The Other Seymours: Anne, Countess of Warwick

Written by Rebecca Larson

It seems, that wherever the Seymour family went, either tragedy or scandal followed. When it came to Anne Seymour, daughter of Edward, Duke of Somerset and his wife Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, it was no different.

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The Life of Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

As the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier, Anne Stanhope became the sole heiress of her father’s estate at the age of one. Through her mother’s side of the family Anne was descended from King Edward III of England through his son, Thomas of Woodstock.

After the death of Edward Stanhope, Anne’s mother eventually married again, her third marriage was to Sir Richard Paget, who was also well-connected to King Henry VIII. Paget was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber for King Henry and also Vice-Chamberlain in the household of Henry Fitzroy.

There is little evidence that remains about Anne’s childhood – it is, however, believed that she was a maid-of-honor to Katherine of Aragon.

It is believed that Anne Stanhope met her future husband, Edward Seymour while they were both in service at court in 1529¹ – Edward was in the household of Henry VIII while Anne was in service of Queen Katherine. At that time Edward was still married to his first wife, Katherine Fillol and the couple had just had their second son, Edward. Or what was believed at the time to be his son.

As the story goes, it was discovered sometime between 1527 and 1530 that Edward’s wife Katherine Fillol had an affair. The scandalous part is that it was a long affair with…yep, Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour. When Edward discovered the affair he was outraged, as any spouse would be after such a discovery, but he was enraged by the fact that the culprit was his own father.

After discovering what happened, Edward immediately sent his wife to a nunnery. While not knowing for certain the paternity of his sons, he disowned both of them — after all, how would he know if the boys were his sons, or brothers? How could he look at them without wondering?

There is no definitive proof that Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour was indeed the man who Katherine Fillol had an affair with, but many historians believe so, including Alison Weir. However, in Weir’s book, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” she states that all of Henry’s court was aware of what had happened with the Seymours. That statement, if true, leaves me wondering why Henry VIII would look at marrying a woman from a family with such a scandal. It is possible that a lot of people knew about it. It is definitely possible that they talked about it.

Only a few things point in the direction of Sir John Seymour being the culprit:

A handwritten note is recorded in the margin of Vincent’s Baronagein the College of Arms: “repudiata quia pater ejus post nuptias eam cognovit.” Roughly translated, it says, “Divorced because she was known by his father after the wedding.” It alleges that the affair Katherine was having was with her own father-in-law, Sir John Seymour.

In the book, The Seymour Family by Amy Audrey Locke, she states:

One story given by Peter Heylyn states that when the Earl, then Sir Edward Seymour, was in France, he ‘did there acquaint himself with a learned man, supposed to have great skill in magick; of whom he obtained by great reward and importunities, to let him see, by the help of some magical perspective, in what estate all his relation stood at home. In which impertinent curiosity he was so far satisfied as to behold a gentleman of his acquaintance in a more familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to honor of either party. To which diabolical illusion, he is said to have given so much credit that he did not only estrange himself from her society at his coming home, but furnished his next wife with an excellent opportunity for pressing him to disinheriting of his former children.

Also noted should be the fact that Katherine’s father, Sir William Fillol adjusted his will:

Something happened during her marriage to Edward. In her father’s will, dated 1527, Catherine is excluded from inheriting “for many dyverse causes and considerations … Catherine nor hir heiress of hir boody ne Sir Edward Seymour hir husbonde in any wyse have any part or parcell’ of his manors or estatesInstead, Catherine is left an annual pension from the estate of 40£, provided she go and “virtuously and abide in some house of religion of women.” In other words, a convent.

Edward Seymour and Anne Stanhope were eventually married sometime before the 9th March 1535 and their first child, Jane (presumably named for the queen) was born on the same day Prince Edward, 12th of October 1537. Unfortunately, as was common for the time, little Jane did not survive. In 1538, a son named Henry (after the king, of course) was born but soon died as well. Their third child, a son called Edward (after his father) was born in 1539. Next, author Margaret Scard in “Edward Seymour” states that a son and a daughter were born in 1540, Margaret and Henry (presumably twins). The following year, in 1541, a daughter named Jane was born. The last of the children were Mary, Catherine, another Edward and Elizabeth. Anne Stanhope was forty years old when she had their last child, Elizabeth.

Sometime in 1538, most likely on Anne’s insistence, his boys by Katherine Fillol were excluded from Edward Seymour’s property and titles by Act of Parliament – she meant business, wanting her children to benefit from their father’s standing, not his supposed children from his first marriage.

