SEYMOUR, Sir Thomas II (by 1509-49), of Bromham, Wilts., Seymour Place, London and Sudeley Castle, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. by 1509, 4th s. of Sir John Seymour, and bro. of Sir Henry. m. May 1547, Catherine, da. of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Westmld., wid. of Sir Edward Burgh, Sir John Neville I 3rd Lord Latimer, and Henry VIII, 1da. cr. Baron Seymour of Sudeley 16 Feb. 1547. Kntd. 18 Oct. 1537, KG nom. and invest. 17 Feb. inst. 23 May 1547.1
Servant to Sir Francis Bryan by 1530; master forester, Enfield Chase, Mdx. 9 Aug. 1532-d.; gent. the privy chamber 1536-46 or later; capt. Sweepestake 1537, Peter 1544; jt. master steward, Chirk and Holt castles, Denb. 1537; ambassador to Hungary June 1542, the Netherlands 30 Apr. 1543; keeper, Farleigh Hungerford castle and park, Wilts. 11 Mar. 1544; master of the ordnance 18 Apr. 1544-26 Mar. 1547; steward, duchy of Lancaster, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 28 May 1544-d.; admiral 1544; commr. benevolence, Wilts. 1544/45, array, Kent 1545, chantries, Wilts. 1546, musters, Wilts. 1546, of Admiralty in Nov. 1547; PC 23-28 Jan., 2 Feb. 1547-18 Jan. 1549; ld. adm. 17 Feb. 1547-18 Jan. 1549; j.p. Berks., Devon, Essex, Glos., Hants, Herefs., Herts., Kent, Mdx., Salop, Suss., Wilts. and Worcs. 1547; master, St. Katharine’s hospital by 1548; numerous minor offices.2
Nothing has been discovered about the early life and education of Thomas Seymour; since he was literate, it may be inferred that he received private tuition. He seems to have attained some fluency in French, but this may have been a product of his early career rather than his upbringing. Probably through his father’s preferment Seymour was, by 1530, employed in the service of his ‘cousin’ Sir Francis Bryan, then English ambassador in France, as a messenger to and from the King. In August 1532 he obtained the master forestership of Enfield Chase, but he seems to have secured no further advancement before the marriage of his sister Jane to the King in May 1536, when he became a gentleman of the privy chamber and shared a grant of the stewardship of two castles in the Welsh marches and of the adjoining lordships in Wales. From these inauspicious beginnings, early in 1537, he received his first command in the navy, which he was to make virtually his own much in the same way as his brother Edward was to do with the army. After helping to patrol the Channel and taking part in the action against four French ships in Mount’s Bay, he returned to court for the christening of his nephew Prince Edward and three days later he was knighted, while his brother was raised to the earldom of Hertford. The death of the Queen in the following week did nothing to impair the advancement of either brother.3
Seymour had the ear of Henry VIII. During the Easter Law vacation of 1538 he told the King that Archbishop Cranmer was misusing his income but retracted on learning his information was wrong. That this episode did not harm him is shown by what happened next. In July of that year the 3rd Duke of Norfolk suggested to the King that Seymour should marry his daughter (the King’s widowed daughter-in-law) the Duchess of Richmond, but despite the King’s approval nothing came of the match. In the following autumn he accompanied Sir Anthony Browne to France as a member of Browne’s embassy to Francis I. Over the next year or so he acquired the manor of Coleshill in Berkshire, the commandery of Baddesley in Hampshire and the sites and lands of the abbeys of Coggeshall in Essex and Romsey in Hampshire. An exchange of lands between Sir Richard Long and himself was confirmed by a private Act (31 Hen. VIII, no. 24) in the Parliament of 1539. In December 1539 he went to Calais as one of the dignitaries to meet Anne of Cleves and escort her to London, and six months later he was one of the challengers at the tournaments held in her honour at Westminster palace and who on 28 May ‘feasted all the knights and burgesses of the Common House’. It may have been a fracas excited by these festivities which caused Edward Rogers to be bound on 12 Sept. in £1,000 to keep the peace towards Seymour. He returned to Calais in May 1541 with William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, and while there visited Ardres in disguise. He was presumably the ‘Mr. Seymour’ entrusted with Catherine Howard’s jewels following her arrest later in the year. In June 1542 the King named him ambassador to the court of Ferdinand of Hungary and while there he observed the unsuccessful attempt to recapture Pesth from the Turks. On completing his embassy in the autumn he was ordered to hire German mercenaries for the army but failed.4
