Edward Seymour, Lord Protector

Edward_SeymourEdward Seymour (born about 1500) the eldest surviving son of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth of Wolf Hall in Wiltshire was following the court trajectory of many other Tudor men  in terms of patronage and a slow climb up the  social ladder until his sister, Jane Seymour, caught the eye of Henry VIII at which point Thomas Cromwell moved out of his accommodation to make way for Edward and his wife Ann Stanhope so that the king could speak privately to Jane whilst chaperoned by her family.  Once Jane became queen Edward swiftly acquired some nifty new titles.

The trajectory of his rise can be seen in the manner of his address in 1523 he became Sir Edward when he was knighted by the Duke of Suffolk when he went with him on campaign to France. In 1536 the king made him Viscount Beauchamp and then in 1537 the Earl of Hertford.  In 1542 he became the Lord High Admiral but really he was a soldier and he handed that position back when the Scots repudiated the Treaty of Greenwich which had been made in the aftermath of the Battle of Solway Moss.  In 1544 he headed north for a spot of Rough Wooing, sailed into Leith and burned Edinburgh.  He also won a victory against the French at Boulogne in 1546.  He gained a reputation for military efficiency.

On 27 January 1547 Henry VIII died leaving a regency council to care for is son, the new king Edward VI.  Sir Edward had no desire to share power with the rest of the Privy Council and promptly managed to wangle the post of Lord Protector based on the fact that he was the new king’s uncle and had a reputation as a soldier in both Scotland and France.  He also dished out a new title for himself becoming the Duke of Somerset on February 16 1547.  He then edged the Privy Council out even more into the cold by drawing up Letters Patent that his nine-year-old nephew signed decreeing that he only need call on the services of the Privy Council when he thought it was necessary.  Needless to say this resulted in resentment and would ultimately leave him isolated.  Thomas Wriothesley  the chancellor and newly minted Earl of Southampton protested.  He found himself being deprived of the chancellorship for his pains.

Essentially historians are torn about the Lord Protector. Many of them see him as highly principled and concerned for the care of the poor within England’s realm.  It was he who issued the proclamation saying that hedges and fences enclosing common land should be removed. Others see him as failing to take the necessary command and control of the situation – when Kett’s Rebellion erupted in 1549 it was because they believed they were following the Protector’s instructions in demolishing the new enclosures. It didn’t help that there were a series of bad harvests and that inflation was rampant.

There was also the tricky matter of his difficult relationship with his little brother Sir Thomas who was jealous of Edward and did everything he could to make life difficult for the Lord Protector.

Edward Seymour even managed to please no one in religious terms when he tried to steer a middle path between Catholics and Protestants and failed to please either group when as part of Cranmer’s reforms he instituted the Common Prayer Book in English resulting in the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549 when the population of the west Country rose up in protest at the english content of church services.  Calvinists didn’t think he went far enough even though he banned the lighting of candles and got rid of a number of holidays and suppressed the chantries.

Meanwhile so far as foreign affairs were concerned Somerset had tried initially to suggest that the Scots should enter a union voluntarily with England and when that failed he headed north and induced in a bit of Scot bashing – the Battle of Pinkie occurred on September 10 1547 and was an English victory but resulted ultimately in the Scots sending their little queen to France for safety which was what Henri II wanted but which was not what the English wanted as the country once more became the bone between the two dogs.  The cost of the war was prohibitive as was the need for a standing army.  By the end of the period the borders between England and Scotland were back at their Henrican starting point.

Somerset’s rival on the council, John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick was able to bide his time and draw on the support of all the people that Somerset had managed to irritate including Edward VI.  Somerset realised what was happening and headed off to Windsor from Hampton Court with Edward VI on 1 October 1549 but when it became clear that if he stood his ground that it would result in faction, feud and blood shed he “came quietly” as the newspapers would say.  The people who supported I’m were the ones without power or influence.  Seymour was arrested on the 11th of October on charges that included ambition and followings own authority.

