Edward Seymour was swift to elevate himself to the Dukedom of Somerset when he took control of his nephew, Edward VI’s, Regency Council in 1547. The duke had twelve children as a result of his two marriages. His first marriage was to Catherine Filliol by whom he had two sons – or rather he thought he did but after his wife’s affair with her father-in-law came to light it all became rather complicated. John and Edward found themselves excluded from their inheritance on the grounds that no one knew if their father was actually their half-brother. Catherine was packed off to a nunnery where she conveniently died circa 1535 before nunneries became a thing of the past. I should point out that there is no existing contemporary evidence that Catherine and her father-in-law were rather closer than they should have been.
Seymour married for a second time to Anne Stanhope. Today’s post is supposed to be about her daughter – Anne. She had more sisters including Margaret and Jane. All three of them were noted writers of their day. Anne, the oldest married John Dudley the eldest surviving son of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick as he was when the engagement was contracted and Duke of Northumberland when the marriage came to pass. John died of goal fever as a result of being locked in the Tower following froths father’s cunning but not terribly successful plan to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne.
The girls received a humanist education of the kind that included Latin, French, Italian and Greek as well as other subjects. The sisters were also supposed to be notable singers. Her first marriage was supposed to seal a political alliance between Seymour and Dudley but within weeks of the marriage Seymour was off to the Tower for a date with the headsman. When John died Anne was still only sixteen or seventeen years old. An old family friend of the Seymours arranged a second marriage to Sir Edward Unton. She and her husband had seven children, though it didn’t stop him from going off on a Grand Tour. During that time and whilst her youngest child was scarcely out of babyhood she was declared to be a’ lunatic with lucid intervals.’ She was twenty-eight years old.
Anne and her sisters composed 103 Latin distichs- choric praise in couplets and rhyming quatrains- for the tomb of Margaret of Navarre which were published in France in 1550. This then makes the three young women an important voice in the development of the female written word but at the time they were regarded as political pawns on the marriage board. Marriage to John Dudley bought disaster but also financial advantage. Elizabeth I saw to it that she received an income from her jointure. Her second marriage saw her as a footnote. There is no explanation of her insanity.
There is even less known about Margaret Seymour who may have died at a similar time to her sister Jane who was born circa 1541 and died in 1561 from tuberculosis having served for a short time as one of Elizabeth I’s ladies. It was she who was the sole witness to her brother Edward Seymour’s marriage to Lady Katherine Grey.
Demers, Patricia. “The Seymour Sisters: Elegizing Female Attachment.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 30, no. 2, 1999, pp. 343–365. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2544708. Accessed 30 May 2021.