February 17, 1547 – Edward Seymour Becomes Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, by an unknown artist (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons).

When Henry died on January 27, his will contemplated sixteen executors who would share power while his son was still a minor. Nice idea in principle, but even Henry found it impossible to impose his will after death. Somerset had been ready for this moment, and sprang into action.

The old King’s death was kept secret – according to the Spanish ambassador’s letters, “not even the slightest signs of such a thing were to be seen at Court, and even the usual ceremony of bearing in the royal dishes to the sound of trumpets was continued without interruption” – and all roads from London were closed until they had the new King with them and safely in the Tower. Meanwhile, Edward Seymour worked behind the scenes to seize power by get himself appointed Lord Protector – largely by figuring out the right bribes for the different Council members. And as long as rich offices were being handed out, why not one for the Lord Protector himself.

As W.K. Jordan puts it in his Edward VI: The Young King (quoting from Hargrave, Stow, and Edward VI himself),

The ceremony at the Tower, for all the haste in preparation, was elaborate and impressive. Before all the assembled nobility, Edward Seymour was first created a duke, being dressed in an ‘inner robe’ of honor, with the heralds preceding him, and the Garter next following. Then came the Earl of Shrewsbury carrying a verge (rod) of gold and Oxford carrying the duke’s cup and coronet of gold, while Arundel bore the sword. Escorted by the Duke of Suffolk and the Marquis of Dorset, Seymour offered his obedience to the child King sitting in the chair of state, and then knelt before him. Paget read the charter, while at the appropriate point Edward placed the duke’s mantle on Seymour, girt him with the sword, put the coronet on his head, gave him the verge of gold and pronounced him Duke of Somerset. Somerset then stood by the King while the others were ennobled.

(In case you were wondering, the Earl of Essex (William Parr) became the Marquis of Northampton, Viscount Lisle (John Dudley) became the Earl of Warwick, Lord Wriothesley became Earl of Southampton, Sir Thomas Seymour became Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Sir Richard Rich became Baron Rich of Leighs, Sir William Willoughby became Baron Willoughby of Parham, and Sir Edmund Sheffield became Baron Sheffield).

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If you like my posts, you’ll love my book! Jane the Quene is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon.Com (here are some easy links to  Amazon.Com, Amazon.Co.UK and Amazon.Com.Au)!

 

The Brief Reign of Edward VI’s Uncle – Guest Post by Kyra Kramer

Edward VI In a Nutshell - by Kyra Kramer

Edward VI In a Nutshell – by Kyra Kramer

I am thrilled to host author and researcher Kyra Cornelius Kramer on the first stop of the blog tour for her just-out Edward VI In a Nutshell. Straightforward and informative, this book will give you a better understanding of the life and reign of England’s last child monarch – and a fascinating new theory of what, exactly, caused his death (Kyra is a medical anthropologist, she also wrote Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell). It’s a wonderful addition to MadeGlobal Publishing‘s History in a Nutshell Series, which “aims to give readers a good grounding in a historical topic in a concise, easily digestible and easily accessible way.”

Today’s post was written by Kyra – it is a special post for me about Edward Seymour and his “reign” while he served as Lord Protector to the boy king…a wonderful thematic match-up with my own Seymour Saga!

As part of the tour, Kyra’s publisher (MadeGlobal Publishing) is offering one lucky follower the chance to win a copy of Kyra’s book (your choice between a signed paperback or the kindle version) – details at the bottom of the post.

Over to Kyra…

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Few men have ever embraced ambition with as much gung-ho as Edward Seymour. He and some of his siblings, including Jane Seymour, came to court with the exact same goal that EVERYONE had when they came to court in the Tudor era — to earn royal favor and maybe get a juicy gift that would give them fortune and power. That was just the way it was done. The Seymours, however, scored bigger than they could have ever hoped.

Sometime in late 1535 or early 1536 King Henry VIII developed a hankering to see Edward’s sister Jane in her birthday suit. According to Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys (who was not unknown to bend the truth, so his word is not axiomatically reality) the savvy Edward instructed his sister to make like Anne Boleyn and NOT let Henry seal the deal until he put a ring on her finger. Sure, Anne Boleyn was pregnant at the time with the king’s baby but maybe the Seymours would get lucky and Anne would have another girl, giving them the chance to convince Henry to annul his second marriage and replace his queen with Jane. Fingers crossed, right?

