The Other Seymours: John Seymour, Son of Katherine Fillol


I have no delusions that this article will not be confusing with all the Edwards and Johns, and it’s because of that I’ve included this list of players to help you differentiate between them:

Edward Seymour/Sir Edward – Later Duke of Somerset, married both Katherine Fillol and Anne Stanhope.

Sir John Seymour – Father of Edward Seymour, later Somerset.

John Seymour – First son born to Katherine Fillol and ?

Edward Seymour/Lord Edward – Son of Edward Seymour and Katherine Fillol

Katherine Fillol – First wife of Edward Seymour/Sir Edward

Anne Stanhope – Second wife of Edward Seymour/Sir Edward

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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. Pagetwas 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 Annes 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 1529 – 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 Edwards wife Katherine Fillol had an affair. The scandalous part is that it was a long affair withyep, Edwards 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 hissons, or brothers? How could he look at them without wondering?

There is no definitive proof that Edwards father, Sir John Seymour was indeed the man who Katherine Fillol had an affair with, but many historiansbelieve so, including Alison Weir. However, in Weirs book, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” she states that all of Henrys 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 handwrittennote is recorded in themarginofVincentsBaronagein 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 Familyby 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 Katherines father,Sir William Fillol adjusted his will:

Something happened during her marriage to Edward. In her fathers 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 parcellof his manors or estates.Instead, Catherine is leftan 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 Annes insistence, his boys by Katherine Fillol were excluded from Edward Seymours property and titles by Act of Parliament she meant business, wanting her children to benefit from their fathers 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 her. 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 Warwicks wife, Jane Guildford, arranged a marriage between Annes daughter, Anne Seymour, and Warwicks 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 Annes daughters were at court. Her oldest son, Edward, was restored in blood. Anne was granted a number of Northumberlands confiscated properties and Hanworth, Middlesex, where she chose to live.It was at Hanworth that a romance secretly blossomed between Annes 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,


Kathy Lynn Emerson,
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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Mary Howard: Too Wise for a Woman

In this article I will be discussing one of my favorite women at Tudor court – the fearless Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Mary had the bravery that wasn’t often shown by a woman during this time period. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.

It was her father who was quoted as saying that Mary was, “too wise for a woman” – one of the reasons I love her so much.

This post was originally a podcast that was transcribed into an article – if you’d rather listen to it you can do so here:

Family Ties – The Howards

Mary Howard was born around 1519 to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later to be Duke of Norfolk) and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford.

You might recognize the name Elizabeth Stafford – this Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the ill-fated Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.This means Mary had both Norfolk and Buckingham blood in her veins.

Mary was the only daughter of Thomas Howard and received an education that was appropriate to her standing. It’s been said that she was both beautiful and smart. A double threat – both traits are something that we’ll see come into play a little later.

A Marriage Arranged

In December of 1529, when Mary was ten years old, Henry VIII asked her father, now the Duke of Norfolk to allow his son (Mary’s older brother) Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey to become a companion of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy at Windsor Castle. At the same time a marriage was arranged between Mary and Fitzroy.

Mary Howard

While many have said the marriage was Norfolk’s niece Anne Boleyn’s idea, it had always been maintained by Norfolk that it was the idea of the King, however, the marriage between Fitzroy and Mary Howard had definitely been promoted by Anne to help strengthen her ties to the throne.

Like the later marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves there was no dowry expected with this marriage, which was unusual for the time. This may indicate the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the king.

Elizabeth Stafford, Mary’s mother, was totally against the marriage. Whether she blamed Anne Boleyn for the breakdown of her marriage with Norfolk or was disgusted with the amount of control she had in the negotiations, she was not happy and made it known. Because of this conflict she was banished from court.

Marriage to Fitzroy

When King Henry and Anne Boleyn went to Calais in October 1532, they brought with them Fitzroy, Mary Howard and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Fitzroy and Surrey both stayed in France after the English monarch’s departure – Fitzroy was a member of King Francis’ Privy Chamber and Surrey was also a member of his entourage.

While Fitzroy and Surrey were away in France, Anne Boleyn and King Henry were married – Anne was now Queen and Mary Howard was one of her ladies in waiting. The young men were called back to England in August of 1533 and merely three months later Henry Fitzroy and Mary Howard were married at Hampton Court Palace. She was was fourteen and he was fifteen years old.

Because of their youth the couple was not allowed to live together. Instead they went back to their respective homes. Henry VIII believed that his late brother Arthur’s death may have occurred because he had intercourse at too young an age. This was also believed to be what caused the death of Katherine of Aragon’s brother, Juan.

Henry Fitzroy

An interesting note: A few months before the marriage of the young couple, Pope Clement was proposing the marriage of the Earl of Surrey with Lady Mary, the king’s daughter. The Pope was hoping that the Howard clan would help promote the cause of Katherine of Aragon.

Mary Becomes a Widow

Unfortunately, Mary and Fitzroy would never be able to consummate their marriage – in July 1536, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and only male child of Henry VIII died.

Since the marriage had never been consummated, King Henry denied his 17 year old widowed daughter in law the vast estates she should have inherited as the widow of the Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Mary, still young, could not remarry until her jointure was settled. King Henry decided to keep it all for himself instead.

Because of the King’s greed, Mary was forced to live off the hand-outs of her father, the Duke of Norfolk and to sell her jewels in order to have money to live.

Expecting her powerful father to help her with his connection to the King, Mary was disappointed by his efforts and had threatened to confront the king in person, herself.

Feeling desperate, Mary wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell asking him to intercede. Cromwell brought Archbishop Cranmer into the fold and Cranmer confirmed that the marriage had been valid even though it had not been consummated. This was exactly what Mary needed, progress was being made in her case.

This matter of Mary’s jointure was not resolved until 1540, after the dissolution of the monasteries – Mary finally received some property and income to live on.

An Accomplice to Love

Around the same time that Mary was fighting for what was rightfully hers, she was helping Margaret Douglas in her clandestine love affair with her uncle, Lord Thomas Howard. Mary was present, as possibly a look-out, when these two lovers were able to have some quiet time together. All that came to an end when the king discovered the couple had a pre-contract to marry. Both Thomas and Margaret were sent to the Tower and Mary was saved because the couple insisted that she never knew of the pre-contract.

The Seymours and Howards

In the meantime, Mary was being linked with Thomas Seymour for a possible marriage alliance. If she accepted this proposal she would not get what she had been working so hard for. Mary was not interested in marrying Seymour – it was merely her father’s way of creating ties with the new queen’s family. Her brother the Earl of Surrey was even more upset about the match – he saw the Seymours as ‘upstarts’ and didn’t want them associated with his noble line.

Interestingly enough, the Earl of Surrey had the hots for Anne Stanhope, wife of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Stanhope had rebuffed Surrey. When Hertford found out he was furious and it caused a lot of friction between the men.

It’s been said that in 1537, Surrey was imprisoned at Windsor Castle because he punched Edward Seymour in the face – the reason? Because Seymour suggested that Surrey favored the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Surrey wasn’t imprisoned long.

Mary and the Queens

When Anne of Cleves became queen it was thought that Mary would have a place in her household, however, Anne had brought ladies of her own and did not have room for her.

Mary’s cousin, Katherine Howard, when she became queen, made Mary a Lady of the Privy Chamber…under the supervision of get this, Margaret Douglas.

After the execution of Queen Katherine, the Howard clan was once again lacking favor with the King. Both Mary Howard and Margaret Douglas sent away from court for seventeen months.

Seymour Again

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children. On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

The Fall of the Howard Men

Once again, Mary was not interested in marrying Thomas Seymour. She discussed this problem with her brother (Surrey) who suggested she discuss it with the King and use her charm to become a mistress to the king – this would help in advancing not only her interests but that of the Howards as well.

Mary was insulted and disgusted by her brother’s plan and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with it. Mary and Henry Howard’s relationship would never be the same again and this would mark the beginning of Surrey’s downfall.

When her father and brother were arrested in December 1546, Mary did nothing to save them. She even gave testimony against her brother.

