Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley

Last updated

Thomas Seymour
Baron Seymour of Sudeley
Thomas Seymour Denizot.jpg
Portrait by Nicolas Denisot, 1547
Bornc. 1508
Wulfhall, Wiltshire
Died20 March 1549(1549-03-20) (aged 40–41)
Tower Hill, London
Buried Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London
51°30′31″N0°04′37″W / 51.508611°N 0.076944°W / 51.508611; -0.076944
Noble family Seymour
(m. 1547;died 1548)
Issue Mary Seymour
Father Sir John Seymour
Mother Margery Wentworth

Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, KG, PC (c.1508 20 March 1549) [1] was a brother of Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII. With his brother, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of England, he vied for control of their nephew, the young King Edward VI (r. 1547–1553). In 1547 Seymour became the fourth husband of Catherine Parr, who had been the sixth and last wife and queen of Henry VIII. During his marriage to Catherine Parr, Seymour involved the future Queen Elizabeth I (then 14 years old), who resided in his household, in flirtatious and possibly sexual behaviour.



Thomas Seymour was the son of Sir John Seymour and Margaret Wentworth. He was the younger brother of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1500–1552). He grew up at Wulfhall, the Seymour family home in Wiltshire. The Seymours were a family of country gentry, who, like most holders of manorial rights, traced their ancestry to a Norman origin. [2]

Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, did not have a son although Henry hoped for a male heir. His interests turned elsewhere, to Thomas Seymour's sister Jane, one of Anne's ladies in waiting. Henry married Jane eleven days after Anne's execution in May 1536, and the Seymour brothers saw their fortunes rise, as they became part of the royal family. In October of the following year, Jane gave birth to a son, Edward Tudor, who would become King Edward VI. Her two brothers, Edward and Thomas, were therefore uncles to the baby Edward, heir to the throne. [3] [4] Less than two weeks later, Queen Jane died from complications related to childbirth.

Thomas Seymour's other royal connection was with Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife, whom Seymour would later marry, after Henry's death. In 1543 Catherine Parr established herself as part of Princess Mary's household, where she caught the attention of the King. Although she had already begun a romantic relationship with Thomas Seymour, she saw it as her duty to accept Henry's proposal. [5]

Foreign affairs

In 1538, Thomas Seymour was sent to the embassy at the French court. He was one of those appointed to meet Anne of Cleves, King Henry's fourth wife, at Calais on 13 December 1539. [6] A few weeks later he was sent to King Ferdinand I of Hungary, brother of Emperor Charles V, to enlist support for Henry against France and Scotland. He arrived at Vienna in July, and remained there two years. In May 1543, he was appointed ambassador to the Habsburg court in Brussels. [7] He was given this posting to remove him from King Henry's court, in view of the King's marriage to Catherine Parr. [8]

War breaking out between England and France, Seymour was made marshal of the English army in the Netherlands on 26 June 1543, being second in command to Sir John Wallop. On 24 July, with a strong detachment, he captured and destroyed the castles of Rinquecen and Arbrittayne near the French port of Boulogne. [9] For a short time, he held the chief command during Wallop's illness. [10] Due to his position of privilege as a royal uncle and as a reward for his services, Seymour was made Master-General of the Ordnance in 1544 and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1545, both senior military positions. [11]

Regency Council and marriage to Catherine Parr

The Melton Constable or Hastings portrait of Queen Catherine Parr Queen Catherine Parr.jpg
The Melton Constable or Hastings portrait of Queen Catherine Parr