 

Somerset and his faction were toppled but after a time in prison Somerset was allowed to return to the Privy Council which he had managed to alienate by not conferring with them.  Unfortunately for him he tried to law back his position so found himself under arrest for treason along with the Earl of Arundel.  Dudley claimed that Somerset intended to capture the Tower of London and then raise rebellion around the country.  There was no evidence but it didn’t matter.

Somerset was found guilty and executed on 22 January 1552.  The people of London were ordered to stay indoors on the morning of Edward Seymour’s execution but a huge number of people turned out, many of them sobbing.  When some soldiers arrived late there was a cry that “the good Duke” was to be spared but it was Seymour who calmed the crowd and explained that there would be no reprieve. Certainly his nephew Edward VI does not spare his uncles blushes in his journal and is completely, apparently, unmoved by his execution in 1552 simply noting that he had had his head chopped off.

Weir, Alison. (2009) Children of England: the Heirs of Henry VIIILondon: Jonathan Cape

 

Scandal at Chelsea: the courtship and marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

katherine parrHenry VIII was buried on 16th February 1547 at Windsor with Jane Seymour.  Their son Edward was now king with a five man regency council nominated by Henry VIII.  It wasn’t long before Edward Seymour had nobbled the council and rather than five equal men had become Lord Protector.

Katherine Parr moved to Chelsea with her two hundred servants, one hundred and fifty man yeoman guard, Elizabeth Tudor and the queen’s jewels which Henry VIII’s will gave her permission to wear until Edward was of an age to be married.  The will also stipulated that Katherine was to be accorded the honour of first lady in the land which rather irritated Anne Dudley the wife of Edward Dudley the newly styled Lord Protector (March 1547)  who felt that honour ought to go to her.  Edward  created himself Duke of Somerset and  also become Earl Marshal given that the hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk was sitting in the Towner on charges of treason.

thomas seymourEdward’s younger brother Thomas felt aggrieved.  Even though he was now the Lord High Admiral (sounds vaguely Gilbert and Sullivan), Baron Sudeley and a privy councillor he felt it was somewhat unfair that his brother was the Lord Protector.  What resulted was two years of rampant ambition, scandal and tragedy followed by Thomas’s execution on three charges of treason not that he was ever brought to trial.

Thomas began a campaign against his brother beginning by giving his young nephew pocket money and bribing one of Edward VI’s men, John Fowler, to say nice things about him; he started reading up the law books with a view to demanding to being made Edward’s co-protector and he began looking around for a royal bride.  He started of by asking the Privy Council if he could marry thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor.  The Privy Council said no but Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley was rather taken with the smooth talking charmer which was unfortunate when Sir Thomas turned his attentions from Katherine Parr to her young step-daughter.

John Fowler, the servant bribed to say nice things about Thomas to King Edward, was asked to find out the king’s view on the matter.  Edward thought that Thomas should either marry Anne of Cleves or “my sister Mary to change her opinions.”

Thomas trotted back to the Privy Council to request the hand of Mary Tudor.  On this occasion the Duke of Somerset explained that neither one of the brother should look to be king or to marry a king’s daughter. The brothers argued violently and when Mary was informed of the proposed match sometimes later laughed at the idea.

That just left the dowager queen.  Katherine Parr was thirty-five years old and before the king had made his intentions to claim her as wife number six clear on 1542 she had been linked romantically to Thomas.  This time Thomas didn’t check to see what the Privy Council thought about the idea. He began to visit Katherine at her home in Chelsea in secret.   By the end of April 1547 or the beginning of May the couple decided to marry – even if society would regard it as an indecently hasty match so soon after Henry VIII’s demise.  This was thrice-married Katherine’s chance of happiness and she intended to grab it with both hands.

