Within week, Edward Seymour was safely ensconced on the seat of power. But brother Thomas was not impressed, and would involve three women – Catherine Parr, Princess Elizabeth and Jane Grey in his attempt to gain power and influence
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Looking back to 17th June, we barely stumbled over the line of Henry’s last breath, grasping the hand of his Archbishop, one of the few men to whom he had genuinely and constantly given his friendship. Outside, while all this grasping was going on, many of the most powerful men of the government did some milling as you do, although it appears from a later letter that two of those powerful councillors slipped away into the Gallery had had a bit of a cold hearted chat about what might happen when the old chap did croak his last – namely William Paget and Edward Seymour. Hmmm, what could they be planning I wonder, there in the gallery?
Incidentally, I discovered a thing the other day about dying kings. You might be aware of the traditional proclamation on the death of a monarch – the king/queen is dead, long live the king/stroke queen, and the tradition thereby associated that while the individuals are required to shuffle off this mortal coil, the spirit of the institution they represent is unceasing, undying, unblinking. Like the eye of Sauron, ladies and gentlemen, like the eye of Sauron. Well, I learned that this is the genesis of the royal we – because the person of the living monarch has two parts to them – the physical body of the current monarch, and the spirit of the undying monarchy. You all probably knew that, its taken me 54 years. This definitively means that your neighbour Mr or Mrs Bucket who gets a bit above herself can’t start calling himself we.
Anyway I digress. When the hand grasping was over and the king had breathed his last, you might imagine that the great and powerful Councillors would hitch up their grand robes of state and leg it out into court yelling that the king was dead, he was dead. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I would never be a Royal Councillor, because these men had discretion, capital D. Instead of blurting, they discussed the best course of action with serious faces. The people in control were the 16 executors appointed by Henry’s will. Edward Seymour and William Paget appear to have started politicking early among these men, whispering in shell-likes, furrowing brows, murmmuring, briefing…gosh, 16 seems like a large group to run a country don’t you think? Hmm, wouldn’t you think it better to have one chap in control? Awfully difficult to make decisions with committees, you get camels instead of horses you know.
However, first job was to tell the Wife and kids, but also to secure the person of the new king. Afterall, in the eyes of many of the powers of Europe like the Pope, and the HRE just for starters, Edward was just a bastard. The new monarch of England was Mary, the only legitimate child of Henry VIII as far as they were concerned. So the process had to be managed properly. So nobody was told – ‘oh he’s fine, fine, well you know, hasn’t said a lot recently. Or moved actually, but you know, fine…’ and Seymour set off from Westminster, to talk to the kids. He collected Edward and Elizabeth, and they all arrived back at court where Katharine Parr had been told and Mary was then also informed, and everyone confessed themselves gutted, whatever they really thought. Now Seymour was back it was all systems go, and the will was read out by a tearful Wriothesley to the House of Commons, which was then automatically dissolved as it must be on the death of a monarch. This was 31st January 1547, 3 days after Henry VIII had actually died.
The executors then met. Now, it used to be the rubric that the 16 executors were a balance of reformers and traditionalists as far as religion was concerned, and that the group had been designed to prevent any one person from gaining control. More recently, the balance of historical opinion has swung away from that; the absence particularly of Stephen Gardiner suggests that Henry intended the Reformers to hold the whip hand, although the presence of doughty defenders of tradition such as Cuthbert Tunstall also suggests that Henry did not wish babies to be ejected along with their bathwater. It’s been noted that the will allowed the executors to agree anything they thought ‘meet, necessary or convenient’; and allowed for majority decisions; and so Henry hadn’t tried very hard to stop one person gaining control. Anyway, when the will was read out that 31st January, one of the first decisions the Executors took was to decide that Seymour should be their leader, and bear the title of Protector. No doubt Seymour modestly shook his head and said something along the lines of ‘moi? No no, modesty forbids…Oh OK then, go on’ though it’s reasonably clear that he’d lined at least some influential members up like Paget and Browne beforehand. It seems that he was not elected unopposed – the likes of Thomas Wriothesley for example argued against the idea, which was to prove a career changing decision. But look, it’s not an unreasonable decision, the state ran better in those days when it had a clear leader, we still seem to need one and Seymour was the Uncle of the king, an experienced councillor, and a successful general, so why not?