In May 1543 Seymour went with Nicholas Wotton as ambassador to the Regent of the Netherlands to Brussels where he remained until the declaration of war against France. Appointed marshal of the field and second-in-command to Sir John Wallop he served in the campaign in the Netherlands. His outspokenness about Charles V’s failure to give the promised support to the English force led the Emperor to remark that Seymour had shown himself more dry and difficult than Wallop, but Henry VIII showed his satisfaction with Seymour by making him master of the ordnance for life in the spring of 1544 with a salary more than four times that of his predecessor, Sir Christopher Morres. By virtue of his new office he supplied the guns and munitions for the campaign to capture Boulogne. After taking part in the storming of the town he was made an admiral with orders to victual the garrison left there and to harry the French in the Channel. His failure to execute those orders brought a sharp rebuke from the Council, but his explanation was accepted by the King. During the spring and summer of 1545 Seymour combined his duties as admiral and master of the ordnance with those of the lord warden of the Cinque Ports while Sir Thomas Cheyne was indisposed; his energies in each capacity were directed by the Council towards the defence of England which at the time was threatened by invasion from France. In September he was instructed to patrol the Straits of Dover. When the Parliament postponed from January assembled in November he took his place in the House as the senior knight for Wiltshire. His election in the previous January reflected his growing prestige and his family’s standing in the county. No evidence has been found that Seymour exercised any patronage at the elections to this Parliament. It is possible that he had sat in one or more of the Parliaments between 1536 and 1542 for which the names of most of the Members are lost. Nothing is known about his work in the House. During the first session he obtained Hampton Place from the King, which he renamed Seymour Place5
In January 1546 Seymour began a land transaction with Andrew Baynton, by which, it was decided in Mary’s reign, the latter had been swindled out of his inheritance. In March Seymour joined his brother Hertford in Calais while the earl was lieutenant-general of the army there. Hertford’s closeness to Seymour at this time is shown by his use as a confidential messenger between the earl and the Council. Such a close relationship between the two Seymour brothers is of much interest occurring as it does near the end of the reign and the fall of the Howards. In June, the Duke of Norfolk asked the King once again to help him arrange a marriage between his daughter, the Duchess of Richmond, and Seymour. The proposed marriage is said to have been frustrated this time by the opposition of the duchess and her brother the Earl of Surrey. It may be, however, that Seymour was already contemplating marriage with Princess Elizabeth; Catherine Astley is reported in 1549 to have said that if Henry VIII had lived Seymour would have married the princess and she herself admitted that she was then encouraging the match. Five days before the King’s death Seymour was sworn a member of the Privy Council on Secretary Paget’s declaration that this was Henry VIII’s desire, but according to the Earl of Warwick later in the year the King had said ‘No, no’, on being told of Seymour’s admission to the Council. Henry VIII named Seymour one of the assistants to the executors of his will.6
Misinformed by Warwick that it had been secretly agreed that Hertford was to be Protector of the realm and Seymour governor of Edward VI, Seymour interrupted a meeting of the Council on 2 Feb. to demand proper recognition. Without answering him the Council ‘straight ... rose up and departed’. Hertford was irritated by the episode but to conciliate his brother he seems to have obtained Seymour’s readmission to the Council even though he had not been one of those designated by the late King to advise Edward VI until he became of age. On 6 Feb. 1547 Paget announced that it had been Henry VIII’s intention that Seymour should be a peer and admiral of England, first with £300 and then £500 a year in land, and within two weeks he had been made Baron Seymour of Sudeley, admiral and a knight of the Garter. At the coronation he helped to bear the royal train and was among the challengers at the jousts. It was he who early in March received the great seal from Chancellor Wriothesley, some eight days before his elder brother, now Duke of Somerset, was confirmed as Protector and Governor; Seymour was not one of the eight signatories. Another two months elapsed before Seymour began to cut much of a figure in the new regime.7
According to the act of attainder, Seymour tried, soon after Henry VIII’s death, to marry the 13 year-old Princess Elizabeth, but the Council would not allow it. Whatever the truth of this, in May 1547 he secretly married the princess’s guardian, Queen Catherine Parr, for whose hand he had been a contender before Henry VIII chose her for his own wife. By his marriage to Catherine, Seymour may have forfeited his creation as Duke of Richmond and Norfolk, the rumour of which advancement the French and Spanish ambassadors had relayed to their masters earlier in the year. It also marked a further straining in his relationship with the Protector. Evidently, however, the prestige this match brought him was of greater consequence to Seymour than such considerations. ‘He spared no cost his lady to delight, or to maintain her princely royalty’. He made alterations at Sudeley towards which (Sir) William Sharington claimed to have given him £1,100 and he kept 120 gentlemen and yeomen about his wife. She, for her part, generously provided him with cash, according to her accounts totalling some £2,000 during their 16-month union. The chronicler Ellis Gruffydd gives an interesting sidelight on Seymour’s ‘slothfulness to serve’ by observing that ‘his devotion was such that he would not leave her palace except to come to court’. Unlike Princess Mary, Elizabeth stayed on in Catherine Parr’s care after the marriage, and there occurred those familiarities, doubtless at first more imprudent than serious, which are said to have caused Catherine, although she at first condoned them, to send the princess away and which spiced the rumours surrounding Catherine’s death and her husband’s projected marriage with the princess.8
In August 1547, with the 9th Lord Clinton in charge of the fleet, the Protector Somerset went on campaign in Scotland leaving Seymour as lieutenant-general of the south and one of the custodians of the King’s person. Resentful that he had not been given the custody of the King before ‘so drunken a fool as Sir Richard Page was’, Seymour seems to have considered abducting Edward VI. According to Sharington it was in the following month ‘that he wished the King were at home in his house’. It was about the same time that he began to provide John Fowler with money for Edward VI’s use and to encourage his nephew to ‘bear rule, as other kings do’.9
The elections to the Parliament of 1547 gave Seymour a unique opportunity to influence the composition of the new House and he appears to have intervened on a considerable scale. He may have been prompted to do so by his wife’s example, for both as Queen in 1544-5 and as dowager Queen in 1547 Catherine was instrumental in the return of her household officers and other dependants, notably for the Wiltshire boroughs forming part of her jointure. In July 1547 three of these boroughs, Chippenham, Cricklade and Devizes passed in reversion to Seymour (the other two, Marlborough and Wootton Bassett, going to his brother the Protector), and he quickly added to them four of his own in Sussex: in August he received among the lands granted to him in accordance with the late King’s supposed intention the barony and borough of Bramber, the manors and boroughs of Horsham and New Shoreham, and the borough of Lewes. In acquiring these properties he can scarcely have overlooked their scope for parliamentary patronage any more than he did when as bailiff of the liberty of Cirencester in Gloucestershire he was almost certainly behind the restoration of that borough’s franchise. If to this proprietary interest are added the various constituencies open to his influence as admiral, Privy Councillor, uncle to the King and brother to the Protector, it is not surprising that his hand can be seen, or at least divined, behind many elections. Precision is made the more elusive by an at least partial fusion between his own and his wife’s patronage; thus while the Queen may be thought to have nominated, either directly or through her brother-in-law the 1st Earl of Pembroke, both Members for Cardiff, Devizes and Westbury, and one each for Camelford, Lewes, Penryn, Shoreham, Wilton and Wootton Bassett, the remaining Members for the boroughs under her control are more readily associated with Seymour himself or his brother. With Seymour’s own boroughs we are on firmer ground: he appears to have chosen both Members for Bramber, Cirencester and Horsham, and one each for Lewes and Shoreham. Further afield, two of his dependants were elected for Grampound and Pembroke respectively. He could thus have engineered the return of a dozen or more Members, who with an equivalent number of his wife’s nominees would have constituted the largest such group in the House which the period has to show.10
