July 1, 1543 – Treaty of Greenwich Signed

Anonymous Painting of Greenwich Palace During the Reign of ing Henry VIII (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today was a big day: the signing of the Treaty of Greenwich that was designed to eventually unite England and Scotland under one crown. The Treaty actually consisted of two sub-treaties (the first established peace between the two kingdoms, the second agreed a marriage between the six-year old Prince Edward of England and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots) and was accompanied by the ceremonial release of a number of Scottish noblemen who had been imprisoned by the English. Although the Treaty was eventually rejected by the Scottish Parliament (leading to eight years of war known as the Rough Wooing…), everything looked perfect today.

The funny part is, amid all this celebration of Scotland, so many of the formalities of the day were centered around the Irish. The same day as he signed the Treaty of Greenwich, Henry also created two earls and a baron of Ireland (Moraghe O’Brien became Earl of Tomond, William Burgh became Earl of Clanrychard, and Donoghue O’Brien became Baron of Ybrakan) and then held a feast for them. Was this a nod to the historical alliance between Ireland and Scotland or another example of Henry’s tone-deaf attitude towards Scotland? Either way, the description in L&P is too wonderful not to share:

The Queen’s closet being richly hanged with arras and strewed with rushes, and the King come to his closet to hear high mass, the [three men to be ennobled] went to the Queen’s closet, and there, after sacring of high mass, put on their robes of estate. The King was under the cloth of estate with all his Council and many other nobles and the ambassadors of Scotland, viz. the Earl of Glencerne, Sir George Douglas, Sir William Hamelton, Sir James Leyrmonthe and the Secretary of Scotland. The Earl of Tomond was led in by the Earls of Derby and Ormond, Viscount Lisle bearing the sword, and Garter the letters patent, which were delivered by the Lord Chamberlain to the Great Chamberlain, who delivered them to the King, who took them to Mr. Wriothesley, Secretary, to read. At the words cincturam gladii the King took the sword from Viscount Lisle and girt it “bawdrick wise” about the Earl, who was kneeling, “and so the patent was read out.” The other Earl was created with like ceremony. Then the Baron, in his kirtle, was led in by Lords Cobham and Clinton, Lord Montjoye bearing the sword and Garter the letters patent, which were read by Mr. Pagett, Secretary, and at the word investimus he put on his robe. The King put chains of gold with crosses about each of their necks, and made five of the men that came with them knights. They then went, with their patents in their hands, to the Council chamber, underneath the King’s chamber, to dine, led by the trumpets and officers of arms and accompanied by the English earls and lords above named. After the second course Garter proclaimed their styles (given). The King gave them robes of estate and paid all duties.



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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!

July 6, 1553: Edward VI Dies, Northumberland Tries to Implement His ‘Device for the Succession’

"My Devise for the Succession" (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“My Devise for the Succession” (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Edward VI was a tragic figure. King at nine, dead at sixteen – and had to execute two uncles in between. He was also staunchly Protestant, and after he fell ill in early 1553 he started to worry that the existing legal structure would pass the throne to his Catholic sister Mary if he died without issue. This made him decide to take matters into his own hands: He wrote a will, entitled My Devise for the Succession, to bypass both of his half-sisters and vest the crown in the hands of his cousin, the Lady Jane Grey.

Where did this idea come from? Most people accuse John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, of creating the scheme. In the “follow the money” tradition, Northumberland was certainly the person with the most to gain from the decision: he married his oldest son to Jane Grey. More recently though, David Starkey and others have argued that Northumberland was more of an opportunist than anything else, and simply capitalized on the logic of Edward VI’s decision. This is borne out by the fact that the Dudley-Grey marriage took place in May 1553, well after Edward started drafting his plans.

Indeed, Edward started writing the will at a time when he still expected he might leave adult children behind, though the bulk of the will was devoted to the alternative scenarios – including one that would leave England with a Council waiting for a monarch yet to be born (!). It was confusing and didn’t quite work, and more importantly needed to be ratified by Parliament in order to supersede the succession established by Henry VIII. In late June, Edward had the key members of the nobility swear to uphold his plans, and he also instructed that writs be prepared for a new Parliament which would meet on September 18. Unfortunately, that proved to be far too late for the boy looking to leave a legacy.

Still, Northumberland tried to implement the boy king’s plan. He hastily assembled an army and marched against Mary in East Anglia…but he had not prepared for Mary to act as resolutely as she did – or for quite so many people to declare for her. On July 20, he learned that his own Privy Council had proclaimed Mary queen, and his resistance dissolved. Northumberland himself declared for Mary, claiming that he had merely followed the instructions of his deceased King. That strategy did not work, nor did his return to Catholicism: Northumberland was executed on August 22, 1553 on Tower Hill.