If Edward sold his soul to the devil for power he got a better bargain than most gents do in contracts with Satan. Not only did Anne Boleyn miscarry her male fetus, Henry lost his marbles shortly thereafter and had her beheaded. The king was engaged to Jane within hours and married her before Anne’s headless body could start decomposition.

Now Edward was brother-in-law to the king! Henry generously named Edward Viscount Beauchamp shortly after the marriage to Jane in 1536. He would later elevate Edward to the Earl of Hertford in 1537 when Jane gave birth to a son in 1537. Thus, the eldest son of a mere “sir” became a lord. Not bad, but Edward hoped for even better things.

Opportunities for betterment came when Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547 and Jane’s son became Edward VI. That is when the Earl of Hertford saw his chance to get “creative” with Henry’s last wishes. As I explain in my book, Edward VI in a Nutshell:

There were some serious shenanigans surrounding the death of King Henry VIII and the execution of his will. Men who were powerful enough, or influential enough, to sway the king to appoint a singular regent, or who were high-ranking enough to be that singular regent, were kept away from the dying king. During the last month of Henry’s life, the powerful Howard family was decimated by arrests and executions, which some historians argue (with convincing evidence) was actually orchestrated by Jane Seymour’s eldest brother, Edward. Henry Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, was spuriously accused of treason and his son, the Earl of Surrey, would die shortly before the king’s death, beheaded for the crime of knowing he and his father were traditionally more worthy to be the prince’s caretakers. Although Henry’s will called for a council to collectively act as regent, the boy-king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, managed to get himself named lord protector of the realm and governor of the king’s person, most likely in exchange for the lavish gifts the old king’s will was mysteriously found to authorise.

The protector and the privy council made out like bandits in the few weeks between Henry VIII’s death and Edward VI’s coronation.  Edward Seymour … became the Duke of Somerset and inducted himself into the Order of the Garter. John Dudley moved up from lord admiral and Viscount Lisle to the Earl of Warwick, and was also appointed Great Chamberlain. The now-vacant spot of lord admiral was given to a younger Seymour brother, Thomas, who was promoted to Baron of Sudeley.

The king was just a nine year old boy and Edward was determined to take “good care” of his nephew and namesake. One way that Somerset took care of Edward was to run the country on the boy king’s behalf. Somerset was so devoted to taking care of Edward by being de facto king that he was even willing to murder his brother Thomas in the spring of 1549 to make sure no one else took good care of the king but himself. Sadly, Somerset wasn’t all that competent at being the uncrowned King of England:

When not executing a sibling or keeping the king impotent and dependent on him, Somerset was busy botching England’s military aims in Scotland. In continuance of Henry VIII’s “rough wooing” of Mary, Queen of Scots, the protector was trying to bully the Scots into marrying their queen to King Edward by force of arms. Somerset piled the Lowlands of Scotland with fortifications and troops to no avail; the Scots would not yield their sovereign. The French arrived to bolster the beleaguered Scots in June 1548, landing at Leith and entrenching in Edinburgh. Somerset’s advisors warned him that it was dangerous to allow the French to gain a stronghold so near the five-year-old queen, but the protector didn’t listen … Not only was Somerset failing as a military leader, he soon proved himself to be over his head when it came to ruling the country. He would swing back and forth between draconian measures and bribes to those he needed as allies, alienating even those he wished to charm. Somerset also issued contradictory proclamations — some tolerant and some intolerant of Catholicism, some progressive and some totalitarian regarding economically relevant policies – and the populace was left uncertain as to whether they were coming or going …

Having supported Mary (Henry VIII’s eldest daughter) a decade earlier, Edward Seymour and his family had become as staunchly Protestant as they had been devoutly Catholic … There was a constant, and not unreasonable, worry that the Catholics would rise up in rebellion. Mary had been reinstated into the royal succession by her father shortly before his death … Therefore, the Catholics had a ready-made Catholic monarch to put on the throne if Edward was overthrown. If that happened, the Seymours wouldn’t just lose their power and wealth; they would lose their heads. Somerset’s foolish solution to the theoretical problem of a Catholic uprising was to crack down on those practising the old faith. As ever, martyrdom and governmental demands did nothing more than further entrench the beliefs by the faithful …

By the beginning of October in 1549 the privy council had gotten well and truly fed-up with Somerset’s clandestine reign. So how does Somerset deal with this? Not well:

Panicked, Somerset grabbed the king and ran for it. You have to consider how frightening this all was for Edward, who still trusted his uncle implicitly. The king would later write in his diary how he was rushed away from Hampton Court to Windsor Castle late on the evening of 7 October, and observers reported that Edward had carried a drawn sword as he rode through the night, declaring, “My vassals will you help me against those who want to kill me!” Once at Windsor, the king wrote a letter to the lords of the privy council claiming that he knew, “what opinion you have conceived of our dearest uncle the Lord Protector … we do lament our present estate being in such and imminent dangers … we pray you, good cousins and councilors … in nowise counsel us to proceed to extremities against him, for fear of any respect that might particularly seem hereafter to touch any of you” …

The councillors arranged to have a private letter smuggled in to Edward, assuring him that they only wanted to depose Somerset because he was abusing his position and taking advantage of his nephew, but the king was unmoved by their assurance and remained certain that Somerset was only trying to protect them both. When the duke was arrested via a coup at Windsor on 11 October, the king’s first reaction to his liberators was profound alarm. He had been told so often and so urgently that his councillors meant to kill him that he had no doubt that was what they intended to do.

Happily for Edward, he “was soon afterwards disabused; and when he went from there to Hampton Court and dismounted, he thanked all the company for having rid him of such fear and peril” (CPS, Spain, 17 October 1549). Assured of his safety, he complained about his time at Windsor, where he had been “much troubled with a great rheum” and where he felt as though he was “in prision” because there were “no galleries nor gardens to walk in”…

King Edward rode triumphantly back into London on 17 October, trusting his privy council once more, but with enough good feeling towards Somerset that he demanded to see his uncle. Under Edward’s protection and due to the king’s intervention, the former protector was able to pay a fine and be released from the Tower with the king’s pardon on 6 February 1550. By May of that same year Somerset’s lands were restored to him and he had been elevated once again to a Gentleman of the privy chamber.”

Somerset’s brief reign was over, and King Edward VI (although only 12) would never allow anyone to run his country for him again. The king would listen and be advised by the councilors he trusted, particularly John Dudley, but the journals and letters of Edward VI made it clear that he and he alone was absolute monarch of England.

The king, now well aware of his own powers, appears never to have rebuked his uncle Seymour for trying to be sovereign in all but name. Edward VI seems to have loved his uncle, and kept the man prosperous as well as safe. Regrettably, Somerset did not have the good sense to appreciate this and stop trying to rule England in the king’s place.

Perhaps he was maddened by jealousy when [John Dudley] was elevated to the 1st Duke of Northumberland in October 1551, or perhaps he was unhappy with riches that lacked the spice of power. For whatever reason, a year after he had scarpered off with the king’s person, Somerset began to plot with a handful of shady conspirators to overthrow the council and resume his position as lord protector. Part of the plan included the murders of Northumberland, the Marquess of Northampton, and the Earl of Pembroke. As fate would have it, one of Somerset’s conspirators realised how futile their attempt would be and ratted out the whole plot to Northumberland and the Privy Council. On 17 October 1551, Somerset was arrested and once more confined to the Tower. This time, the duke would find no more mercy from either the council or his nephew than that which he had given his brother, Thomas. Somerset was put on trial on 1 December, and the king recorded in his personal diary:

