Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset: Wikis

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Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset


In office
1547 – 1549
Monarch Edward VI
Preceded by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (1483)
Succeeded by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland (de facto)

Born ca. 1506
Died 22 January 1552
Tower of London
Spouse(s) Catherine Fillol (annulled)
Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Hertford, 1st Viscount Beauchamp, 1st Baron Seymour[1] (c. 1506 – 22 January 1552) was Lord Protector of England in the period between the death of Henry VIII in 1547 and his own indictment in 1549.

Contents

Background

Seymour was born in about 1506, to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth, a celebrated beauty, immortalised in the works of John Skelton. Edward's first marriage, before 1519, to Catherine Fillol, was annulled when it was discovered she was having an affair with his father. His second marriage was before 9 March 1534 to Anne Stanhope.

Edward was the eldest brother of Jane Seymour, who would become Henry VIII's third queen consort. When Jane married the King in 1536, Seymour was created Viscount Beauchamp on 5 June, and on 15 October 1537 Earl of Hertford. He became Warden of the Scottish Marches and continued in favour after his sister's death in 1537. Their brother, Thomas, also gained power through their sister's advancement and married Henry VIII's sixth wife, Dowager Queen Catherine Parr, shortly after the death of the King. Seymour's nephew became Edward VI on the death of Henry VIII. Edward Seymour retained great influence over the boy king, Edward VI, in whose name he ruled the country, and was created Duke of Somerset on 15 February 1547, early in King Edward's reign.

Following his victory over the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, his position appeared unassailable. However, the Seymour brothers had accumulated enemies and grudges during their time in royal favour, and, shortly after his brother Thomas's downfall in 1548, Edward, too, fell from power. His position, although not his office of Protector, was taken by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, later 1st Duke of Northumberland; his properties (such as Somerset House, Sleaford Castle and Berry Pomeroy Castle) were confiscated by the crown; and he was executed for treason at Tower Hill on 22 January 1552.

Somerset's Protectorate

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Council of Regency

Henry VIII's will named sixteen executors, who were to act as Edward's Council until he reached the age of 18. These executors were supplemented by twelve men "of counsail" who would assist the executors when called on.[2] The final state of Henry VIII's will has been the subject of controversy. Some historians suggest that those close to the king manipulated either him or the will itself to ensure a shareout of power to their benefit, both material and religious. In this reading, the composition of the Privy Chamber shifted towards the end of 1546 in favour of the reforming faction.[3] In addition, two leading conservative Privy Councillors were removed from the centre of power. Stephen Gardiner was refused access to Henry during his last months. Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, found himself accused of treason; the day before the king's death his vast estates were seized, making them available for redistribution, and he spent the whole of Edward's reign in the Tower of London.[4] Other historians have argued that Gardiner's exclusion was based on non-religious matters, that Norfolk was not noticeably conservative in religion, that conservatives remained on the Council, and that the radicalism of men such as Sir Anthony Denny, who controlled the dry stamp that replicated the king's signature, is debatable.[5] Whatever the case, Henry's death was followed by a lavish hand-out of lands and honours to the new power group.[6] The will contained an "unfulfilled gifts" clause, added at the last minute, which allowed Henry's executors to freely distribute lands and honours to themselves and the court,[7] particularly to Seymour (then known as Earl of Hertford), who became the Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King's Person, and who created himself Duke of Somerset.[6]

Portrait of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and 1st Duke of Somerset, c. 1500

In fact, Henry VIII's will did not provide for the appointment of a Protector. It entrusted the government of the realm during his son's minority to a Regency Council that would rule collectively, by majority decision, with "like and equal charge".[8] Nevertheless, a few days after Henry's death, on 4 February, the executors chose to invest almost regal power in the earl of Hertford.[9] Thirteen out of the sixteen (the others being absent) agreed to his appointment as Protector, which they justified as their joint decision "by virtue of the authority" of Henry's will.[10] Seymour may have done a deal with some of the executors, who almost all received hand-outs.[11] He is known to have done so with William Paget, private secretary to Henry VIII,[12] and to have secured the support of Sir Anthony Browne of the Privy Chamber.[13]