Himself summoned to the Lords in 1547 Seymour was a regular attendant there until his arrest on 17 Jan. 1549. He resented not being ‘placed in the parliament house as one of the King’s uncles’ and his irritation was intensified by quarrels with the Protector over the precedence to be accorded to Catherine Parr and over the jewels given her by Henry VIII. He tried to use Parliament as an instrument of his resentment. He ‘thought to have made suit to the Parliament’ for his own appointment as regent ‘and he had the names of all the Lords, and totted them whom he thought he might have to his purpose to labour them’. To this end he asked the King to write desiring the Parliament ‘to be good unto the said Lord Seymour in such suits and matters as he should open and declare unto them’. He meant ‘not only in his own person to have brought [it] into the Nether House of ... Parliament, but also to have likewise opened the same in the Higher House, having in both Houses laboured, stirred and moved a number of persons to take part and join with him in such things as he would set forth and enterprise’. He swore that if his plans were rejected he would make it ‘the blackest Parliament that ever was in England’, and the Council was later to accuse him of planning to disrupt the business of the Commons. He voted against the bill for the confirmation of letters patent for certain lands following the addition of a proviso in the Commons. In 1548 he planned to obstruct a measure then under consideration by the government for a subsidy in the form of a levy on sheep if it was introduced in the second session of the Parliament.11
The improvement in Seymour’s relations with the Protector noted by observers late in 1547 did not last for long and by mid February 1548 the two had quarrelled publicly. The Protector adversely criticized Seymour’s behaviour in a number of matters in the following months but in September he was able to congratulate his brother on the birth of a daughter. Catherine Parr died on 7 Sept., eight days after the birth. As she had been surrounded by attendants during the confinement little credence can be given to the gloss made in the act of attainder on the deposition of one of them, Elizabeth Tyrwhit, that Seymour had murdered his wife ‘to haste forward his other purposes’. Seymour’s immediate reaction was one of resignation and he contemplated disbanding Catherine’s household and let Jane Grey return to her father. Within a few days he regretted the decision to allow Jane’s departure and he wrote to her father to regain custody of her with a promise to promote her marriage to the King.12
By Christmas 1548 there ‘was a full report everywhere that the Lady Elizabeth should be married to the Lord Admiral’ and it was rumoured that she was already expecting his child. He did little to allay the rumours; besides his discussions about Elizabeth’s marriage he indulged himself in wild statements about the Protector and the Council. In mid January 1549 he learnt from one of his servants that the 2nd Earl of Rutland had given evidence against him and he refused to attend the Council unless Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, and Sir William Paget stayed at his house as pledges against his return. The Marquess of Dorset’s brother Thomas dissuaded him from such a course and when (Sir) John Baker I and (Sir) Thomas Smith I came with Sir Ralph Hopton and his men at eight o’clock in the morning on 17 Jan. to arrest him he did not resist. He said to John Harington II ‘I am sure I can have no hurt, if they do me right; they cannot kill me, except they do me wrong’.13
