As the King lay dying at Westminster, important men, men of the council, either whispered in dark hallways at the palace, or in their homes, about the future of England.
The King’s son was but a child, which led ambitious men to flock to the dying King’s bedside looking for power. Many had understood that the King had completed his will the previous year but hoped that there was still a bit of glory remaining for them.
The conversation that has repeated in history is that of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and Sir William Paget, another council member. Hertford was the eldest uncle of Edward, Prince of Wales. His sister Jane was the third wife of King Henry who gave her husband the longed for male heir he was so desperate to obtain. Unfortunately for Jane, the birth of a prince took her life when she died twelve days after his birth. The death of Jane did not quell the ambition of either Seymour brother.
Hertford pulled Paget aside in the dark gallery at Westminster and ask his friend for his allegiance. Hertford desired the role of Lord Protector and felt it necessary to have one man rule instead of a council, but in order to do so he would need the agreement of the entire regency council. Paget agreed, and like all men that would follow, they agreed with stipulation. Paget wished to have Hertford’s ear and to be his council. It was agreed.
There was one man, a men of lesser lineage than the Seymour family, who agreed without asking for something in return, John Dudley, Lord Lisle and Lord Admiral. He was made Earl of Warwick in exchange for handing over the title of Lord High Admiral of England to the other Seymour brother, Thomas.
Lisle was the son of Edmund Dudley, close adviser to the first King Henry. It is evident that Henry VII trusted Dudley’s judgement but it was the next King Henry that felt Dudley had too much power and the English subjects felt him and his cohort, Richard Empson.
Edmund Dudley was an administrator and financial agent during Henry VII’s reign.
Henry VIII, had decided to signal to the people that his reign would be much different from his father’s, and his first step was to arrest his father’s
notorious and unpopular officials
The charge against Dudley was that on April 22, he had:
“conspired with armed force to take the government of the King and realm.” The charge seems absurd; Dudley had thrived under the reign of Henry VII and surely must have been hoping to do the same under that of his son, whom he had once given a gold ring set with a pointed diamond. S. J. Gunn suggests that Dudley and Empson might have actually summoned armed men to London, either out of fear of their political enemies or in anticipation of political instability following the death of the first Tudor king. “[S]teps they had taken with no thought of treason were, as so often in the politics of Henry VIII’s reign, twisted into the stuff of which indictments were made.” Despite the trumped-up nature of the charge, Dudley was convicted on July 18, 1509.¹
After the execution of his father on 17 August 1510, John and his siblings were all under the age of six. David Loades states that the Dudley children presumably stayed with their mother afterward, but it is unclear where.
In February 1512, a well-connected esquire of the body by the name of Edward Guildford was granted the wardship of John Dudley.
At the same time John Dudley was restored in blood ‘being not yet eight years old’ and his father’s attainder was annulled by statute (Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols., 1810–28, 3 Hen. VIII c. 19). Why this arrangement was made, and on whose initiative, is not known…²
From an early age Dudley must have been aware that his father was executed on orders of King Henry VIII. It makes one wonder if he held a resentment to the throne and all those near it. You really could not blame him if he did.
That resentment leads me to the Seymour brothers and Dudley’s involvement in their downfall. There are writers out there who believe that Dudley was friends with Edward and Thomas Seymour and that he should not be blamed for his downfall, however, friendship in Tudor England did not mean loyalty, necessarily. It was every man for himself and that cut throat world led Dudley to do the unspeakable. He played the usually amicable brothers against one another.
It is evident to me now that the brothers indeed trusted Dudley. They believed him to be a friend, but it appears that he was playing them for the fools that they became.
The duke of North [Dudley] was familiar with them bothe and loved bothe and trusted of them bothe. And after the consultation of making the duke of Somerset lord protector of therealme and of the kinge’s person and thereupon secretely agred and not pronunced;³
What that quote tells us is that Dudley was well aware that Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset) wished to become Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King’s Person.
The duke of the North [Dudley] came to Sir Thomas Semour and tolde him not what was concludid, but what he ment; that the duke of Somerset [Hertford] sholde be the lord protector of the realme; and he sholde haue his voyse to be the governor of the kinge’s person, and he sholde haue all the furtheraunce he cold make; Sir thomas Semour did give the duke [Dudley] great thankes and prayed him that he wolde move it at the counselle’s boord; the duke [Dudley] answered that he thought not beste to do nor any other elles but only himself king [sic: knowing?] right well if he shode demande himself it was so reasonable a request that he knewe no man wolde dnye it him.
So Dudley went to Sir Thomas Seymour and instructed him that he should be Governor of the King’s Person, but he did not mention that he already knew that Hertford (future Somerset) had claimed both titles: Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King’s Person. Then Dudley went on to instruct Thomas to have his voice heard that the title should be his, but that he should go directly to the King and not the Council.
It appears to me that this was Dudley’s first move against the brothers. Playing ignorance and instigating Thomas Seymour to fight for what should be his. He does warn him not to go to the “boord” (Council) but directly to the King because ‘no man wolde denye it him’ if he did and it was approved.