Anne was acquainted with, if not friends with Anne Askew in 1546 – they shared the same reformist beliefs but the difference was that one of the women was willing to died for her beliefs and to protect those close to her. On the 16th of July 1546, Anne Askew was brought into Smithfield on a chair due to the fact that she was unable to walk or stand after her interrogation by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich. It is possible, and some have said, Stanhope sent a man in a blue coat with 10 shilling to help her². Some have said that Stanhope was responsible for gunpowder being placed on Askew’s body to quicken her death.

During Kateryn Parr’s tenure as Queen Consort, Anne Stanhope managed to stay on good terms with both Princess Mary and Parr, but her religious leanings were Protestant. Even with that being said, Anne had a great relationship with Mary when she was Queen of England.

At the end of January 1547, Anne Stanhope’s life changed for the better. Previously, Anne had been in the household of Kateryn Parr, but now Parr was a dowager queen and Anne became Duchess of Somerset and the wife of the Lord Protector – essentially she was the most powerful women in England. This quick rise in social standing may have gotten to her head when she believed that the queens jewels belonged to her and not Kateryn Parr. Parr merely wanted the jewels given back to her that were gifts from Henry VIII and her mother. The topic of the queen’s jewels may be one of the topics that drove a wedge between Edward and Thomas Seymour. Whether or not Somerset had the right to possess and control the jewels that belonged to the king or were given by the former king – this is something that came back to haunt him later.

Anne Stanhope believed that Kateryn Parr forfeited her rights of precedence when she married the younger brother of her husband. Fortunately for Anne this feud would only last about a year – Parr died in September 1548 after giving birth to a daughter named Mary.

After the execution of Thomas Seymour, Anne’s brother-in-law in March 1547, his daughter by Kateryn Parr lived for a brief time at Syon House under the protection of Anne and her husband before being transferred to the household of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk.

In October 1549, Somerset was removed from power and held in the Tower of London. In an effort at reconciliation, Anne and the earl of Warwick’s wife, Jane Guildford, arranged a marriage between Anne’s daughter, Anne Seymour, and Warwick’s eldest son, John Dudley, who became earl of Warwick when his father was elevated in the peerage to duke of Northumberland. Somerset was arrested again on October 16, 1551 and accused of plotting against Northumberland. This time he was executed. Anne was also arrested and remained a prisoner in the Tower of London until May 30, 1553, even though she was never charged with any crime.

During the downfall of her husband, Edward, Anne kept in constant with her brother Michael to stay up to date on what was occuring. Then Anne wrote Sir William Paget to ask for help. She hoped the Paget could find a way to smooth things over with the council members who had now turned against him. She asked Paget, “What hath my lord done to any of these noble men or others that they should thus rage and seek the extremity of him.

Under Mary Tudor, three of Anne’s daughters were at court. Her oldest son, Edward, was restored in blood. Anne was granted a number of Northumberland’s confiscated properties and Hanworth, Middlesex, where she chose to live. It was at Hanworth that a romance secretly blossomed between Anne’s son Edward and Lady Catherine Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. When the couple eloped in 1560 and were subsequently confined in the Tower of London, Anne was careful to distance herself from them.

The year after her son was sent to the Tower Anne married her late husband’s former steward, Francis Newdigate. Little is known about their life together.

When Anne’s son Edward was released from the Tower of London he was released into her custody as well as his eldest son with Catherine Grey.

On the 16th of April 1587 Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset died, she was about 77 years old. Anne was a reformer and a literary patron. She died at Hanworth Place and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Recumbent Effigy of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Credit: “Plate 191: Recumbent Effigies. Francis, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Countess of Lennox, Anne, Duchess of Somerset,” in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 1, Westminster Abbey, (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1924), 191. British History Online, accessed April 11, 2018,


¹ Kathy Lynn Emerson,
² Foxe, John. “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”


Abernethy, Susan. “ – Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset
Emerson, Kathy Lynn. “”
Foxe, John. “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”
Fraser, Antonia. “The Wives of Henry VIII”
Scard, Margaret. “Edward Seymour”
Wikipedia. “Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

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Religious Persecution: Anne Askew

Anne Askew16 July 1546

On the 16th of July 1546, the Protestant martyr, Anne Askew was burned at the stake for her beliefs. Anne had been unfairly racked “till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder, in such sort as she was carried away in a chair”. She had been imprisoned in the Tower by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich in an attempt to force her to implicate Katherine Parr (the Queen) and other prominent court members including: Anne Seymour and her husband Edward Seymour. She never gave up their names.

Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams & Nicholas Belenian
Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams & Nicholas Belenian

Anne Askew was strong in her beliefs – she truly believed that everyone should be able to read the bible for themselves and not only rely on the clergy to interpret it for them. Something we take for granted in the 21st century.

John Foxe,English historian and martyrologist, recorded the event in his book Actes and Monuments which was an book that emphasized the sufferings of English Protestants. Here is what he had to say:

John Foxe

Hitherto we have entreated of this good woman: now it remaineth that we touch somewhat as touching her end and martyrdom. She being born of such stock and kindred that she might have lived in great wealth and prosperity, if she would rather have followed the world than Christ, but now she was so tormented, that she could neither live long in so great distress, neither yet by the adversaries be suffered to die in secret. Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feet, by means of her great torment. When she was brought unto the stake she was tied by the middle with a chain that held up her body. When all things were thus prepared to the fire, Dr. Shaxton, who was then appointed to preach, began his sermon. Anne Askew, hearing and answering again unto him, where he said well, confirmed the same; where he said amiss, “There,” said she, “he misseth, and speaketh without the book.”

The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of people was exceeding; the place where they stood being railed about to keep out the press. Upon the bench under St. Bartholomew’s Church sat Wriothesley, chancellor of England; the old Duke of Norfolk, the old earl of Bedford, the lord mayor, with divers others. Before the fire should be set unto them, one of the bench, hearing that they had gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder, would come flying about their ears, began to be afraid; but the earl of Bedford, declaring unto him how the gunpowder was not laid under the faggots, but only about their bodies, to rid them out of their pain; which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.

Then Wriothesley, lord chancellor, sent to Anne Askew letters offering to her the King’s pardon if she would recant; who refusing once to look upon them, made this answer again, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. Then were the letters like-wise offered unto the others, who, in like manner, following the constancy of the the woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon them. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put unto them, cried with a loud voice, “Fiat justicia.” (Let justice be done)

And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyr being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of christian constancy for all men to follow.

Possible portrait of Anne Askew
Possible portrait of Anne Askew


Ridgway, Claire; This Day in Tudor History: July 16
The Anne Boleyn Files: Anne Askew Sentenced to Death (June 18, 2010)
Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project – Anne Askew
Wikipedia: John Foxe

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Anne Seymour: Wicked Woman



Born in 1510 was the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and his wife Elizabeth Bourchier. Through her mother, Anne was a descendant of Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. 

Anne Stanhope met Edward Seymour (not yet the queen’s brother) around 1529, after the downfall of his first marriage to Katherine Fillol. Anne and Edward married in 1535.

Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

Edward Seymour was a social climber - surely his new wife had the rank and knew how to convince people of what they both wanted, and deserved.

She was loyal to his cause and dutifully provided him with ten children, a clear sign of their loving and intimate relationship:

1. Edward (b. 1537 and died young)
2. Anne (b. 1538)
3. Edward (b. 1539)
4. Henry (b. 1540)
5. Margaret (b. 1540)
6. Jane (b. 1541)
7. Mary
8. Katherine (b. 1544)
9. Edward (b. 1548)
10. Elizabeth (b. 1550)

It appears that Anne (Stanhope) Seymour may have served many, if not all, of Henry VIII’s queens. She would have been young to serve Katherine of Aragon, but many served at about eleven years old – so not unheard of. Information on the ladies who served Anne Boleyn was mostly destroyed, so we do not know for certain. We do know that she served her sister-in-law, Jane Seymour, and after Jane’s death she was recorded as being at the reception of Anne of Cleves. She also served as a lady-in-waiting to both Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr. Anne knew her way around court and understood how court politics worked.

Anne’s Arrogance

After the death of King Henry VIII, Anne’s husband, Edward Seymour became Lord Protector to the young King Edward VI – this is when things really went south between Anne and her former mistress, the Dowager Queen Katherine Parr.

