Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford

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Edward Seymour
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Attributed to Hans Eworth (1515 - 1574).jpg
Born22 May 1539
Died6 April 1621(1621-04-06) (aged 81)
Title 1st Earl of Hertford
Spouse(s) Lady Katherine Grey (m.1560–1568)
Frances Howard (m.1582–1598)
Frances Prannell (née) Howard (m.1601–1621)
Children Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp
Thomas Seymour
Parent(s) Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
Anne Stanhope

Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, 1st Baron Beauchamp, KG (22 May 1539 – 6 April 1621), of Wulfhall and Totnam Lodge in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, of Hatch Beauchamp in Somerset, of Netley Abbey, Hampshire, and of Hertford House, Cannon Row in Westminster, is most noted for incurring the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth I by taking part in more than one clandestine marriage.


Early life

Seymour was the eldest son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (c.1500 – 1552) by his second wife Anne Stanhope (c.1497 – 1587), and was a nephew of Jane Seymour, a wife of Henry VIII. Although his father had sons by his first marriage to Catherine Fillol, these were postponed by special remainder to the succession of his dukedom behind the sons of his second marriage, due to her suspected adultery. The senior line did eventually inherit the dukedom in 1750, as the special remainder allowed, when the 7th Duke of Somerset died leaving no sons.


From 1547, when his father was created Duke of Somerset, his son Edward Seymour was styled by the duke's subsidiary title of Earl of Hertford. He was educated with the young Prince Edward, later Edward VI, and was knighted on the occasion of Edward's coronation. [1]

On 7 April 1550, he was sent to France as a hostage, returning three weeks later. Following his father's disgrace and execution, his son was barred from inheriting his titles and most of his wealth. Some of his father's lands and property were restored to him by Edward VI, but he still seems to have been forced to rely on Sir John Thynne for some financial support. [1] Under Queen Mary he was "restored in blood", but was not given back his title; Queen Elizabeth I created him Earl of Hertford, in the earldom's third creation, in 1559. [1]

Between April and May 1605 [2] following the Treaty of London (1604) he was sent on an Embassy by King James I to Albert VII, Archduke of Austria, [3] sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands between 1598 and 1621, at Brussels, to receive his oath of peace. [4]

A series of clandestine marriages

Katherine Grey

His first wife, Lady Katherine Grey, was a potential claimant to Elizabeth's throne, and law established that it was a penal offence for her to marry without notifying the Sovereign. They were married by an anonymous clergyman at Hertford House in Cannon Row, Westminster, before 25 December 1560. The marriage was kept secret until August nearly a year later, when Katherine became visibly pregnant and she confided the reason to Lord Robert Dudley. Each was ordered to confinement in the Tower; Katherine was confined immediately, and Seymour imprisoned upon his return from a tour of the continent with Sir Thomas Cecil. While in custody, they were questioned about every aspect of their marriage, but they both claimed to have forgotten the date.

A commission was begun, headed by Archbishop Parker in February 1562. Under this pressure, Lady Katherine finally declared that they had waited for Elizabeth to quit the capital for Eltham Palace. Servants were questioned, and none of them could remember the exact date either. John Fortescue said it was 'in November'. The priest could not be located, but by consulting the accounts of the Cofferer of the Household the marriage date was decided to be 27 November.

His son Edward was declared illegitimate and the father was fined 15,000 pounds in Star Chamber for "seducing a virgin of the blood royal."

Despite all this, the Earl apparently found a way to continue marital relations with his wife in the Tower. In February 1563, Thomas Seymour was born. Lady Katherine died in 1568, and Seymour was finally allowed out of the Tower and allowed to re-appear at court. Officially his sons remained bastards. In 1576 he carried the sword of state at Elizabeth's procession of the knights of the garter. [5]

Children by Katherine Grey

Lady Katherine Grey with her elder son Edward, Lord Beauchamp Lady Katherine Grey and her son Lord Edward Beauchamp v2.jpg
Lady Katherine Grey with her elder son Edward, Lord Beauchamp
Bellocamp(o) eram, Graia genetrice, Semerus. Tres habui natos, est quibus una soror ("I was Beauchamp, a Seymour, by my mother Grey. I have had three born of which one a sister")
  • Thomas Seymour (c.1563–1600), 2nd son, born in the Tower of London, who also predeceased his father and died childless, having married Isabell Onley (d.1619), daughter of Edward Onley (1522–1582), Esquire, (Latinized to Unleius, genitive Unleii on his father's monument in Salisbury Cathedral [8] ) of Catesby in Northamptonshire, MP for Brackley in 1563. [9] Thomas's mural monument, possibly by the sculptor Epiphanius Evesham, [10] survives in St Margaret's Church, Westminster (his father's townhouse, Hertford House, was in Cannon Row, Westminster), showing kneeling effigies of himself and his wife, inscribed as follows: [10]
"Here in peace resteth ye bodyes of Thomas Seymour, second sone to ye right honourable Edward, Earle of Hartford, and Esable his wife, eldest daughter to Edward Onley of Katesby in ye county of Northampton Esq., wh(ich) said Thomas departed this mortall life ye eight day of August 1600 & ye said Esable ye twen(tie)th day of August 1619 in ye true faith of Jesus Christ & in ye blesse(d) hope of a joyfull resurection".

Frances Howard

Frances Howard, daughter of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, was a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. In May 1573 she and her sister Douglas, Lady Sheffield were said to be rivals for the affections of the Earl of Leicester. [11]

In 1582, she married Hertford. Their union was in secret, and remained so for nearly a decade, while Frances continued at court. Hertford attempted to have this marriage set aside in 1595 (hoping to clear his still illegitimate sons' claim to the throne). He was arrested again, and Frances died in 1598. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. [12]

Frances Prannell

In May 1601, he secretly married once more, to the wealthy widow Frances Prannell, also born Frances Howard, the daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon. The marriage was performed by Thomas Montfort without banns or licence, for which Monfort was suspended for three years by Archbishop John Whitgift. [13]

Residences and landholdings

His principal seats were as follows:

Detail of monument to Edward Seymour in Salisbury Cathedral Catherine Grey tomb.jpg
Detail of monument to Edward Seymour in Salisbury Cathedral


Paternal arms of
Edward Seymour Arms of Seymour Family.svg
Paternal arms of
Edward Seymour

The arms of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (died 1552), quartered the original arms of the head of the family with a new grant of arms from his nephew King Edward VI.

Death and burial

Lord Hertford died in 1621 at Netley Abbey, Hampshire, and was buried in the Seymour Chapel of Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, where his elaborate monument in white alabaster with effigies of himself and his first wife survives. [16]


  1. 1 2 3 Albert Frederick Pollard, "Seymour, Edward (1539?–1621)", Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900, Volume 51(1897).
  2. "Edward SEYMOUR (2 E. Hertford)".
  3. Duerloo, Luc, Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598–1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars (Farnham, 2012), p. 176.
  4. Marjorie Blatcher, HMC Manuscripts of the Marquis of Bath: Seymour Papers, vol. 4 (London, 1968), p. 202.
  5. Strong, Roy, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry, p. 168
  6. Frederic Madden, Bulkeley Bandinel, John Gough Nichols, (Eds.), Collectanea Topographica Et Genealogica, Vol.5,p.24
  7. Historic England. "Church of St Mary the Virgin (1365492)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  8. Transcript by Harris (1825) states Edward in Latin, but translated into English as "John"
  9. Mimardière, A. M. "ONLEY, Edward (1522-82), of Catesby, Northants". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  10. 1 2 "Thomas Seymour".
  11. Edmund Lodge, Illustrations of British History, vol. 2 (London, 1791), p. 104.
  12. "Plate 193: Recumbent Effigies. Frances, Countess of Sussex, Francis, Countess of Hertford, Queen Elizabeth Page 193 An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 1, Westminster Abbey". British History Online. HMSO. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  13. "Seymour, Edward (1539?-1621"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  14. Called "Thomas" in VCH Hants, Vol.3
  15. Page, William, ed. (1908). "Parishes: Hound with Netley". A History of the County of Hampshire, Volume 3. Victoria County History. University of London. pp. 472–478. Retrieved 31 August 2022 via British History Online.
  16. For description of his monument and inscription see: Harris, James, Copies of the Epitaphs in Salisbury Cathedral], Salisbury, 1825, pp.35–40

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Political offices
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Somerset and Wiltshire
Succeeded by
Custos Rotulorum of Wiltshire
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Hertford
Succeeded by