Katherine had been married first to Sir Edward Borough – he was not a well man. After that she married John Neville, Lord Latimer who was much older than Katherine (approximately twice her age) and, of course, thirdly, she had married Henry VIII.  Katherine, thanks to Latimer, was left a wealthy woman so should, by rights, have had more choice in who she wed next  if at all. Sir Thomas Seymour courted her but Henry VIII had noted her care of Lord Latimer and seen her in Mary Tudor’s company.  In July 1543 Katherine Parr became queen of England setting her romance with Thomas Seymour to one side and possibly disappointing Seymour’s aspirations to marry a wealthy widow.

Now though nothing was going to stop Katherine. They were married secretly in May and Katherine gave orders for a gate to be left unlocked so that her new husband could visit her in the middle of the night.

There was the small problem of telling the people who mattered.  Katherine knew that she needed her step-son’s approval. However, by June there was gossip.  Kat Ashley, Elizabeth Tudor’s governess met Sir Thomas at St James Park  and commented on his failure to pursue his match with Elizabeth and also commented on the fact that he was rumoured to already be married to the queen.

Katherine went to see Edward VI who had no objection to his step-mother’s marriage to his uncle.  Edward VI wrote to her confirming his views on the 30th May saying; “I do love and admire you with my whole heart.”  He agreed to keep the marriage a secret until the relationship between Thomas and Edward Seymour was better.  Katherine, however, felt that rather than relying on his brother’s kindness that Thomas should garner support for the match from leading members of the court.

Mary Tudor was not so generous as her little brother.  When she received a letter from Thomas asking for her support in the matter she was horrified that a) he had aspired so high and b) that Katherine had so quickly forgotten the king who was “ripe in mine own remembrance.” Mary never seemed to forgive Katherine for marrying in haste and expressed concern that Elizabeth should continue to live in Katherine’s household believing that the newly weds had “shamelessly dishonoured” Henry VIII’s memory (you’d have thought that Mary would have been dancing on her late lamented parent’s grave given the way he treated both her and her mother.)

At the end of June 1547 the news of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour was public knowledge. Edward VI kept his promise to support them.  The Duchess of Somerset still had to give precedence to Katherine but she did exact a revenge of sorts in that she persuaded her husband to confiscate Katherine’s jewels which should by rights have been worn by the next queen of England but which Anne Dudley now modelled.

The problem was that Chelsea would not be free from Scandal for long.  In addition to her two hundred servants and one hundred and fifty yeomen there was the small matter of Elizabeth Tudor.  It wasn’t long before Sir Thomas began making inappropriate visits to his step-daughter’s bed chamber.  Kat Ashley didn’t immediately see any harm in his morning calls but Elizabeth took to rising earlier and earlier so that he would not catch her in bed.  Ultimately Kat took him to task for arriving in his night shirt with bare legs.  When he failed to see the seriousness of his behaviour Kat took the matter to Katherine Parr who made little of the morning visits, even joining in with them herself on occasion.  Society was in for another scandal and it looked as though Mary Tudor may have had a point after all.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2015) The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. London: Head of Zeus

Weir, Alison. (1999) Children of England: the Heirs of  King Henry VIII. London: Jonathan Cape.

 

 

 

John Dudley, Lord Lisle, earl of Warwick, duke of Northumberland…traitor. Part one: rise to power

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent).jpgJohn Dudley, son of an executed traitor suffered the same fate as his father in 1554 when he failed to place his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He’d risen to the highest place in the country and become the first non-royal duke in the land.