The duke of Somerset cam to his triall at Westmyster halle.   … He answerid he did not entend to raise London, [. . .…] His assembling of men was but for his owne defence. He did not determin to kill the duke of Northumberland, the marquis, etc., but spake of it and determined after the contrary; and yet seamid to confess he went about there death. The lordis went togither. The duke of Northumberland wold not agree that any searching of his death shuld bee treason. So the lordis acquited him of high treason, and condemned him of treason feloniouse, and so he was adjuged to be hangid. He gave thankis to the lordis for there open trial, and cried mercy of the duke of Northumberland, the marquis of Northampton, and th’erle of Penbroke for his ill meaning against them, and made suet for his life, wife and children, servauntes and dettes, and so departed without the ax of the Toure. The peple, knowing not the matter, shouted hauf a douzen times, so loud that frome the halle dore it was hard at Chairing crosse plainly, and rumours went that he was quitte of all.

After a few weeks grace to put his affairs in order, Edward Seymour, once the most powerful man in England, was led from his prison and executed on 22 January 1552. The king, once an ardent partisan supporter of his uncle, merely noted that:, “The duke of Somerset had his head cat of apon Towre hill betwene eight and nine a cloke in the morning.”

Seymour must have used up whatever love and goodwill the king had felt toward him. Edward VI was obviously not heartbroken over the loss of his uncle. Conspiracies to take your throne away have that effect on people, I guess.

Somerset’s beheading was a sad and yet fitting end to the son of a knight who had worked his way into becoming the acting king of all England without a legal leg to stand on. It is also an abject lesson in why ambition is a good servant but a bad master. The unchecked lust for power is why Edward Seymour died shorter and younger than he needed to.

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kyra-kramer

Kyra Cornelius Kramer is an author and researcher with undergraduate degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a masters degree in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. Her work is published in several peer-reviewed journals, including The Historical Journal, Studies in Gothic Fiction, and Journal of Popular Romance Studies and she regularly writes for The Tudor Society. Her books include Blood Will Tell: A medical explanation for the tyranny of Henry VIII, The Jezebel Effect: Why the slut shaming of famous queens still matters, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell and Edward VI in a Nutshell.

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Giveaway

So – ready to try to win a copy? Signed copy or kindle version, your choice! Just leave a comment below this post about what you find most interesting about either of the Edwards – and leave it by midnight on Sunday, November 20. One lucky commenter will be picked at random and contacted for their details.

There will be a giveaway at every stop of Kyra’s book tour (!) and here is the schedule:

kyra_kramer_book_tour

 

Good luck!

January 22, 1552 – Execution of Edward Seymour

Edward Seymour by Magdalena de Passe, or by Willem de Passe, line engraving, 1620 (Creative Commons license from National Portrait Gallery)

What it is about power? The lust for power is often fed by power itself – and even more if that power is taken away.

In October 1549, Edward Seymour, fearing he was losing control, pulled a move that could have been copied out of his crazy younger brother’s playbook: he basically kidnapped his royal nephew and brought him to Windsor Castle “for safety’s sake.” He was quickly accused of treason and apprehended – but escaped the trap. John Dudley, then Earl of Warwick, quickly assumed control, immediately becoming Lord President of the Council (then in October 1551 he was raised to the Dukedom of Northumberland).

Despite Dudley’s relative kindness (Somerset’s release in the first place, his return to the Privy Council and Privy Chamber, a match between their kids…), Somerset missed his lost power and started to plan a coup. Rumors flew that he planned a “banquet massacre” that would assault the members of the Council and kill Dudley; he did later admit to “contemplating” Dudley’s arrest and execution. There would be no more mercy for Edward Seymour.

In Wriothesley’s Chronicle, we hear that:

“Friday, the 22 of January, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerest, was beheaded at the Tower Hill, afore six of the clock in the forenoon, which took his death very patiently, but there was such a fear and disturbance among the people suddenly before he suffered, that some tumbled down the ditch, and some ran toward the houses thereby and fell, that it was marvelous to see and hear, but how the cause was, God knoweth.”

Still, the most poignant and saddest report is given by Edward VI, the boy king. With little emotion for the uncle who had been an important part of his life since his birth, he simply wrote: “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.”

Thus ended an era.