Seymour returned to court just before Henry VIII died in January 1547, leaving Catherine one of the wealthiest women in England. According to the King's will, a regency council was constituted to rule on behalf of the nine-year-old orphaned King Edward. Thomas Seymour became 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, and his older brother Edward became Duke of Somerset, and is often, therefore, referred to as "Somerset". In addition, Thomas Seymour saw his brother rise, amid the contentious and dangerous politics of the English Reformation, to the position of chief councillor with an approved title of "Protector" regent, referred to unofficially as Lord Protector of England, in effect, ruler of the realm as regent for his nephew, the king. [12] Thomas began to resent his brother and the relationship between them began to dissolve. Although Thomas was named Lord High Admiral as a concession, he was consumed by jealousy of his brother's power and influence and worked to unseat and replace his brother as Lord Protector. [13]

Thomas Seymour sought to overturn his brother's position on the regency council by his personal influence over the young king, and also possibly by making a royal marriage. [14] Although his name had been linked to Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, he was still unmarried at the time of Henry VIII's death. He had previously shown some interest in marrying either of Henry's daughters, Elizabeth or Mary; however, within weeks of Henry's death, Thomas Seymour had rekindled the affair with Catherine Parr, and they were secretly married in April or May 1547, too soon after the king's death to suit many. [5] Anne Stanhope, Somerset's proud wife, disliked Catherine and Thomas and began to turn many people in court against them.

Relationship with Elizabeth

The 16-year-old Princess Elizabeth in about 1549, by an unknown artist El bieta I lat 13.jpg
The 16-year-old Princess Elizabeth in about 1549, by an unknown artist

Upon their marriage, Seymour moved into his wife's house, at Chelsea Manor in London, where she lived with her step-daughter, the 14-year-old Elizabeth. [5] Seymour was the uncle of Elizabeth's half-brother, and the newly wed husband of her step-mother. Now, living under the same roof as Elizabeth, Thomas Seymour began to show affection toward Elizabeth, tickling her, and slapping her on her behind as she lay in her bed, or coming into her room in his nightclothes. [15] Her governess, Kat Ashley, thought this scandalous, and reported it to Catherine. [16] Indignant, Seymour retorted, 'By God's precious soul, I mean no evil, and I will not leave it!' [13] At first, Catherine dismissed the behaviour as innocent fun, and even joined in the behaviour on a few occasions. [16] Elizabeth's feelings regarding this behaviour are unknown, but it was said that she bore Thomas some degree of affection; [17] and though her governess "bade him go away in shame," she found him more amusing than dangerous. When Catherine was pregnant in the spring of 1548, she had become concerned enough about her husband's flirtatious relationship with Elizabeth that she sent Elizabeth away to live with Anthony Denny and his wife, Joan Champernowne (Kat Ashley's sister), in Hertfordshire.

Sudeley Castle Sudeley Castle 2.jpg
Sudeley Castle

In June 1548, Catherine and Thomas Seymour moved their household from London to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, the property granted to Seymour when he became Baron Seymour of Sudeley. In September 1548, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour. In the following days, she became uncharacteristically hostile and delusional. Thomas lay in bed with her to quiet her, but she did not get better, and died of childbirth complications, just before Elizabeth's 15th birthday. [5] Upon her death, Catherine bequeathed all of her possessions to Thomas, making him one of the wealthiest men in England. He said he was "amazed" at her death; yet it opened up new opportunities to him, as his eye returned to Elizabeth. [18] She avoided him, returning with her governess to her childhood home, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. [19]

Relationship with Edward VI

The 9-year-old King Edward VI Edward VI of England c. 1546.jpg
The 9-year-old King Edward VI

Despite his great wealth and high position, Thomas Seymour could not come to terms with his brother's appointment as protector; and in his struggle with Somerset, he tried to ingratiate himself with the king, who was merely a child. He sought the 9-year-old Edward to write a letter on his behalf in support of his marriage to the dowager queen, Catherine Parr. The letter was obviously dictated by Thomas for Edward's signature and only enraged Somerset. He began to visit Edward frequently, secretly giving him an extravagant allowance of coins, so that Edward might be satisfied in feeling more grown-up and more king-like, giving gifts to his servants, teachers, and friends. Even though he lived in sumptuous splendour and wanting for nothing, no provisions had been made for Edward's pocket money; he became accustomed to these regular payments and began to ask Seymour freely for his allowance.