Another reason why Seymour had been able to win through so easily became a little clearer with something of a hoot called the affair of the ‘unfulfilled gifts’. This was a clause in the will, which looks suspiciously squeezed in, which essentially said that Henry had all along been intending to hand out a bunch of honours and riches and land and stuff but other things had got in the way – you know, the newspaper, the weekly Sudouku, being hauled around on trams, dying that sort of thing. Anthony Denny was prevailed upon to swear that it had all been public and common knowledge what Henry had intended, everyone knew, there’s nothing sneaky going on here, nothing to see, move along, and so snouts happily descended troughwards, as snouts are wont to do, and boots were duly filled, just to mix my metaphors. The 9 year old King Edward happily signed up to the idea and so honours were handed out, promotions made. Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, became Duke of Somerset. Thomas Wriothesley despite his objections or who knows maybe because of them, became Earl of Southampton, William Parr became Marquess of Northampton, John Dudley became Earl of Warwick; William Paget was given grants of land and made a Baron. Even Cranmer received a grant; judge as you will, this was Cranmer’s first personal reward through all the years of the dispersal of church wealth. Good lord. All was happiness and light. On 15th February the old king was solemnly buried in St George Chapel at Windsor, and a massive tomb requisitioned, and I mean you know, big, lots of marble and twiddly bits. Edward was crowned on Sunday 20th February with all the normal grandnesses and pageants and all that sort of thing. It’s been noted that it was Cranmer who subtely changed the coronation oath. The oath the young lad swore made the king’s authority supreme in matters of religion. It is an aspect of Cranmer we’ve noted in Henry’s reign – his firm belief that England’s monarch were supreme in matters of religion as much as in matters secular. Again, the supremacy of monarchs is not a principle we are keen on now, but it clears Cranmer of many of the accusations of a lack of principle; when he gave way to Henry’s religious pronouncements later in his realm, Cranmer believed Henry had the authority. There is a parallel in Cardinal Reginald Pole and the Pope. Pole had come to accept the principle of justification by faith alone, a part of Luther’s and Augustine’s teachings; when the Council ruled against the principle, Pole was gutted, but accepted he could only toe the company line.
Cranmer’s coronation speech would set something of a tone for the reign. It is here that Cranmer started to use the language from the bible that Edward should become the new Josiah. He spelled out what he must do to earn the title of a second Josiah – he must see that God is truly worshipped, he must destroy idolatry, remove the images and fight Papal tyranny. A couple of things about this.
Our Thomas Cranmer had a bit of a spring in his step. He was 58 now, but here at last was his opportunity to spread his wings and fly away, high away, to the sky. He had survived the toxic politics of Henry’s reign, survived personal attacks on his right to power and indeed right to life. Now was his time, time to thrown back the duvet of politics and spring from the bed of equivocation, thrust his feet firmly into the slippers of decisive reformation. It is very likely that Cranmer and the reformers around him – men like his Chaplain Nicholas Ridley, and like the new Protector Somerset – had a specific agenda and a plan for the reformation they wanted – and now, at last, the evangelicals had squeezed their bony buttocks onto the driver’s seat. Cranmer had a plan to tear down the old temple, and build a new one in its place. Gentlemen, he might have said, we can rebuild this church. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic church. England will hold that church. Better than it was before. Better… stronger… faster. That is not to say that we will see a straight line in the building of this new church – far from it. But the halts and digressions will be driven by the need to bring the conservatives with them, not because they had any doubt about what they wanted and where they wanted to end up.
And in fact Cranmer’s speech is a good signal of that. Just a few days before, a church in London had been carpeted for tearing down the images against the current rules of the church. Obviously, I don’t mean they’d installed a carpet, I mean the local church officials were disciplined, though a carpet would equally have been a nice touch. As in, every church shall have a bible in English, and a nice applique rug. Anyway, so one day the church in Ironmonger lane in London was giving a ticking off for being too eager to tear down images, and before you could say reformation, here was the ABC telling the king that’s exactly what he needed. Stephen Gardiner was furious, firing off outraged letters; but it’s a good demonstration of what will happen and it would prove a remarkably effective strategy.
One of the triumphs and tragedies of the short reign ahead was that Somerset and the Council seemed to have been determined that the increasing brutality of Henry’s reign would not be repeated – that with the arrival of the new Josiah, there would be a new freedom a fresh start. The first parliament in November 1547 will be an example of that, but for the moment the first act was about the Duke of Norfolk. His boat had come in essentially. His execution had been scheduled for the very day Henry died. The new regime cancelled the event, Norfolk remained in the tower for the remainder of it. Edward’s reign is notable for its absence of the burning of heretics, and the relative lack of political executions. A fresh start, a conscious effort to generate a milder, more reasonable climate.
However, that was not to say that the councillors who had argued and jostled under old king Henry suddenly worked together in peace and harmony – there were political casualties. And by and large the ones to go were conservatives. Thomas Wriothesley had argued against Somerset’s promotion. So, Thomas Wriothesley had to go. Somerset trumped up some charges about the dodgy selling of offices, and he lost his seat on the Council. He was, for a while, rusticated. After a couple of years he would regain his seat as it happens. Now seriously, do we think this is the way it would have happened under Henry? I suspect Thomas would have found himself explaining his actions to a burly chap with big muscles by a gallows pole.
With Wriothesley gone, Protector Somerset’s position was tickety boo, firmly placed in the hot seat. But not everyone was happy with their chair once the music had stopped. And two of them were to be connected – Catherine Parr and Somerset’s brother, Thomas Seymour.
Catherine had expected to be involved in both the upbringing of her step son, and the management of the realm. And her expectation was far from unreasonable. I would even go as far as to say that it was perfectly reasonable, if not a gimme. She had afterall been in a previous will in 1544 saying she should be regent; and she had been the regent during Henry’s last huzzah in France. She was as certain she would become regent as I am each year that this time Derby will be promoted to the Premiership. And she was to be equally disappointed. This is a feature of English football of course – a life of constant disappointment caused by inflated expectations, confirming my deeply held belief that the answer to a happy life is low aspirations. But hey, this is not a self help podcast, so onwards. We even have I believe a letter where she signed herself Queen Regent – how embarrassing is that? But Henry had done the dirty on her, Somerset had no intention of unwinding such a nice decision, and so Catherine was suddenly Norma no mates. So she retired to her dower house at Chelsea. Obviously, if footie had defined the move she’d have moved to Pride park, but clearly by moving to Chelsea Catherine announced her disinterest in quality football.
But just as every silvery lining has its cloud, so the reverse is true. In 1543, Catherine had struggled to choose between the path of righteousness and the path that rocks. And chosen to marry Henry rather than pursue the younger, more dashing and dangerous in a different way Thomas Seymour. And had been a model of restraint and probity ever since, including her deeply reformist and Christian publications. I have in my mind in what happen next an image of Catherine entering a club soberly dressed, reaching the ubiquitous sparkly mirror ball and throwing off her black clothes to reveal sparkliness that would put ABBA to shame and hitting that dance floor with a vengeance. Because Catherine really seems to lose her head from here. Sobriety deserts her. And as a first act of rebellion, her thoughts flew to her old paramour.