My Devise for the Succession

  1. For lack of [male] issue of my body to the male issue coming from this female, as I have after declared. To the Lady Frances’ male heirs if she have any such issue before my death, to the Lady Jane and her male heirs, to the Lady Katherine’s male heirs, to the Lady Mary’s male heirs, To the male heirs of the daughters which she shall have hereafter. Then to the Lady Margaret’s male heirs. For lack of such issue, to the heirs male of the Lady Jane’s daughters. To the heirs male of the Lady Katherine’s daughters, and so forth until you come to the Lady Margaret’s daughters’ heirs males.
  2. If after my death the heirs male be entered into 18 years old, then he to have the whole rule and governance thereof.
  3. But if he be under 18, then his mother to be governess until he enters 18 years old. But to do nothing without the advice and agreement of 6 persons of a Council to be appointed by my last will to the number of 20.
  4. If the mother die before the heir enters into 18, the realm to be governed by the Council, provided that after he be 14 years all great matters of importance be opened to him.
  5. If I died without issue, and there were no heir male, then the Lady Frances to be governess. For lack of her, then her eldest daughters, and for lack of them the Lady Margaret to be governess after as is aforeaid, until some heir male be born, and then the mother of that child to be governess.
  6. And if during the rule of the governess there should die 4 of the Council, then shall she by her letters call an assembly of the Council within one month following and choose 4 more, wherein she shall have their voices. But after her death the 16 shall chose among themselves until they come to (18 erased) 14 years old, and then he by their advice shall chose them.


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May 25, 1553 – A Triple Wedding

Guildford and Jane (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Guildford and Jane (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This day in history launched the scheme that would lead to the execution of John Dudley, the man who had clawed his way back up the political ladder after his father’s execution for treason in 1509, who had become Duke of Northumberland and President of Edward VI’s Privy Council, who was the de facto leader of the country as Edward was still a minor.

In February 1553, Edward VI had fallen ill – seriously enough that he had started to consider the succession. As an ardent Protestant, he did not want his Catholic sister Mary to inherit the throne, which was what would occur under the Act of Succession adopted during his father’s reign. Edward came up with his own “Devise for the Succession” in which the crown would bypass both Mary and Elizabeth as well as Mary Queen of Scots, and instead fall to Lady Jane Grey, whose claim arose through Henry VIII’s youngest sister. Unfortunately for Edward (and Dudley!), his Devise was not ratified by Parliament and therefore could not legally supersede the former king’s policy.

Still, Dudley sprang into action to profit from the action he hoped to shove down the country’s throat: on May 25, he married his son Guildford to Lady Jane Grey – with the clear intention of continuing his “reign” through them. He also took advantage of the day to marry his daughter Katherine to Henry Hastings (heir to the Earldom of Huntingdon), and to have Catherine Grey marry Lord Herbert, the heir to the Earldom of Pembroke. These unions gave him powerful and committed allies.

The weddings themselves were celebrated with the pomp that was to be expected for a royal marriage: a magnificent festival was held, with jousts, games, and masques. Guests included most of the highest nobles of the court, the Venetian and French ambassadors, and even “large numbers of the common people.” (In what with hindsight could be considered foreshadowing, Guildford and some others suffered an attack of food poisoning, blamed on “a mistake made by a cook, who plucked one leaf for another.”)

Six weeks later, Edward VI was dead and Dudley proclaimed Jane Grey Queen of England. She and Guildford made their ceremonial entrance to the Tower…then never emerged. Dudley’s scheme failed to sway a country that had long looked to Mary as the next rightful heir, and he and his children were quickly abandoned. Dudley was quickly executed, while Jane and Guildford were pardoned by a magnanimous Mary I – though not released. Unfortunately, they were condemned when opposition to Mary’s planned marriage to Philip of Spain resulted in the Wyatt Rebellion. While the rebels would likely have put Elizabeth on the throne instead of Jane Grey, Jane’s father joined the revolt – flaming the fans of governmental indignation and panic. Mary’s Privy Council unanimously advised execution, and Mary agreed.

Catherine fared a little better – well, she lived longer. Her new husband’s father sought to distance himself from the Grey family when Jane’s accession to the throne failed; he separated the couple and sought annulment of the marriage, which was granted in 1554 on the grounds that it had never been consummated. In 1560, after Elizabeth had come to the throne, Catherine secretly married again – Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford – and quickly became pregnant. Elizabeth was furious. Convinced that the marriage was part of a conspiracy against her crown, she promptly imprisoned poor Catherine. Catherine and Seymour remained in the Tower for three years, then after the two were permanently separated, Catherine was released but still kept under close confinement until she died of consumption in 1568, aged only 27.

As for Katherine Dudley, she seems to have been politically unaffected by her father’s treason. She went off to live with her husband in the English Midlands and Yorkshire for years, returning to court only in 1595 where she became one of Elizabeth’s closest friends. Definitely the winner of this round!


Wikipedia – John Dudley, Jane Grey, Guildford Dudley, Edward VI, Catherine Grey, Katherine Dudley


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March 5, 1549 – Bill of Attainder Against Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour, by Nicolas Denisot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Seymour, by Nicolas Denisot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

March 5, 1549 was the day Thomas Seymour realized his life was over, the day that a parliamentary bill of attainder declared him guilty of 33 counts of treason and sentenced him to death.

