SEYMOUR, John I (by 1523-67), of Great Marlow, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. by 1523. educ. I. Temple. m. by 1544, Alice, wid. of John Purce of St. Albans, Herts., s.p.1
Under clerk of the Parliaments 1547-67; j.p. Bucks., Herts. 1547; escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 1548-9; commr. relief, Bucks., Herts. 1550; clerk of the peace, Bucks. by 1555-9 or later.2
It was A. F. Pollard who distinguished the John Seymour returned for Bedwyn in 1545 from two namesakes elected to the succeeding Parliament, and who correctly identified him with the under clerk of the Parliaments. This conclusion rests on the fact that the last Parliament at which Seymour officiated, that of 1563, ended within 12 months of the proving of the will of John Seymour ‘of Great Marlow, in the county of Buckingham, gentleman’, the style and domicile given on the return of 1545.3
Seymour’s parentage is unknown, but it is almost certain that he was descended from the John ‘Semer’ of Great Marlow who in 1425 left to his grandson Thomas the remainder in a lease of the manor of Seymours belonging to Muchelney abbey, Somerset. At the Dissolution the lands of the abbey were granted to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, who according to the local historian Thomas Langley, citing deeds in his father’s possession, leased the manor of Seymours for 100 years to a John Seymour on 4 Sept. 1541; the lease was to be confirmed in 1549 by the dean and chapter of Bristol, to whom the crown granted the lands at Marlow in 1542 after having recovered them from Hertford by means of an exchange. It was probably the same John Seymour who received an annuity of £20 from the earl in 1542 and who is found acting for him in land transactions in 1544 and 1548. The legal training implied by such employment is known to have come the way of the under clerk, who in May 1547 was admitted a fellow of the Inner Temple, a status which normally presupposed three years of study; his simultaneous discharge, at the cost of 20s., of all offices and his freedom to be out of commons were to be confirmed in 1560, when they were said to have been granted ‘having regard as well to the building of his chamber as that he was clerk of the Parliament house’.4
It must have been to Hertford that Seymour owed his return for Bedwyn to the Parliament of 1545: Bedwyn was one of the manors, previously held by Sir Edward Darrell and his heir Edmund Darrell, which had been granted to Hertford a few months before the election. It was presumably also on Hertford’s, now Somerset’s, nomination that he became under clerk of Parliament. The date of this appointment is left in doubt by the patent of 10 May 1548 which directed Seymour ‘to attend upon the Commons of the realm of England thereto convoked, from Michaelmas’. That the Michaelmas referred to was 29 Sept. 1547 is shown by the Privy Council’s warrant of 27 Mar. 1549 for a reward to Seymour for ‘his diligent attendance given at both the last assessments of the Parliament’, and by payments made to him from the Exchequer and by the corporation of London in respect of the year 1547-8. It is therefore certain that he was under clerk from the opening of Edward VI’s first Parliament. Although he held the office during pleasure, he was not to be deprived of it either at Somerset’s fall from power or at the duke’s trial and execution, which cost him no more than a summons before the Privy Council in December 1551; he was evidently not close enough to Somerset to be judged dangerous and the value of his services to the Commons may have been already apparent.5
Seymour had his patent renewed by both Mary and Elizabeth; the first took the opportunity to cut his salary from £10 to £5 and the second to restore it to the old rate. He also received a reward from the crown at the end of each parliamentary session, in 1549 one of 40 marks, increased in 1550 and 1552 to 50 marks, as well as gifts from the city of London which, starting at £5 in 1548, fell to 5 marks in 1549 and to four in 1550 and 1552, to £5 for the two Parliaments of 1553 and to 40s. apiece thereafter. In 1549 the corporation minuted that although under clerks had their accustomed fee which they had ‘heretofore commonly used to have at every session of the Parliament’, such payment was a ‘free gift’ for Seymour’s ‘gentle behaviour and good will’ and not one that he ‘ought of right’ to have. On only one occasion is Seymour known to have received payment from the City for a specific service: the £5 he received in 1548 was partly in payment ‘for his pains taken in writing of the book in parchment to have been enacted by Parliament for the assurance of the late hospital of little St. Bartholomew in West Smithfield and of the lands thereto belonging’. Seymour appears to have acted on his own initiative in starting the Commons’ Journal as we know it: during his 20 years of keeping it he shaped its form for centuries to come.6
In the will which he made on 7 Oct. 1565, and which was proved on 12 Dec. 1567, Seymour affirmed his trust ‘to be of the number that shall inhabit the Kingdom that is prepared for the chosen people of God’. The direction that if he should chance to die at Marlow he should be buried in Great Marlow church near his wife’s pew may indicate that he made the will in expectation of an earlier resumption of the Parliament of 1563 than in fact took place. Evidently childless, Seymour bequeathed his house at St. Albans to his wife Alice for life, after which it was to pass to Edward Grace, whom elsewhere he calls ‘my boy’; the remainder of his ‘farm’ (presumably his lease of Seymours) he left to his wife for 39 years, with reversion to his executor Hugh Dawson, cook, in the event of her marriage or death. His charitable bequests included one of £1 a year for 60 years towards the repair of Marlow bridge.