Thomas the Diplomat: Low Countries

In my previous article on “Thomas the Diplomat”, was about Thomas Seymour’s time as ambassador to the King of Hungary and his participation in the Siege of Pest. Today we will continue where we left his story where the last post left off.

After his time on the continent as ambassador to Ferdinand of Hungary, Thomas Seymour was back in England.  It was around this time that Thomas may have begun his initial relationship with Kateryn Parr. At the end of 1542, Parr and her husband stayed in London, at Charterhouse Yard. In London they had easier access to good doctors for the ailing Latimer. This was about the same time that Thomas returned from embassy.

It is believed that Thomas and Kateryn may have fallen in love prior to Latimer’s death. There is no evidence to indicate when the relationship began or officially ended. It has proven difficult to pinpoint his [Thomas] exact location until March 1543, when he was appointed co-ambassador to the Low Countries and would be dispatched to Flanders. Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys reported in a letter to the dowager queen of Hungary (while he was in Vienna):

two ambassadors to Your Majesty to consult and decide what had better be done, and how and on what side the invasion of France is to be carried out. I have reason to believe that one of them will be Master Thomas Semal (Seymour), the brother of the queen Johanne (Jane) that was…

What we do know is that there was a relationship, and that the King (who was interested in her) had given Kateryn a gift of sleeves prior to her husband’s death in March 1543, as well. Little did Kateryn know but soon the King would ask for her hand in marriage.

Kateryn Parr believed this to be an act from God, so to speak. She decided to move forward with the engagement even though she had a great love for Thomas, saying later, “as truly as God is God, my mind was fully bent, the other time I was at liberty, to marry you before any man I know.” She went on to say that she believed it was God’s will and she would renounce her own will for the will of God.

Lord Latimer, second husband of Kateryn Parr, died on the 2nd of March 1543.

By April of 1543, Thomas Seymour and Dr. Nicholas Wotton were named ambassadors to the Low Countries. The men were ordered to go to Flanders to present themselves to the Regent of the Low Countries. The Regent was the dowager Queen of Hungary and Regent of the Low Countries, Maria of Austria.

Maria_of_Spain_1557 (1)

It is often wondered if King Henry VIII knew of the relationship between Parr and Thomas Seymour and that was the reason why Seymour was made ambassador of the Low Countries and sent on embassy. I used to be a believer in the tale but now believe that it was just another diplomatic mission for the King. Thomas had just returned from his first mission being the ambassador to the King of Hungary and did his job to the King’s satisfaction.

England was still allied with the Emperor and Henry VIII was eager to learn how to defeat the French. His hope was that Charles V and his allies would be the key to a victory.

Henry VIII was frustrated that France had an alliance with Scotland, and that may have been all that triggered Henry VIII. This frustration with France was the reason behind my previous post: Thomas the Diplomat and the Siege of Pest and England assisting Ferdinand of Hungary and the Emperor. It would now be time for Charles V to show his support to England.

Thomas Seymour and Dr. Wotton’s job as ambassadors was to help keep the good relationship between the two rulers and to aid the King of England in knowing what was going on in the Low Countries.

The men spent some time in Antwerp before they were next recorded in Brussels. The two cities were less than three hours apart by horse.

On the 4th of July 1543, Thomas Seymour was pulled from his diplomatic mission and made Marshall of the English Army in the Netherlands. This position left Thomas second in command after Sir John Wallop. King Henry VIII had written a letter to the Regent of the Netherlands to let her know that Thomas Seymour was being recalled from her court to serve the king.

On the 6th of July, Thomas’ co-ambassador wrote a letter to the King of England where he sounds a bit perturbed by the sudden absence of Seymour. A translation of the excerpt from Letters and Papers:

A long letter is unnecessary, as Mr. Seymour can declare everything; whose departure leaves the whole burden upon Wotton, who will do his best. Brucelles, 6 July 1543. 

On the 12th of July 1543, Henry VIII wed his sixth and final wife, Kateryn Parr at Hampton Court Palace.

Twelve days after the King married his love, Thomas Seymour, captured and destroyed the castles of “Rinquecen’ and ‘Arbrittayne’.

The beginning of the following month (August), he was once again sent to speak with the Regent to ask for reinforcements. After his visit to the Regent of the Low Countries he returned to the battlefield and found himself in command of the army for a short time.

From Wriothesley (instructions):

They shall serve for 112 days from the day of their entry, either in repelling the enemy or invading his dominion. If the enemy retire before the 112 days are ended and the Emperor does not follow, Wallop and his men shall take leave and come home. If they stay the whole four months and the Emperor offers them convenient wages to remain still, they shall do so, at the Emperor’s charges.” 

Seymour was evidently a different style of leader than Wallop, here is what the site, History of Parliament has to say:

Thomas’ outspokenness about Charles V’s failure to give the promised support to the English force led the Emperor to remark that Seymour had shown himself more dry and difficult than Wallop, but Henry VIII showed his satisfaction with Seymour by making him Master of the Ordnance for life in the spring of 1544 with a salary more than four times that of his predecessor, Sir Christopher Morres. By virtue of his new office he supplied the guns and munitions for the campaign to capture Boulogne. After taking part in the storming of the town he was made an admiral with orders to victual the garrison left there and to harry the French in the Channel. His failure to execute those orders brought a sharp rebuke from the Council, but his explanation was accepted by the King.  (History of Parliament)

That’s where we will end this already long post – I will continue with the rest of Thomas’ career when we look at him being the Captain of the Peter (Pomegranate) and his time as marshall in Boulogne.

Rebecca Larson is a blogger and podcaster on the subject of the Tudor dynasty but has found a fascination with the life of Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane. Since 2016, she has been researching and writing about Thomas Seymour in preparation for a biography on him. In the meantime, Rebecca is working on a fictionalized account of Thomas’ life due out 2020/21.

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