 

RESOURCES:

A Chronicle of England During the Reigns of the Tudors, From A.D. 1485 to 1559

Nichols, Literary Remains of Edward VI, edited from his autograph manuscripts, with historical notes and a biographical memoir

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December 14, 1542 – Mary Stuart Becomes Queen of Scotland

Mary Stuart, by Francois Clouet (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s not a lot to tell about Mary Stuart’s life before she became Queen – she was only six days old when her father, James V, died. He learned of her birth on his deathbed, responding with the not-too-optimistic, it came with a lass and will pass with a lass. For the first few years of her life, it seemed as if he might be right.

Right away, Henry VIII tried to secure the infant Queen as a bride for his son, Edward, who was then six years old. This was hugely important to England. First, because it was the perfect way (in England’s eyes!) to unite the two countries, and second, to prevent Mary from marrying a French prince (if that happened, England would find itself surrounded by Catholic powers on two fronts – and France would be able to use Scotland as a springboard to the attack on England they were always threatening). Scotland and France had been allies for centuries – Mary’s mother herself was French (Marie de Guise) – so that possibility was actually highly likely.

On July 10, 1543, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, promising that Mary would marry Edward when she turned ten, and move to England then for Henry to oversee her upbringing. But shortly after that, Henry decided throw his weight around: he arrested Scottish merchants headed for France and impounded their goods – and that led the Scottish Parliament to reject the treaty. Henry reacted badly (did you expect anything different?): he began a war in 1544 that would last for seven years, sending Edward Seymour, then Earl of Hertford, and John Dudley, then Viscount Lisle, with instructions to burn Edinburgh. They did as told, England. Scotland was incensed by what they called the “Rough Wooing”, and support for an English marriage largely vanished. Still, the English persisted.

Henry died in January 1547, when his son Edward was only six. Edward Seymour took power as Regent (he also took the title Duke of Somerset but that’s another story) and continued the punitive policies. After a heavy defeat in 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, Scotland turned to France for help. A treaty was signed promising military support – and Mary’s marriage to the young Dauphin of France, who would later take the throne as Francis II. With her marriage agreement in place, the five-year-old Queen was sent to France to spend the next thirteen years at the French court.

Those thirteen years would be the happiest of Mary’s life. What came afterwards was much more of a challenge…

REFERENCES

Wikipedia pages on Mary, Queen of Scots, Marie de Guise, the Auld Alliance, the Rough Wooing

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October 22, 1494 – Marriage of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth

October 22, 1494 – Marriage of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. Read more on www.janetwertman.com

Sir John Seymour, by an unknown artist (image from Reformation.org)

Only four days ago, I posted about Margery Wentworth’s death in 1550 – it is strange how the vagaries of the “on this day” format sometimes lead to these seemingly out-of-order couplings! Still, since I just talked a lot about Margery, this post will focus on Sir John and the marriage itself.

Sir John Seymour was the oldest son of John Seymour of Wolfhall, Wiltshire and Elizabeth Darrell; he started with a solid pedigree then acquitted himself well at court. First, he was knighted in the field by Henry VII in 1497, for helping to defeat Cornish rebels in the Battle of Blackheath. Similar military service to Henry VIII in 1513 got him elevated to Knight banneret in connection with the sieges of Therouanne and Tournay. He was also chosen to accompany Henry to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and welcomed his King to Wolf Hall on at least two occasions (once to hunt Savernake Forest with a small group, another time with the entire court during the 1535 Summer progress).

The marriage was by Tudor standards a successful one in that it produced successful children, lots of them. That said, there was a huge scandal that rocked the family: Sir John is alleged to have had an affair with Katherine Filliol from 1527-1529 – while she was married to his son Edward. It is believed Sir John actually fathered two of his own grandchildren – Edward certainly thought so, since when he repudiated Katherine he also disinherited the children they had together. There is no mention of how well familial relationships were repaired after that, though there was no record of any bad blood when Henry VIII’s Court stopped at Wolf Hall in September 1535 near the end of its Summer Progress.

Sir John died in December 1536, proud in the knowledge that his daughter Jane was Queen of England. Margery lived for 34 more years, until 1550. She never remarried.