Hertford's appointment was in keeping with historical precedent,[14] and his eligibility for the role was reinforced by his military successes in Scotland and France. In March 1547, he secured letters patent from King Edward granting him the almost monarchical right to appoint members to the Privy Council himself and to consult them only when he wished.[15] In the words of historian G. R. Elton, "from that moment his autocratic system was complete".[16] He proceeded to rule largely by proclamation, calling on the Privy Council to do little more than rubber-stamp his decisions.[17]

Somerset's takeover of power was smooth and efficient. The imperial ambassador, Van der Delft, reported that he "governs everything absolutely", with Paget operating as his secretary, though he predicted trouble from John Dudley, who had recently been raised to Earl of Warwick in the share-out of honours.[18] In fact, in the early weeks of his Protectorate, Somerset was challenged only by the Chancellor, Thomas Wriothesley, whom the Earldom of Southampton had evidently failed to buy off, and by his own brother.[19] Wriothesley, a religious conservative, objected to Somerset’s assumption of monarchical power over the Council. He then found himself abruptly dismissed from the chancellorship on charges of selling off some of his offices to delegates.[20] His removal forestalled the forming of factions within the Council.

Thomas Seymour

Somerset faced less manageable opposition from his younger brother Thomas Seymour, who has been described as a "worm in the bud".[21] As King Edward's uncle, Thomas Seymour demanded the governorship of the king’s person and a greater share of power.[22] Somerset tried to buy his brother off with a barony, an appointment to the Lord Admiralship, and a seat on the Privy Council—but Thomas was bent on scheming for power. He began smuggling pocket money to King Edward, telling him that Somerset held the purse strings too tight, making him a "beggarly king".[23] He also urged him to throw off the Protector within two years and "bear rule as other kings do"; but Edward, schooled to defer to the Council, failed to co-operate.[24] In April, using Edward’s support to circumvent Somerset’s opposition, Thomas Seymour secretly married Henry VIII's widow Catherine Parr, whose Protestant household included the 11-year-old Lady Jane Grey and the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.[25]

In summer 1548, a pregnant Catherine Parr discovered Thomas Seymour embracing Princess Elizabeth.[26] As a result, Elizabeth was removed from Catherine Parr's household and transferred to Sir Anthony Denny's. That September, Catherine Parr died in childbirth, and Thomas Seymour promptly resumed his attentions to Elizabeth by letter, planning to marry her. Elizabeth was receptive, but, like Edward, unready to agree to anything unless permitted by the Council.[27] In January 1549, the Council, led by John Dudley, who had just engineered the recall of Wriothesley, had Thomas Seymour arrested on various charges, including embezzlement at the Bristol mint. King Edward, whom Seymour was accused of planning to marry to Lady Jane Grey, himself testified about the pocket money.[28] Lack of clear evidence for treason ruled out a trial, so Seymour was condemned instead by an Act of Attainder and beheaded on 20 March 1549.[29] The execution of the Protector's brother had at last given his enemies a chance to damage him. It was the latest of a series of disasters that had marked the Protector's rule. From this time, Somerset's own position was increasingly under threat.[30]

War

Somerset’s only undoubted skill was as a soldier, which he had proven on expeditions to Scotland and in the defence of Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1546. From the first, his main interest as Protector was the war against Scotland.[31] After a crushing victory at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in September 1547, he set up a network of garrisons in Scotland, stretching as far north as Dundee.[32] His initial successes, however, were followed by a loss of direction, as his aim of uniting the realms through conquest became increasingly unrealistic. The Scots allied with France, who sent reinforcements for the defence of Edinburgh in 1548,[33] while Mary, Queen of Scots was removed to France, where she was betrothed to the dauphin.[34] The cost of maintaining the Protector's massive armies and his permanent garrisons in Scotland also placed an unsustainable burden on the royal finances.[35] A French attack on Boulogne in August 1549 at last forced Somerset to begin a withdrawal from Scotland.[36]

Rebellion

During 1548, England was subject to social unrest. After April 1549, a series of armed revolts broke out, fuelled by various religious and agrarian grievances. The two most serious rebellions, which required major military intervention to put down, were in Devon and Cornwall and in Norfolk. The first, sometimes called the Prayer Book Rebellion, arose mainly from the imposition of church services in English, and the second, led by a tradesman called Robert Kett, mainly from the encroachment of landlords on common grazing ground.[37] A complex aspect of the social unrest was that the protestors believed they were acting legitimately against enclosing landlords with the Protector's support, convinced that the landlords were the lawbreakers.[38]