You could say that this became a learning experience for Thomas Seymour. That because he went directly to the council and ‘showed his hand’ that he was denied his request. In the future, Thomas learned, he would go directly to the King.
When Thomas raised the matter at a council meeting his brother, Duke of Somerset upon hearing his statement, stood up (without saying anything) and ended the meeting.
Edward Seymour was well-educated, unlike his younger brother. He was aware of the history of uncles and a minor king and that was one of the reasons he was reluctant to give his brother such a title. Was he really worried about keeping a good relationship with his brother, or did he wish to have all the power to himself? We just don’t know for certain. All we can do is speculate.
Even though they disagreed on sources of power, the now Duke of Somerset would not break from his brother, at least not until his death. Dudley appeared to understand this and found a way to ingratiate himself in the company of Somerset.
In “Religion, Politics, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England” the witness account states that Dudley stayed with Somerset ever evening until the execution of Thomas Seymour, after which he no longer stayed. Those who are pro-Dudley will probably argue that he was there to protect Somerset from the dangers of his brother, I, on the other hand, see it as Dudley making sure that Somerset did not waiver from executing his brother. There is no evidence to prove that Thomas wished to harm his brother – quite the contrary, he mentioned several times that he did not wish his brother harm.
It is due to these actions by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick that I believe he hold the majority of the responsibility for the death of Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral of England. It should come as no surprise that months later he also made his move against Somerset.
¹ History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham; The Execution of Edmund Dudley; [24 April 2011]
² Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland; [23 September 2004]
³ Religion, Politics, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England (Camden Fifth Series); Jan 21, 2008 by Ian W. Archer and Simon Adams
When the Lord Protector, Thomas Seymour’s brother Edward, Duke of Somerset was off fighting the Battle of Pinkie in Scotland in 1547, Thomas used his time wisely by gaining friends and support from the King’s inner circle of servants and privy chamber members.
Thomas, as the Lord High Admiral of England, should have been in Scotland as well, but he had stayed in London to allegedly intrigue against Somerset. If I recall he feigned illness. This would not be the last time Thomas Seymour shirked his duties as Admiral.
It was also during the time when Somerset was at the Battle of Pinkie that Seymour was able to convince the King to write a letter approving of a marriage between Thomas and Kateryn Parr. Of course, nobody knew that the two had already wed, but Seymour got a letter written that protected himself and the queen dowager.
During this time Thomas Seymour was believed to have given money to two or three of the members of the King’s privy chamber and grooms of the chamber. By accepting the money from Seymour he believed that they would in return become ‘his men’.
The question that always remains is what was the catalyst that caused the falling out between the two Seymour brothers for Seymour to act this way?
The main cause of the following out between Thomas and his brother Edward was the fact that Edward became Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King upon the accession of their nephew, Edward VI. Thomas believed that the titles should have been shared by the two brothers as had happened in the past. He even went so far to search the chronicles for precedents and discovered evidence to back him up: ‘that there was in England at one time one Protector and another Regent of France and the Duke of Exeter and the Bishop of Winchester, Governors of the King’s Person‘.¹
Some have suggested that John Dudley, Earl of Warwick instigated Seymour’s intrigues to cause discord between the brothers. After the death of Henry VIII, Thomas Seymour felt that he was unfairly treated and this caused a wound between the brothers. Like a vulcher, Warwick attacked the wounded prey.
Prior to the death of Henry VIII there is nothing of note to indicate that the brothers were anything but civil with one another. As a matter of fact, Thomas wrote to his brother when he was away that he had checked on his wife (Anne Stanhope) and Prince Edward:
“Our master and mistress, with my lord Prince, are merry, and so is my lady my sister, whom I will visit ere (before) I sleep. And thus most heartily fare ye well, and send you a prosperous journey. Westminster, [14 March 1544]”
So Warwick, understanding that there was an opportunity to be had, promised that if Thomas pursued the cause to become Governor of the King with the council, that he would give him his support. Seymour played into Warwick’s hands like a puppet – he had already been angry and jealous toward his brother and the nudge from Warwick was enough to push him over the edge. When Thomas raised the matter at a council meeting his brother, Duke of Somerset upon hearing his statement, stood up (without saying anything) and ended the meeting.
The one thing that Warwick had not mentioned was the discord caused by having two uncles in charge – looking no further than the Duke of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort (previously mentioned Regent of France and Bishop of Winchester) during the minority of King Henry VI. This was something that Thomas’ brother, Somerset had mentioned and was one of the reasons he was reluctant to give his brother such a title.
We also know Thomas was not too keen on education, so did he know English history? Was he aware what had happened the last time two uncles held power during the minority of their nephew?
As Thomas pushed and pushed about the matter of becoming Governor, it only incensed Somerset further. It was brought to Seymour’s attention that he willfully signed the document making Edward, Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King. This did not dissuade Seymour from his mission, however.