Thomas continued his manipulation of the king. In trying to get a bill through Parliament making him Edward's personal governor, Seymour requested Edward's royal signature on the bill. But Edward was uncertain, and reluctant to go behind the back of the protector, Somerset, and of the regency council, and he would not sign it. Seymour persistently pressured Edward, until Edward felt threatened. But Seymour did not give up. He tried to persuade Edward that he did not need a protector, getting Edward to admit that it might be better for Somerset to die. It is not known what the king meant by this, but it was probably uttered innocently. Seymour intended that the king's royal signature and personal support would destabilize Somerset's position as protector, and as a member of the regency council. In his frustration and inability to gain any significant influence over the king, Thomas Seymour began to think in terms of open rebellion. [13]


In summer 1547, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and the Protector of England, invaded Scotland. During his absence from the court, his brother, Thomas, fomented opposition to his authority, voicing open disapproval of his brother's administrative skills. Because his activities seemed suspicious, several members of the nobility advised him to be content with his position, but he would not listen. [20] As Lord High Admiral, he was able to control the English navy, and he openly asked for support in case of a rebellion. He entered into relations with pirates on the western coasts, whom it was his duty as Lord High Admiral to suppress, with a view to securing their support. [21] Thomas seems also to have hoped to finance a rebellion through crooked dealings with the vice-treasurer of the Bristol Mint, Sir William Sharington. [13]

By 1548, the regency council was becoming aware of Thomas's bid for power. Somerset tried to save his brother from ruin, calling a council meeting so that Thomas might explain himself. However, Thomas did not appear. On the night of 16 January 1549, for reasons that are not clear (perhaps to take the young king away in his own custody), Seymour was caught trying to break into the King's apartments at Hampton Court Palace. He entered the privy garden and woke one of the King's pet spaniels. In response to the dog's barking, he shot and killed it. [22] The next day, he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. The incident, being caught outside the king's bedroom, at night, with a loaded pistol, was interpreted in the most menacing light, even casting suspicion on Elizabeth's involvement with Thomas. [23] On 18 January, the council sent agents to question everyone associated with Thomas, including Elizabeth. On 22 February, the council officially accused him of thirty-three charges of treason. He was convicted of treason, condemned to death and executed on 20 March 1549. [20] Catherine's brother William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, inherited Sudeley castle. [24]


When he was arrested for treason, Seymour's associates were also cast under suspicion, including 15-year-old Elizabeth. She did not realize her own danger until her servants, including her governess Kat Ashley, were also arrested. [20] Upon realizing that Thomas would probably be executed, she was noticeably disconsolate, trying to free herself and her servants from suspicion. The regency council was sure of her complicity with Thomas, and sought to bully an easy confession from her. She was interrogated for weeks. [25] But the council found itself in a sharply defined game of wits with Elizabeth, who proved to be a master of logic, defiance, and shrewdness. The embarrassing details of Seymour's flirtatious behaviour came to light but there was no evidence that Elizabeth had conspired with him. [20]

After his execution, all of Seymour's property was seized by the Crown. His attainder was reversed by Parliament in 1550, although the property was not returned to Mary Seymour, his only child; she is believed to have died at about the age of two, soon afterward.

To his contemporaries, he appeared as forceful and reckless, and also attractive to women. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, a boyhood friend of King Edward, described Thomas Seymour as "hardy, wise and liberal ... fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent, but somewhat empty of matter." [26]

In the 1953 film Young Bess (based on the novel of the same title by Margaret Irwin), Stewart Granger was cast as Seymour. The plot, largely a romance between him and Princess Elizabeth (played by 24-year-old Jean Simmons), had little historical accuracy.

In the 2007 Showtime television show The Tudors , Andrew McNair portrays Seymour. He appears in seasons three and four.

