Tag Archives: Edward VI

Scheming at the Court of Edward VI

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.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

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

4 ibid


To Protect Thyself and Thy King

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.

Edward VI

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 [1549]


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) [2000] ISBN 0 7546 0245 1

McLean, John, The Life of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley