Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Three)

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Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England (Part Three)

The last article in this series on Elizabeth was two weeks ago because of Christmas, and since then my research and writing has been at a minimum. As I discussed on Facebook I’ve been having a difficult time with this part of her life. The purpose of this series on Elizabeth was not only to share with all of you but to open my own eyes on the woman, the Queen, that I’ve had little interest in. My interest has always been with her father, Henry VIII. I’ve never been a big fan of Queen Elizabeth, only Princess and Lady Elizabeth Tudor. This series on her is a selfish one – one that will show me something about the adult Elizabeth that I was unaware of.

At the end of our last podcast we ended with Elizabeth under house arrest at Woodstock. At Woodstock Elizabeth was allowed to keep six of her own servants. Three men and three women. The women were with her constantly while the men could come and go. This made it easy for messages to be delivered.

Bedingfield was housing a woman who could easily outsmart his rules and there wasn’t much he could do about. While he was doing a job for the crown, Bedingfield understood that one day Elizabeth would be Queen and he would have HER to answer to.

As a prisoner at Woodstock it was Elizabeth’s responsibility to pay for her jailer, Bedingfield, and his staff. She had to pay for their food and drink – so they were dependant on Elizabeth for sustenance.

While Woodstock was better than the Tower, Elizabeth hated her time there – If she had wished to escape her jail, there were a couple of options at her disposal: A coup d’etat was an option but that wouldn’t be as easy as one would think. It was imperative to Elizabeth not to dethrone Mary or have her killed. Her biggest concern was the impact of repeated usurpation on the monarchy. First Lady Jane Grey and then Mary – an aggressive act on the part of Elizabeth could have caused doom for the Tudor dynasty.

The only other way out of her jail would have been to negotiate with her sister, the Queen. When Elizabeth told Bedingfield that she wished to send a letter to her sister he denied her request. As per the rules she was not supposed to communicate with anyone, including the Queen.

Bedingfield the smart man he was mentioned her request to write the Queen to the council. Their response, which obviously came from the Queen, was that she was pleased that Elizabeth should write.

The actual letter did not survive history but author David Starkey states that we know a broad outline from Mary’s response. Starkey states that Elizabeth professed her innocence. The Queen said that she was ‘most sorry’ for having been suspicious of her sister but copies of letters had been found in the French ambassador’s bag that appeared to implicate Elizabeth. Not only that’s but the fact that she had been used as a figurehead for Wyatt’s Rebellion did bode well for Elizabeth’s cause.

Queen Mary had been quoted as saying, “Conspiracies be secretly practised, and things of that nature be many times judged by probably conjectures and other suspicions and arguments, where the plain direct proof may chance to fail.”

It was the actions of Elizabeth’s that showed her sister her guilt. The Queen was tired of her sister’s ‘disguise and colourable letters’. She informed Elizabeth through a letter to Bedingfield that she must behave properly toward God which would eventually improve her behaviour toward the Queen herself.

When Elizabeth heard the contents of her sister‘s letter to Bedingfield her reaction was one of regret – she wished her letter would have had a better reaction from her sister. Just because she had a way with words did not ensure her safety and freedom. This had become obvious to her.

Eventually Elizabeth was given permission to approach the Council through the means of Bedingfield. Her plea to the Council was the she should be put on trial for the charges against her – and she wanted a face to face meeting with her sister. If both requests were denied than she requested the Council come to Woodstock to hear her case.

Elizabeth was an excellent lobbyist. The benefit for Elizabeth was that the Council was divided. There were those who understood that she could one day be queen herself, this meant the members of the council had to look out for themselves and their futures.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth would spend nearly a year at Woodstock. That is until she was summoned to court by her sister who was now married to Philip of Spain and believed to be with child. It was the 17 of April when Bedingfield received the letter. He was told by the Queen to bring Elizabeth at once.

Elizabeth arrived at court, which was being held at Hampton Court Palace sometime between the 24th and 29th of April. She did not have the grand entrance of a princess but was essentially snuck in the back door.

Mary had brought her sister to court to be there when she gave birth to her heir and to be present at the christening. Of course the heir would never come because she was not pregnant, only believed to be. But we’ll get back to that a bit later.

During Elizabeth’s time at court, Prince Philip saw an opportunity to keep Elizabeth under his thumb and essentially the Queen’s as well. He wished for Elizabeth to marry his friend the Catholic prince, the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused to be a pawn and the marriage never happened. Instead the Duke of Savoy married the daughter of King Francis I of France.

The first week of May brought more fear into Elizabeth’s life when she was summoned to the pregnant Queen’s rooms at ten at night. Elizabeth feared an assassination attempt. At this point she was aware that death could be around every corner awaiting her. This late night meeting with her sister was the first time in a year that Mary and Elizabeth had seen one another.

Little did Elizabeth know at the time but her new brother-in-law, Prince Philip was listening in on the conversation from behind a tapestry on the wall, he was very interested in how this all played out. You see, Philip’s interest was with Elizabeth- the much younger and prettier sister who could still provide an heir for England and Spain. His wife, Mary, the Queen of England had not yet given birth and many believed she had not been pregnant at all. But they dare not say it to the Queen.

Philip’s attitude toward the Protestant princess had recently changed. His eyes had turned from one sister to the other. Elizabeth…compared to her aging and less attractive sister was very appealing to Philip – he was a man nonetheless.

Philip had wed Mary to bring England on his side with Spain’s ongoing struggles with France and it had become obvious to Philip that his wife was not with child after all and that her womb only carried disease.

These were the things that made Elizabeth attractive to Philip. His fear was that if Mary died that the Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots would inherit the Catholic throne of England. The Scottish Queen had extreme ties to the French throne through her engagement to the dauphin.

Elizabeth was fully aware of how the tide was changing in her favor and she took full advantage of the situation. While Elizabeth saw the events of the time turning in her favor, she also felt pity on her sister. The woman who once cared for her so much.

As the Queen’s pregnancy continued even her doctors believed she was still with child, they believed they had merely miscalculated her due date. This reminds me of her mother, Katherine of Aragon’s miscarriage when doctors believed she had been carrying twins and had miscarried one.

Even while her doctors continued to assume the pregnancy was valid, the women closest to the Queen knew that she was not with child at all. They had known her since childhood and had seen how Mary suffered during her monthly courses.

The Queen’s midwife and servant had witnessed her recently and were quoted as saying, “that the Queen’s state was by no means of the hopeful kind generally supposed, but rather some woeful malady, for several times a day she spent long hours sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chin.” As we understand today that is not normal behavior for a pregnant lady. I could not imagine when I was at the end of my pregnancy bringing my knees to my chin. My belly was too firm and too big to do so.

We know that Mary’s womanly courses had never been normal and that she had suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids and a strangulation of her womb. In my opinion, I believe Mary suffered from Endometriosis.