He is a character in the C. J. Sansom novel Revelation, featuring Sansom's fictional lawyer/detective Matthew Shardlake. He is portrayed as a hot-headed military man, with designs on Catherine Parr, in the months before the latter's marriage to Henry VIII. He reappears as a secondary character in the next two novels in the series, Heartstone and Lamentation .

Norah Lofts, in her biography of Walter Raleigh Here Was a Man, suggests that Elizabeth was attracted to Raleigh because he reminded her of Seymour.

In the Starz 2022 series Becoming Elizabeth , Tom Cullen plays Seymour.


  1. Lindsey 1995, p. xviii.
  2. Strickland 1868, p.  273.
  3. Skidmore 2007, pp. 12–19.
  4. Erickson 1983, pp. 53–54.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Erickson 1983, pp. 65–79.
  6. Pollard 1897 , p. 330 cites Chron. of Calais, pp. 168, 173.
  7. Pollard 1897 , p. 330 cites State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. ix. passim.
  8. James 2009, pp. 61–73.
  9. Pollard 1897 , p. 330 cites State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. ix. 452.
  10. Pollard 1897 , p. 330 cites State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. ix. 460–2 et seq.
  11. Pollard 1897, p. 330.
  12. Skidmore 2007, pp. 45–50.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Skidmore 2007, pp. 71–87.
  14. Erickson 2007, p.  232.
  15. Jung, Dr. Elan (2010). Sexual Trauma: A Challenge, Not Insanity. Queensbury, NY: Hudson Press. p. 51. ISBN   9780983144809 . Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  16. 1 2 Weir 1998, pp. 14–15.
  17. Hibbert 1992, p. 29.
  18. Skidmore 2007, pp. 98–99.
  19. Erickson 1983, p. 83.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Skidmore 2007, p. 102–104.
  21. Chisholm 1911, p. 755.
  22. Skidmore 2007, p. 103.
  23. Erickson 1983, p. 84.
  24. "Royal relatives no support when Thomas Seymour lost his head in his quest for power". Daily Telegraph. 20 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2021. his brother had ordered the execution and his nephew had signed the death warrant.
  25. Erickson 1983, pp. 89–90.
  26. Jenkins 1959.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward VI</span> 16th-century Tudor king of England

Edward VI was King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death in 1553. He was crowned on 20 February 1547 at the age of nine. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour and the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. During his reign, the realm was governed by a regency council because he never reached maturity. The council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick (1550–1553), who from 1551 was Duke of Northumberland.

House of Tudor English royal house of Welsh origin

The House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh-French origin that held the English throne, descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd and Catherine of France. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland from 1485 until 1603, with five monarchs in that period: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. There is also a sixth Tudor monarch, Jane Grey, who disputedly reigned for nine days, in between Edward VI and Mary I. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart. The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII of England, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster, a cadet house of the Plantagenets. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), which left the Tudor-aligned House of Lancaster extinct in the male line.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catherine Parr</span> Last wife and Queen Consort of Henry VIII

Catherine Parr was Queen of England and Ireland as the last of the six wives of King Henry VIII from their marriage on 12 July 1543 until Henry's death on 28 January 1547. Catherine was the final queen consort of the House of Tudor, and outlived Henry by a year and eight months. With four husbands, she is the most-married English queen. She was the first woman to publish an original work under her own name in English in England.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset English nobleman and politician

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset PC, also known as Edward Semel, was the eldest surviving brother of Queen Jane Seymour (d. 1537), the third wife of King Henry VIII. He was Lord Protector of England from 1547 to 1549 during the minority of his nephew King Edward VI (1547–1553). Despite his popularity with the common people, his policies often angered the gentry and he was overthrown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duke of Somerset</span> English dukedom

Duke of Somerset, from the county of Somerset, is a title that has been created five times in the peerage of England. It is particularly associated with two families: the Beauforts, who held the title from the creation of 1448, and the Seymours, from the creation of 1547, in whose name the title is still held. The present dukedom is unique, in that the first holder of the title created it for himself in his capacity of Lord Protector of the Kingdom of England, using a power granted in the will of his nephew King Edward VI.