Thomas Seymour would seem to have been uniquely undeserving of the affections of a person as impressive as Catherine Parr. In summary – all fur coat and no knickers, all mouth – no trousers. Actually that’s harsh; he had a reasonably successful military career against the French, it’s just that in the Seymour family it was Edward that seems to have had the brains, and thomas the looks, unlike the Crowther family where, you know. Well, modesty prevents me saying more obviously, but you know what I am saying. Seymour was flambouyant, but wild and with a sense of entitlement that would have made Richard II look humble. Thomas was livid at the settlement that saw his brother in control of the state. Not that he begrudged him that necessarily, but he felt that as a royal uncle he should be governor of the king’s person, and he thumped the table and bent the ear of anyone he could find. He quoted precedents to support his case – which unfortunately came from the minority of Henry VI, Gloucester and Bedford, and even more than a hundred years later the memories were too painful. Any possibility of a recurrence of those days must be avoided, specifically the Duke of Bedford’s haircut, an unforgiveable moment in England’s otherwise glorious history. Thomas Seymour’s point was, and it was not ridiculous, that his brother should not be both the Council boss, and the king’s Governor – those jobs should be split, and he, Thomas, would have been the perfect choice as Governor. Anyway, the long and short is that Seymour and Catherine snuck away into the forest and tied the knot. We know not where and when, though we’d all like to have been a fly on the wall, even a blue arsed one, but probably as early as May 1547 the deed was done.
Well, when the news broke you can only guess at the waves of righteous indignation that swept over the happy couple. Chins wobbled, skirts were drawn aside, backs were turned, the wrath of brothers passeth all understanding. Interestingly, Thomas had sought the advocacy of Princess Mary before the happy event, a particularly daft idea and he’d been snubbed by that paragon of proper behaviour. When she heard the news that they’d gone ahead anyway, Princess Mary left Catherine’s household immediately. Insult or injury number one was the indecent haste with which the Queen had moved on from the love of her revered father, the regrettably chunky Henry. The other insult or injury though, was a more practical one; in the event that Catherine and Seymour lowered the lights, turned up the Barry Manilow and you know, got it on, the resulting child could conceivably, ha ha no pun intended – be Henry’s. So seriously, there were many long faces around. There was no face longer, it appears that that of Somerset’s wife Anne. Anne was described as a
Woman for many imperfections intolerable and for pride monstrous, subtle and violent
Which is, you know, not complimentary as a description I think it’s fair to say. Anne Somerset’s influence on history is sadly unknowable for all those reasons about the position of women in society and therefore not reported, but since she apparently ruled Somerset
By persuasions cunningly intermixed with tears
It could be that this was significant. Anne hated Catherine. Chris Skidmore, the author of ‘Edward VI the Lost King of England’, which I commend to you relates an anecdote where the Duchess Anne and Queen Catherine get into a bit of a ding dong about who had precedence at an event – this is the sort of thing which really bothered your 16th century upper crustie. Catherine tried to insist Anne should carrying her train; as far as Anne was concerned she’d rather dine on droppings – and Catherine finally let it pass. Anne is recorded as saying
I am she that will teach her,
Which is, you know, a little in yer face, and Catherine referred to her as Hell, and candidly told Thomas she’d prayed for the Duchesses ‘short despatch’. All the fun of the fair. Seriously though you might well think I am just being a gossip, but I would bet the shirt on my back that history has been affected more by these kind of personal relationships than we can measure. Somerset reflected his wife’s animosity, treating Catherine dismissively, even at one stage distributing some of her dower lands without her say-so. At one point Catherine wrote to Thomas
‘It was fortunate we were so much distant for I suppose else I should have bitten him.’
Which makes an interesting image, the Queen of England sinking her teeth into the Lord Protector of England. Anne and Catherine hated each other. Thomas resented his brother’s success and power. And so the two were driven towards conflict.
So cross was Thomas that when his brother headed north to continue the war with Scotland, which campaign is obviously much more important than all of this, but I am in gossip mode. Thomas started to try to ingratiate himself with the young King while he was gone. Seymour had a contact in the royal household, a man called John Fowler, and he was basically bribing Fowler to give him access – paying him a retainer, an honorarium, a consideration shall we say – grease, basically. Seymour dropped poison gently into Edward’s ear; wasn’t Somerset mean with the allowance he gave him? He even lent him money, though quite what a 10 year old did with it I have no idea. He had all the buns his heart could desire I imagine. Seymour would try to leverage this relationship for his advantage.
However, more effective at this time would be two other people who became part of Catherine’s household. I think in a earlier episode we reflected about the influence Catherine Parr has on English history – soft influence through the spreading of evangelical ideas through the royal household, by making it acceptable to hold reformist views. Two people join Catherine’s household at this time; a 14 year old called Elizabeth, Catherine’s step daughter, yes, that Elizabeth, and a 10 year old girl called Jane Grey. Let us deal with Jane first.
