SOMERSET, Charles (by 1534-99), of Chepstow, Mon.
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Family and Education
b. by 1534, 4th s. of Henry, 2nd Earl of Worcester by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Anthony Browne, standard bearer to Henry VIII; bro. of Thomas† and Francis†. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1548. m. by 1572, Mary (or Emma), da. of Thomas Brayne (or Brague) of Little Dean, Glos., wid. of Giles Morgan† (d.1570) of Newport, Mon., 1da. At least 1da. illegit. Kntd. 1573.
Gent. pens. 1560, standard bearer c.1572; j.p. from c.1561, commr. musters 1570, 1588, victuals 1574, tanneries 1574; j.p. Glos. from c.1577; steward, Chepstow c.1572; commr. to inquire into mineral and battery works 1589.
The Somerset earls of Worcester, by virtue of their royal blood, their extensive lands, their strong Welsh connexions and their staunch support for Henry Tudor, held a dominant position in south-eastern Wales from the Act of Union onwards. One of the two Monmouthshire seats in Parliament was always, until after the Restoration, virtually at their disposal, and was frequently held by younger sons, some of whom, like Somerset himself, had little land in the county. Charles Somerset’s elder brothers Thomas and Francis had represented the shire in Marian Parliaments; his wife’s first husband Giles Morgan had sat for the boroughs under Edward VI.1
Somerset’s only recorded activity in the House of Commons is his appointment to a committee on Mary Queen of Scots, 11 May 1572. Only two years later his name appears on a list drawn up by one of her more optimistic sympathizers; probably it was included because of the known recusancy of some of Somerset’s family. There is no doubt that he conformed. Archbishop Parker himself classified Somerset as ‘safe’ in 1564, and Somerset’s naming the bishop of Llandaff as an overseer of his will underlines the point. Somerset remained in general in favour with Elizabeth and the Privy Council, and it was commonly either to him or to Edward Morgan I that the Council referred matters concerning Monmouthshire. In 1564, however, he and his elder brother were summoned before the Privy Council for menacing one William James, who was bringing a lawsuit against them. Somerset allowed a servant to assault James, and suffered a period of imprisonment in the Fleet.2
Somerset died 3 Mar. 1599. In his will dated 18 Dec. 1598 and proved 6 Oct. 1599, he named his great-nephew the future 5th Earl and 1st Marquess as executor. He asked to be buried next to his wife in St. James’s church, Bristol, and left 200 marks for a joint tombstone, 20 nobles for a new bell and 10s. for the church fabric. To the church and the poor of his own parish of Chepstow he left £120, including £40 for a bell and £40 for a house of correction; to Llandaff cathedral a token bequest of 3s.6d. Cash bequests to family and friends amounted to nearly £6,000. His daughter Elizabeth inherited the lands that came to him iure uxoris: but within three years she was embroiled in a Chancery suit with the families of her two successive husbands over their allocation.3
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Bradney, Mon. ii. 26-7; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 249, 444; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 69, 109, 126; Lansd. 56, f. 168 seq.; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. iv), 247.
- 2. CJ, i. 95; Cath. Rec. Soc. Misc. viii. 93; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 81; S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. iii. 57-110; Al. Cant. i(4), p. 121; CPR, 1560-3, p. 249; Add. 12506, f. 419; APC, vii. 198, 200-1, 204-7; xiii. 205; xvii. 328-9; xviii. 28, 57, 71; xxv. 317; xxviii. 594-5, 637; Firth and Rait, Acts and Ordinances, ii. 58, 1072, 1136.
- 3. I. Walters, Chepstow Par. Recs. 2, 9; PCC 75 Kidd; C142/266/121.