John’s father Edmund was one of Henry VII’s key administrators and tax collectors.  So when John was born in 1504 it looked as thought the family was on the rise.  Five years later John’s world came crashing down when his father along with Richard Empson became Henry VIII’s sacrificial offerings to the people of England.  On the 17th August 1510 having been arrested and tried for treason the chief instruments of Henry VII’s hated financial policies were executed.

empson-and-dudley-with-king-henry-vii

The Duke of Rutland Collection- Empson and Dudley with King Henry VII

John’s mother Elizabeth, (nee Grey- the niece of Elizabeth Woodville through Woodville’s first marriage) remarried the following year.  Her new husband was Arthur Plantagenet who became Lord Lisle as a consequence.  Arthur has appeared on the History Jar before. He was an illegitimate son of Edward IV who lived in Elizabeth of York’s household and appears to have been raised as a companion to young Prince Henry. Edmund Dudley’s lands were handed over to Arthur. The year after that the taint of treason was removed from young John when Edmund’s attainder for treason was erased – so presumably some lands went back to John but history’s account books have been slightly blurred round the edges. This together with Dudley’s connections meant that he was all set for a career at court under the guardianship of Lord Guildford who promptly married John off to his own daughter Jane. John Dudley would not acquire the title of Lord Lisle until the death of his step-father who by that time would have been accused of treason and imprisoned himself.

Dudley surfaces on the margins of events though out the period and by 1532 had aligned himself with Thomas Cromwell. He was not terribly important but he was gaining land around the country and no one could dispute his loyalty to the king. He begins to come to the fore in 1541 when he worked with Archbishop Cranmer to find out exactly what Katherine Howard had been up to and with whom.

From this point onwards Lord Lisle can be seen rising in prominence.  He even became warden of the Scottish marches – an all encompassing appointment along the English side of the border.  It was Dudley who had to deal with the aftermath of the Battle of Solway Moss and the quarrelling Scottish council as well as having to communicate that his master wished for the baby queen of Scots to marry Prince Edward. By 1544 his job had changed and rather than being a politician in soldiers clothing he’d become an admiral, a post that he continued to hold until the ascent of King Edward VI.

He was actually the admiral in charge of Henry VIII’s navy when the flagship the Mary Rose somewhat embarrassingly sank. His role as politician, admiral and diplomat led to him rising in Henry’s estimation so that by the time Henry made his will it could be said of Dudley that he was in the right place at the right time. He also benefited from Henry’s will to the tune of £500.  He was also of the reforming religious persuasion.  It probably also helped that not only had he once leant Sir Edward Seymour, the oldest of the new king’s uncles, money but he was also very good friends with the man who now styled himself Lord Protector.

edward-sm

John now found himself promoted to Lord Chamberlain and the Earl of Warwick whilst Sir Edward Seymour not content with being Lord Protector also became the Duke of Somerset. This obviously meant that he had to hand in his admiral’s hat which was, in turn, dished out to Edward VI’s other uncle Sir Thomas Seymour – who wasn’t particularly grateful for the role but seems to have got his own back by marrying the dowager queen Katherine Parr having asked first of all to marry Princess Mary and when that request was turned down the Princess Elizabeth.

At this stage in proceedings Edward Seymour and John Dudley were the best of friends. They even went on a jolly little outing to Scotland together, along with an army, when Somerset decided to try and force the Scots into accepting a marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and King Edward. The reality was that Seymour’s foreign policy in regards to the Scottish borders was untenable. Men and fortifications required money that England did not have.  Even worse the french who had been quiet at the on-set of Edward’s reign now acquired a young and belligerent king in the form of Henri II. Somerset became the bone between two dogs as he sought to control his extended northern borders and hang on to England’s continental lands in the form of Calais and Guines.

At home things weren’t too brilliant for Somerset either. His brother was found guilty of treason  and executed having spent more time canoodling with Princess Elizabeth than he ought and then hatching a plot to remove the king from his brother’s clutches which ended in him shooting the king’s favourite dog.   Currency values continued to plummet. Inflation rocketed and not everyone was terribly happy about Cranmer’s reforms to the Church which now became decidedly protestant in tone. In the months that followed his brother’s execution Somerset grew grumpy and autocratic.  He became suspicious of everyone and refused to listen to the council.   Dudley was conveniently on the margins of all of this having been given the Welsh marches to govern.

