Ladies for a Queen: Sudeley Castle

One of the most popular stories that comes to mind in the saga of Thomas Seymour and teenage Lady Elizabeth, is the one about Thomas proposing to Elizabeth after the death of Kateryn Parr. In this article I will attempt to explain some of the circumstances surrounding that situation but mostly try to explain the dowager queen’s ladies and maids being kept at Sudeley after her death and how some have assumed it was because Seymour wished to marry the Lady Elizabeth.

Wardship of Jane Grey

At some point prior to the death of dowager Queen, Kateryn Parr, Thomas Seymour negotiated with Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset about purchasing the wardship of his daughter, Lady Jane Grey. Jane’s mother Frances Brandon was the daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Mary Tudor, dowager queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk. This meant that Henry VIII was Jane Grey’s great-uncle and she was a cousin to Edward VI.

Dorset finally agreed to the terms of the deal when Seymour told him that he would arrange a marriage between his nephew, the King and Jane. Lady Jane Grey, if married to Edward VI would become queen consort. Since she was much further down in the line of succession this option seemed like the perfect way to raise the family’s status once again. The Dorsets were no different from any other noble family of the time, they were social climbers.

Jane stayed primarily at Seymour Place and only very rarely was in the same location as the Lady Elizabeth. We honestly do not know what type of relationship the two teenagers had, if they had one at all. We also can assume that Jane was not present for the alleged escapes between Seymour and Elizabeth.

After the Lady Elizabeth was sent to Cheshunt Place, Seymour, Parr and Jane moved to the newly refurbished Sudeley Castle where Parr would do her “lying in” prior to giving birth.

Changes After Death of Parr

All seemed well until Parr died only days after giving birth to a daughter. Thomas was reportedly devastated and this was about the time it appears he went off the rails. I am confident that he did not expect Parr to die, and when she did it catapulted him into a world where he didn’t have a “powerful” queen dowager at his side.

It was not long after the death of Parr that I had always believed that Seymour chose to disband her ladies and maids as well as his ward, Lady Jane Grey. I would soon discover that he did not disband the Queen’s former servants at all, only his ward, Lady Jane Grey.  When it came to Jane it did not take long for Seymour to realize he made a hasty decision and wrote to the Dorsets to let them know he wished to have their returned to him.

Seymour said in his letter that he wrote to Henry Grey:

in a time when partly with Queen’s Highness’ death, I was so amazed, that I had small regard either to myself or to my doings; and partly then thinking that my great loss must presently have constrained me to have broken up and dissolved my hole house, I offered unto your Lordship to send my Lady Jane unto you….“.

Seymour then went on to mention how he had now put his ‘trust in God’ and decided to ‘begin anew’ to establish his household. He said that he would have not only the Gentlewomen of the Queen’s Highness’ privy chamber but also her maids. He mentioned that some of the Maids and Gentlemen requested a month off to see their friends and then immediately would return to Sudeley.

But Seymour evidently did not believe that the Queen’s household would be enough to entice Dorset to return his daughter. Maybe he believed they were concerned that she did not have a strong female to guide her any longer. He mentioned that “My Lady, my mother, shall and will, I doubt not, be as dear unto her, as though she were her own daughter.”

Letters did not appear to do the trick. Seymour got on his horse and went straight to the Dorsets and convinced them in person to send Jane back to Sudeley. I assume with more promises of Jane marrying Edward VI. The plan worked. Jane was returned to Seymour.

Household for a Queen

It was Elizabeth Tyrwhit, former lady to Kateryn Parr (and a woman known to despise Seymour) who, in her confession, stated that she believed Seymour kept the Queen’s household together to wait upon Elizabeth because he wished to marry her. It appears Tyrwhit’s husband had connection with the council, so it may be that she heard the rumors from her husband.

Through my research I have been unable to discover proof that Thomas proposed to Elizabeth in the Fall of 1548, other than a hint of it in Professor G.W. Bernard’s essay about the downfall of Seymour. This may have something to do with the suspicion of the council. Lord Russell, who was a member of the council, warned Thomas Seymour that if he would go about any such thing, he [Seymour] would undo himself. Seymour definitely was familiar with the suspicions and told his friend and brother-in-law, William Parr, Marquess of Northampton that ‘he was credibly informed, that my Lord Protector had said he would clap him in the Tower if he went to my Lady Elizabeth’.¹ When Kat Ashley asked Thomas about a marriage with Elizabeth he responded: “I look not to lose my life for a wife. It has been spoken of, but it cannot be.”² Seymour understood, fully, that if he attempted to marry the Lady Elizabeth that he would most likely be executed.

Seymour’s servant, Harrington mentions the marriage between Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey:

And some say that he meaned to marry the Lady Jane to the King’s Majesty, but I understand by other men’s danger, what it is to marry a king; and therefore I ‘entred’ not that; but if I might have any in my house, whom the king might ‘phantase” (fantasy), I were much to blame, if I would be against it.

I don’t trust Kat Ashley’s statements but she mentioned to Mr. Cheke that she spoke with Seymour and that he wished to visit Elizabeth but was concerned that it would appear he was wooing her.


There are times in Tudor history that all is not as it appears – I believe this to be one of those instances. It is my believe that Thomas Seymour kept on the ladies and maids of Kateryn Parr to serve Lady Jane Grey, not the Lady Elizabeth. Why? Well, because Thomas planned to marry her to the King Edward VI and she would require a household of a queen – something that he already had in place due to his deceased wife. I would be kidding myself if I said that such a move would not benefit Seymour, but that is a different topic for another day.


¹ State Papers – Confession of Marquess of Northampton – page 79-80

² Froude, JA. History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth 

Elizabeth, in the Gallery, with a Man

Thomas Parry was Lady Elizabeth’s Cofferer and was one of the servants close to Elizabeth who was interrogated during the downfall of Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral.

Thomas Parry

As the Cofferer, Parry would have been responsible for in the incoming and outgoing money that belonged to his mistress, the Lady Elizabeth. In such a position one must assume that he and Kat Ashley had a decent relationship since they both worked closely with her Grace. In Parry’s confession it appears that Kat Ashley would confide in her co-worker, either about stuff she knew or had heard.

Thomas Parry’s Confession about what Kat Ashley told him:

…one time the queen, suspecting the often access of the Admiral to the Lady Elizabeth’s grace, came suddenly upon them, where they were all alone (he having her in his arms)

So what Thomas Parry is telling us there is that Kat Ashley told him that Kateryn Parr found Elizabeth in Thomas’ arms. Got that? Kateryn Parr.

Kat Ashley

Now when we look at Kat Ashley’s confession the story changes a bit:

At Hanworth, the Queen told this examinate [Kat Ashley] that my Lord Admiral looked in at the gallery-window, and see my Lady Elizabeth cast her arms about a man’s neck. The which hearing, this examinate inquired for it of my Lady’s Grace, who denied it weeping, and bade ask all her women: they all denied it: and she knew it could not be so, for there came no man, but “Gryndall”, the Lady Elizabeth’s Schoolmaster. 

Now Kat Ashley has changed the story and states that she was told by the Queen [Kat Parr] that Thomas Seymour witnessed Elizabeth with her arms about a man’s neck. So…who was the man? Did this event ever happen? Was it all made up?

With the changing of the story in mind, we should look at some of the other things that Ashley said in her confession. Some things that will give you a better impression of what kind of Governess to the princess she was.

Why would a “mother” or Governess for that fact, tell her charge that the woman she adores (Kat Parr) was Thomas Seymour’s second choice? Here is what Elizabeth said exactly in her confession:

Kat Ashley told me, after that my Lord Admiral was married to the queen, that if my Lord might have had his own will, he would have had me, before the queen.

It was obvious to many people, including Ashley, Parry and Ashley’s husband (as well as others) that Elizabeth had a crush on the handsome Seymour. That she would blush as the saying of his name.

Lady Elizabeth

What was Ashley’s point in telling Elizabeth that Seymour would have rather married her over the Queen? It seems that she was actively trying to get Elizabeth to go along with a marriage to Seymour, however, when Elizabeth was questioned about it she defended her Governess:

I suspect she [Ashley] told me, that if the council did consent to it, she thought it was not amiss. Be which sayings, and all the rest, “That if the council would consent it, I thought she had right good will thereunto.”

I get the strong impression that Kat Ashley was taking advantage of the feelings of a teenager…but for what reason other than the advantage of the entire household I do not know.

In Ashley’s confession she also said:

…divers times she hath had talk, and had communications of that matter with the said Lady Elizabeth, and hath wished both openly and privately, that they two were married together, meaning my Lord Admiral and the Lady Elizabeth; but she ever did “adjoyne” unto it, if the council were content.  

Ashley understood how dangerous a secret marriage between Elizabeth and Seymour could have been. She would have witnessed many of the events that occurred at Kat Parr secretly wed the Admiral. So why was she in favor of the wedding?

While writing this piece I came to a conclusion: Kat Ashley enjoyed attention. She liked to talk – even if her story would change. We have all known someone like that, haven’t we? Personality defects like that weren’t created in our time, they have been around for centuries. Kat Ashley, in my opinion, is the prime example of that.

So the moral of the story here is: Just because someone “confessed” something, especially under physiological torture, it should not immediately be taken as truth. This story will lead me to debunking and comparing many other statements Ashley made in regards to Thomas Seymour.


A Collection of State Papers, relating to Affairs In the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth : From the year 1542 to 1570

Seymour Place: First Home of Thomas Seymour

There is not much known about Thomas Seymour’s early years. Historian and author, David Loades believed that when Thomas first came to court (sometime between 1525-1530) that he may have rented a place in London. But once his sister Jane became Queen we can assume that he always had a place at court.

It would be awhile before Seymour would have a place of his own. It wasn’t until he was recognized for his military and political achievements that he finally made some progress in that arena.

In summer 1543 he was marshal of the English army in the Low Countries, serving under Sir John Wallop. This military experience may explain his appointment as master of the ordnance for life on 18 April 1544, a striking mark of royal favour, and he took part in the capture of Boulogne on 14 September. In October of that year he was appointed an admiral of the fleet, and he was much involved in naval action in 1545.¹

Thomas Seymour was ‘rewarded’ Hampton Palace in November 1544 and soon renamed it Seymour Place. Hampton Place had been previously owned by William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton until his death in 1542. Since Hampton Place was available to Thomas Seymour in 1544, and Southampton died it 1542, we can assume that after Southampton’s death the property reverted back to the Crown. That is until it was given to Thomas Seymour on the 29th of November 1544.

In less than three years from the time he was rewarded with Seymour Place, King Henry VIII was dead and Thomas Seymour, uncle to the King, was created Baron Seymour of Sudeley and as such became the owner of Sudeley Castle.

Description and Location

The best description of location I have found of Seymour Place was that it was to the East of Somerset Place and just outside Temple Bar. In this illustration below, you will see “Temple barre” in the top right. Just down and to the right of the words you will notice an arch – that is Temple Bar.

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The Agas Map of Early Modern London:

What was Temple Bar exactly?

…was the principal ceremonial entrance to the City of London on its western side from the City of Westminster. It is situated on the historic royal ceremonial route from the Tower of London to the Palace of Westminster, the two chief residences of the medieval English monarchs, and from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral

Here is what Temple Bar looked like in 1870 (sketch) and 1878 (photograph):

Untitled design (8)
Images in the Public Domain

Seymour Place, which after the execution of Thomas Seymour became Arundel Place, was located on the River Thames and was between Milford Lane and Strand Lane. Strand Lane is what separated Seymour Place from Somerset Place. Arundel place was to the south of St. Clement Dane (church) and adjacent to the Roman Baths at the Strand.

In the below image you will notice that Arundel Place, just to the right (or East) of it is Milford Lane. Thomas’ home was very near Temple Bar and was technically in Westminster and not London.

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Agas Map

These below sketches were created by Wenceslas Hollar in his lifetime (1607-1677 ) and it gives you a feel for what it may have looked like during the life of Thomas Seymour:

Arundel House, from the South [from the Thames side] by Wenceslas Hollar. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Arundel House, from the North by Wenceslas Hollar. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 Here is another image of Arundel Place in 1677:

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This Image © Copyright MAPCO 2009

Even after Arundel House was demolished in 1680 to 1682, it was remembered in descriptions of LondonJohn Strype recorded a brief history of Arundel House in his 1720 update to Stow’s A Survey of London, terminating in the house’s demolition:

Formerly the Bishop of Bath’s Inn: Which in Process of Time came to the Family of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk, the late Duke dwelling there. It then was a very large and old built House; with a spacious Yard for Stablings, towards the Strand, and with a Gate to enclose it, where there was the Porters Lodge; and as large a Garden towards the Thames. This said House and Grounds was some Years since converted into Streets and Buildings.
(Strype 4.7.117

Seymour Place was the location at which Lady Jane Grey stayed during the time that Thomas Seymour owned her wardship. Grey also eventually moved to Sudeley Castle in 1548 with Seymour and Parr.

My original impression of Seymour Place was that it was a small home. It wasn’t until I was able to get a good look at it through maps that I discovered it was quite the property and I have no doubt that Thomas Seymour made it into a grand estate.


¹ Bernard, G.W., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:  Seymour, Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley

² Wikipedia. Temple Bar, London
³ Maps of Early Modern London – Arundel House