Ultimately, the council turned against Thomas Seymour – probably led by the Earl of Warwick and they convinced Somerset that his brother was a danger to his life.
Now, if we look at King Edward VI and his relationship with Somerset, we see a young King, who was the son of Henry VIII – that in itself probably means that Edward had a strong personality and wanted things his way.
John Fowler, servant to King Edward VI, had mentioned that Seymour would come to the privy buttery and drink there alone and ask him whether the king would say anything of him. Thomas had been giving the King gifts of money so that he could give gifts to his servants and have money of his own – you see, the Lord Protector had also put restrictions on his nephew the King and so Thomas may have believed he and the King were kindred spirits in the is matter…both were being held back by the Lord Protector. Seymour, while protecting and encouraging his nephew to become King in his own right was not only fighting for his nephew, but also for himself. He saw it as unfair and so had the King. At one time mentioning how he wished that his uncle Somerset was dead.
Alleged Kidnapping Attempt
On the night of the 16th of January 1549, Thomas Seymour was arrested for allegedly killing the King’s dog and attempting to kidnap the King. What is not fully stated in most cases is the facts that surround the case.
Weeks earlier, Thomas Seymour had made complaints that his nephew was not well protected. That he needed more guards. On the night of the incident it was reported that Thomas dispersed some of the guards to run errands, which left a gap in security. The Duke of Somerset had made it very clear prior to this that Thomas should not have access to his nephew. Would these guards have been brave enough to work against the Lord Protector by taking orders from his younger brother? I’m skeptical.
The story then continues with King Edward’s dog being shot outside the royal bedchamber. The sound of the gunshot alerted a nearby guard (why wasn’t there one closer?) who then collected other guards before approaching the door to the bedchamber. It was then that they spotted Thomas Seymour standing there. Immediately Thomas was accused of shooting the dog and plotting to kidnap the king.
Professor G.W. Bernard cannot definitively say whether or not Thomas Seymour meant to kidnap King Edward (and Elizabeth for that fact) – to me that speaks volumes. Nobody knows for certain if that was his intent that night at Hampton Court Palace. We know he was there – that’s a fact. We also know that sometime before the alleged kidnapping that Seymour was discouraged at the number of guards available to protect the king. Those who oppose Seymour see that as him scoping out the joint beforehand. I see it as an uncle who is concerned for his nephews safety.²
Henry Bullinger is quoted as condemning Seymour on the 15th of February 1549. Bullinger, a German reformer, put all the blame on Seymour and insisted that Seymour killed the King’s dog and would have killed the King if he had not been halted by the guards.²
When we consider the killing of the King’s dog we must remember that there were no witnesses to the murder. It was easy to place the blame on Seymour. Contrary to what some authors have stated, the King’s dog was not next to the King’s bed in his bedchamber, instead he was just outside the room.²
Thomas Seymour had brought a few of his servants with him that night at Hampton Court Palace that night. My thought has always been that Seymour was concerned about the safety of his nephew. There was no advantage for him to murder his nephew, but protect him – yes. It is my belief that one of his servants made it to King’s room before Seymour to check if the room was being protected and got scared by the barking dog. In a panic the dog was killed. Seymour’s timing could not have been worse – as he approached the King’s room the King’s guards apprehended him. Seymour insisted that he was checking that the King was securely guarded. It is possible that he was there to kidnap his nephew. He may have seen this as his only option.²
Did Thomas Seymour want to kidnap his nephew? Well, he certainly mentioned one time that he wished to have the King in his possession. Here is how he responded to that charge against him:
“He said that about Eastertide he said to Fowler, as he supposeth it was, that if he might have the king in his custody as Mr. Page had he would be glad, and that he thought a man might bring him through the Gallery to his chamber, and so to his house, but this he said he spoke merely meaning no hurt.”²
After his arrest, Thomas Seymour was examined and mentioned that he and Fowler had a discussion about Mr. Stanhope’s paranoia surrounding the King. That he asked to be woken anytime someone came to the door. Then they went on to ask if he was afraid that any man may come and take the King. To which it was implied that that man was Seymour – he said, “If he think that I will go about it, he shall watch a good while”.³
The story of Thomas Seymour and his nephew ended with Edward VI turning against his uncle and Seymour being executed on the 19th of March 1549. Then a few years later, on the 22nd of January 1552, his other uncle and former Lord Protector was executed, leaving John Dudley as the most powerful man in England.
The Tudor court was full of scandal and intrigue and the reign of Edward VI was obviously no different.
We may never know the whole story when it comes to Thomas Seymour, but I promise you I will continue to dig until we have a better understanding of all the events that occurred between 1547 and 1549.