In 1549 the country exploded into civil unrest.  In Cornwall the so-called Prayer Book Rebellion kicked off whilst in East Anglia the locals led by Robert Kett became rather rowdy on the subject of enclosure. Whatever else might be said of Somerset he did listen to the Commons and he ordered that common land that had been fenced off should be removed.  Unfortunately this resulted in riots across the region as locals took the removal of hedges and fences in to their own hands.  Ultimately Norwich, the second city in England at the time, found itself under siege.  Somerset was unable to quell the trouble and this did not go down well with the nobility – who understandably felt a bit nervous about the hoi polloi running around with sharp implements.

Sir William Parr had been sent off with a very small army to see Kett and his happy band off but he didn’t have enough men to convince them to leave.  It was Dudley who put the East Anglians firmly in their place by killing some 2000 of them but the aftermath was far less bloodthirsty than might have been expected Would now be a good time to mention that Kett was John Dudley’s tenant? Not that it saved him from being found guilty and hanged from the castle walls in Norwich.  He had been offered clemency if only he would ask for a pardon but Kett insisted that he had nothing to ask pardon for.

The thing was that Dudley was fed up with Somerset. He didn’t disband his army and he found himself buddying up with the catholic Earls of Arundel and Southampton. There were many conversations in darkened corners.  The privy council who had been marginalised by Somerset came on board with the idea that Somerset’s day was done.

Somerset found out what was going on and issued a proclamation asking the ordinary people to defend the young king – and the Lord Protector- against a vile plot.  This wasn’t terribly clever as once again the “Good Duke” was seen to be favouring the unwashed masses rather than the great and the good. Then Somerset moved Edward from Hampton Court to Windsor.  It should also be added at this point that Uncle Edward Seymour wasn’t the king’s favourite uncle – Seymour kept his royal nephew short of cash, isolated an uninvolved in governing the realm despite the letters that Edward sent on various subjects.

In mid October 1549 Seymour gave up his protectorship, handed over the king and awaited arrest. At that time it was the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley “call me Risley” who seemed to be in charge.  Wriothesley who’d learned politics from the masterly hands of Wolsey and Cromwell probably thought that his moment had come. It wasn’t.

By the end of November Somerset had been accused of treachery and in the old Catholic V Protestant scramble for power Dudley tarred with the same brush. Dudley, having been warned about what was on the cards, made an impassioned speech which probably saved Somerset’s life as well as his own political career. Historians still can’t work out whether there really was a plot by Southampton and other religious conservatives or whether Dudley simply made one appear in a clever ruse to strengthen his own position on the council because by February 1550 Dudley was in charge and his title was about to change…Machiavellian or what?

 

 

Ann Cromwell and Dr Gibson

gibson_smallBrowsing through an old book with yellowed  whispering pages, I came across this little link between Cumbria and Oliver Cromwell. It’s tenuous  but it appealed to me simply because so little seems to be known about either of the characters involved and because reading between the lines there is a tale of a family torn asunder as a result of the English Civil war and its aftermath and also of infant mortality.

Dr Thomas Gibson was born at Bampton, near Shap.  He graduated from the University of Leiden in 1675 became the Physician General of Cromwell’s Army and went on to write The Anatomy of Human Bodies which drew extensively on other sources but which remained in print for many editions.  Little is known about his early life or indeed the death of his first wife.

Ann was Dorothy and Richard Cromwell’s sixth daughter – Oliver’s grand-daughter.  She died in 1727, aged 69.  Only her eldest sister Elizabeth was as long-lived amongst the girls in the family.  The other lasses died in infancy.  Ann, then, was born in 1659 while her father was  Lord Protector- it was a short-lived venture for him and led to his exile on the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.  His wife and family remained at home.  Richard’s letters to his daughter are written under cover of an alternative name always RC or CR and speak at his grief of not being with his family.

She was widowed early, and throughout the rest of her life she lived with her sister Elizabeth in respectable Presbyterian seclusion under the watchful eye of her husband’s nephew who became the Bishop of London.  The Bishop bequeathed £200 to Bampton Church.