The same justification for outbreaks of unrest was voiced throughout the country, not only in Norfolk and the west. The origin of the popular view of Somerset as sympathetic to the rebel cause lies partly in his series of sometimes liberal, often contradictory, proclamations,[39] and partly in the uncoordinated activities of the commissions he sent out in 1548 and 1549 to investigate grievances about loss of tillage, encroachment of large sheep flocks on common land, and similar issues.[40] Somerset's commissions were led by an evangelical M.P. called John Hales, whose socially liberal rhetoric linked the issue of enclosure with Reformation theology and the notion of a godly commonwealth.[41] Local groups often assumed that the findings of these commissions entitled them to act against offending landlords themselves.[42] King Edward wrote in his Chronicle that the 1549 risings began "because certain commissions were sent down to pluck down enclosures".[43]

Whatever the popular view of Somerset, the disastrous events of 1549 were taken as evidence of a colossal failure of government, and the Council laid the responsibility at the Protector's door.[44] In July 1549, Paget wrote to Somerset: "Every man of the council have misliked your proceedings ... would to God, that, at the first stir you had followed the matter hotly, and caused justice to be ministered in solemn fashion to the terror of others ...".[45] By that autumn, plans were afoot to eject Somerset as Protector.

Fall of Somerset

The sequence of events that led to Somerset's removal from power has often been called a coup d'état.[44] By 1 October, Somerset had been alerted that his rule faced a serious threat. He issued a proclamation calling for assistance, took possession of the king's person, and withdrew for safety to the fortified Windsor Castle, where Edward wrote, "Me thinks I am in prison".[46] Meanwhile, a united Council published details of Somerset's government mismanagement. They made clear that the Protector's power came from them, not from Henry VIII's will. On 11 October, the Council had Somerset arrested and brought the king to Richmond.[44] Edward summarised 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."[47] In February 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, emerged as the leader of the Council and, in effect, as Somerset's successor. Although Somerset was released from the Tower and restored to the Council, he was executed for felony in January 1552 after scheming to overthrow Dudley's regime.[48] Edward noted his uncle's death in his Chronicle: "the duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o'clock in the morning".[49]

Historians contrast the efficiency of Somerset's takeover of power, in which they detect the organising skills of allies such as Paget, the "master of practices", with the subsequent ineptitude of his rule.[50] By autumn 1549, his costly wars had lost momentum, the crown faced financial ruin, and riots and rebellions had broken out around the country. Until recent decades, Somerset's reputation with historians was high, in view of his many proclamations that appeared to back the common people against a rapacious landowning class.[51] More recently, however, he has often been portrayed as an arrogant ruler, devoid of the political and administrative skills necessary for governing the Tudor state.[52]

He was interred at St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London.

Descendants

The earldom was later temporarily regained by Somerset's son, Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford.