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October 18, 1550 – Death of Margery Wentworth Seymour

October 18, 1550: Death of Margery Wentworth, Jane Seymour's mother. Read more about her on www.janetwertman.com

Margery Wentworth, possibly by Holbein (image via Reformation.Org)

Margery Wentworth Seymour, Jane Seymour’s mother, was born around 1478 – making her 72 or so when she died and an old woman by Tudor standards. She had a life that climbed to unexpected heights at its start, then devolved into tragedy.

Margery was said to be a great beauty in her youth, even rhapsodized by John Skelton in his poetry as a shy, kind girl reminiscent of primrose and columbine. She married Sir John Seymour when she was around 16 (he was 20). The couple went on to have nine children, six of whom survived childhood and four of whom became prominent at court. Indeed, their daughter Jane displaced Anne Boleyn to become the third wife of Henry VIII – and bear his son and heir. There was no greater pinnacle than royal scions.

There was some sadness mixed in with the good (after Sir John died in 1535, Jane succumbed to puerperal fever in 1537), but the Seymour fortunes continued to rise through 1547. They hit their apogee upon the death of Henry VIII: Margery’s grandson became King Edward VI of England, her son Edward became Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of England, and her son Thomas became 1st Baron Sudeley and married Henry VIII’s widow Queen Katherine Parr.

Unfortunately, two years later Sudeley lost his mind and tried to kidnap his royal nephew – he was executed in 1549. Margery died shortly after that, still believing in the great future of her family. She missed seeing everything crumble, first when Somerset overstepped his power and was executed in 1552, then when Edward VI died in 1553, four months before his 16th birthday….

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October 6, 1549 – Somerset Spirits Edward VI Away to Windsor

Edward Seymour, by an unknown artist.

Edward Seymour, by an unknown artist. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1549, the position of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, was becoming precarious, as rebellions throughout the country were matched by dissention within the King’s council. The rebellions were spurred by expectations that the year’s harvest would be as poor as that of 1548 – though the truth was that the entire decade had been a period of acute price inflation. People questioned Somerset’s policies, especially his support of religious reform and agrarian enclosures – and  his wars with Scotland. They also mistrusted a man who would send his own brother to the block (though goodness knows Tom Seymour deserved it – for one, the man broke into the King’s apartments in the middle of the night and shot his dog! Check out the “Thomas Seymour” tags for posts I’ve written about those incidents!). Meanwhile John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was rabble-rousing within the King’s Council.

So a beleaguered Somerset tried a desperation move. He took possession of the King’s person, and withdrew for safety from Hampton Court to the fortified and easily-defended Windsor Castle. Somerset had not taken into account the fact that the King had grown into a twelve year-old boy who did not appreciate being treated like a chess piece. Edward was outraged by Somerset’s behavior. “Me thinks I am in prison,” he wrote in his Chronicle. (This is really the greatest treasure, a diary written at times in the third person that gives a fascinating glimpse into his thoughts).

The Council reacted on October 8 by proclaiming the Protector a traitor, publishing details of his government mismanagement. By October 11, the game was over. They sent guards to rescue the King and arrest Somerset and his wife. Edward summarized the charges against Somerset in his Chronicle: “ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority, etc.” In the end, Somerset pleaded guilty to 29 counts of treason.

Still, Somerset escaped this trap. He apologized and was released from the Tower. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, took over as President of the Council; he and the King accepted Somerset’s contrition, and even allowed him to return to the Council and Privy Chamber. As a mark of reconciliation, Warwick even married his heir John to Somerset’s daughter Anne. But that wasn’t enough for the ambitious Somerset. He started amassing political sympathizers and plotting to remove Warwick from the scene. It didn’t work. On October 11, 1551, Warwick was elevated to the Dukedom of Northumberland. Five days later, Edward Seymour was arrested for “contemplating” the Lord President’s arrest and execution. That was it for Somerset. He was executed on January 22, 1552.