¹ Dasent, J.R., Acts of the Privy Council
² Thomas Seymour Blog, Charges Against Thomas Seymour [5 March 2018]
³ A Collection of State Papers 1542-1570, Examination of the Lord Admiral 
England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary with the Contemporary History of Europe
Bernard, G.W., Power and Politics in Tudor England – The downfall of Thomas Seymour (essay)  ISBN 0 7546 0245 1
McLean, John, The Life of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley
The consummate “power couple from hell” Edward Seymour and his wife Anne Stanhope were portrayed in Showtime’s “The Tudors” as selfish, greedy and uncompromising. In real life you could say the same…or is there more to the story?
Born in 1500, Edward Seymour was the second son of John Seymour and Margery Wentworth and grew up at Wolf Hall. The eldest son of the couple, John most likely died in infancy – so Edward was now the oldest. He had nine siblings in all – most notably Thomas and Jane. It is believed that Edward was brought up at Wolf Hall under the supervision of his mother.
John Seymour must have had a great relationship with King Henry VIII because on the 12th of October 1514, a fourteen year old Edward Seymour was made a page “to do service to the queen”. Katherine of Aragon, you ask? No, actually Mary Tudor, Queen of France – favorite sister of King Henry. This must have been a very exciting adventure for such a young man, but unfortunately it would not last long. In a matter of weeks Edward, along with many other of the new French queen’s attendants were sent back to England.
In the Spring of 1514, Edward Seymour married Katherine Fillol, heiress to her father’s fortune. The marriage was most likely arranged by their fathers since the couple were so young – Edward being only 14 years old. The couple lived in the household of Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall until Edward turned twenty-one because his father had agreed to provide for the young couple until they came of age. It was important for John Seymour to take care of the young couple because his new daughter-in-law stood inherit some great lands upon her father’s death.
Edward and Katherine had two sons, the eldest was John, named for his grandfather and the second was Edward, presumably named for his father.
Edward’s social standing continued to climb when, in December 1516 he was listed as a gentleman attendant in the king’s privy chamber. Then on the 15th of July 1517 he was secured the position of constable of Bristol Castle. He was only seventeen years old at the time so the position was in title only and his duties would have been performed by his father’s deputies – must be nice.
The couple were married for over a decade before all hell broke lose.
In a book called, The Seymour Family by Amy Aubrey Locke the story is told. There are two different stories to explain – the first is a story that was given by Peter Heylen who was the author of “History of the Reformation” which was published in 1674 and it states:
When Edward Seymour was in France, possibly when he had accompanied the Duke of Suffolk in 1532, he had acquainted himself with a learned man who had great skill in magic. From this man he could be told how all his relations were back home. The way Heylen explains it it almost seems as if Edward was ‘shown’ what was happening – like possibly in a crystal ball. I don’t know. Seymour saw a male acquaintance in a “familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to the honour of either party”. Whatever he saw he believed it – so much so that when he arrived back in England he estranged himself from his wife and their two sons, and instead of divorcing her sent her to a convent.
The second story is by Horace Walpole, which is found in Vincent’s Baronage in the College of Arms, that state in latin, but I’ve translated it to: “Because of his father, divorced after a marriage being acknowledged.”
So if we were to combine the two statements we’d find that Edward Seymour separated from Katherine Fillol because of his father’s familiar relationship with her that was not agreeable to their honor.
To back up the fact that Katherine Fillol disgraced her family, her father was so upset with her that she would no longer inherit all that she was supposed to as his sole heiress. Instead, in her father’s will dated 1527, she is excluded from inheriting, “for many diverse reasons and considerations from any part or parcel of his manors and estates” – instead she was left with an annual pension from the estate of 40£, provided she go and “virtuously and abide in some house of religion of women”. In other words, a convent. So apparently her father was so disgusted by his daughter’s actions that he took away her inheritance.
Interestingly enough author David Loades in The Seymour Family of Wolf Hallbelieves that the separation did not affect their children’s legitimacy – even though it had been suspected that John and Edward were actually John Seymour’s children and brother’s to Edward Seymour, not his children. He does mention in the book that the boys were not able to claim Edward Seymour’s titles and that they played no part in his career. Supposedly both boys went away with their mother and stayed with her until her death in 1535 – then they were returned to the custody of Edward Seymour. Interesting, right?
Depending on who you read the following information varies regarding the marriage of Edward Seymour to his second wife, Anne Stanhope.
David Loades says they married on the 9th of March 1535, while Antonia Fraser says it was sometime in 1534 before Katherine Fillol’s death and Margaret Scard says by the 9th of March 1535. So we don’t know for certain if it was before or after the death of her first wife. We can assume from the three authors that they were definitely married by the 9th of March 1535.
Regardless of when they were married the new bride immediately put her foot down and said she wanted nothing to do with his sons, so they were both sent away from court to be educated.
Anne Stanhope was the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier and was born in 1510. Unfortunately, when she was about one year old her father died. There is little evidence that remains about Anne’s childhood – it is, however, believed that she was a maid-of-honour to Katherine of Aragon.
Her mother did eventually marry again, this time to Sir Richard Paget, who was also well-connected to King Henry VIII. Paget was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber for King Henry and also Vice-Chamberlain in the household of Henry Fitzroy.