Together Edward and Anne had nine children. They were,

See also

References

  1. ^ The Complete Peerage vol.XIIpI, p.59-65.
  2. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 17–18; Jordan 1968, p. 56
  3. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 130–145
  4. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 130–145; Elton 1977, pp. 330–31
  5. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 19–25. In addressing these views, Loach cites, among others: G. Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: the Life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford, 1990), 231–37; Susan Brigden, "Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and the Conjoured League", Historical Journal, xxxvii (1994), 507–37; and Eric Ives, "Henry VIII's Will: A Forensic Conundrum", Historical Journal (1992), 792–99.
  6. ^ a b Loach 1999, pp. 19–25
  7. ^ Starkey 2002, p. 142; Elton 1977, p. 332. David Starkey describes this distribution of benefits as typical of "the shameless back-scratching of the alliance"; G. R. Elton calls the changes to the will "convenient".
  8. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 138–39; Alford 2002, p. 69. The existence of a council of executors alongside the Privy Council was rationalised in March when the two became one, incorporating the executors and most of their appointed assistants and adding Thomas Seymour, who had protested at his exclusion from power.
  9. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 7; Alford 2002, p. 65
  10. ^ Starkey 2002, pp. 138–39; Alford 2002, p. 67
  11. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 26–27; Elton 1962, p. 203
  12. ^ In 1549, Paget was to remind Seymour: "Remember what you promised me in the gallery at Westminster before the breath was out of the body of the king that dead is. Remember what you promised immediately after, devising with me concerning the place which you now occupy ... and that was to follow mine advice in all your proceedings more than any other man's". Quoted in Guy 1988, p. 211
  13. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 67–68
  14. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 49–50, 91–92; Elton 1977, p. 333. Uncles of the king had been made Protector in 1422 and 1483 during the minorities of Henry VI and Edward V (though not also Governor of the King's Person, as Hertford's brother Thomas, who coveted the role for himself, pointed out).
  15. ^ Alford 2002, p. 70 ; Jordan 1968, pp. 73–75. In 1549, William Paget described him as king in all but name.
  16. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 334, 338
  17. ^ Alford 2002, p. 66
  18. ^ Jordan 1968, pp. 69, 76–77; Skidmore 2007, pp. 64–63
  19. ^ Elton 1977, p. 333
  20. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 33–34; Elton 1977, p. 333
  21. ^ Loades 2004, p. 34
  22. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 333, 346. Some historians believe that John Dudley, who was to challenge Somerset in 1549, encouraged Thomas Seymour to make these demands.
  23. ^ Loades 204, p. 36
  24. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 36–37; Brigden 2000, p. 182
  25. ^ Erickson 1978, p. 234
  26. ^ Somerset 1997, p. 23
  27. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 37–38
  28. ^ Loades 2004, pp. 40–41; Alford 2002, pp. 96–97
  29. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 91–97
  30. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 346–47
  31. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 183; MacCulloch 2002, p. 42
  32. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 484
  33. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 485
  34. ^ Wormald 2001, p. 62; Loach 1999, pp. 52–53. The dauphin was the future Francis II of France, son of Henry II of France.
  35. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 183
  36. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 340–41
  37. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 70–83
  38. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 347–350; Loach 1999, pp. 66–67, 86. For example, in Hereford, a man was recorded as saying that "by the king's proclamation all enclosures were to be broken up".
  39. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 60–61, 66–68, 89; Elton 1962, p. 207. Some proclamations expressed sympathy for the victims of enclosure and announced action; some condemned the destruction of enclosures and associated riots; another announced pardons for those who had destroyed enclosures by mistake ("of folly and of mistaking") after misunderstanding the meaning of proclamations, so long as they were sorry.
  40. ^ Loach 1999, pp. 61–66.
  41. ^ MacCulloch 2002, pp. 49–51; Dickens 1967, p. 310
  42. ^ "Their aim was not to bring down government, but to help it correct the faults of local magistrates and identify the ways in which England could be reformed." MacCulloch 2002, p. 126
  43. ^ Loach 1999, p. 85
  44. ^ a b c Elton 1977, p. 350
  45. ^ Loach 1999, p. 87
  46. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 192
  47. ^ Quoted in Loach 1999, p. 91. By "Newhaven" is meant Ambleteuse, near Boulogne.
  48. ^ Guy 1988, pp. 212–15; Loach 1999, pp. 101–102
  49. ^ Loach 1999, p. 102
  50. ^ MacCulloch 2002, p. 104; Dickens 1967, p. 279
  51. ^ Elton 1977, p. 333n; Alford 2002, p. 65. A. F. Pollard took this line in the early 20th century, echoed later by Edward VI's 1960s biographer W. K. Jordan, among others. The revisionary approach was initiated by M. L. Bush and Dale Hoak in the 1970s.
  52. ^ Elton 1977, pp. 334–350
  53. ^ http://geneall.net/U/per_page.php?id=619046

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Russell
Lord High Admiral
1542 – 1543
Succeeded by
The Viscount Lisle
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Lord High Treasurer
1547 – 1549
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Winchester
Earl Marshal
1547 – 1549
Succeeded by
The Earl of Warwick
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Somerset
1547 – 1552
Forfeit
Title next held by
William Seymour

Simple English

File:Edward
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (c. 150622 January, 1552) was an English peer and politician. He was Lord Protector of England during the reign of King Edward VI, because Edward was too young to rule alone. He served as Lord Protector from 1547 to 1552, when he was executed for treason.


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