Jane was the daughter of Lady Frances Brandon and Henry Grey, the Marquess of Dorset. The important thing here is that Frances Brandon was the daughter of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. And so Jane had that most dangerous and vicious of substances flowing through her veins – royal blood. Now as it happens, Henry VIII had excluded Frances herself from the succession, we know not why, but it did not exclude her heirs. I mean obviously Edward was a young lusty lad and would grow up to breed like a rabbit, but for the moment…well, you know better safe than sorry.
The Greys were that most marvellous of things, a Leicestershire family, and their family home was Bradgate Park, known locally as Braggie Park, a place where St David Attenborough wandered as a youth wondering how fossils could be embedded in granite, and where the Crowthers have yelled hopelessly for more various temporarily mislaid hounds than you can shake a lead at. It appears that Frances was no more likeable than was Anne Somerset – ‘hard riding’, ‘cunning and predatory’ are just a couple of the phrases attached to her. Whatever the truth, Jane appears not to have had a great time of it with her folks, who were very young when they had Jane. Frances and Henry brought their children up in the normal way for the time, but on the stricter side of the available possibilities. At one point she was visited by the academic Roger Ascham, who found her reading Plato, as you do. Obviously, there might have been a Jilly Cooper hidden in the covers, but if so, Jane got away with it. Ascham reported her words:
“When I am in the presence of either Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silent, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else. I must do it as if it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world, or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yes presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways, that I think myself in Hell.”
Sounds like good and proper parenting to me. In a few year’s time, when 16 years old, she would be described physically as:
“This Lady Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish-brown in colour, her skin freckled, and her teeth white and sharp.”
The long and short is that Jane was unhappy at home, but it’s likely that she had very little voice in what happened next. As an heiress with a claim to the throne, Jane was hot property. So Henry Grey had a visitation from the agent of a friend of his – one John Harrington, who came to visit from Thomas Seymour, with a proposal that sounds a bit weird to the modern ear. Why, he said, doesn’t Jane come and live with their household, with Thomas and Queen Catherine, why doesn’t Seymour take her into wardship? Now as you may remember from a previous episode, this was not so unusual in England, though it horrified an Italian visitor; English parents often managed to offload their offspring on other families, in the hope that they’ll help them develop into fully rounded people, develop a network of contacts and, you, know, leave the evenings open to the parents for a nice glass of wine, pizza and a video now and then. This relationship though seemed to go further than normal. But what swung it here was a promise or a prayer from Seymour. He’d get Jane a good marriage he said. When asked for specifics he was promised the best – marriage to the king. Plus of course there’s money involved here – £2,000 Seymour was to pay for the wardship, and you can be sure he expected to turn a good profit on that very large outlay. Well, Grey was hooked, good and proper, and Jane joined the Seymour household.
Once there, Catherine appeared to have worked her magic; she was also of an intellectual bent able to encourage Jane’s learning, but recognising and rewarding her, being kind essentially. So Jane had for the moment at least landed on her feet.
The other, far more important member of Catherine and Seymour’s household was the Princess Elizabeth. Interestingly, if the Princess Mary had her way, she would have been nowhere near Catherine. Mary was a deeply traditional person, and despite the way her father had treated her at time in her life, she respected and honoured his memory. The site of Catherine lifting her skirts and legging it over to Thomas Seymour offended her very much. She urged Elizabeth not to stay in Catherine’s household since the
‘scarcely cold body of the King our father [has been] so shamefully dishonoured by the Queen our stepmother.’
Elizabeth was already showing a sharp intelligence and the Tudor stubbornness; she wrote back tactfully, but stayed right where she was. Before I go on, I would also like to introduce another character to you, one Catherine Astley, usually known as Kat Astley. Let me return briefly to the theme that personal relationships probably have more influence on high politics than we can ever know; Kat Astley was probably the closest person to Elizabeth until her death in 1565. Born Katherine Champernowne, Kat landed a position in Elizabeth’s household by 1536. There is a lot of confusion about her age; Wikipedia has it as 1502, others say as late as 1507; the Database of National Biography basically points out she got married in 1545, and that she was likely to have been a teenager when she joined court in 1536. That puts her birth date around 1516. However old she was, it seems that Kat and Elizabeth were tightly bond by bonds of affection and love; she was the mother Elizabeth did not, have she was a constant companion and confidente. In 1547 Kat became Elizabeth’s Governess, with great influence of Elizabeth’s education, and on her accession to the throne she became her Chief Gentlewoman. Elizabeth had no Gentlewoman of the Stool, but Kat was the closest equivalent. It’s difficult to know precisely the level of influence Kat Astley has, but she clearly felt able to speak openly to Elizabeth, she would remain close to her until Kat died in 1565. Without doubt she had the ability to whisper advice, to nudge the queen to consider this or that petition or notice this or that courtier. She is apparently, the inspiration for Nursey in Blackadder two, once again demonstrating the quality of Blackadder’s historical accuracy. But she appears in a starring role only really in one major incident, which we’ll go through now, in which she really doesn’t appear in the best light; and Robert Dudley, would be constantly irritated by Kat’s advocacy of various suitors for Elizabeth’s hand. And indeed for the rest of her, obviously. But Kat was fiercely loyal, and willing to risk all for her charge, and Elizabeth would be equally fierce in her defence. They were chumps, they loved each other.
So, what incident I hear you ask? Well, Thomas Seymour as I say was an ambitious sort of cove. So there he is – sitting pretty with the only queen in town, Katherine Parr, with an heir to the throne in Jane Grey and with the young 13 year old Princess Elizabeth. Now Thomas Seymour obviously had something, don’t know what it was. But whatever it was, it convinces three women, two of them with demonstrably powerful intellects, to apparently abandon good sense.
So there we are one morning, in the young Elizabeth’s bedchamber, Kat and Elizabeth at least. When in defiance of all protocol there appeared Seymour himself. This is most irregular, and after a quick good morning he disappeared. But slice by slice, Seymour made both accustomed to his presence, visiting more often and staying longer. Kat did not do her duty and refuse him entrance, as would be the rule. Katherine refused to see any danger in the situation. Kat would recount later that
‘He would come many mornings into the said Lady Elizabeth’s Chamber, before she was ready, and sometimes before she did rise. And if she were up, he would bid her good morrow, and ask how she did, and strike her upon the back or on the buttocks familiarly.’
You really don’t touch royal buttocks. Royal Buttocks are off limits even under the Norwegian Right to roam legislation. Yet Kat seems to have been enamoured of Seymour, and encouraged the pair, failing to intervene in a nighttime boat ride for example. When Seymour tried to kiss Elizabeth, finally the alarm bells began to ring in Kat’s head, especially when Seymour came again and again into Elizabeth’s bedchamber, dressed only in his nightgown. So Kat pushed the red button with Queen Katherine, but she simply refused to take it seriously. Until one day Katherine came in search of her husband – and found him in Elizabeth’s arms.
Well, finally there was a general dropping of scales. This is now 1548, and Elizabeth was banished from the Queen’s household. She was mortified; obviously she was pretty young at the time and the villain of this piece is Seymour, but she pretty quickly realised the care she would have to take when a rumour spread that she had actually carried and lost Seymour’s child. There’s naff all evidence for this by the way, but Elizabeth realised she’d been foolish, and Kat had failed to do her job.
By now, Katherine had retired to Sudeley Castle to have her child, and Seymour joined her. On 30th August the happy couple were delivered of a baby girl, Mary, and for a few days all was well. Until the fever struck Katherine, and she fell ill. In her pain she gave vent to her fury at Seymour’s behaviour with Elizabeth, but sadly before long she was past caring; Katherine Parr died on 7th September 1548, and her baby daughter did not survive infancy.
Elizabeth was reported to be gutted; but incredibly Kat’s view of the tragedy was that every cloud had it’s silvery lining, you know, Katherine’s death was very sad and all, but on the other hand it did mean that her
‘old husband, appointed at the king’s death, was free again, and she might have him if she wished’.