Wikipedia gives such a dispassionate description of what the bill of attainder (also referred to as the act of attainder) represents. They call it “an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them, often without a trial…. Bills of attainder were passed in England between about 1300 and 1800 and resulted in the executions of a number of notable historical figures.

Luminarium adds more judgment: “[I]n the reign of Henry VIII they were much used, through a subservient parliament, to punish those who had incurred the king’s displeasure; many distinguished victims who could not have been charged with any offence under the existing laws being by this means disposed of.”

Yep. Think of Thomas Cromwell when you read that. Both for starting the widespread use of attainder in the first place as well as for ending up as one of its victims.

Though truth be told, in an age where simply displeasing the sovereign could be construed as treason, most cases simply had no hope of defense even for behavior that was not technically so. After all, for Catherine Howard and Jane Rochford laws were retroactively changed to ensure their deaths (in Catherine’s case, to make it treason for a non-virgin to marry the King in Rochford’s case, to remove insanity as an impediment to execution).

And we know that a defense makes no difference. Anne Boleyn got a trial and the opportunity to defend herself, but was still unanimously convicted. Her brother, George, put on such a good defense that the wagering favored an acquittal – and was also unanimously convicted. (I believe the only reason they weren’t convicted by act of attainder was to ensure that all doubts were removed from the equation. I see this as the ultimate proof of Anne’s innocence.)

But back to Tom Seymour. In another blog post (here), I describe his crime: breaking into a sleeping Edward VI’s bedchamber in the middle of the night and killing his dog. There really would have been no way to defend that, especially given his erratic and dangerous conduct since the death of Katherine Parr – and the implication that he had killed her. Attainder was merely the convenient approach – convenient, but still relatively thorough, since the bill was passed by the Lords and Commons rather than just the Star Chamber (a small group of noblemen).

Upon the bill’s approval, Tom was stripped of his property and titles. His daughter, Mary, was placed in the care of the Duchess of Suffolk – who didn’t really want her (Mary was penniless but as the daughter of a dowager queen required expensive protocols). That’s another blog post…here, if you’re interested.

February 28, 1556 – Burial of Stephen Gardiner at Winchester Cathedral

Stephen Gardiner by a 16th century artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen Gardiner by a 16th century artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen Gardiner was an important English cleric and politician during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I (his strongly Catholic leanings sent him to the Tower during the reign of the Protestant Edward VI…). He served as Bishop of Winchester from 1531-1555 (with two years “off” during his imprisonment).

Although he supported Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Gardiner spent the rest of Henry’s reign promoting Catholic interests. At Henry’s death, he was in a period of disfavor, so he was not named as an executor of the will or part of the regency council – which left the field more open for Edward Seymour to have him further marginalized. Of course, when Edward VI died and Mary I acceded the throne, Gardiner was restored to his bishopric and named Lord Chancellor. He was the one who placed the crown on Mary’s head at her coronation, as well as the cleric who performed her marriage to Philip II.

Because of his position of prominence during Mary’s reign, it is often assumed that he was largely responsible for the policies that earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary,” though some people defend him by arguing that no one was punished for heresy in his own diocese until after he died. I have to admit, I’m in the “don’t like him much” camp because of the way he tried to bring down Cranmer and Katherine Parr during Henry’s reign (he actually got Henry to sign a warrant to have her questioned, but she found out about it and had the chance to explain herself to Henry before the arrest could take place…)

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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 12, 1537 – Jane Seymour Announces “We Be Delivered of A Prince”

October 12, 1537 - Jane Seymour announces "We be delivered of a prince." Read the letter on www.janetwertman.com

Letter From Jane Seymour Announcing the Birth of Her Son, found recently in a stately home as reported by the DailyMail


Last year, my post for this day focused on the birth of Edward VI. This year, I want to focus on the announcement of that birth. Hundreds of copies of had been written in advance by scribes who had learned their lesson from 1533 – when they had to change “prince” to “princess” in the birth announcement for the Princess Elizabeth, but hadn’t left enough room for her to be anything more than a “princes”. I wonder how that made Jane feel as she was laboriously signing them in advance of her confinement…

By the Queen

Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well, and for as much as by the inestimable goodness and grace of Almighty God, we be delivered and brought in childbed of a Prince, conceived in most lawful matrimony between my lord the King’s Majesty and us, doubting not but that for the love and affection which you bear unto us and to the commonwealth of this realm, the knowledge thereof should be joyous and glad tidings unto you, we have thought good to certify you of the same, to the intent you might not only render unto God condign thanks and prayers for so great a benefit but also pray for the long continuance and preservation of the same here in this life to the honor of God, joy and pleasure of my lord the King and us, and the universal weal, quiet and tranquility of this whole realm. Given under our signet at my lord’s manor of Hampton Court the 12th day of October.

Jane the Quene.


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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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