Man on the Rise
Edward Seymour’s position, thanks to his father’s connection to the king, continued to rise at Tudor court. When his sister caught the king’s eye in 1536 it only helped Edward’s advancement.
Before the execution of Anne Boleyn on the 17th of May 1536, Edward Seymour became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; and when his sister Jane became queen he was ennobled as Viscount Beauchamp.
Queen Jane is always referred to as sweet, or as a peace-maker, she apparently got along well with her sister in law Anne and never showed any interest in her nephews that were sent away. It always amazes me that a family with so much scandal surrounding it could end up with a daughter as queen.
When Prince Edward was born on the 12th of October 1537, Seymour was raised to the earldom of Hertford – and his younger brother, Thomas Seymour succeeded Edward’s position in the privy chamber.
Only twelve days later Queen Jane was dead and Prince Edward was only an infant. With infant mortality so high the Seymour family would have been on edge – they understood well how fast one family could fall from favor.
Lucky for them Edward was healthy child and things seemed more stable for Edward Seymour as the eldest uncle of the Prince.
Sometime in 1538, most likely on Anne’s insistence, his boys by Katherine Fillol were excluded from Edward Seymour’s property and titles by Act of Parliament – she meant business, wanting her children to benefit from their father’s standing, not his supposed children from his first marriage.
Death of King Henry VIII
Both Edward and Anne Seymour continued to play important roles at Tudor court throughout the reign of Henry VIII but when the king died on the 28th of January 1547 everything changed and they became the most powerful couple in England.
Henry VIII had actually revised his will in December 1546 a month before his death. The reason behind the revisions were to:
Revise the composition of the Council (these men are the same people who would be executors to his will)
To distribute the Howard property since the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey were both convicted of treason and sentenced to death.
To name whether after Prince Edward’s ascension he should be aided by a council or a protector. (It’s been noted that King Henry was more interested in a council)
Upon Henry VIII’s death the details regarding the distribution of the Howard land and the issue of a protectorate had not yet been finalized.
Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget (the king’s secretary & Seymour’s ally) and possibly the executors of the late king’s will as well, are believed to have changed it. They did so so that they could be in charge of distributing the Howard land and honors to whomever they pleased. Henry’s will was signed with a stamp, so changes appeared easy to make.
Three days after the king’s death Edward Seymour was named Lord Protector AND Governor of the King.
Author Margaret Scard said it best: Henry VIII never intended a protectorate “his failure to recognize the inherent weakness in the terms of his will left the government of the country at the mercy of ambitious men”.
The transfer from one king to the next was always a hairy situation, especially when the new king was a mere child – see Henry VI as another example with the Wars of the Roses – that history lesson should have been enough warning for the eldest Seymour brother.
Edward Seymour had made promises to William Paget to get him on his side – we know this because of a letter that Paget wrote him two years later. He starts by reminding him that they had discussed something in the gallery of Westminster before the King died and how they had talked about their plan to make Seymour Lord Protector. Evidently, Seymour had told Paget that he would listen to his advice above any other man. Of course, that wasn’t the case – Seymour got what he wanted from Paget. What was he going to do now? Seymour was already Lord Protector and could do as he wished.
In his will Henry VIII had listed sixteen men to be both executors of his will and members of the Regency Council. That is how he wanted things to be. He didn’t want a protectorate. He also named twelve assistant executors, one of which was Edward’s younger and equally ambitious brother Thomas Seymour.
Thomas Seymour believed that he would be named Governor of the King, like with the minority of Henry VI his uncles shared the powerful positions. It wasn’t only Thomas Seymour that was annoyed; Kateryn Parr had believe that she would be named Regent – even going so far as changing her signature to indicate her new position.
In mid-February 1547, Edward Seymour decided to be styled as the Duke of Somerset – truly amazing since that title is traditionally associated with the Beaufort line of ancestors of Henry VIII.
Now as Lord Protector, Governor of the King and Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour’s authority had grown – he could now add and remove councillors at will and convene the Council at anytime. He could act without permission and was essentially ‘de facto King’. Exactly what Henry VIII did NOT want. He even went so far as to address King Francis I as “brother” in a letter, something reserved to another monarch. Just as Henry VIII had called Francis I, his brother.
When the newly titled Duke of Somerset (how I will try to refer to him going forward) raised his brother Thomas to Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Thomas took it as a slap in the face – he believed Governor of the King was his position. Somerset tried to placate him by also making him Lord High Admiral. While this pleased him it didn’t cure his desire to have more.
Looking for more power and wealth Thomas Seymour did what he knew how to do best evidently – he schemed. First he asked Princess Elizabeth Tudor to marry him. Knowing full well that being married to Elizabeth would bring him as close to the throne as he could achieve. She turned him down, in the sweetest manner possible – saying she needed to mourn her father and could not consider a marriage for at least two years.