During the five weeks following his arrest Seymour was twice brought before the Council and 33 articles ‘of high treason and other misdemeanours’ were drafted. With the exception of the charges relating to his connivance at piracy and such suppositions as his intending the King’s death, these articles closely follow the evidence given in the depositions collected by the Council. When faced with the articles on 23 Feb. Seymour resolutely refused to make any answer ‘except he had his accusers brought before him, and except he were brought in open trial of arraignment, where he might say before all the world what he could say for his declaration’. The Council, in their turn, refused to leave the articles with him. Seymour was entitled to trial by his peers, a course which would have necessitated his accusers facing him, but even before examining Seymour the Council had persuaded the King that ‘Parliament should have the determination and order’ of the case ‘according to the order of justice and the custom of the realm in like cases’. On 25 Feb. a bill of attainder against him was introduced into the Lords and given its first reading. Two readings later it
was sent to the Commons where it was very much debated and argued; and at last the minds of the lawyers [were] asked and [they] declared that the said offences of the Lord Admiral for divers causes were in the compass of high treason; when no man was able to say to the contrary, being divers times provoked thereunto by the Speaker, the Nether House being marvellous full almost to the number of 400 persons [370 were returned to the Parliament] not 10 or 12 at the most [the Spanish ambassador said 2 or 3] giving their nays thereunto, the bill was there likewise passed and consented unto the 5th of March.14
Five days later the Council obtained the King’s approval to deal with Seymour without troubling him further and after another five days it sent the bishop of Ely to prepare Seymour for death. Before his execution on 20 Mar. he asked if his daughter might be brought up by the Duchess of Suffolk. The Act (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.18) was repealed less than a year later when his daughter was restored in blood (3 and 4 Edw. VI, c.14). Mary Seymour died in infancy. Several portraits of Seymour survive.15
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Authors: R. L. Davids / A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. This biography rests on Maclean, Sir Thomas Seymour and the notes of Julianna Marker on Seymour bequeathed to Prof. S. T. Bindoff. H. St. Maur, Annals of the Seymours, ped. opp. p. 1; CP; DNB.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, v, xi-xxi; CPR, 1547-8 to 1549-51 passim; HCA 14/2; Somerville, Duchy, i. 604, 606, 612; D. E. Hoak, The King’s Council in the Reign of Edw. VI, 47, 49, 51, 278; C. Jamison, R. Hospital of St. Katharine, 61-62; HMC Bath, iv. 336.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, v, xii.
- 4. Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 260-3; EHR, lxvi, 19-20; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi, xvii; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 168; London Topographical Rec. x. 107-8.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xx, add.; E. Lodge, Illustrations i. 135-6.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Hoak, 233, 345 n. 9; Wealth and Power, ed. Ives, Knecht and Scarisbrick, 91; Add. 48126, ff. 6-6v.
- 7. Wealth and Power, 88, 90, 91, 102; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Hoak, 41-43, 45, 232-4.
- 8. CSP Span. 1547-8, pp. 88-89; Add. 5841, f. 250; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xviii. 93; Archaeological Jnl. lxx. 178; SP 12/19/21; E315/384/169; HMC Hatfield, i. 61-73.
- 9. APC, ii. 115-19, 130-1; HMC Hatfield, i. 54.
- 10. Wealth and Power, 102-3; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 25-33; Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxvi. 66-76 passim; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxviii. 428; HMC Bath, iv. 376; SP 10/6/13, f. 35; E318/1933, mm. 23-26.
- 11. M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords 1547-58’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 347-50; SP 10/6/13, f. 36; APC, ii. 20-21.
- 12. Coll. State Pprs. ed. Haynes, 163-4; E. Dent, Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley, 173; SP 10/6/13, f. 36; SP 10/6/16; Orig. Letters, ed. Ellis, ii. 154-5; HMC Hatfield, i. 55-56, 61-73; A. F. Pollard, Eng. under Protector Somerset, 185.
- 13. Grey Friars’ Chron. (Cam. Soc. liii), 58; CSP Span. 1547-9, pp. 332-3, 340-1.
- 14. APC, ii. 248-58; Select Pleas in Ct. Admiralty (Selden Soc. xi), p. xi; CSP Span. 1547-9, p. 343; Coll. State Pprs. 59-60, 62-67; HMC Hatfield, i. 61-73. An Act (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.6) ending payments to the Admiralty by seamen and merchants going abroad passed through both Houses at the same time as the attainder; Seymour is said to have been unsympathetic to the measure.
- 15. APC, ii. 261-2; Grey Friars’ Chron. 58; J. Harington, Nugae Antiquae, 259-60; R. C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraiture, 357-9.