In 1547, young Prince Edward is having the time of his life studying and hoping to one day take part in a tournament. He has not a care in the world. That is until his beloved father King Henry VIII passes away, and the 9-year-old boy is now Edward VI, King of England. He must navigate family drama between his older half-sister Mary Tudor and his uncles, Edward and Thomas Seymour while maintaining order throughout the kingdom. To top it all off, he is trying to reform the entire country and convert Catholics into the Protestant faith. His short life and reign are portrayed in Janet Wertman’s third book in The Seymour Saga, “The Boy King”.
The Tudor Dynasty of England, spanning from the late fifteenth century into the early seventeenth century, was a fascinating drama, filled with intrigue, lust and murder. The dynasty’s monarchs were its main characters whose relationships impacted the country socially, economically and politically. Such relationships included Queen Mary I and King Edward VI. Mary Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, ruled over England from July 1553 to her death in November 1558. Her reign as Queen was marked by her steadfast effort to convert England back to Catholicism from Protestantism, which had been established under her father twenty years earlier and then further intensified during the reign of her younger brother, King Edward VI.
The most recognizable Seymours at the court of Henry VIII were: Edward, Thomas, and Jane Seymour. Other than Elizabeth Seymour, who married Gregory, the son of Thomas Cromwell, there was another Seymour brother who occasionally spent time at court and is often overlooked, his name was Henry. Not to mention their youngest sister, Dorothy. But today we are going to look at Henry, in particular.
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.
I recently picked up The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude and started looking for information on Thomas Seymour. It was while searching that I came across some new information.
On page 77, in the section of the book about the Protectorate, I found this line:
the admiral had seduced and deserted at least one innocent woman, who fell into crime and was executed.
The source for this statement is merely listed as “Latimer’s Sermons before King Edward”. So, of course, I went looking for this story in Latimer’s sermons. Unfortunately for me Froude did not give a more specific location in Latimer’s sermons. Luckily for me, the book is available online and I could do a search within it to find the reference to this woman.
The book is titled Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555, and I found the reference on page 164 (Latimer’s fourth sermon preached before Edward VI).
“I heard of a wanton woman, naughty liver. A whore, a vain body, was led from Newgate to the place of execution for a certain robbery that she had committed, and she had a wicked communication by the way. Here I will take occasion to move your grace, that such men as shall be put to death may have learned men to give them instruction and exhortation. For the reverence of God, when they be put to execution, let them have instructor; for many of them are cast away for lack of instruction, and die miserably for lack of good preaching. This woman, I say, as she went by the way, had wanton and foolish talk, as this: “that if good fellows had kept touch with her, she had not been at this time in that case.” [And amongst all other talk she said that such an one (and named this man) had first misled her: and, hearing this of him at that time, I looked ever what would be his end, what would become of him. He was a man the farthest fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England. First, he was the author of all this woman’s whoredom; for if he had not led her wrong, she might have been married and become an honest woman, whereas now being naught with him, she fell afterward by that occasion to other: and they that were naught with her fell to robbery, and she followed; and thus was he the author of all of this.
After reading all that I was left wondering: Who was this woman? Did this really happen or was it fabricated by Latimer to further tarnish the reputation of Seymour to the King?
This got me thinking…how well did Latimer know Thomas, or the Seymour family at that. I found online, “Hugh Latimer; a biography” and in Chapter Four it states that Latimer was in Wiltshire from 1531 to 1535. During that time Thomas Seymour was employed by Francis Bryan at court.
If you are not familiar with the Seymours, their home at Wolf Hall was in Wiltshire. In the book “Ordeal by Ambition” by William Seymour, states that their home was in Burbage. Hugh Latimer was preaching at West Kington. I used Google maps to see what kind of distance were between the two locations and it appears to be about 36-38 miles, a bit far for the family to attend mass. In “Hugh Latimer; a biography”, the author states that while Thomas Seymour was in the Tower he requested that “Mr. Latimer might come to him”. The author believed that Seymour had heard countless praises of Latimer from his late wife, dowager queen Kateryn and that Latimer had converted Parr to the Protestant faith. Latimer visited Seymour in the Tower and may have attended him the day of his execution.
Latimer, indeed, without mentioning Seymour’s name, assumed that his audience “knew what he meant well enough.” But there were many who doubted his guilt; Latimer’s words were consequently much censured; and in his next sermon before the Court, on March 29, he deemed it necessary to defend himself by narrating all that he knew of Seymour’s death.
Latimer was also the person who reported the small notes that Seymour had written:
The man being in the Tower, wrote certain papers, which I saw myself. They were two little ones, one to my Lady Mary’s Grace, and another to my Lady Elizabeth’s Grace, tending to this end, that they should conspire against my Lord Protector’s Grace; surely, so seditiously as could be.
These notes were reported to Latimer by his servant and were found in Seymour’s shoe. The notes were sewn between the soles of a velvet shoe. He also goes on to mention how creative Seymour had been in creating ink to write. “He made his ink so craftily and with such workmanship, as the like hath not been seen.” “He made his pen of the aglet of a point, that he plucked from his hose, and thus wrote these letters…”
John Lingard of Lingard’s History of England was no fan of Latimer or Somerset. He said that Latimer was merely staying on the good side of Somerset with his sermons.
So, from all this we can determine that Thomas Seymour may have known, or at least known of Latimer through his late wife. We can, if we believe Lingard, determine that Latimer was a man who understood he had to appease the Lord Protector.
I have been been unable to corroborate Latimer’s sermon about the wanton women who was executed because of Thomas Seymour. But it is my belief that Hugh Latimer’s sermon was fabricated to further slander Thomas Seymour’s name – many of the King’s subjects had become sympathetic to his story after his execution, just as they had with Anne Boleyn.
Hugh Latimer; a biography. by Demaus, R. (Robert), 1829 -1874; Tract Society, London. Publication date  Lingard’s History of England by Dom Henry Norbert Birt, O.S.B.. London. George Bell & Sons . The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude. Published by J. M. Dent & Company . Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555. Publisher Cambridge : Printed at the University Press . Ordeal by Ambition: An English Family in the Shadow of the Tudors by William Seymour. Published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd .