This was a major show of power by John Dudley, then Earl of Warwick. A way of really reminding Somerset how far he had fallen after he lost the protectorate.
Margery Wentworth, Somerset’s mom and Edward VI’s grandmother, had died (you can read about that here). Even though she had not lived at court, this should have been the occasion for formal mourning…but it wasn’t. The Council decided instead that there was no reason to sadden the King with the sorrow of a “private citizen,” no reason to incur the expense of all that black cloth…It was a cruel thing to do – and therefore they made the decision formally, as a group – and had their rationale entered into the Acts of the Privy Council to serve as precedent for future questions. The entry is a great one – and a real reminder how protocol could be used to petty ends.
This day, upon occasion of the decease and departure unto God of the Lady Seymour, mother to the Duke of Somerset, the said Duke, reputing with himself his bond of blood and natural love towards her, confirmed by her most happy fruit of the most virtuous princess the late Queen Jane, being thereby grandmother to our Sovereign Lord, the King’s Majesty, and moved in respect thereof so to honor her funeral remembrance as his own affection might have leaded, and accustomed usage heretofore hath commonly induced; nevertheless, having regard what were decent and seemly for a person of his estate and vocation to do and set forth for the example of others, required the Lords and others of the Council above written to show him their opinions what were meetest for him to use concerning wearing of deuil or other like observances of the said Lady his grandmother’s funerals so as first respect were had to his bounden duty of following and applying himself to the direction of the King’s Majesty’s most goodly proceedings, whereunto it generally behooved all his Highness’ subjects to frame and temper their doings, and next also to that duty of love which the child oweth to the remembrance of his parent, together with the old received usage which the world hath had in estimation, touching the ceremonies of funerals and other dependencies thereof, which being by him omitted might diversly in divers men mouths abroad be spoken of.
Upon which motion made the said Lords weighed with themselves that the wearing of deuil ans such outward demonstrations of mourning not only did not any ways profit the dead, but rather used (as they be) served to induce the living to have a diffidence of the better life won to the departed in God by changing of this transitory life, year, and divers others ways did move cause and scrupule of “coldenes” in faith unto the weak, besides that many of the wiser sort, weighing the impertinent charges bestowed upon black cloth and other instruments of those funeral pomps, might worthily find fault with the expenses thereupon bestowed; namely, considering how even commonly at this present the observation of the time of outward mourning and wearing of the deuil is far shortened and omitted even among mean persons from that it was wonted to be, and at all times heretofore in personages of such estate as the said Duke is of, being also in such place of service and attendance about the person of a King of this realm, as well the King, our late Sovereign Lord, as other Kings his progenitors were oftentimes wonted to dispense withal, and to pluck of the black apparel from such mourners’ backs; wherein a good consideration might move them, that in a King’s presence, being the heart and life of his common weal, it might with most reason be borne and allowed that private men should reserve their private sorrows to their own houses, and not to dim the gladsome presence of their Prince with such doleful tokens; therefore, upon this and other good considerations, they concluded to open this case unto the King’s Majesty, whose further pleasure might be an address unto the said Duke how to use him self in the behalf; whereupon they moved his Highness accordingly, and from the same had resolution that his Highness, having ripely weighed this matter, did specially dispense with the said Duke for the wearing of deuil, either upon himself of any of his family, or the continuing of some other like funeral observances as heretofore were had in solemn use, serving rather to pomp than to any edifying. And to the end hereafter it might appear that such was his Majesty’s pleasure, the Lords decreed the same to be entered into the Council Book to remain for a precedent upon what causes it proceeded.https://www.british-history.ac.uk/acts-privy-council/vol3/pp126-150
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