Edward Seymour: Life Story

Chapter 4 : Battle

A force was raised under the Duke of Norfolk, to punish Border raiding with full-scale attack. Hertford was assigned to join him and to lead the vanguard. By the end of October, he was burning and pillaging around the towns of Kelso and Jedburgh. However, there were insufficient supplies to maintain the army in the field and he was obliged to withdraw to Berwick. On arrival, he was astonished, and, it seems, dismayed, to find that he had been appointed Warden General of the Scottish Marches. The wardenships of the various marches (east, west and central) were usually shared out amongst the northern nobles – the earls of Northumberland, Westmorland and Cumberland, or the next rank of peers – the lords Dacre, Darcy or Wharton.

To be successful in the position required detailed knowledge of the local terrain and politics and the ability to command loyalty in a still-feudal land. Hertford had none of these attributes, and wrote to the king, explaining why he was not the right man for the job. Just as no-one had wanted to tell Henry about Katheryn Howard, it seemed that no-one wanted to be Warden – other candidates also made difficulties. Eventually, the post went to Hertford’s old friend, John Dudley, now Viscount Lisle. Whilst Lisle was making his preparations to travel north, Hertford went to Alnwick Castle and began some of the administrative work of the post, to aid his friend. A large part of his efforts was directed to planning a major assault on Scotland, rather than the piecemeal affairs that were generally conducted.

In November, Hertford began his attack. Coldingham, and a whole series of settlements near Berwick were destroyed by his army of some 2,000 men. Soon after, he received information that James V was planning a two-pronged retaliation. The Scots had prepared a huge force, but they were utterly defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss, on 24th November. This victory proved successful for England beyond the immediate military achievement. James V died within a month of the battle, leaving his kingdom in turmoil, and, most useful for Henry VIII, some twelve hundred Scottish prisoners of the rank of gentleman or above, were taken prisoner. Hertford swiftly followed up the battle, with another offensive at Coldstream, where the town and abbey were burnt. Covered with glory, Hertford returned to court, where he was rewarded with the position of Lord Great Chamberlain, as Lisle took up the role of Warden.

In the spring of 1543, Hertford would have become aware that his companion from the 1525 household of the Duke of Richmond, William Parr, was about to equal his position as brother-in-law to the king, when Henry VIII began courting Parr’s sister, Katherine. Whilst the Parrs benefited from the marriage, just as the Seymours had benefited from the king’s marriage to Jane, Hertford was still in the stronger position, as uncle to the king’s son. Nevertheless, sharing the spoils of connection to the royal family was never going to be appealing. However, Hertford’s wife, Anne, was appointed to the household of the new queen, and, it seemed at the time, that the women were on good terms. They certainly shared an interest in the Reformed faith.

Meanwhile, Henry was hoping to drive home his achievements in Scotland, by forcing the Scottish governor, the Earl of Arran, to agree a treaty whereby Scotland’s infant queen, Mary, would be married to Prince Edward, and brought to England for her upbringing. Although Arran ratified the treaty, the Scots Parliament refused to follow suit, and rejected it. Arran was forced to change from a pro-English stance, to a pro-French one. Henry was furious. Hertford, having performed well in the previous campaign, was appointed Lieutenant General of a new force, with instructions to invade Scotland. Simultaneously, Henry and his second-in-command, the Duke of Suffolk, staged an invasion of France.

All the shortcomings that had hampered Hertford in 1542 – poor supplies, unfit horses, and badly-trained men, he now tried to remedy with detailed planning. Although small raids across the border were encouraged, they were not to be so prolonged that supplies would be wasted, or the horses lose condition. Men and supplies were to be taken by sea to Newcastle, where Hertford and the locally-levied troops would go aboard, to be carried into the Firth of Forth, from where Edinburgh would be attacked. On 4th May, 1544, the English ships sailed into Leith – although the Scots mounted a defence, they had a weaker force, and were overcome. Leith was taken, and the men and material landed for an assault on Edinburgh. Reluctant to see the city burnt, the provost and citizens of Edinburgh offered to surrender, in return for being allowed to leave, and the preservation of the city.

Hertford rejected the offer. Henry VIII had been so furious at the rejection of the Treaty of Greenwich that complete devastation of Scotland had been his order. Edinburgh, including the palace at Holyrood and the adjoining abbey, were severely damaged, although the castle itself held firm. Hertford withdrew to Leith, and burnt both town and pier. Whilst part of the English army then withdrew by ship, another section laid waste throughout the south of Scotland as it returned to Berwick. Thousands were slaughtered, their animals and crops stolen or destroyed, and their towns devastated. In total, some 243 towns and villages were sacked.

As soon as Hertford reached Berwick, he received orders from the king that the army was to embark immediately to provide reinforcements for the army in France. Hertford responded that officers, men and horses were so exhausted by their efforts that they needed time to recuperate. Whilst the king was digesting this, Hertford organised further raids into Scotland. Lord Eure burnt Jedburgh – aided by some forty Scots who had agreed to support the English, in return for their own homes and families being spared.