Thomas, slightly discouraged, went to the next best choice, his former love and dowager queen Kateryn Parr. Parr still loved Seymour and was acting like a young girl in love. She had married the aging, obese king instead of Seymour in 1543 because she felt that it was God’s will to do so. So when she had the opportunity to be with Seymour again she jumped at the chance.
The couple secretly married in the Spring of 1547 – way too soon for the widow of the late king. Thomas and Kateryn looked for a way to get away with their secret marriage without getting in trouble because they hadn’t asked Somerset or the Council’s permission to marry.
When Somerset discovered the two had married he was livid that his own brother had went behind his back to get permission from the young king. He even went to young King Edward and yelled at him about giving them permission. King Edward had noted in his diary about that exchange and said, “the Lord Protector was much offended’” and that was all. Now, who’s the king exactly?
Edward’s wife Anne Seymour was equally displeased with the union. Not only did Thomas and Kateryn marry too soon after Henry VIII’s death but Kateryn Parr was marrying well beneath her station since Thomas was merely a baron. Both Edward and Anne felt Thomas had disgraced their family name by going behind their back.
Kateryn Parr still played the role as queen – with a household the same size as when she was married to Henry. Thomas Seymour, being the husband of Kateryn, would have finally felt he had some of the power and status he deserved.
Anne, Duchess of Somerset was annoyed with the fact that Kateryn Parr would take precedence over her as the wife of the Lord Protector – the story that has been told is that she would push, or nudge the dowager queen out of the way to as to walk in front of her – showing she took precedence…now, I’ve been just as guilty of telling this story as others, but apparently we may all have been mistaken and I want to clear it up.
Author Margaret Scard states that it is unlikely that the Duchess of Somerset was resentful toward Kateryn Parr. Anne would have understood that she would have to take her place behind Kateryn, just as she would behind Anne of Cleves as the “king’s sister”.
The real issue appears to be between the Duchess of Somerset and Thomas Seymour – she took issue with the precedence he felt he deserved since he was married to the dowager queen. He believed that his marriage to Kateryn would and should raise him above other noblemen. Maybe that means he felt he could walk alongside his wife in a procession – this would be what the duchess was opposed to. In addition to that, both the duke and duchess of Somerset were angry with Thomas for embarrassing them by going behind their back and marrying Kateryn. That information is found in the book by Margaret Scard about Edward Seymour and references the original rumor to the 1550’s by Catholic writers. That makes a bit more sense right? They wanted to make the heavily protestant Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset look bad.
If we look at Chris Skidmore’s book about Edward VI he continues with the story that the Duchess of Somerset, who was described as, “A woman for many imperfections intolerable, and for pride monstrous, subtle and violent”, as does Antonia Fraser when she states in the Wives of Henry VIII that the Duchess of Somerset “openly jostled with Queen Catherine for precedence on the grounds that as the wife of the Protector she was the first lady in England”. However, there is no justification for her actions – Kateryn Parr had been granted precedence by statute and the Duchess would also have to walk behind Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves.
Interestingly enough, in Elizabeth Norton’s book about Kateryn Parr she states that Anne Seymour had always resented having to pay court to the former Lady Latimer – coming from an aristocratic courtly family herself she felt she need not carry the train of her husband’s younger brother.
Edward Seymour, Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset refused to get in the middle of this quarrel and told his brother Thomas, “Brother, are you not my younger brother, and am I not Protector, and do you not know that your wife, before she married the king, was of lower rank than my wife? I desire therefore, since the queen is your wife that mine should go before her.” Thomas, now more angry replied with, “I am sorry there should be any anger between them, but I can tell you that the queen is determined not to allow it, so do not blame me for it.”
After the brother’s conversation Thomas went back and informed his wife of what words had been exchanged and Kateryn was humiliated – she left is recorded as saying, “I deserve this for degrading myself from a queen to marry an Admiral.”
Not only was Kateryn being pushed aside by the Duke and Duchess of Somerset for marrying Thomas but now they refused to allow her access to her jewels in the Tower of London. Somerset stated that they were the property of the Crown now. This infuriated Kateryn because some of the jewels were actually her possessions – gifts that she had been given by the late king and her mother. She was not asking for the queen’s jewels. Both Thomas and Kateryn tried everything to get her jewels back – they hired legal council and even discussed with the young king…to no avail. Kateryn would never see her jewels again.
Death of Kateryn Parr
Kateryn Parr’s death came as a surprise to everyone, especially her husband Thomas. You could say her death catapulted him into a death spin that would ultimately lead to his execution.
After his wife’s death, Thomas had asked the Duchess of Suffolk to raise their daughter, Mary.
It wasn’t long after the death of the dowager queen that Thomas Seymour’s reckless behaviour caught up with him. It is believed that his brother, the Duke of Somerset is the one who gave the order to investigate and gather information against Thomas. Eventually, evidence would be found, or possibly fabricated, and Somerset would sign the order for his brother’s execution.