During her supposed pregnancy her body had swelled and her breasts had become swollen and produced milk – no wonder the doctors of the time believed her pregnant.

Four months after she had taken to her chamber Mary realized all was lost. At the beginning of August she snuck out of Hampton Court and slipped away to Oatlands Palace – the place her father had married Katheryn Howard…surely she was embarrassed that she had not been with child after all. She had let down England, Philip and herself.

Throughout all those months at Hampton Court while the Queen was lying-in, Elizabeth was by her sister’s side. She had witnessed the heartache of her pain and the sadness of her mental state. Not only had this broken the Queen’s spirit but it had also done great damage to the Queen’s reputation in public.

On the 18th of October 1555, Elizabeth was finally given permission to leave court and head back to Hatfield. As she traveled through London on her way out the crowds cheered loudly for her. Elizabeth understood the danger of the crowd’s reaction to her and instructed her men to quiet them for fear of the Queen finding out.

Once at Hatfield her life was indeed better than it had been while at Woodstock. Bedingfield was no longer her jailer and only a month later Kat Ashley was allowed to rejoin Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Philip was summoned by his father, Charles V to attend to business in the Netherlands. When Queen Mary found out about the summons she wrote Charles asking Philip to stay – she needed him. Her appeals fell on deaf ears. When no child appeared Philip prepared to leave England. He had requested that his beautiful sister-in-law be present to bid him farewell – something that upset the Queen dearly.

In July 1556, Elizabeth had been informed that her former stepmother and great ally, Anne of Cleves had died. Anne’s will declared that the sisters should receive her best jewels. She was the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die. Her death would have affected Elizabeth deeply.

Around this time Philip had reluctantly returned to England – Mary was beside herself with happiness. The following summer he left once more and Mary once again believed herself with child.

In February 1558, Elizabeth visited her sister at Richmond Palace to give her sister well wishes on a safe delivery and probably to see for herself if Mary was indeed with child. Elizabeth presented the queen with baby clothes that she had made herself. A week later Elizabeth left Richmond to return to Hatfield.

Near the end of her life, Queen Mary once again reached out to her sister. Elizabeth returned to court per her sisters request. At court it had become obvious to everyone that the Queen was dying. She needed to name an heir and Elizabeth was the obvious answer, however, she was Protestant and this was difficult for Mary to acknowledge. Her husband even sent his confessor to Mary to persuade her to name Elizabeth as her heir. After much resistance she eventually gave in and told Philip that she was much pleased with his suggestion. While she agreed with Philip she did not formally acknowledge her choice.

On the 28th of October 1558, Mary updated her will and finally acknowledge that she would have no child and that crown should transfer to the next heir by law. She had not directly named Elizabeth but all knew who she meant. It wasn’t until a week later that Mary finally relented and named Elizabeth her heir. Mary’s favorite lady, Jane Dormer was sent to deliver the Queens final wishes to Elizabeth. That she was to uphold the Roman Catholic faith, to be good to her servants and to pay her debts.

Elizabeth, being as evasive as ever was careful not to promise to fulfill all her wishes – in particular religion.

On the 17th of November 1558, at four or five in the morning, Queen Mary I died. Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

So that’s where we’ll end this show…Queen Mary was dead and Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

Read Part Four: Click Here / Listen to Part Three: Click Here


Borman, Tracy; Elizabeth’s Women (2009)
Johnson, Paul; Elizabeth I – A Study in Power & Intellect (1974)
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne (2001)

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Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part One)

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Elizabeth Tudor has always been on the back-burner for me. While I love the fact that she was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn I’ve never been as interested in her reign as I have been in her father’s.

My views on Queen Elizabeth of England often make me an outcast in my own community. My believe is that the adult Elizabeth, the Queen of England, was not a very nice person. She shared a lot of the same qualities as her father. Now, before you start sending me hate messages please let me explain why I believe she wasn’t a very nice person. Like her father, Elizabeth imprisoned those who had a connection to the throne for marrying without her permission – that is understandable. What I do not understand is how, a woman who chose not to marry, would hold it against those closest to her?  I plan to write an article about the topic so I can’t go too much into detail but there is a reason so many close to her married secretly – they knew that the Queen would never approve their marriage…to anyone. Let’s just take Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Lettice Knollys as an example. Leicester understood that as the favorite of the Queen that she expected to have him all to herself. Elizabeth had made it clear that SHE could not marry him and he knew that she would never approve a marriage, let alone to her cousin. Fortunately for Leicester, the Queen eventually forgave him but Lettice was not so lucky. Elizabeth never forgave her for falling in love with her Robin, her “Eyes” as she called him. Another one that comes to mind is Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh – Raleigh had also become a favorite of the Queen. They married in secret and both were punished.

So…with all that being said, I was curious: Why do you love Queen Elizabeth I? I posed this question on Facebook to help me understand and to be honest with you the answers were exactly as I had suspected. Here are a few:

Mary Harigan said: “…the labels, the loss of her mother, the rejection by her sister, etc … she remained strong, faithful, determined, courageous, bold, still believing in herself while committing herself to serve others.”

Kim Mary said: “She was intelligent and strong-willed and needed no man to rule in a time when women were considered nothing more than property..like her mother before her I greatly admire her courage and spirit.”

Jessica Forman said: “Because during all the turmoil and hatred she saw and grew up in, she persevered and overcome such adversity!”

Leslie Domler said: “She was queen in her own right. She was strong and unapologetic.”

These examples are only a few of the hundreds that came through when the question was initially posted on Facebook. The one thing in common with most of them is that Elizabeth was a woman, who needed no man to rule. Don’t hate me for saying this, but I feel like it’s merely a women’s lib thing. Was she really that great? That is the question that I will be exploring in my subsequent podcasts and articles. I hope in my journey to discover Elizabeth that, in the end, I feel the same as you do about her.

Another question I posed on Facebook was which actress do you think played Elizabeth the best. The choices that were given were:

Cate Blanchett, Anne Maria Duff, Anita Dobson, Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench, Flora Robson, Joely Richardson, Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren. After those the rest of them had a few votes here and there – there were also written in votes for Rachel Skarsten on Reign, Lily Cole and Quentin Crisp. You were all VERY passionate about your vote and I love it!

Elizabeth, Queen of England – Part One

Crowds gathered on the morning of the 17th of November 1558 around London to hear the news; Queen Mary was dead. Elizabeth was now Queen of England. But before we get to that, let’s start twenty-five years earlier.

Elizabeth Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wasn’t the prince the couple had expected, but she did have her father’s red hair and her mother’s features. King Henry was not angry with his wife, instead he comforted her by saying, “You and I are both young, and by God’s grace, boys will follow.” Henry announced their daughter would be named Elizabeth; It’s possible she was named after both of her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard, Lady Boleyn.