Sources:

As always, Wikipedia – Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset provides a good understanding of the subject. For more in-depth analysis, Albert Frederick Pollard offers a short (23 pages) biography entitled Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

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August 13, 1514 – Mary Tudor’s Proxy Wedding to Louis XII of France – And the Start of Edward Seymour’s Career

On August 13, 1514, Henry VIII's younger sister Mary entered married Louis XII of France by proxy. On that day, Edward Seymour joined her household and began his politial ca. Read about it on www.janetwertman.com

Tapestry Showing Mary Tudor’s Marriage to Louis XII of France, currently hanging at Hever Castle

On this day in 1514, at Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor married Louis XII of France (represented by the Duc de Longueville, acting as proxy). According to the notarial document of the event, the Princess Mary and the Duc de Longueville appeared before the King and Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas postulate of York, the Dukes of Buckingham, Norfolk and Suffolk, the Bishops of Winchester and Durham, the Marquis of Dorset, the Earls of Shrewsbury, Surrey, Essex and Worcester, John de Selva and Thomas Bohier. After a Latin speech by the Archbishop and John de Selva, the Bishop of Durham read the French King’s letters patent, and the Duc de Longueville, taking with his right the right hand of the Princess Mary, recited the French King’s words of espousal in French. Then the Princess, taking the right hand of the Duc de Longueville, recited her part of the contract in the same tongue. The Duc de Longueville signed the schedule and delivered it for signature to the Princess Mary, who signed Marye; after which the Duc delivered the Princess a gold ring, which the Princess placed on the fourth finger of her right hand.

To reflect her new status, the Princess Mary assembled a new, much larger, household. It is common knowledge that Anne Boleyn was named as one of her ladies – it is less common knowledge that Edward Seymour also was appointed to her household on this day. Anne and Edward were each around fourteen years old at the time, this was a common age for a first appointment (though in both their cases, there are some who allege that they were closer to seven or eight). When Mary’s marriage ended quickly, Edward bounced around a little. He served Cardinal Wolsey for a time, joined the Duke of Suffolk’s campaign in France in 1523, then was appointed to the household of the Duke of Richmond (the King’s illegitimate son) before snagging a spot as one of the King’s own Esquires of the Body in 1529. And of course, once his sister Jane caught the King’s eye in 1535, his future was assured…

For Further Reading:

As always, the Wikipedia entries on Mary Tudor, Edward Seymour and Anne Boleyn contain additional biographical details. I have also written posts with tags called “Edward Seymour” and “Anne Boleyn”….

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March 9, 1535: Edward Seymour Married to Anne Stanhope

March 9, 1535: Edward Seymour marries Anne Stanhope. Their partnership lasted until his death. Read about it on www.janetwertman.com

Edward and Anne Seymour, from Showtime’s “The Tudors”

It’s a little bit wrong to assign a date to a marriage when all that has come down to us is that “by this day they were married” – but this was a big event and it needs anchoring somehow.

t was the first marriage for Anne Stanhope but the second one for Edward Seymour – his first, to Katherine Filliol, was a bit of a disaster. Edward repudiated her in 1529, apparently because he believed she had a long-term affair with his father (for that same reason, in 1540 he entailed his estates away from the two sons they had together).

Less than a year later, Edward’s sister Jane caught the eye of Henry VIII, and Edward and Anne began a twenty-year run as a “power couple.” Edward continued to rise at court even after Jane died – thanks to Jane’s having given the King his son and heir. Anne served as a Gentlewoman in Attendance to Anne of Cleves, and then as a Lady in Waiting to Katherine Parr. And then of course after Henry’s death she became the first lady of the land, the wife of the Lord Protector. She had to fight for that position – Katherine Parr thought that she deserved it as the Dowager Queen. Katherine would have been right, but once she married Thomas Seymour she muddied the protocol waters since Thomas was Edward’s younger brother. Regardless, Anne took possession of the royal jewels and wore them herself until Edward’s downfall in 1552.

Edward and Anne Seymour had ten children together, and by all accounts their marriage was a happy one. Today, let us raise a glass to celebrate their good times together.

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January 17, 1549 – Thomas Seymour Arrested for Treason

January 17, 1539 - Thomas Seymour arrested for treason. He certainly had it coming to him! Read the story on www.janetwertman.com

Thomas Seymour by Nicolas Denisot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This day marked the beginning of the fall of Thomas Seymour, a man of great hubris. Though truth be told, he had started on the path some time before.

