June 5, 1536 – Edward Seymour Created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache

Edward Seymour, by Hans Holbein (though this is disputed). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

More good times for the Seymours…now that Jane was married to the King, the rest of the family had to be ennobled a bit as well. There was precedent: well before he’d married Anne Boleyn, Henry had confirmed Thomas Boleyn’s Earldom of Ormonde and added the Dukedom of Wiltshire. Edward might have secretly been a bit miffed that he hadn’t gotten a better title, but advancement was advancement, especially since it came with money and land!

Specifically, the patent of creation as Viscount Beauchamp carried twenty marks a year. Plus the records show that he also received the following – further evidence of the great benefits derived by the Seymours (and others too) of the dissolution of the monasteries. I’ve left in a lot of the archaic language, I thought it was cool – FYI, a “messuage” is a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use:

  • Grant of the manors of Brodeton, Sherston, and Ambresburye, Wilts, and the hundreds of Ambresburye, Wynterbourne, and Alleworthbury, Wilts, and all lands, et cetera in those places belonging to the said manors and hundreds; to hold to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by dame Anne his wife, with remainder.
  • Grant in tail male of the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Holy Trinity, Eston, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera, within the circuit; the manors of Eston, Froxfeld, and Grafton, Wilts, the rectories of the parish churches of Estonne, Froxfeld, Stapleford, and Tydcombe, and the advowsons of the churches and vicarages thereof, the manors, messuages, et cetera in the villages, parishes, and hamlets of Eston, Froxfelde, Stapleford, Tydcombe, and Grafton, Milton, Wyke, and Puttale, and elsewhere in said co., lately belonging to the said priory, as enjoyed by Henry Bryan, late Prior, in right of the said priory on the 4 February last, which came into the King’s hands by virtue of the Act 27 Hen. VIII. Also the manor of Corseley, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Studley, Oxon, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera thereto belonging in Corseley; in the same manner as Mary Baynbrig, the late Prioress, held the same. Also the manor of Monketon, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Farleygh, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Monketon, in the same manner as Lewis Breknok alias Millen, Prior, held the same on the 4 February last. Also all messuages, lands, et cetera in Tudworth, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Mayden Bardley, Wilts, now dissolved by the said Act, in the same manner as Ric. Jenyns the Prior held the same on the 4 Feb. last; with all court leets, views of frankpledge, &c. in the above possessions.
  • Also grant in tail male to the said Edward and dame Anne his wife, of the manors of Barwyk, Basset, Richardston, Langden, Mydgehall, Studley, and Costowe, Wilts; parcel of the lands late of the abbey of Stanley, Wilts; and all messuages, lands, et cetera in those places, as fully as Thomas Calne alias Morley the Abbot held the same on the 4 Feb. last; the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Farlegh, Wilts; the church, bell tower, and churchyard of the same priory; all messuages, et cetera within and without the enclosure and circuit of the said late priory; and the manors of Farlegh, Chippenham, Thornehill, and Brome, Wilts; and the advowson of the parish church of Farlegh, and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Farlegh, Chippenham Thornehill, and Brome, as fully as the said Lewis Breknok enjoyed the same on the 4 February last. Also the manors of Erchefounte and Alcanings, Wilts; parcel of the lands of the late abbey of St. Mary, Winchester, likewise dissolved; the rectory of the parish church of Erchefounte and the advowson of the parish church of Alcanings, and the advowsons of the churches of Erchefount and Alcanings, and all messuages, lands, et cetera, in those places, parcel of the said late abbey, as fully as Eliz. Shelley the Abbess held the same on the 4 February last; with all views of frankpledge, court leets, et cetera in the above possessions.

To hold the possessions in the first paragraph to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by the said dame Anne; with remainder to the heirs male of his body by future wife, at the rent of 7l. 16s. 2d.; and those in the second paragraph to the said Edward and Anne and heirs male of the body of the said Edward by the said Anne; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs male of the body of the said Edward by any future wife; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs female of the said Edward, at rent 34l. 16d.

[From Letters & Papers, Grants in June 1536]

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April 10, 1544 – The Rough Wooing Begins

Contemporary sketch showing the deployment of Hertford’s forces before they burnt Edinburgh in May 1544 (public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This post involves a classic Henry letter, one that really shows us how dangerous he could be. Let’s set the stage.

In October 1543 all looked great: the Treaty of Greenwich was negotiated, pursuant to which the infant Queen of Scots would marry the future Edward VI – and unite Scotland and England. Things deteriorated in December when the Scottish lords rejected the treaty in December and turned back to their historical friendship with France … with whom Henry was preparing to war. Indeed, Henry would be going himself to invade France, a joint effort with Spain. And so he sent Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, into Scotland with an army of ten thousand men. His purpose: to subdue the Scots and make sure they would not pose a threat…to punish them for the insult to his son and himself…and to force them to accept the marriage. That’s where the name “Rough Wooing” comes from – one of the Scottish lords  remarking that he “dinna like the manner of the wooing”…

This is the letter that gives Seymour his final instructions…The first paragraph conveys context and strategy, the second one is where we see what a sick man Henry really was.

Considering the King’s purpose to invade France this summer in person, the principal cause of his sending the army into Scotland was to devastate the country, so that neither they nor any sent thither out of France or Denmark might invade this realm. Angus and others standing bound to serve him otherwise than they do, the King had reason to think he might easier fortify and revictual these places, they giving hostages therefor (which Hertford was appointed to take at his entry) but as Angus and others have now traitorously revolted to the Governor and Cardinal’s faction, the foresaid two places which were to be fortified (standing in the heart of that realm and only to be victualled by sea, which, the wind being so uncertain as experience shows, cannot always be done, nor done without “inestimable charge”) might be recovered by the enemies, to the detriment of the King when he has better opportunity to invade, as he intends to do next year.

Hertford shall, therefore, forbear fortifying the said places, and only burn Edinburgh town, and so deface it as to leave a memory for ever of the vengeance of God upon “their falsehood and disloyalty,” do his best without long tarrying to beat down the castle, sack Holyrood House, and sack, burn and subvert Lythe and all the towns and villages round, putting man, woman and child to fire and sword where resistance is made; then pass over to Fifeland and extend like destruction there, not forgetting to turn upside down the Cardinal’s town of St. Andrews, so “as th’upper stone may be the nether and not one stick stand by another,” sparing no creature alive, especially such as be allied to the Cardinal, and, if the castle can be won destroying it piecemeal. By a month spent thus this journey shall succeed most to the King’s honor, the army’s surety and the saving of expense. He shall take order with the Wardens on the Marches to burn and destroy to the uttermost, not leaving Jedworth behind if it may be conveniently destroyed.

The laird of Nesby’s offer to serve, and to lay one of his sons in pledge, is to be accepted; but, seeing the falsehood of the Scots and “how little they pass on their pledges,” he is to be trusted only so far as his deeds give cause, and his pledge is to be taken with this condition that if he fail to serve truly his pledge may be “justified.” Order is to be taken with the Wardens that the borderers in Scotland may be still tormented now in seed time; for if not suffered to sow their ground they shall, by next year, be unable to live.

Source: Letters & Papers

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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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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…



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.



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.



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:



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.



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…


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.


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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