Alison Weir states in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” that Anne Boleyn quickly bonded with her child and hated to let Elizabeth from her sight. This differs from those who believed Anne had very little bond with her daughter. Anne had also wished to breastfeed her child but the thought was quickly dismissed when the King discovered and informed her that was the job of a wet-nurse and not a Queen.

At three months old Princess Elizabeth was assigned her own household at Hatfield House. Lady Margaret Bryan was assigned Governess to the princess.

On the 23rd of March 1534, Parliament passed the Act of Succession. This act ensured the children of Henry and Anne would inherit the throne upon his death. It’s also around this time that the Queen went for a visit to Elizabeth and while there extended an olive branch of sorts to Mary. As we know Mary declined.

Born as a princess, Elizabeth Tudor’s fortunes changed overnight when her mother Anne Boleyn, fell from favor.

The day after her mother’s execution, King Henry ordered Elizabeth be moved from Greenwich back to Hatfield. That way he would not have to see her. I can imagine that Elizabeth reminded him of Anne, the woman he supposedly believed betrayed him with one hundred men.

Soon after his marriage to Jane Seymour Henry changed the Act of Succession. This time only his children by Queen Jane would be eligible to succeed the throne of England. Now Elizabeth, like her older sister Mary, was declared illegitimate.

Young Elizabeth had been quoted as saying, “Why, Governor, how hath it, yesterday Lady Princess, and today but Lady Elizabeth?” She was very intelligent, even at three to understand her life had changed, but no one knows for certain when she was told of her mother’s death.

Elizabeth’s Childhood

Elizabeth would certainly have attachment issues from all those around her that left or died. The same would go for the departure of Lady Margaret Bryan as her Governess. With the birth of Prince Edward her duty was with the future heir, not with a bastard daughter of the king.

At eight years old, around the same time that Katheryn Howard, her stepmother, was executed, Elizabeth allegedly told her friend Robert Dudley that she would never marry. This statement supposedly came directly from Dudley himself, later on in life, whether it was propaganda or the truth we will never know.

A New Stepmother – Kateryn Parr

In 1543 King Henry VIII married Kateryn Parr.  The marriage wasn’t a love match for Kateryn but she found a way to be an amazing stepmother to all three of the King’s children – Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.

Kateryn Parr was the only stepmother to truly fill a motherly void in her life. It was Parr who would take an active role in Elizabeth’s education. She found the best tutors to educate Elizabeth – men like Roger Ascham and William Grindahl. Both men were reformist and shared the views of the Queen.

Young Elizabeth’s tutors often complimented her intelligence. They would also comment on her remarkable memory.

Elizabeth was also taught what was the standard for royal woman, needlework, music and dancing. She practiced daily and was of course successful in all areas. She was a marvelous lute and virginal player, as well as singer and music writer, but Elizabeth’s true love was dancing.

Elizabeth was an excellent horsewoman and enjoyed the hunt as well.

Death of Her Father & Thomas Seymour

When King Henry VIII died in January 1547, she was taken in by the dowager Queen, Kateryn Parr. It is while at Chelsea that Elizabeth came into contact with Thomas Seymour, her brother’s uncle and a man who had only recently proposed to her by letter after the death of her father.

Here is her response to his proposal, written on the 27 of February 1547 when she was thirteen years old.

My lord admiral,

The letter you have written to me is the most obliging, and at the same time the most eloquent in the world. And as I do not feel myself competent to reply to so many courteous expressions, I shall content myself with unfolding to you, in few words, my real sentiments. I confess to you that your letter, all elegant as it is, has very much surprised me; for, besides that neither my age nor my inclination allows me to think of marriage, I never could have believed that any one would have spoken to me of nuptials, at a time when I ought to think of nothing but sorrow for the death of my father. And to him I owe so much, that I must have two years at least to mourn for his loss. And how can I make up my mind to become a wife before I shall have enjoyed for some years my virgin state, and arrived at years of discretion?

Permit me, then, my lord admiral, to tell you frankly, that, as there is no one in the world who more esteems your merit than myself, or who sees you with more pleasure as a disinterested person, so would I preserve to myself the privilege of recognising you as such, without entering into that strict bond of matrimony, which often causes one to forget the possession of true merit. Let your highness be well persuaded that, though I decline the happiness of becoming your wife, I shall never cease to interest myself in all that can crown your merit with glory and shall ever feel the greatest pleasure in being your servant, and good friend,


Everytime I read that letter I imagine the teenager being extremely flattered by the attractive Thomas Seymour, however, she strongly understood that as the daughter of a king, a choice like that was not hers to make.

Not long after her eloquent rejection of Seymour, Elizabeth discovered that Seymour had secretly married her stepmother.

Elizabeth also received a letter from her sister Mary regarding the clandestine marriage. We don’t have Mary’s letter but here is part of Elizabeth’s response to it:

“You are very right in saying, in your most acceptable letters, which you have done me the honour of writing to me, that, our interests being common, the just grief we feel in seeing the ashes, or rather the scarcely cold body of the king, our father, so shamefully dishonoured by the queen, our step-mother, ought to be common to us also. I cannot express to you my dear princess, how much affliction I suffered when I was first informed of this marriage, and no other comfort can I find than that of the necessity of submitting ourselves to the decrees of Heaven; since neither you nor I, dearest sister, are in such a condition as to offer any obstacle thereto, without running heavy risk of making our own lot much worse than it is; at least, so I think.”

Continued Interest by Seymour

I’ve always believed that Elizabeth enjoyed the attention she got from Thomas Seymour. Seymour was considered very handsome and charming for his time and it’s understandable if Elizabeth had a crush on him. He was once described as fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent.” 

The first sign of Thomas’s further interest in Elizabeth was a dramatic one. The story, told by Kat Ashley was that Seymour entered Elizabeth’s bedchamber early one morning as she lay in bed. He wished her “good morrow” before he made it appear as though he would climb in bed with her. Young Elizabeth was stunned by his actions which caused her to blush. She shrank deeper into the bed, ‘so that he could not come at her’. That visit, would be the first of many that were reported by Kat Ashley during her interrogations.

Ashley also stated that Elizabeth, who was not a morning person, would wake early so as to be prepared for Seymour’s intrusion. This did not deter him, he would again appear in the doorway ‘barelegged and in his slippers’, before bidding her ‘good morrow’ and asking ‘how she did’.

It was noted that one time, as Elizabeth turned to move away, Thomas reached out and smacked her on the back and then her bottom. If this statement is indeed true (which if you know me I’ll be the one to stand up for Seymour), this would have been very uncomfortable for Elizabeth. She adored her stepmother and would do nothing to offend her.

It got to a point that Kat Ashley stated she informed Kateryn Parr of her husband’s actions. Parr didn’t appear too concerned at the moment but henceforth made sure to accompany her husband whenever he was near Elizabeth.

Kateryn Parr understood the importance of protecting Elizabeth’s reputation. She was, at that time, second in line to the throne. The most important thing for her was to be virtuous and to protect her virginity.

The Neglectful Governess

The teenager’s Governess, Kat Ashley, had been neglecting her duties of protecting her young charge. Leaving Elizabeth in her bedchamber alone. Which, if discovered, could have been disastrous for her reputation.

One can barely blame Kat for wanting to spend the evening with her husband. They had only recently married. The unfortunate thing is that Kat was being irresponsible. In her position it was her responsibility to protect Elizabeth’s reputation and she was failing. Miserably.

In June 1548, a year and a half after the death of her father, Elizabeth was discovered in an unsavory position with Thomas Seymour at Chelsea. Kateryn Parr caught the two in what has been described as an embrace. Many authors and historians have suspected that this involved kissing. Understanding that something like this getting out would cause disaster for her stepdaughter’s reputation, Kateryn sent Elizabeth away to stay with the Denny’s at Cheshunt.

Sent to Chesthunt

The move was smart for a woman who was concerned about her husband’s infidelity. Having the temptress out of the picture would surely bring Thomas’ focus back on her.

For the sake of appropriateness, Thomas accompanied Elizabeth part of the way to Cheshunt. There it had been arranged that she would stay. Elizabeth and Thomas would never meet again, but this was far from the end of the story for them.

Death of Kateryn Parr

Four months after Elizabeth was sent to Cheshunt, Kateryn Parr died. She was thirty-six years old. Thomas Seymour was once again available for marriage and set his sights on the teenager.

Elizabeth’s neglectful Governess, Kat Ashley had been pushing for her charge to marry the widower, however Elizabeth’s understood that as a person in her position she was not at liberty to marry without the Council’s permission. Thomas Seymour asked the Council if he could have their permission to marry “Madam Elizabeth”. Their answer was a resounding no. Had the council allowed the marriage of the scheming Seymour he would have been seen as a threat to the monarchy. The marriage could not happen.

At the beginning of 1549, Thomas’ luck ran out and he was arrested. He had been plotting a coup against his brother the Lord Protector and is rumored to have shot the young king’s dog while attempting to kidnap Edward VI. In addition to that, the fact that he was plotting to marry the King’s sister could have been the nail in his coffin.

There were 33 charges filed against him in all. Unfortunately for Thomas, he would not go free. Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley was executed in March 1549. Upon hearing of his death, Elizabeth said, “This day died a man of much wit and very little judgement.”

We’ll end this article with what has been described by Dr. Linda Porter as words written by Thomas Seymour while in the Tower. She suspects that he had come to terms with the fact that he was going to die.

“Forgetting God

to love a king

Hath been my rod

Or else nothing:

In this frail life

being a blast

of care and strife

till in be past.

Yet God did call

me in my pride

lest I should fall

and from him slide

for whom loves he

and not correct

that they may be

of his elect

The death haste thee

thou shalt me gain


with him to reign

Who send the king

Like years as noye

In governing

His realm in joy

And after this

frail life such grace

As in his bliss

he may have place.”

Read Part Two: Click Here / Listen to Part Two: Click Here


Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Weir, Alison; The Life of Elizabeth I

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The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor (Guest Post)

The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor

Guest article by Elizabeth Norton

6 February 1559. In the great gallery at Whitehall Palace Elizabeth I, who had been queen for only three months, received a deputation from the House of Commons. Led by their speaker, Sir Thomas Gargrave, the politicians filed in. They had come, said Gargrave, to request that the queen marry, ‘as well for her own comfort and contentment, as for assurance to the realm by her royal issue’. Elizabeth, who was still only twenty-five years old, received their address courteously, thanking them ‘for the love and care which they did express, as well towards her person as the whole state of the realm’. She had, however, ‘made choice of a single life’ and was resolved to ‘preserve in a virgin’s state’. There was, however, a time that her virginity had been rather less surely guarded.

A little over a decade before – in June 1547 – the English court had been rocked by the news that the queen dowager, Catherine Parr, had secretly married. For her own fourth husband, the sixth wife of Henry VIII had chosen Thomas Seymour. Thomas was handsome and, as the uncle of the new king, Edward VI, highly eligible. He was also ambitious and, as one contemporary had it, ‘somewhat empty of matter’. He was already disaffected with an unequal share of power, which saw his elder brother become both Lord Protector and governor of the king. After first proposing matches with the two princesses, Mary and Elizabeth, he had settled on their stepmother, joining her household at Chelsea that month.

At Chelsea, Thomas found his wife’s thirteen year old stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth. When Queen Catherine married Thomas, along with the promise in the conventional marriage vows that she would be ‘buxom’ in bed, she vowed to obey him. The fact of her marriage allowed him dominance over every aspect of her person for, as a married woman, she ceased to exist independently in law. Everything that married women owned, down to the clothes on their backs, passed to their husbands, to whom wives were utterly subject. As well as regularly helping himself to his wife’s generous widow’s pension, Seymour also arrived at Chelsea as the house’s new master.

The first sign of Thomas’s interest in Elizabeth was a dramatic one. One morning, he entered her bedchamber as she lay in bed, pulling back the bed-curtains. Leaning into the bed, he called ‘good morrow’, before seeming to pounce, as though he would climb in with her. Stunned and blushing, Elizabeth shrank deeper into the bed, ‘so that he could not come at her’. It was to be the first of many such visits with the girl, all of which are recorded in the testimony of her closest servants.

Sometimes, the princess who was (as she admitted) ‘no morning woman’, made an effort to rise early, not wanting to be caught by surprise. Yet, he still came, appearing in the doorway ‘barelegged and in his slippers’, before again bidding her ‘good morrow’ and asking ‘how she did’. Once, as Elizabeth turned to move away, Thomas reached out to smack her on the back and then ‘familiarly’ on her buttocks. For a girl who blushed even to brush hands with her stepmother’s husband when dancing, this was startling. She fled to her maidens, but Seymour followed, speaking playfully with the girl’s attendants as if nothing were amiss.

The danger to Elizabeth’s reputation was very real. Her lady mistress, Kate Ashley, who had once encouraged Seymour’s suit, recognised this. She had earlier moved the pallet bed from Elizabeth’s bedchamber at Chelsea so that the girl slept dangerously unchaperoned. This had probably been done so that Kate could share a bed with her husband, rather than constantly supervising the girl, but it looked suspicious. As Seymour’s visits increased, Kate confronted him in the gallery at Hanworth, where the household moved later in the summer. Berating Thomas, she stated that ‘these things were complained of, and that My Lady was evil spoken of’. Seymour was having none of it, swearing fiercely ‘God’s precious soul!’, before declaring that ‘he would tell My Lord Protector how it slandered him, and he would not leave it, for he meant no evil’. There was little else she could do.

Catherine Parr, too, failed to protect Elizabeth from Seymour’s growing interest. He was rumoured to be an ‘oppressor’ in his domestic arrangements, and Catherine, though she loved him, dared not vex him. She joined in some of the early morning romps herself, perhaps in an attempt to convince herself that all was as it should be. Nonetheless, she also admonished Kate to keep a closer eye on her charge while, in the autumn of 1547, she left Elizabeth behind at Hanworth when the household moved to London in time for the opening of parliament. She could not keep them apart indefinitely, however. On finding the pair locked in an embrace in June 1548, she finally sent the girl away.

For propriety’s sake, Thomas accompanied Elizabeth part of the way to Cheshunt, where it had been hurriedly arranged that she would stay. While the pair never met again, this was far from the end of the story of his temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. On 5 September 1548, the thirty-six year old queen died in childbirth, leaving Thomas Seymour, once again, ‘the noblest man unmarried in this land’. He had no plans to remain that way for long, with his thoughts – and his ambitions – turning squarely towards Elizabeth.

In a little over six months, he would be dead, while Elizabeth found herself under interrogation. As the embarrassing details of her relationship with Thomas began to emerge, she remained composed, infuriating her interrogator will her failure to ‘cough out matters’. For the rest of her brother’s reign, Elizabeth kept away from affairs, dressed in sombre black. She would never again allow her heart to rule her head, commenting only when she heard of Thomas’s execution that ‘this day died a man of much wit and very little judgment’. Yet in all her long life, it was Thomas Seymour who came closest to being her husband.

Further Reading:

Norton, Elizabeth;The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen (2017)

About the Author:

I have loved history and, particularly the Tudor dynasty and the queens of England since first picking up a book about the kings and queens as a child. I got into archaeology as a teenager and studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, focussing particularly on the medieval period.

During my degree I was awarded two scholarships by my college, New Hall, for my work and eventually attained a double first class degree. After leaving Cambridge, I completed a masters degree at Oxford University in European Archaeology. The focus was again on the medieval period, with my dissertation on the Anglo-Saxon sculpture of the South Saxon kingdom.

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Understanding Young Elizabeth Tudor

Through my constant research of Thomas Seymour I’ve been led on an unexpected journey to discovering the young Elizabeth Tudor. From those who read my blog often you know that I tend to write mostly about the reign of Henry VIII because, well, that’s where I started and there is so much to tell! This is why I’ve decided to write this piece about my current understanding of Elizabeth Tudor – undoubtedly a monarch I still have a lot to learn about.

Born on the 7th of September 1533, Elizabeth was not the son that her father (Henry VIII) and mother (Anne Boleyn) had expected. From the beginning all of the royal physicians and astrologers, save one, had predicted that Anne would indeed have a prince. When Elizabeth was born there was a disappointment by both parents but Henry assured Anne that sons would soon follow and Elizabeth had a splendid christening that was fitting a princess.

As far as her life prior to her mother’s execution, I can confidently say that Elizabeth had little memory – just as you and I don’t necessarily remember what happened when we were two and a half years old. My son was three years old when his father and I finally married and while he remembered it for a few years after, now at 13 he doesn’t remember it at all. The same can most definitely be said for Elizabeth.

Historian David Starkey states in Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne that “there is no evidence that Elizabeth met her father’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, during her six months of marriage to the King.”


It was Katheryn Howard’s marriage to her father that most likely had the deepest impact on her future outlook on marriage. I recently read that after the execution of Katheryn Howard that Elizabeth told her sister Mary that she would never marry. Now, please forgive me because I cannot recall which book it was but it was most likely, The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser or The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton. I was surprised when I read it because it was also a scene is Showtime’s The Tudors. Robert Dudley was also reported as saying that Elizabeth told him at the age of eight that she would not marry – they may have coincided with the execution of Katheryn Howard as well.

When we move forward to the woman I would consider her favorite step-mother, Kateryn Parr, we see a woman who had a great influence on Elizabeth. Katheryn was like the mother that Elizabeth never had and she encouraged Elizabeth to study what she believed to be her mother’s faith – the Protestant faith. Nowadays, many historians and authors are quick to say that Anne Boleyn was a Reformist and not a Protestant. Anne wished to see changes in the church but before her death was concerned at how far Cromwell was taking it.

When I think of young Elizabeth I am often reminded of how she must have felt…no mother, a father who had declared her illegitimate and practically abandoned her for many of her formidable years and English subjects who had looked at her only as the daughter of the “Great Whore”. It all seems so unfair by today’s standards. These things made Elizabeth the person she became, just as our own pasts have made us into the people we are today.

After the death of her father, King Henry VIII, Kateryn Parr took Elizabeth into her household – something Elizabeth would have been extremely happy about. It is while in that household that young Elizabeth experienced her first crush. Thomas Seymour was a very attractive man with a lot of charisma.

Elizabeth’s attraction to Thomas Seymour is unmistakable. He was considered an attractive man who was easy to like – Elizabeth, like any young lady, enjoyed the attention she received from him. My gut tells me that it was his proposal to her (soon after her father’s death) that initially ignited the flame.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Mug

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Mug - Designed by Rebecca Larson

When Kateryn Parr caught Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour in an embrace she was livid. What exactly is meant by “embrace” is unclear – whether it was merely a hug between the two is uncertain, but one could assume it was more than hug. I know this isn’t popular opinion but I get the impression that Thomas kissed Elizabeth and she didn’t pull away – letting her teenage hormones get the best of her. Unfortunately, by succumbing to her feelings she temporarily severed her strong relationship with the woman who meant so much to her, Kateryn Parr. Fortunately, Kateryn was smart enough to know that the prudent thing to do was to send Elizabeth away.

The only people who knew about the embrace were Parr, Seymour, Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley whom Parr told. In order to protect Elizabeth’s reputation she wrote Kat Ashley’s kin, Sir Anthony Denny and his wife (Kat’s sister) Joan to invite Elizabeth into their home. This was to cover up the fact that Kateryn Parr wished to separate her from her husband. Even Elizabeth’s cofferer, Thomas Parry could not remember if Elizabeth “went of herself, or was sent away”.

Word began to spread of the “affair” and speculation arose that Elizabeth was pregnant with Seymour’s child. These rumors were compounded by the fact that Elizabeth who, now housed with her new wards, became ill and took to her bed. This was once again, like so many times in her youth, an example of how Elizabeth’s health was associated with traumatic events in her life. These rumors became so bad that Elizabeth felt the need to write the Lord Protector (Edward Seymour) to tell him that she had heard the rumors and would like to come to court to prove them wrong.

This is just a taste of the things about young Elizabeth and I plan to continue with a Part Two.

Further Reading:

Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptations of Elizabeth Tudor
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII
Porter, Linda; Katherine the Queen
Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

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A Kingdom in Crisis (Guest Post)

A Kingdom In Crisis

Guest article by Alan Freer

It was mid-morning on Palm Sunday in the year of Our Lord 1554. A young woman of 20 sat in a barge at the Watergate of the Tower of London. Under this dark, forbidding, stone portal so many had passed to end their lives on Tower Green at the executioner’s block. Her own mother had made the self-same journey some 18 years before. At first she refused to alight on the landing-stage but was informed by the Marquess of Winchester that she had no choice in the matter. As she stepped ashore she stated, “Here landeth a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs, and before Thee, O God, I speak it, having none other friend but Thee alone.” She turned to the assembled Tower Wardens and said, “O Lord, I never thought to have come in here a prisoner, and I pray you all, good friends and fellows, bear me witness that I come in no traitor, but as true a woman to the Queen’s majesty as any is now living; and thereon will I take my death.” Some of the Wardens broke rank and knelt before her saying, “God preserve your Grace!”

The evening before, Princess Elizabeth had managed to delay her journey down the Thames by writing to her sister, Queen Mary. By the time she had completed the letter the tide had risen to a height that made it impossible to go under London Bridge. She was pleading for her life.

The previous year had seen the death of her Protestant half-brother, Edward VI and Mary’s accession to the throne. Being half Spanish and the first female ruler of England, Mary turned for advice and support to Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. She had received the Emperor’s ambassador, Simon Renard, and installed him as one of her closest advisors. Charles proposed a match between Mary and his recently widowed son, Philip. This would bring England into the orbit of Spain and sink any prospect of an alliance with France. The marriage was very attractive to Mary as it provided her with a partner in the burden of rule and the hope of producing a Catholic heir to the throne. The visage of Spanish rule in England was far from popular with its people.

As a Catholic monarch, Mary re-established the Catholic Mass at Court. Conscious of her unwelcome position as a figurehead for Protestant hopes, and therefore the danger of her situation, Elizabeth complied with her sister’s wish that she attend Mass. Renard was sceptical of Elizabeth’s sudden change in religious sentiment and urged that she be confined to the Tower. Parliament was persuaded to reverse the statute that made Mary illegitimate (passed at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from her mother). Although, by law, Elizabeth was also illegitimate, she was, by statute, next in succession to the throne should Mary die childless. Mary was tempted to have the line of succession changed to exclude Elizabeth but Sir William Paget advised her that Parliament would refuse. The House was relatively compliant, but not that compliant. The only other legitimate candidate to take Elizabeth’s place would be Mary, the child Queen of Scots. Spain was whole-heartedly against such a move as the child was betrothed to the heir of the French throne. Mary was stuck with Elizabeth, the only alternatives being the production of an heir or Elizabeth’s death.

Elizabeth was staying as Ashridge at the time. Mary ordered her to Court, presumably to keep a closer eye on her. Elizabeth replied on about the 23 January 1554 declaring ill health as excuse not to attend. Two days later Sir Thomas Wyatt, with a small force from Kent, raised rebellion against the Spanish marriage. The London militia were sent to oppose them but promptly joined the rebels, taking Southwick on the south bank of the Thames. London Bridge was closed and Wyatt’s men were forced to march to Richmond Bridge to cross the river; by which time a force, loyal to Mary, had been organised and the rebels were easily defeated. It was this action that so endangered Elizabeth’s life for Wyatt had intended to place her on the throne. The prejudice against Elizabeth made it impossible, in the eyes of Mary’s councillors, for her not to have had knowledge of the plot. Despite Wyatt’s denial that she was innocent of any involvement, Mary was determined to bring her sister to book. She sent physicians to Ashridge to ascertain Elizabeth’s state of health. She had indeed been ill, her body all swollen – a complaint she suffered throughout her life at times of extreme stress. Despite her condition, Elizabeth was brought to London by litter and lodged at Whitehall behind guarded doors. Her household and anyone connected with her were examined in an effort to incriminate her. Elizabeth, herself, was interrogated by the Council and Bishop Gardiner encouraged her to place herself at the mercy of Queen Mary and ask for pardon. She replied that to do so would be a confession of crime – let them prove her guilty, then she would seek a pardon! No direct link could be established between her and Wyatt, or none that stood up to close scrutiny. Despite a lack of firm evidence both Mary and Renard were convinced of her complicity. The Queen felt she had no alternative but to confine her sister to the Tower.

Elizabeth’s incarceration failed to alleviate Mary’s problems. London, ever the Protestant city, began to voice its protest in favour of their martyred Princess. There is the strange story of the “Spirit in the Wall.” Thousands flocked to a particular wall where they cried “God save Queen Mary,” to which it replied nothing. They then cried, “God save the Lady Elizabeth,” to which it said in reply, “So be it.” When Parliament met on 3 April, the streets were strewn with handbills and pamphlets in support of Elizabeth. Three days later Wyatt was executed, protesting Elizabeth’s innocence from the gallows. On 17 April a London jury acquitted Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, an associate of Wyatt’s, of treason and on the same day, Wyatt’s head was stolen from the gallows on which it had been staked. A few days later a paper was discovered in the Queen’s kitchen threatening both Mary and Bishop Gardiner, and stating that Philip of Spain must look to his life when he landed in England for the proposed marriage.

Mary was at her wits end. She could not keep her sister locked in the Tower indefinitely nor could she set her free. The only course of action was to place her under house arrest outside London. It was decided to keep her at the royal manor of Woodstock under the custodianship of Sir Henry Bedingfield. On Saturday, May 19, after two months imprisonment in the Tower, Elizabeth left by boat for Richmond and her journey north. As she travelled under escort, crowds gathered to cry, “God save your Grace.” Cakes and tokens of affection and support were handed to her and at Wheatley and Stanton St. John the whole village turned out to cheer her.

Woodstock was well guarded and no one had access to her without the express permission of Bedingfield. Elizabeth’s servant, Thomas Parry, was given the duties of feeding and paying the household staff, though he was not permitted to stay in the house. He established himself at the Bull Inn at Woodstock and the place became a miniature Court – adding to Bedingfield’s problems. Sir Henry, a conscientious though slow-witted man, found his duties a great burden. He eventually found it safer to refer all matters to the Council; even to the extent of what books Elizabeth should be allowed to read.

Philip of Spain landed at Southampton in July 1554 and he and Mary were married at Winchester five days later. With the new king came a vast retinue. One Londoner noted, “At this time there was so many Spaniards in London that a man should have met in the streets for one Englishman above four Spaniards, to the great discomfort of the English nation.” Tempers were short and affrays frequent and there was even a rumour that the archbishopric of Canterbury was to be given to a Spanish friar.

With the Queen and her new King established in London, the full force of a counter reformation began. Heresy laws were passed and the stake and faggots were soon in use. This holocaust of religious fervour soon brought the Queen the epithet “bloody” and even disgusted the Imperial, Venetian and French ambassadors – Catholics all.

November saw the return of Mary’s religious mentor, Cardinal Reginald Pole, and she took the opportunity to announce her pregnancy. All was going in Mary’s favour – a husband, the hoped for Catholic heir and a compliant Council to reinstate the True Faith. She felt safe enough to allow her sister to be moved to Hampton Court. The two of them met, Elizabeth protesting her innocence, Mary ever suspicious.

Months passed and the time came for Mary to give birth. At one point rumours circulated in London that the child had been born and the church bells were set ringing. April became May, and May, June and still nothing happened. The “pregnancy” became a sick joke. The Polish ambassador arrived in London, complete with a speech of congratulations on the new child. Unfortunately nobody warned him and he read the speech out at Court, adding to the comic farce. At the end of August 1555 Mary and Philip travelled down river to Greenwich, Mary’s favourite palace. In early September Philip left England for Flanders on Spanish affairs.

In the meantime, Elizabeth had also been moved to Greenwich. She was now in a much stronger position. With Mary’s phantom pregnancy and the religious persecution, Elizabeth’s enemies knew of her popularity. Her greatest danger now was being married off to serve Spanish interests. In October Mary returned to London for a meeting of Parliament and Elizabeth moved her household to her manor at Hatfield.

In the course of the winter Elizabeth had to face a new danger. A party was founded in the House of Commons to resist all Catholic legislation. The Council placed a bill before Parliament against Protestant refugees abroad.

The Protestant hot-heads, who met at an eating-house in London called Arundel’s, managed to gain the keys to the House, locked the Catholic supporters of the bill out, forced a vote and defeated the measure. A number of Elizabeth’s servants and supporters were arrested and placed in the Tower but no evidence was found to connect her to the action and no charges were brought. For three months Elizabeth was kept under house arrest in the congenial care of Sir Thomas Pope. Sir Thomas was the opposite of Bedingfield in that he was a man of intelligence and wit and the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. Elizabeth and Sir Thomas, prisoner and jailer, became friends and passed the time discussing plans for the development of the college.

Mary longed for the return of her husband for her biological clock was in overdrive and hopes of an heir were fast disappearing. Philip was in no hurry to occupy the bed of his prematurely aged wife.

By the spring of 1557 Elizabeth was released from restriction and visited her sister at Whitehall. The two women seem to have declared a truce and there was a brief period of reconciliation. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s greatest fear was being realised. Philip was actively trying to find her a husband. The prime candidate was his kinsman, Emmanuel Philibert, heir to the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused. Others were suggested and all refused. There was even a proposal that she marry Philip’s 11-year-old son, Don Carlos.

In March 1557, after an absence of nineteen months, Philip returned to his wife. He stayed long enough to get England involved in a war with France that ended with the loss of Calais.

The beginning of 1558 saw Mary failing in health, probably from cancer of the ovaries. Once more she thought herself pregnant, but it was wishful thinking. By the end of the summer her time was fast running out. The country was divided over religion, the treasury was empty and England’s only overseas possession had been lost. At Hatfield Elizabeth was quietly building her own Court. Men of skill and intellect gravitated to her, among them a man of thirty-eight named Sir William Cecil. He was to prove her anchor through much of her reign – a true servant of his beloved Queen.

On November 6th Mary bowed to the inevitable and recognised Elizabeth as her successor. At seven in the morning on 17 November Queen Mary died, with few tears shed at her passing.

According to tradition, Elizabeth was at Hatfield, walking in the park. The members of the Privy Council found her sitting under an oak tree. They knelt on the grass before her and presented her with Mary’s coronation ring. She cast her eyes to heaven and spoke the words, “A domino factum est et mirabile in oculis nostris” (“God has done it and it is marvellous in our eyes.”). Thus the reign of Gloriana began.

Elizabeth became Queen of an impoverished, divided minor kingdom on the northern edge of Europe; she left it, forty-five years later, a world power and on the edge of greatness.

About the Author

CaptureI am Alan Freer and live in the small village of Byfleet, Surrey, England. Edward, the Black Prince, spent much of his final years in Byfleet. I have been an amateur “historian” since the age of seven, when I purchased my first history book in 1955. Indeed, it was anticipated that I would become a history teacher, but a brief conversation just before I was due to go to university directed me to the banking industry – more lucrative but, perhaps, not so satisfying! History lead me into genealogy and I have my own website detailing the Descendents of William the Conqueror (www.william1.co.uk ). A never-ending project! When I retired from the bank in 1999 I started to write and have had a number of articles published in US history magazines or on magazine websites. Primarily I wrote for the amusement of my colleagues in my second occupation as a civil servant. I count myself most fortunate to have been born in England and would not wish it otherwise – except, possibly, Italy!!

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Between Two Brothers: Edward and Thomas Seymour

Unless you are an only child you are familiar with the love that siblings bear one another. The events of life, along with the meddling of others caused a rift between these two men and ultimately cost both of them their lives. The Seymour brothers, Edward and Thomas.


There are instances when situations fester and cause strife between siblings that tear them apart. You know, like when one sibling critiques the parenting of another – that’s going to cause a few arguments and then probably some avoidance.

These statements ring true for the Seymour brothers – Edward and Thomas. Even though Edward was only three years older than Thomas he behaved as the eldest son and the one who would gain the most in life.

While Thomas was the fourth son and the youngest at that – his future was not as bright as his older brother, but Thomas wasn’t like most youngest sons. He was ambitious, and while he knew he would never outrank his brother Edward, he wanted to get as close to the sun as possible.

Of the three remaining sons of Sir John Seymour of Wiltshire, Edward was the oldest, followed by Henry and then Thomas. Edward Seymour eventually became Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. Henry hung around court for a bit and then went on to be country gentry – a subtler life…While the youngest Thomas followed in his eldest brother’s footsteps. He grew confidence when he recognized his own way with people. Most people liked Thomas, more so than his brother, Edward.

I have a feeling that Edward and Thomas had an even closer relationship when their brother Henry was around. Those two could only get along for short while before things got heated. Henry was able to play peacemaker. But with him away from court there were outside influences on their relationship that neither brother could see coming.


While it appears that the brothers had a normal relationship, there are clues of jealousy and greed intertwined with manipulation and revenge.

John Dudley

The breakdown of their relationship began with John Dudley, newly titled Earl of Warwick, and his desire to see another in the position of ‘Lord Protector’, namely himself.

So what did the Earl of Warwick have to do with it? Warwick played a game of chess with the brothers. Speaking to Edward about what a great Lord Protector he was and then going to Thomas and telling him how he should have been named Governor of the king.

Warwick wedged himself in between the two brothers; Putting himself in a very dangerous situation as well. Lucky him, it all worked out, for a little while at least.

