to the country, but for Somerset this would be unthinkable. Paget may have assumed the fall from power would make Somerset wiser and enable him to recover his influence. He was also aware of Warwick's precarious health, which never allowed him to manage affairs with the vigor characteristic of the Protector. After speaking with Paget, the Ambassador concluded that Somerset would regain power, not by resisting Warwick, but rather "by the hand of Warwick".
As the sweating sickness raged in that summer of 1551, councillors and courtiers, among them the Duke of Somerset, fled to their country houses. In his absence, the remaining lords of the Council planned a new distribution of titles and honours amongst themselves and fretted over rumours of rebellions against Warwick’s rule. It was said that Somerset was plotting some new mischief, and to counteract these threats the Council further strengthened the royal guards by employing 500 foreign mercenaries. The other enemy al the door was rising inflation, which Warwick unthinkingly sought to cure by debasing the coinage, but this did little to bring down prices, which had tripled since Henry VIII's time.
On 11 Oct, the ruling clique rewarded its supporters. Warwick was created
Duke of Northumberland, the first man not of royal blood to bear a
ducal tide in England. At the same time, Henry
Grey was promoted to the dukedom of Suffolk; William
Paulet was made Marquess of Winchester, and William
Herbert was created Earl of Pembroke. Several other members of the
Duke's following, relatives, tenants, and soldiers, receiving
knighthoods. By creating this new affinity,
Northumberland was extending his power base and consolidating his
hold upon the Council by identifying the interests of his supporters with his
All those recently ennobled were enemies of Somerset.
Already, he knew,
Northumberland was preparing to move against him, determined to
crush the voice of opposition. Bribes had been offered to those who might be
prepared to speak falsely against Somerset. The Duke turned for
advice to his former secretary, William
Cecil, who gave him cold comfort. 'If Your Grace be not
guilty, you may be of good courage, If you are I have nothing to say but to
lament you' he said.
On the morning of 16 Oct, when the sweating
sickness had abated and most councillors had returned to Whitehall, Somerset
came late to a Council meeting. Before he could sit down, the Lord
Treasurer accused him of treason and conspiracy, at which
Northumberland summoned the guard and had him arrested and conveyed
to the Tower. Shortly afterwards, the Duchess
of Somerset joined him there in custody.
Northumberland had now gathered enough material to charge his rival with treason. It was alleged that Somerset had meant to seize control of the Tower and use its arsenal of weapons to establish his ascendancy over the capital. He would then orchestrate risings in various parts of the country, whilst he himself arranged the poisoning of the entire Council at a state banquet. It sounded preposterous but it would serve to condemn the Duke.
Northumberland made sure of the King's
support by promising to implement more of the kind of radical religious policy
that Edward favoured, and had
little trouble in convincing the boy of Somerset's guilt. This much is
evident from Edward's Journal.
On 1 Dec the Edward Seymour was tried in Westminster Hall, found
guilty and sentenced to death.
Northumberland told Somerset that he willingly forgave him
and ‘will use every exertion in my power that your life may be spared'.
The public, however, voiced such extreme displeasure at the sentence that it had
to be deferred for fear of provoking riots, and the 'Good Duke' was
returned to the Tower, surrounded by crowds crying 'God save him!' to
wait until the furore had died down. The Earl
of Arundel, implicated in the plot, was also imprisoned. He would be
released within a year, but would emerge determined to have his revenge.
Somerset was finally beheaded, 22 Jan 1551/2, on Tower Hill, and buried there in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.
Shortly after his death he was attainted, 12 Apr 1552, by Act of Parl., 5 and 6 Edw. VI, whereby all his honours were forfeited.
Somerset was a man of firm beliefs and military ability. While admiring Somerset's personal qualities and motives, scholars have generally blamed his lack of political acumen for the failure of his policies.
Beer, Barrett L.: Northumberland - The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland (The Kent State University Press - 1973 – Kent)
Weir, Alison: Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII 1547-1558 (Jonathan Cape – 1996 – London)
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