To use the words of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Thomas Seymour was “hardy, wise and liberal … fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent, but somewhat empty of matter.” His brother Edward was more dour and serious.  As the oldest brother in the Seymour family, Edward benefited more than Tom when their sister Jane married Henry VIII and gave birth to his son and heir.  At the time of the marriage, Edward Seymour was named Viscount Beauchamp of Hache, Thomas was made a gentleman of the Privy Chamber (Edward already was one). When the future Edward VI was born, Edward Seymour became the Earl of Hertford, Thomas was knighted. Then when Henry VIII died, Edward took the real prize: he upset the terms of Henry’s will to become Lord Protector of England, and gave himself the title of Duke of Somerset. Thomas became Baron of Sudeley, a step up from a plain knight, but not yet even an earl.

Thomas Seymour had bigger plans for himself. He knew he was Edward VI’s favorite uncle (he was the fun one who gave him money) and did his best to translate that to power. Then he married Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow and the new King’s stepmother. Together they formed a couple with a powerful ability to influence the King (though Katherine lost a great deal of respect because the marriage occurred less than six months after Henry’s death).  The marriage intensified the rivalry between the brother for several reasons. First, Katherine had expected that Henry would appoint *her* Regent during Edward VI’s minority – that’s what Henry had done when he left on his military campaign to France between July and September 1544 – so she had a bit of a falling out with Edward Seymour. Then Anne Seymour, Edward’s wife, argued with her over who was to be allowed to wear the queen’s jewels. Katherine of course believed that as Queen Dowager she should have that right until a new queen was in place – but Anne Seymour argued that as the wife of the Lord Protector, they should be hers until Edward VI married.  Anne won.

That background may help contextualize the jealousy and bitterness that propelled Thomas Seymour to a foolhardy plan (it may also explain why Edward Seymour let his brother be executed after he was arrested). But it doesn’t make Thomas’ next actions any less ridiculous.

Within weeks of Henry VIII’s death, Thomas Seymour had tried unsuccessfully to marry one of  his daughters before wooing Katherine Parr. So it was an awkward situation when Katherine took on Elizabeth’s guardianship and had the fourteen year old princess come live in their home. Horseplay followed, and Katherine even joined in at first, but it went further than that. Thomas Seymour would come to Elizabeth’s bedchamber in his nightshirt and bare feet to wake her up in the mornings,  tickling her until she screamed for her ladies. After several weeks of this, a heavily pregnant Katherine caught the two of them in an embrace and Elizabeth was sent away in disgrace. On August 30, 1548, Katherine gave birth to a baby girl, then died six days later of puerpural fever, also called childbed fever (a relatively common issue of the day). During her periods of delirium, she accused Thomas of wishing her dead and suggested that he had in fact poisoned her.

It was after her death that Thomas Seymour seemed to become a bit unhinged. He continued to foment opposition to his brother – both with his nephew and the Council. He tried to create rebellion:  he bribed Sir William Sharington, the Vice-Treasurer of the Bristol Mint, to secure financing for his plans, and he used his position as Lord High Admiral to seek support from the Royal Navy (he also turned a blind eye to pirates along the coast who paid him for his leniency and promised their own support). Finally, on December 16, 1549, Thomas Seymour went too far. In the middle of the night, he tried to break into the sleeping King’s apartments at Hampton Court Palace. He made it into the privy garden (he had keys), but one of the King’s pet spaniels started barking, and he shot and killed it. When that brought guards running, he blustered some excuses and unbelievably was allowed to go home. But there was no excuse for being outside the King’s bedroom in the middle of the night with keys and arms – and using them both. Different versions of his motivation were proposed (it was alleged that he had a priest in his home ready to marry the King to Jane Grey and himself to Elizabeth) but they all suggested treasonable intent.

The morning of the 17th, Thomas was arrested and brought to the Tower. The Council also quickly started to question everyone associated with him, including Elizabeth. On February 22, 1549, they finally charged Seymour with 33 counts of treason

He was executed on March 20, 1549

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