Mary told the council that her brother had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth and he said “if God called away the King they should smart for it.” She went on to tell them that he replaced the coronet with a crown on his coat of arms.

When Surrey’s home was searched they found more evidence against him – a plate with the arms of Edward the Confessor, even though the only person in the kingdom who could claim that was the king.

She also told them about the conversation her brother had with her about becoming the king’s mistress.

Both her father and brother were charged with treason and sentenced to death. Only her brother would make it to the block because eleven days later King Henry VIII was dead. Norfolk’s sentence was halted and he remained in prison until the reign of Queen Mary.

In the End

Mary raised her brother’s children after his execution and apparently was granted money by Edward VI for doing so – he said that he knew of no finer place for the children to be educated.

The date of death varies for Mary Howard – what I do know is that she most likely died in December. It’s the year that varies – some reports say 1555, others 1556 or 57.

In her three decades of life, Mary Howard witnessed a lot of drama at Tudor court. Especially during the reign of her father-in-law.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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Tudor Power Couple: Edward and Anne Seymour

The consummate ‘power couple from hell’, Edward Seymour and his wife Anne Stanhope were portrayed in Showtime’s The Tudors as selfish, greedy and uncompromising. In real life you could say the same…or is there more to the story?

Edward Seymour

Born in 1500, Edward Seymour was the second son of John Seymour and Margery Wentworth and grew up at Wolf Hall. The eldest son of the couple, John most likely died in infancy – so Edward was now the oldest. He had nine siblings in all – most notably Thomas and Jane. It is believed that Edward was brought up at Wolf Hall under the supervision of his mother.

John Seymour must have had a great relationship with King Henry VIII because on the 12th of October 1514, a fourteen year old Edward Seymour was made a page “to do service to the queen”. Katherine of Aragon, you ask? No, actually Mary Tudor, Queen of France – favorite sister of King Henry. This must have been a very exciting adventure for such a young man, but unfortunately it would not last long. In a matter of weeks Edward, along with many other of the new French queen’s attendants were sent back to England.

In the Spring of 1514, Edward Seymour married Katherine Fillol, heiress to her father’s fortune. The marriage was most likely arranged by their fathers since the couple were so young – Edward being only 14 years old. The couple lived in the household of Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall until Edward turned twenty-one because his father had agreed to provide for the young couple until they came of age. It was important for John Seymour to take care of the young couple because his new daughter-in-law stood inherit some great lands upon her father’s death.

Edward and Katherine had two sons, the eldest was John, named for his grandfather and the second was Edward, presumably named for his father.

Edward’s social standing continued to climb when, in December 1516 he was listed as a gentleman attendant in the king’s privy chamber. Then on the 15th of July 1517 he was secured the position of constable of Bristol Castle. He was only seventeen years old at the time so the position was in title only and his duties would have been performed by his father’s deputies – must be nice.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

The couple were married for over a decade before all hell broke lose.

In a book called, The Seymour Family by Amy Aubrey Locke the story is told. There are two different stories to explain – the first is a story that was given by Peter Heylen who was the author of History of the Reformation which was published in 1674 and it states:

When Edward Seymour was in France, possibly when he had accompanied the Duke of Suffolk in 1532, he had acquainted himself with a learned man who had great skill in magic. From this man he could be told how all his relations were back home. The way Heylen explains it it almost seems as if Edward was ‘shown’ what was happening – like possibly in a crystal ball. I don’t know. Seymour saw a male acquaintance in a “familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to the honour of either party”. Whatever he saw he believed it – so much so that when he arrived back in England he estranged himself from his wife and their two sons, and instead of divorcing her sent her to a convent.

The second story is by Horace Walpole, which is found in Vincent’s Baronage in the College of Arms, that states in latin, but I’ve translated it to: ‘Because of his father, divorced after a marriage being acknowledged.’

So if we were to combine the two statements we’d find that Edward Seymour separated from Katherine Fillol because of his father’s familiar relationship with her that was not agreeable to their honor.

To back up the fact that Katherine Fillol disgraced her family, her father was so upset with her that she would no longer inherit all that she was supposed to as his sole heiress. Instead, in her father’s will dated 1527, she is excluded from inheriting, “for many diverse reasons and considerations from any part or parcel of his manors and estates” – instead she was left with 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. So apparently her father was so disgusted by his daughter’s actions that he took away her inheritance.

Interestingly enough author David Loades in The Seymour Family of Wolf Hall believes that the separation did not affect their children’s legitimacy – even though it had been suspected that John and Edward were actually John Seymour’s children and brother’s to Edward Seymour, not his children. He does mention in the book that the boys were not able to claim Edward Seymour’s titles and that they played no part in his career. Supposedly both boys went away with their mother and stayed with her until her death in 1535 – then they were returned to the custody of Edward Seymour. Interesting, right?

Depending on who you read the following information varies regarding the marriage of Edward Seymour to his second wife, Anne Stanhope.

David Loades says they married on the 9th of March 1535, while Antonia Fraser says it was sometime in 1534 before Katherine Fillol’s death and Margaret Scard says by the 9th of March 1535. So we don’t know for certain if it was before or after the death of her first wife. We can assume from the three authors that they were definitely married by the 9th of March 1535.

Regardless of when they were married the new bride immediately put her foot down and said she wanted nothing to do with his sons, so they were both sent away from court to be educated.

Anne Stanhope

Anne Stanhope was the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier and was born in 1510. Unfortunately, when she was about one year old her father died. There is little evidence that remains about Anne’s childhood – it is, however, believed that she was a maid-of-honour to Katherine of Aragon.

Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

Her mother did eventually marry again, this time 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.

Man on the Rise
Edward Seymour’s position, thanks to his father’s connection to the king, continued to rise at Tudor court. When his sister caught the king’s eye in 1536 it only helped Edward’s advancement.

Before the execution of Anne Boleyn on the 19th of May 1536, Edward Seymour became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; and when his sister Jane became queen he was ennobled as Viscount Beauchamp.

Queen Jane is always referred to as sweet, or as a peace-maker, she apparently got along well with her sister in law Anne and never showed any interest in her nephews that were sent away. It always amazes me that a family with so much scandal surrounding it could end up with a daughter as queen.

When Prince Edward was born on the 12th of October 1537, Seymour was raised to the earldom of Hertford – and his younger brother, Thomas Seymour succeeded Edward’s position in the privy chamber.

Only twelve days later Queen Jane was dead and Prince Edward was only an infant. With infant mortality so high the Seymour family would have been on edge – they understood well how fast one family could fall from favor.

Lucky for them Edward was healthy child and things seemed more stable for Edward Seymour as the eldest uncle of the Prince.

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.

Death of King Henry VIII

Both Edward and Anne Seymour continued to play important roles at Tudor court throughout the reign of Henry VIII but when the king died on the 28th of January 1547 everything changed and they became the most powerful couple in England.

Henry VIII had actually revised his will in December 1546 a month before his death. The reason behind the revisions were to:

Revise the composition of the Council (these men are the same people who would be executors to his will)
To distribute the Howard property since the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey were both convicted of treason and sentenced to death.
To name whether after Prince Edward’s ascension he should be aided by a council or a protector. (It’s been noted that King Henry was more interested in a council)
Upon Henry VIII’s death the details regarding the distribution of the Howard land and the issue of a protectorate had not yet been finalized.

Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget (the king’s secretary & Seymour’s ally) and possibly the executors of the late king’s will as well, are believed to have changed it. They did so so that they could be in charge of distributing the Howard land and honors to whomever they pleased. Henry’s will was signed with a stamp, so changes appeared easy to make.

Three days after the king’s death Edward Seymour was named Lord Protector AND Governor of the King.

Author Margaret Scard said it best: Henry VIII never intended a protectorate “his failure to recognize the inherent weakness in the terms of his will left the government of the country at the mercy of ambitious men.”

The transfer from one king to the next was always a hairy situation, especially when the new king was a mere child – see Henry VI as another example with the Wars of the Roses – that history lesson should have been enough warning for the eldest Seymour brother.

Edward Seymour had made promises to William Paget to get him on his side – we know this because of a letter that Paget wrote him two years later. He starts by reminding him that they had discussed something in the gallery of Westminster before the King died and how they had talked about their plan to make Seymour Lord Protector. Evidently, Seymour had told Paget that he would listen to his advice above any other man. Of course, that wasn’t the case – Seymour got what he wanted from Paget. What was he going to do now? Seymour was already Lord Protector and could do as he wished.

In his will Henry VIII had listed sixteen men to be both executors of his will and members of the Regency Council. That is how he wanted things to be. He didn’t want a protectorate. He also named twelve assistant executors, one of which was Edward’s younger and equally ambitious brother Thomas Seymour.

Thomas Seymour believed that he would be named Governor of the King, like with the minority of Henry VI his uncles shared the powerful positions. It wasn’t only Thomas Seymour that was annoyed; Kateryn Parr had believe that she would be named Regent – even going so far as changing her signature to indicate her new position.

In mid-February 1547, Edward Seymour decided to be styled as the Duke of Somerset – truly amazing since that title is traditionally associated with the Beaufort line of ancestors of Henry VIII.

Now as Lord Protector, Governor of the King and Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour’s authority had grown – he could now add and remove councillors at will and convene the Council at anytime. He could act without permission and was essentially ‘de facto King’. Exactly what Henry VIII did NOT want. He even went so far as to address King Francis I as ‘brother’ in a letter, something reserved to another monarch. Just as Henry VIII had called Francis I, his brother.

When the newly titled Duke of Somerset (how I will try to refer to him going forward) raised his brother Thomas to Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Thomas took it as a slap in the face – he believed Governor of the King was his position. Somerset tried to placate him by also making him Lord High Admiral. While this pleased him it didn’t cure his desire to have more.

Looking for more power and wealth Thomas Seymour did what he knew how to do best evidently – he schemed. First he asked Princess Elizabeth Tudor to marry him. Knowing full well that being married to Elizabeth would bring him as close to the throne as he could achieve. She turned him down, in the sweetest manner possible – saying she needed to mourn her father and could not consider a marriage for at least two years.

Secret Wedding

Thomas, slightly discouraged, went to the next best choice, his former love and dowager queen Kateryn Parr. Parr still loved Seymour and was acting like a young girl in love. She had married the aging, obese king instead of Seymour in 1543 because she felt that it was God’s will to do so. So when she had the opportunity to be with Seymour again she jumped at the chance.

The couple secretly married in the Spring of 1547 – way too soon for the widow of the late king. Thomas and Kateryn looked for a way to get away with their secret marriage without getting in trouble because they hadn’t asked Somerset or the Council’s permission to marry.

When Somerset discovered the two had married he was livid that his own brother had went behind his back to get permission from the young king. He even went to young King Edward and yelled at him about giving them permission. King Edward had noted in his diary about that exchange and said, ‘the Lord Protector was much offended’ and that was all. Now, who’s the king exactly?

Edward’s wife Anne Seymour was equally displeased with the union. Not only did Thomas and Kateryn marry too soon after Henry VIII’s death but Kateryn Parr was marrying well beneath her station since Thomas was merely a baron. Both Edward and Anne felt Thomas had disgraced their family name by going behind their back.

Kateryn Parr still played the role as queen, with a household the same size as when she was married to Henry. Thomas Seymour, being the husband of Kateryn, would have finally felt he had some of the power and status he deserved.

Anne, Duchess of Somerset was annoyed with the fact that Kateryn Parr would take precedence over her as the wife of the Lord Protector – the story that has been told is that she would push, or nudge the dowager queen out of the way to as to walk in front of her – showing she took precedence…now, I’ve been just as guilty of telling this story as others, but apparently we may all have been mistaken and I want to clear it up.

Author Margaret Scard states that it is unlikely that the Duchess of Somerset was resentful toward Kateryn Parr. Anne would have understood that she would have to take her place behind Kateryn, just as she would behind Anne of Cleves as the ‘king’s sister’.

The real issue appears to be between the Duchess of Somerset and Thomas Seymour – she took issue with the precedence he felt he deserved since he was married to the dowager queen. He believed that his marriage to Kateryn would and should raise him above other noblemen. Maybe that means he felt he could walk alongside his wife in a procession – this would be what the duchess was opposed to. In addition to that, both the duke and duchess of Somerset were angry with Thomas for embarrassing them by going behind their back and marrying Kateryn. That information is found in the book by Margaret Scard about Edward Seymour and references the original rumor to the 1550s by Catholic writers. That makes a bit more sense right? They wanted to make the heavily protestant Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset look bad.

If we look at Chris Skidmore’s book about Edward VI he continues with the story that the Duchess of Somerset, who was described as, “A woman for many imperfections intolerable, and for pride monstrous, subtle and violent”, as does Antonia Fraser when she states in the Wives of Henry VIII that the Duchess of Somerset “openly jostled with Queen Catherine for precedence on the grounds that as the wife of the Protector she was the first lady in England”. However, there is no justification for her actions – Kateryn Parr had been granted precedence by statute and the Duchess would also have to walk behind Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves.

Interestingly enough, in Elizabeth Norton’s book about Kateryn Parr she states that Anne Seymour had always resented having to pay court to the former Lady Latimer – coming from an aristocratic courtly family herself she felt she need not carry the train of her husband’s younger brother.

Edward Seymour, Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset refused to get in the middle of this quarrel and told his brother Thomas, “Brother, are you not my younger brother, and am I not Protector, and do you not know that your wife, before she married the king, was of lower rank than my wife? I desire therefore, since the queen is your wife that mine should go before her. Thomas, now more angry replied with, “I am sorry there should be any anger between them, but I can tell you that the queen is determined not to allow it, so do not blame me for it.”

After the brother’s conversation Thomas went back and informed his wife of what words had been exchanged and Kateryn was humiliated – she left is recorded as saying, “I deserve this for degrading myself from a queen to marry an Admiral.”

Not only was Kateryn being pushed aside by the Duke and Duchess of Somerset for marrying Thomas but now they refused to allow her access to her jewels in the Tower of London. Somerset stated that they were the property of the Crown now. This infuriated Kateryn because some of the jewels were actually her possessions – gifts that she had been given by the late king and her mother. She was not asking for the queen’s jewels. Both Thomas and Kateryn tried everything to get her jewels back – they hired legal council and even discussed with the young king…to no avail. Kateryn would never see her jewels again.

Death of Kateryn Parr

Kateryn Parr’s death came as a surprise to everyone, especially her husband Thomas. You could say her death catapulted him into a death spin that would ultimately lead to his execution.

After his wife’s death, Thomas had asked the Duchess of Suffolk to raise their daughter, Mary.

It wasn’t long after the death of the dowager queen that Thomas Seymour’s reckless behaviour caught up with him. It is believed that his brother, the Duke of Somerset is the one who gave the order to investigate and gather information against Thomas. Eventually, evidence would be found, or possibly fabricated, and Somerset would sign the order for his brother’s execution.

For his actions against his brother he was heavily criticized – what he actually had done was weakened his own standing. In 1550 he was removed from the office of Protector but was readmitted to the council the following year. All the plotting and scheming that Somerset had done himself was now happening to him by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick – when on the 16th of October 1551 Somerset was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. He was executed, just like his brother had been, on the 22nd of January 1552.

A man by the name of John Hayward is noted as saying that the downfall of the Seymour brothers was the direct result of the rivalry of their wives.

The Duke and Duchess of Somerset were indeed the power couple of Tudor court during the reign of Edward VI – unfortunately, between the two of them they were also responsible for the disgrace of the Seymour name.

Interested in the Podcast about this topic? Click this image:

Further Reading:

Fraser, Antonia; Wives of Henry VIII

Lipscomb, Suzannah; The King is Dead

Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall

Norton, Elizabeth; Catherine Parr

Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour – Lord Protector

Skidmore, Chris; Edward VI – The Lost King of England

Starkey, David; Rivals in Power – Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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Anne Seymour: Wicked Woman



Born in 1510 was the only child ofSir Edward Stanhope andhis wife Elizabeth Bourchier. Through her mother, Anne was a descendant ofThomas 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 theladies 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 whenKatherine 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 urgedher 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 sheactuallywas 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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