For his actions against his brother he was heavily criticized – what he actually had done was weakened his own standing. In 1550 he was removed from the office of Protector but was readmitted to the council the following year. All the plotting and scheming that Somerset had done himself was now happening to him by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick – when on the 16th of October 1551 Somerset was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. He was executed, just like his brother had been, on the 22nd of January 1522.
A man by the name of John Hayward is noted as saying that the downfall of the Seymour brothers was the direct result of the rivalry of their wives.
The Duke and Duchess of Somerset were indeed the power couple of Tudor court during the reign of Edward VI – unfortunately, between the two of them they were also responsible for the disgrace of the Seymour name.
Interested in the Podcast about this topic? Click this image:
Starkey, David; Rivals in Power – Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties
Lipscomb, Suzannah; The King is Dead
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Fraser, Antonia; Wives of Henry VIII
Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall
Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour – Lord Protector
Skidmore, Chris; Edward VI – The Lost King of England
Norton, Elizabeth; Catherine Parr
Unless you are an only child you are familiar with the love that siblings bear one another. The events of life, along with the meddling of others caused a rift between these two men and ultimately cost both of them their lives. The Seymour brothers, Edward and Thomas.
There are instances when situations fester and cause strife between siblings that tear them apart. You know, like when one sibling critiques the parenting of another – that’s going to cause a few arguments and then probably some avoidance.
These statements ring true for the Seymour brothers – Edward and Thomas. Even though Edward was only three years older than Thomas he behaved as the eldest son and the one who would gain the most in life.
While Thomas was the fourth son and the youngest at that – his future was not as bright as his older brother, but Thomas wasn’t like most youngest sons. He was ambitious, and while he knew he would never outrank his brother Edward, he wanted to get as close to the sun as possible.
Of the three remaining sons of Sir John Seymour of Wiltshire, Edward was the oldest, followed by Henry and then Thomas. Edward Seymour eventually became Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. Henry hung around court for a bit and then went on to be country gentry – a subtler life…While the youngest Thomas followed in his eldest brother’s footsteps. He grew confidence when he recognized his own way with people. Most people liked Thomas, more so than his brother, Edward.
I have a feeling that Edward and Thomas had an even closer relationship when their brother Henry was around. Those two could only get along for short while before things got heated. Henry was able to play peacemaker. But with him away from court there were outside influences on their relationship that neither brother could see coming.
While it appears that the brothers had a normal relationship, there are clues of jealousy and greed intertwined with manipulation and revenge.
The breakdown of their relationship began with John Dudley, newly titled Earl of Warwick, and his desire to see another in the position of ‘Lord Protector’, namely himself.
So what did the Earl of Warwick have to do with it? Warwick played a game of chess with the brothers. Speaking to Edward about what a great Lord Protector he was and then going to Thomas and telling him how he should have been named Governor of the king.
Warwick wedged himself in between the two brothers; Putting himself in a very dangerous situation as well. Lucky him, it all worked out, for a little while at least.
With Warwick whispering in his ear, the natural desire he already had to become more only intensified. Thomas Seymour felt he deserved a lot more as an uncle to the king and no matter what he did to obtain that goal he was thwarted, either by others or himself.
During all these arguments with his brother, Thomas was continuously trying to get a bill passed through Parliament that would make him Governor to the King. A position he believed, and had convinced many others, he deserved. Unfortunately for Thomas, those who said they would back him did not follow through when the time came.
Eventually, Edward Seymour would get a new letter patent through Parliament which named him Lord Protector and Governor of the King, which he would hold during the ‘king’s pleasure’ – this was changed from when the king turned eighteen. (explaining why Thomas Seymour continually tried to get Edward VI to rule on his own)
Was Dudley’s interactions with the brothers what caused Thomas Seymour to seek a strong marriage? Seymour had only talked marriage a few times in his entire life and they were all later in life. There was Mary Howard, Elizabeth Tudor and Kateryn Parr. I also believe he proposed once to Mary Tudor as well. If we look at all those women, what do we see? I see power. I see support in case one should need it. A duchess and a Howard at that, a princess with Protestant supporters, a dowager queen with history and power, and another princess – a very Catholic princess. All great matches for a man like Thomas.
The only way Thomas could marry any of those women was without permission because he knew they all needed permission to wed…and then hope you can find a way to convince the Lord Protector that it was all his idea. When Thomas suggested to his brother that he marry Kateryn Parr, Edward quickly turned him down – it wouldn’t happen. Luckily for Thomas, he was already married to Kateryn Parr and wished to stay that way. Without gaining approval from the Lord Protector, Kateryn and Thomas decided to use their close connection with Edward VI, they believed they could convince the young king to suggest Kateryn as a perfect bride for his uncle Thomas. They had played their cards right, Edward VI eventually named Kateryn after a bit of coaxing from his servant John Fowler who was doing the dirty work for Thomas.
When Edward Seymour discovered the two had married he was furious that his own brother had went behind his back to get permission from the young king. Edward’s wife Anne Seymour was equally displeased with the union. Not only did Thomas and Kateryn marry too soon after Henry VIII’s death, but Kateryn was marrying well beneath her station since Thomas was merely a baron.
Author Margaret Scard of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector suggests that the beef was actually between Anne Seymour and Thomas, not the brothers or the wives.
Kateryn Parr still played the role as queen – with a household the same size as when she was married to Henry. Thomas Seymour, being the husband of Kateryn would have loved the feeling he got when he was the most powerful man in the room.
Anne Seymour – let’s just call her duchess going forward, since she was the Duchess of Somerset. The Duchess did not like sharing center stage with Kateryn Parr apparently. Once while walking in a procession, the Duchess is said to have nudged or pushed Parr out-of-the-way so she could take precedence over her. She believed she had that right as the wife of the Lord Protector and because Kateryn was only married to a baron. Author Scard believes that the Duchess was adamantly against the idea of Thomas Seymour taking precedence over her and that’s where the dispute began. That Thomas, as the husband of the dowager queen would be able to walk alongside his wife.
It wasn’t only what order to walk in a procession. The Duchess took it even further and wouldn’t allow Kateryn her jewels from the Tower of London. Both of the women believed the jewels were theirs – Kateryn only seemed to care about the gifts that were given to her by Henry VIII and a couple of pieces from her mother, I believe it was. The Duchess would not allow Kateryn to have her jewels.
Eventually the two brothers were involved in the dispute between their wives. Thomas approached Edward on the issue and they both agreed that Kateryn should have the jewels. Edward told his brother that he would speak with his wife on the subject and go from there. Well, we’re not sure what happened after that but Kateryn never got her jewels.
Somerset, during this time, not only had to deal with the disobedience of his brother but also of members of the Council:
Thomas Wriothesley, in accordance with Henry VIII’s wishes was created Earl of Southampton in February 1547 and was also a member of the Regency Council. Southampton was one of the few men who ‘had always been engaged in an opposite party to Somerset’.¹ This marked Southampton as the enemy since he did not support Somerset ruling with the power of a monarch over the council. A month after being created Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley was suddenly dismissed from the title of Lord Chancellor (which he held since 1544) and he also lost his seat on the Privy Council. This was obviously to serve as a lesson to those who would disagree with Somerset.
Death of Queen Kateryn
After Kateryn Parr died I feel like Thomas became a little unhinged. He erratically proposed to Elizabeth Tudor again and then is suspected of trying to kidnap his nephew, the king.
Eventually things got so bad that Thomas was thrown in the Tower. I’m certain that Edward felt horrible knowing his brother was in the Tower but I also feel like he knew what had to be done.
The Seymour brothers, had they joined forces, could have become even more powerful alongside each other as uncles to the King of England. Unfortunately for Thomas, his brother Edward felt that the power should all be his for the keeping.
After Kateryn Parr died, a servant of Thomas Seymour told him that: “If ever any grudge were borne toward him [Thomas] by my Lady of Somerset, it was as most men guess for the queen’s cause, who now being taken away by death, it will undoubtedly follow that she [Duchess] will bear him as good heart as ever she did in her life.”¹
Also after Kateryn’s death, her cousin, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, hoped that Thomas would change his attitude towards his brother, Edward. He encouraged him to be more humble towards his brother and offered advice that if he were ‘either wise or politic he would become a new manner of man borth in heart and service’. Throckmorton also condemned Thomas for his laziness and his ambitions to get what he wanted and told him that he should ‘alter his manners, for the world beginneth to talk unfavorably of him’.¹
In The End
From early on the Seymour brothers were gifted with titles. Edward was given the title Viscount Beauchamp after his sister married the King in 1536. The following summer he became Earl of Hertford. At the same time his younger brother Thomas became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. A year later he was granted the castle and manor of Holt in Cheshire and knighted prior to the christening of his nephew, Prince Edward, into the Knight of the Bath.¹ From that point, until the death of King Henry, Thomas was continually given lands, but no greater titles – those were saved for his elder brother, Edward. As we’ve discovered through this podcast it was never enough.
We can see from the beginning, after the death of the late king that Somerset appeared to want to elevate his own brother:
My lords, you know how long my brother, Master Seymour, has served, and how the King esteemed him, and if he had not died would have given him great rewards; and you also know that it is time the Earl of Warwick was allowed to rest, and had another less laborious office. My brother is young and is well fitted for this post, so if you approve I propose to make Warwick the Earl Constable, and my brother High Admiral.²
If Edward and Thomas had only found a way to settle their differences maybe neither of them would have eventually been executed. But, we’ll never know.
The History of England, Under the House of Tudor
Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour, Lord Protector – Tudor King in All But Name
Lipscomb, Suzannah; The King is Deadb
Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall
Loades, David; Jane Seymour
McLean, John; The Life of Sir Thomas Seymour
Porter, Linda; Katherine Parr
Norton, Elizabeth; Catherine Parr
James, Susan; Catherine Parr
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen
¹Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour, Lord Protector – Tudor King in All But Name
Discovering the truth about Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley