The Other Seymours: Anne, Countess of Warwick

Written by Rebecca Larson

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



Early Years

Born in 1538[1], Lady Anne Seymour was the third child and eldest daughter of the then Earl and Countess of Hertford. She was first cousin to the heir presumptive as well, Prince Edward. Anne’s aunt Elizabeth, whom by now was likely Lady Cromwell, would have already had three children of her own that were also first cousins – two with her first husband Sir Anthony Uhtred, and one by Gregory Cromwell, son of Thomas Cromwell.

As the first cousin to the future king, and daughter of King Henry’s brother-in-law, you can imagine how extravagant Anne’s childhood must have been.

Prince Edward as a toddler, by Holbein

She and her sisters, Lady Margaret and Lady Jane were well-educated. Taught by the French humanist and poet, Nicholas Denisot, the sisters learned Latin, Greek, Italian and French. Being the illustrious cousins of the king, the Seymour girls were also educated in other subjects that had generally been reserved for their male counterparts. Anne and her sisters education was well known and they even received books from Edward VI and Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius – both prominent Protestant humanists.

After the execution of her uncle Thomas Seymour, her father became quite unpopular with those who disagreed with his politics, and who thought that he was not a suitable protector for the young King Edward. The man leading that charge was the ever ambitious and vindictive, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. The man whom I believe is not only responsible for the execution of Thomas, but also his brother Edward, Anne’s father – the man who would soon become her father in law.

First Marriage

By the end of 1549, Somerset was in trouble, and his ongoing feud with the Council, as well as Warwick, led to a truce between the two men. On 3 June 1550, a marriage between John Dudley, Lord Lisle (the Earl’s son), and the eldest daughter of Somerset, was solemnized at the royal palace of Sheen.[2] The young King Edward VI was present at the event, going so far as to make note of it in his diary.

Sheen Palace



The King came to Sheen, where was a marriage made between the Lord Lisle, the Earl of Warwick’s son, and the Lady Anne, daughter to the Duke of Somerset, which done and a fair dinner made and dancing finished, the King and the ladies went into two chambers made of boughs, where first he [the King] saw six gentlemen of one side and six of another run the course of the field, twice over. Their names here do follow: The Lord Edward [Seymour]. Sir John Appleby. [The rest omitted in the MS., though space was left.]

And afterward came three masquers of one side and two of another, which ran four course apiece. Their names be [left blank].

Last of all came the Count of Rangone, with three Italians, who ran with all the gentlemen four courses and afterward fought at tourney. And so after supper he (the King) returned to Westminster.[3]

Something that was also noted in the King’s diary was that the day following Anne’s wedding to Lisle, that the Earl of Warwick’s other son, Robert was married to Amy Robsart, sole heiress of her father.

At the time of their marriage Anne was twelve years old, the legal age for marriage for a girl, while Lisle was in his early twenties. Since Anne was not yet fourteen, the marriage would not have been consummated immediately, that would have to wait until her fourteenth year.

Unfortunately for Anne, it does not appear that her marriage to Dudley produced any children. By the time Anne turned fourteen she was Countess of Warwick, but the prestige would not last long, for her father-in-law and all the Dudley boys (including her husband) were involved with the plot to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne.

In 1553, when Queen Mary took what rightfully belonged to her, all the Dudley men were imprisoned in the Tower of London on treason. Luckily, Anne was allowed visitation with her husband for as long as she liked while he was in the Tower – makes one wonder if they were allowed conjugal visits.

Anne’s husband remained in the Tower until 18 October 1554. Upon his release, Anne removed her already ill husband to Penshurst Place, the home of his sister Mary and her husband Henry Sidney. Ten days later he died. Some historians believe that Dudley died prior to his release.

Second Marriage

Being a woman in Tudor England, without a protector was a dangerous game. All those who had previously held that position in Anne’s life were now dead, including: her father, her father-in-law and her husband. In order to keep herself safe and any property she may have owned, Anne may have recognized that there was a need for her to remarry quickly.

A mere six months later, at the behest of friend of the Seymour family, Anne married Edward Unton, a Member of Parliament. There is a brief mention in the register about their marriage:

Mr. Edward Umpton, Esquire, and the Ladie Anne, Countess of Warwick, were married in the parish church of Hatford the third callends of May, in the first and second yeare of ye raignes of Phillip and Mary.[4]

While the marriage most likely was not a love match at the first, the couple did have two surviving sons together Edward Unton MP and Sir Henry Unton, who became a diplomat.

Henry Unton, Anne’s son.



An interesting side-note: All three Seymour sisters (Anne, Margaret & Jane) ‘wrote 103 short verses in Latin in honor of the death of Marguerite de Navarre’.[5]

Restored Some Property

At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in January 1559, Anne’s husband was knighted. It may have also been Elizabeth’s close relationship with Anne’s first husband that she would eventually grant her a life share of her late husband’s forfeited land.[6]

Illness

By about 1566, Anne began to show symptoms of mental illness, or as they called it back then, ‘insanity’.

She spent a prolonged period alone, while Sir Edward went off on his Italian tour, and by 1566, when the youngest of her children can only have been four at the most, she was declared to be “a lunatic enjoying lucid intervals”. She was only twenty-eight. She apparently continued in this sad state for the next twenty-two years, probably being hidden away at Wadley when Sir Edward entertained the Queen at their Langley home in Oxfordshire.[7]

We don’t know exactly what caused her mental illness, and there has been no mention of such an illness on either side of her family…could it have been the trauma from the events that occurred early on? We don’t know. What we do know is that for twenty-two years she was called, “a lunatic enjoying lucid intervals”.

Anne is believed to have died in 1588, she would have been fifty years old. Her husband predeceased her and Anne was buried with him at the Norman church of Faringdon.

Conclusion

Lady Anne was about nine years old when Henry VIII died, and 11 years old when her uncle Thomas was executed. She was 14 when her father was executed in 1552, and she never had the opportunity to know her aunt, Queen Jane. Over five decades of life, half of Anne’s life was spent as a ‘lunatic’. We can hope that she experienced many moments of joy to outnumber all the bad that she experience early on.

Footnotes

[1] A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500–1650. Edited by Carole Levin, Anna Riehl Bertolet, and Jo Eldridge Carney. New York: Routledge, 2017, p 109

[2] Islands of the Vale – Eleanor G. Hayden, pg 136-7

[3] The Chronicle and Political Papers of King Edward VI, edited by W.K. Jordan, pg 32-33

[4] Islands of the Vale – Eleanor G. Hayden, pg 138

[5] Levin, Carole, Bertolet, Carney, A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500–1650. New York: Routledge (2017), p 109

[6] David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History – Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick (1538-1588)

[7] David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History – Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick (1538-1588)

Sources

David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History – Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick (1538-1588)

Hayden, Eleanor G, Islands of the Vale, Smith. Elder & Co; First Edition edition (1908)

Jordan, W.K., The Chronicle and Political Papers of King Edward VI. Geroge Allen and Unwin Ltd – London (1966)

Levin, Carole, Bertolet, Carney, A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500–1650. New York: Routledge (2017)

Scard, Margaret, Edward Seymour Lord Protector – Tudor King in All But Name. The History Press (2016)

Seymour, William, Ordeal by Ambition – An English family in the shadow of the Tudors. St. Martin’s – New York (1972)

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One thought on “The Other Seymours: Anne, Countess of Warwick

  1. Annee lived what we would identify today as a privileged life on one level, but such a sad, restricted life on the other with a lack of control of her own destiny and happiness.

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