Inspirations from History: Edward Seymour

Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford and Duke of Somerset is a man who has interested me now for a very long time, especially the events leading up to his fall from grace and execution. Of course you all know of my love for his wife Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset and I just have a huge fascination not only with her but of Edward’s reign as Protector, and how he fell from Grace. I’m not going to lie, the Showtime TV series The Tudors inspired me to start reading more on Edward Seymour despite the fact I knew quite a lot about him anyway. It helped that I adored the on screen relationship (or lack thereof!) between Edward Seymour and his wife.

So who was Edward Seymour?
  • He was born in around 1506 to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth
  • In around 1527 he had his first marriage to Catherine Filliol annulled on the grounds of adultery.
  • He married Anne Stanhope before March 1534
  • 5th June 1536, he was made Viscount Beauchamp
  • 15th October 1537 he was made Earl of Hertford.
  • Edward became Lord Protector upon the death of Henry VIII and the ascension of the boy king Edward VI. Henry’s will did not include provision for a Protector, rather for the government to be looked after by a Regency Council however a few days after Henry’s death the council decided to give Seymour almost regal power and 13 of the 16 council members agreed for him to take the post of Protector.
  • Edward’s brother Thomas wanted a share of the power, and Edward tried buying him off but Thomas was hell bent on getting power, he began smuggling pocket money to the King. In 1549 after Thomas kept vying for power, and scheming to marry the Princess Elizabeth, the council had Thomas arrested. He was condemned by act of attainder due there being a lack of evidence for treason, and he was beheaded on 20th arch 1549.
  • Edward Seymour was an exceptionally skilled soldier, with a special interest in the war with Scotland. Due to his skill the English won a decisive victory at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.
  • After April 1549 England was subject to social unrest, the best known of which being Kett’s rebellion, caused by encroachment of landlords on common grazing lands. Government placed the blame at Seymour’s door and was the start of Seymour’s downfall.
  • By 1st October 1549, Seymour knew he was in danger and withdrew to Windsor with the young King. On 11th October the Council had him arrested due to his failures in war, his vanity, his refusal to listen to any one other than his own mind and doing things his own way. By Feb 1550, John Dudley Earl of Warwick emerged as the next Protector.
  • Somerset had previously been released from the Tower but by 1551/2 he was back there, and executed for felony in January 1552, for conspiring to overthrow Warwick’s regime.
  • He is buried in the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vicula at the Tower of London.
Despite his downfall, Seymour was known as The Good Duke and in all the books I have read about him seems to have been very popular with the people. In my opinion he wasn’t vain or power hungry at all, he was trying to keep England running well until Edward VI came of age. However as often happened at the court, factions struggled for power and often overthrew each other, as is what happened here in quite possibly one of the most famous coup d’etat’s of the late Tudor period.
If anyone is interested in reading more about Edward Seymour I recommend the following books:
Ordeal By Ambition: An English Family In The Shadow Of The Tudors – William Seymour (here at Amazon)
Edward VI The Young King: The Protectorship of the Duke of Somerset – W.K. Jordan (here at Amazon, but beware of prices as this is a pretty rare book nowadays, but very very good!)

2 thoughts on “Inspirations from History: Edward Seymour

  1. I have not watched the show and have no particular affinity for the Tudors, but I really enjoyed learning something about this man who acted as regent to Edward VI.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. I always feel we wholly underestimate the factions, particularly religious, at the Tudor courts. Somerset is often portrayed as cold and calculating–as compared with his hot-blooded, hot-headed brother I suppose. But that's as likely to be Tudor court disinformation and spin (they were masters at it!) as anything.

    And what's always forgotten in the discussion of Somerset, I think, is that Edward VI wasn't stupid–the Tudors were children who grew up quickly (too quickly perhaps) and they were well-educated too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s