Katherine Parr

It seems to have started when Katherine Parr married Anne’s brother-in-law, Thomas Seymour. It appears that Anne grew jealous of the match since Katherine was a Dowager Queen and Thomas would increase his political pull with the marriage as uncle to the King. The jealousy stems from the fact that Anne believed, as the wife of the Lord Protector, to be the most powerful woman in England – however, a Dowager Queen would indeed take precedence over her – this would not please Anne. She urged her husband Edward Seymour (Lord Protector) to punish the couple for their boldness. Anne was an intolerable woman, with huge pride, and one who had much influence over her weaker husband with her words. She would not be outranked by a woman like Katherine Parr, and would do everything in her power to outshine and outrank the former queen.

Antonio de Guaras, a Spanish merchant living in London, would later say of her, that she was “more presumptuous than Lucifer“.

Once King Edward VI acknowledged the marriage between Thomas and Katherine, Katherine felt that she could once again enjoy the privileges of queenship as she did prior to remarrying. This included her former jewels. The ones she wore as queen. Since Edward VI had not yet married, those jewels should rightfully still be in her possession. However, Anne Seymour would not have it. Anne believed that those jewels belonged to her, as the wife of the most powerful man in England (behind the King).

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour complained to the council that Anne Seymour was causing trouble regarding the jewels being returned to his wife. By Thomas calling Anne out by name he only fueled the fire between the two women. When it comes down to it Anne was still jealous that Katherine took precedence over her in the kingdom – to Anne it was all about social standing and power. She wanted to be the most powerful woman in the country and would do whatever it took to stay there.

Sometime later, while Thomas Seymour was away, Katherine Parr received a letter from Edward Seymour informing her that she would not be receiving the jewels. Katherine knew that Anne had forced Edward’s hand and this enraged her even more. She wrote her husband:

My lord your brother hath this afternoon made me a little warm! It was fortunate we were so much distant, for I suppose else I should have bitten him! What cause have they to fear, having such a wife? It is requisite for them to pray continually for a short despatch of that hell. Tomorrow, or else upon Saturday, I will see the King, when I intend to utter all my choler to my lord your brother, if you shall not give me advice to the contrary.

It appears that Thomas advised Katherine against approaching the King with the matter – or she thought better of it. After the letter from Edward Seymour Katherine refused to return to court.

In 1548, Anne and Edward Seymour had another son – this one was also named Edward, after the King. When Katherine Parr gave birth not long after to a daughter (Mary), Anne was delighted that Katherine did not have a son – where Anne succeeded, Katherine had failed. Always a competition.

When Katherine Parr died from child bed fever, Anne told Thomas Seymour that any grudge that was shown in the past was only between herself and Katherine – and with Katherine’s death all would be as it was before he married the Dowager Queen.

Ill Will Toward The Child

In 1549, Thomas Seymour was executed for high treason. This left his daughter Mary an orphan at only seven months old. The child was taken in by Katherine Parr’s friend, the Duchess of Suffolk, along with twelve other orphans at her house at Grimsthorpe. Mary’s uncle, Lord Northhampton hinted that he would be open to caring for the child if Anne Seymour paid him the allowance that both she and her husband had promised. The stingy Anne would not give the money and in return all the burden fell on the Duchess of Suffolk.

The Duchess of Suffolk wrote to William Cecil after receiving a letter from Anne Seymour regarding loopholes she had to go through prior to receiving the money:

The Queen’s child hath lain, and doth lie, at my house, with her company about her, wholly at my charge. I have written to my Lady Somerset at large; there may be some pension allotted to her, according to my lord’s Grace’s promise. Now, good Cecil, help at a pinch all that you may help.

Edward Seymour, Lord Protector
Edward Seymour, Lord Protector

In the Fall of 1549 Edward Seymour fell from grace. If Anne had intended to provide the money for the young Mary she would now no longer be able to do so – she and her husband were now disgraced and not in the position to help. In 1552 Edward was accused of High Treason and a few months later Parliament passed an Act that restored to Mary all her father’s land and property – this ended the Duchess of Suffolk’s financial needs. This is the last documentation of Mary Seymour – it is assumed that she died in childhood.

It’s fair to say that this article is very one-sided – Anne has been painted as a wicked woman by many writers and historians. There are some who claim Anne as a victim of her husband – that she was made out to be the ‘evil’ one because of her husband’s decisions. While that is possible, I believe that it’s more possible that she actually was the woman we have all learned about – because not all people are nice, and it’s possible that Anne was a wicked woman.

RE: The birth of Anne Stanhope: Retha M. Warnicke, ‘Anne Seymour [nee Stanhope], duchess of Somerset (c.1510-1587), noblewoman and literary patron’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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