With Warwick whispering in his ear, the natural desire he already had to become more only intensified. Thomas Seymour felt he deserved a lot more as an uncle to the king and no matter what he did to obtain that goal he was thwarted, either by others or himself.

During all these arguments with his brother, Thomas was continuously trying to get a bill passed through Parliament that would make him Governor to the King. A position he believed, and had convinced many others, he deserved. Unfortunately for Thomas, those who said they would back him did not follow through when the time came.

Eventually, Edward Seymour would get a new letter patent through Parliament which named him Lord Protector and Governor of the King, which he would hold during the ‘king’s pleasure’ – this was changed from when the king turned eighteen. (explaining why Thomas Seymour continually tried to get Edward VI to rule on his own)


Was Dudley’s interactions with the brothers what caused Thomas Seymour to seek a strong marriage? Seymour had only talked marriage a few times in his entire life and they were all later in life. There was Mary Howard, Elizabeth Tudor and Kateryn Parr. I also believe he proposed once to Mary Tudor as well. If we look at all those women, what do we see? I see power. I see support in case one should need it. A duchess and a Howard at that, a princess with Protestant supporters, a dowager queen with history and power, and another princess – a very Catholic princess. All great matches for a man like Thomas.

The only way Thomas could marry any of those women was without permission because he knew they all needed permission to wed…and then hope you can find a way to convince the Lord Protector that it was all his idea. When Thomas suggested to his brother that he marry Kateryn Parr, Edward quickly turned him down – it wouldn’t happen. Luckily for Thomas, he was already married to Kateryn Parr and wished to stay that way. Without gaining approval from the Lord Protector, Kateryn and Thomas decided to use their close connection with Edward VI, they believed they could convince the young king to suggest Kateryn as a perfect bride for his uncle Thomas. They had played their cards right, Edward VI eventually named Kateryn after a bit of coaxing from his servant John Fowler who was doing the dirty work for Thomas.

When Edward Seymour discovered the two had married he was furious that his own brother had went behind his back to get permission from the young king. 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 was marrying well beneath her station since Thomas was merely a baron.

Author Margaret Scard of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector suggests that the beef was actually between Anne Seymour and Thomas, not the brothers or the wives.

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 loved the feeling he got when he was the most powerful man in the room.

Anne Seymour – let’s just call her duchess going forward, since she was the Duchess of Somerset. The Duchess did not like sharing center stage with Kateryn Parr apparently. Once while walking in a procession, the Duchess is said to have nudged or pushed Parr out-of-the-way so she could take precedence over her. She believed she had that right as the wife of the Lord Protector and because Kateryn was only married to a baron. Author Scard believes that the Duchess was adamantly against the idea of Thomas Seymour taking precedence over her and that’s where the dispute began. That Thomas, as the husband of the dowager queen would be able to walk alongside his wife.

It wasn’t only what order to walk in a procession. The Duchess took it even further and wouldn’t allow Kateryn her jewels from the Tower of London. Both of the women believed the jewels were theirs – Kateryn only seemed to care about the gifts that were given to her by Henry VIII and a couple of pieces from her mother, I believe it was. The Duchess would not allow Kateryn to have her jewels.

Eventually the two brothers were involved in the dispute between their wives. Thomas approached Edward on the issue and they both agreed that Kateryn should have the jewels. Edward told his brother that he would speak with his wife on the subject and go from there. Well, we’re not sure what happened after that but Kateryn never got her jewels.


Somerset, during this time, not only had to deal with the disobedience of his brother but also of members of the Council:

Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton by Holbein

Thomas Wriothesley, in accordance with Henry VIII’s wishes was created Earl of Southampton in February 1547 and was also a member of the Regency Council. Southampton was one of the few men who ‘had always been engaged in an opposite party to Somerset’.¹ This marked Southampton as the enemy since he did not support Somerset ruling with the power of a monarch over the council. A month after being created Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley was suddenly dismissed from the title of Lord Chancellor (which he held since 1544)  and he also lost his seat on the Privy Council. This was obviously to serve as a lesson to those who would disagree with Somerset.

Death of Queen Kateryn

After Kateryn Parr died I feel like Thomas became a little unhinged. He allegedly proposed to Elizabeth Tudor and then is suspected of trying to kidnap his nephew, the king.

Eventually things got so bad that Thomas was thrown in the Tower. I’m certain that Edward felt horrible knowing his brother was in the Tower but I also feel like he knew what had to be done.

The Seymour brothers, had they joined forces, could have become even more powerful alongside each other as uncles to the King of England. Unfortunately for Thomas, his brother Edward felt that the power should all be his for the keeping.

After Kateryn Parr died, a servant of Thomas Seymour told him that: “If ever any grudge were borne toward him [Thomas] by my Lady of Somerset, it was as most men guess for the queen’s cause, who now being taken away by death, it will undoubtedly follow that she [Duchess] will bear him as good heart as ever she did in her life.”¹

Also after Kateryn’s death, her cousin, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, hoped that Thomas would change his attitude towards his brother, Edward. He encouraged him to be more humble towards his brother and offered advice that if he were ‘either wise or politic he would become a new manner of man borth in heart and service’. Throckmorton also condemned Thomas for his laziness and his ambitions to get what he wanted and told him that he should ‘alter his manners, for the world beginneth to talk unfavorably of him’.¹

In The End

From early on the Seymour brothers were gifted with titles. Edward was given the title Viscount Beauchamp after his sister married the King in 1536. The following summer he became Earl of Hertford. At the same time his younger brother Thomas became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. A year later he was granted the castle and manor of Holt in Cheshire and knighted prior to the christening of his nephew, Prince Edward, into the Knight of the Bath.¹ From that point, until the death of King Henry, Thomas was continually given lands, but no greater titles – those were saved for his elder brother, Edward. As we’ve discovered through this podcast it was never enough.

We can see from the beginning, after the death of the late king that Somerset appeared to want to elevate his own brother:

My lords, you know how long my brother, Master Seymour, has served, and how the King esteemed him, and if he had not died would have given him great rewards; and you also know that it is time the Earl of Warwick was allowed to rest, and had another less laborious office. My brother is young and is well fitted for this post, so if you approve I propose to make Warwick the Earl Constable, and my brother High Admiral.²

If Edward and Thomas had only found a way to settle their differences maybe neither of them would have eventually been executed. But, we’ll never know.


The History of England, Under the House of Tudor
Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour, Lord Protector – Tudor King in All But Name
Lipscomb, Suzannah; The King is Deadb
Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall 
Loades, David; Jane Seymour 
McLean, John; The Life of Sir Thomas Seymour 
Porter, Linda; Katherine Parr 
Norton, Elizabeth; Catherine Parr 
James, Susan; Catherine Parr
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen


¹Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour, Lord Protector – Tudor King in All But Name

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