Edward Seymour: Life Story

Chapter 9 : Seymour's Schemes

Foiled in a direct approach to the king, Seymour now capitalised on his friendship with the Marquis of Dorset, persuading Dorset to sell him the wardship and marriage of his eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey. This sounds heartless to modern ears, but such arrangements were by no means unusual, although less common if the father of the child was alive. Seymour’s bait was the promise to arrange Jane’s marriage to the king. Accordingly, Jane went to live in Seymour’s household, chaperoned by his mother, and in the summer of 1548, joined Queen Katherine when the latter retired to Sudeley during her pregnancy.

Seymour also sounded out others who were unhappy with Somerset’s increasingly high-handed approach to government, including the sacked Earl of Southampton, and the Earl of Rutland. He recommended all of these men to return to their county powerbases and begin sweet-talking the local gentry. He boasted that he himself had ‘as great a number of gentlemen that loved him as any nobleman in England’, the implication being that, in a showdown with his brother, he would emerge victorious. To fund his schemes, he intrigued with Sir William Sharington, the Under-treasure of the Mint, at Bristol, and the two made a very profitable business of counterfeiting.

As if all this activity were not enough, Seymour was openly flirting with his wife’s stepdaughter, the Lady Elizabeth, until matters reached such a pitch that Katherine sent the girl away to protect her reputation. More here

Katherine and Seymour soon made up their quarrel – she retired to Sudeley to await the birth of their child, whilst Seymour came and went, conducting some of his duties as lord admiral, but not enough to please Somerset, who had received complaints about slackness. Somerset wrote a letter of rebuke, but his brother seemed unconcerned.

The queen delivered a daughter on 30th August. Somerset wrote an affectionate letter to Seymour, congratulating him on the birth, and rejoicing that Katherine had survived it. Sadly, in this he was wrong, as the queen-dowager died within a week. Seymour had been sincerely attached to his wife. Distraught, he left the baby in the care of his mother, and visited Somerset, who tried to comfort him.

As well as the personal loss, Katherine’s death reduced Seymour’s influence. Once again, he sought to increase his power at the expense of his brother’s, and once again talked about the king being of sufficient discretion to rule himself within a year. He boasted that Katherine’s quarrel with the Duchess of Somerset would be avenged by his daughter taking precedence of the duchess, once she was an adult. The plan to marry his ward, Jane Grey, to Edward also took on new life and he resurrected his plan to marry the Lady Elizabeth, putting out feelers to her governess, Katherine Astley, and cofferer, Thomas Parry. Nevertheless, he was aware that Somerset would not countenance such a match, and told Parry that it was impossible – hinting darkly that Somerset was preventing him from having his fair share of power.

Seymour’s behaviour became so notorious that his friends tried to warn him to behave more circumspectly. As he rode to Parliament with Lord Russell, the latter warned him not to think of trying to marry the princess – such an attempt would ‘undo’ him. Seymour responded that he no such plans, to which Russell responded that, since Henry VII and Henry VIII had both been suspicious men, it was not unlikely that Edward VI might prove to be of an equally suspicious nature, and if Seymour were married to his half-sister, might believe that he would wish for the king’s death.

The Earl of Warwick, too, pointed out his folly – saying that Somerset was the ‘fittest to administer the affairs of the country’, and that neither the king nor Warwick himself would ever consent to be governed by Seymour.

By this time, Somerset had heard all the rumours, and had reports of Warwick’s, Southampton’s and Russell’s conversations with his brother. He summoned him to account for himself. Seymour refused a private meeting, saying he would only attend him in the face of the whole council, and signing ‘I wish your grace as well as I would to myself, although ye should do me wrong’.