And horribly enough, despite initially delivering a sharp put down, Kat worked on her charge and Elizabeth once more began to show interest. Kat Astley worked remarkably hard at this, brokering communications with Seymour and Elizabeth. They all knew that Elizabeth was quite incapable of marrying without the Council’s permission, but by Christmas 1548 the court was buzzing with the rumour that Seymour and the Princess would be married.
And meanwhile Seymour, if you’ll pardon the phrase, was playing silly buggers elsewhere. He just could not live with his brother’s success and his own relative powerlessness. He started lobbying the boy king to make him his governor, bad mouthing his brother Somerset, and trying to encourage the lad that through him, Edward could more quickly gain his full power. The young Edward, who is what 11 at this stage, seems to be have been a man capable of understanding tripe when he heard it. Seymour threw Edward a line:
Since I saw you last you are grown to be a goodly gentleman. I trust that within 3 or 4 years you shall be ruler of your own things
Nay, said Edward
Really? Within 3 or 4 years your grace shall be sixteen years old. I trust by that time Your Grace will help you men yourself, with such things as fall in your Grace’s gift
But Edward gave no reply, gave Seymour no encouragement. And so in January 1549, Seymour really pressed the potty button. He obtained a duplicate key, and snuck into the king’s apartments with two companions. You will scarcely believe it when I say that Seymour seems to have decided that direct action was the obvious and sensible thing to do here. As it happens Edward unexpectedly had a dog with him, and doggy knew that this chap was up to no good. Doggy barked furiously in defence of his master. Seymour shot doggy. In England, creeping around shooting dogs is not a traditional way of courting popularity. Seymour turned and ram for it, the only sensible thing he’d done all day.
It’s a pretty incomprehensible affair really. I mean what was Seymour up to, what was he planning to do? Honestly, there is no box of cheese so mad, no fruit cake so nutty. It seems impossible to believe he was planning to kill the king, how was he going to hold on to him once he had him? Unsurprisingly, the next day he was arrested, and an investigation was started. All of the shenanigans with Elizabeth now came out into the open, there was again talk of a royal pregnancy. Kat Astley was sacked from her job as Elizabeth’s governess, and chucked into the Tower, and interrogated. Anne Somerset, or Hell as we know her of course, spat that
she was not worthy to have the governance of a kinges doughter
and Seymour meanwhile was heading toastwards. 33 accusations were levelled at him, the nub of it being that he was planning to kidnap the king and marry the Princess. The matter of buttocks came up again. On 25th February 1549, Thomas Seymour’s bill of Attainder was debated in parliament. Seymour’s big brother Protector Somerset was allowed to be absent, as a mercy for him. In the Tower meanwhile, Seymour managed to secretly make a pen and write letters to Mary and Elizabeth, urging them to conspire against Edward, and sewing the letters into this clothes where nobody would ever think to look. They were, of course, discovered. On 19th March 1549, Seymour was duly executed on Tower Hill.
Edward’s diary entry for the event rather demonstrates the dullness of that document. It read
The lord Sudeley Admiral of England was condemned to death, and died the March ensuing.
Given the effort Seymour had put into ingratiating himself into his nephew’s good books, it’s slightly disappointing. Even more disappointing, though, was the judgement of his intended, Elizabeth now 15 who rather harshly remarked that there
‘died a man with much wit, and very little judgment
Harsh, but fair maybe. Somerset was clearly gutted to have agreed to the execution of his brother, and later lamented that if Thomas had just spoken to him he’d have made it OK. But look, despite the fact that Seymour was clearly something of a plonker, he had a certain kind of Love Island appeal, and a popular charisma. His execution did Somerset’s reputation no good whatsoever. Dark looks issued from every pub and tavern
The blood of his brother the Admiral cried against him before God
Went the whispers. A lady thrust herself into Somerset’s path and spat
Where is thy brother? Lo! His blood crieth against thee unto God from the ground
Seymour’s idiocies had not only brought him death, but wounded his family as well.