Sudeley Castle Famous castle in England

Sudeley Castle is a Grade I listed castle in the parish of Sudeley, in the Cotswolds, near to the medieval market town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England. The castle has 10 notable gardens covering some 15 acres within a 1,200-acre estate nestled within the Cotswold hills.

John Seymour (1474–1536) English courtier (1474–1536)

Sir John Seymour, Knight banneret was an English soldier and a courtier who served both Henry VII and Henry VIII. Born into a prominent gentry family, he is best known as the father of the Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, and hence grandfather of king Edward VI of England.

Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwell English noblewoman

Elizabeth Seymour was a younger daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wulfhall, Wiltshire and Margery Wentworth. Elizabeth and her sister Jane served in the household of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. In his quest for a male heir, the king had divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, whose only surviving child was a daughter, Mary. His marriage to Anne Boleyn had also resulted in a single daughter, Elizabeth. The queen's miscarriage of a son in January 1536 sealed her fate. The king, convinced that Anne could never give him male children, increasingly infatuated with Jane Seymour, and encouraged by the queen's enemies, was determined to replace her. The Seymours rose to prominence after the king's attention turned to Jane.

Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset Duchess of Somerset

Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset was the second wife of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who held the office of lord protector during the first part of the reign of their nephew King Edward VI. The Duchess was briefly the most powerful woman in England. During her husband's regency she unsuccessfully claimed precedence over the queen dowager, Catherine Parr.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wives of Henry VIII</span> Six queens consort wedded to Henry VIII of England between 1509 and his death in 1547

In common parlance, the wives of Henry VIII were the six queens consort wedded to Henry between 1509 and his death in 1547. In legal terms, King Henry VIII of England had only three wives, because three of his marriages were annulled by the Church of England. However, he was never granted an annulment by the Pope, as he desired, for Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. Annulments declare that a true marriage never took place, unlike a divorce, in which a married couple end their union. Along with his six wives, Henry took several mistresses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lady Jane Grey</span> English noblewoman – de facto Queen of England and Ireland (10 to 19 July 1553)

Lady Jane Grey, later known as Lady Jane Dudley and as the "Nine Days' Queen", was a teenage English noblewoman who claimed the throne of England and Ireland from 10 July until 19 July 1553.

Elisabeth Brooke, Marchioness of Northampton English noblewoman

Elisabeth Brooke was an English courtier and noblewoman. She the eldest daughter of George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham of Kent and Anne, his wife. She was the niece of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, the courtier-poet credited with bringing the sonnet form into the English language, and Elizabeth Brooke who was associated with Henry VIII of England. Elisabeth openly lived in adultery with William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and bigamously married him. At times, she was accepted at court as the Marchioness of Northampton. She was the sister-in-law of Katherine Parr, King Henry VIII's sixth queen. Her first cousin, Thomas Wyatt the Younger, was the leader of a rebellion against Queen Mary I known as Wyatt's Rebellion. The whole family was implicated. She became one of the most influential courtiers again during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Events from the 1540s in England.

Maud Green was an English courtier. She was the mother of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII of England. She was a close friend and lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. She was also co-heiress to her father, Sir Thomas Green of Green's Norton in Northamptonshire along with her sister, Anne, Lady Vaux.

Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke English countess

Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Baroness Herbert of Cardiff was lady-in-waiting to each of Henry VIII of England's six wives. She was the younger sister of his sixth wife, Catherine Parr.

Margery Wentworth, also known as Margaret Wentworth, and as both Lady Seymour and Dame Margery Seymour. She was the wife of Sir John Seymour and the mother of Queen Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII of England. She was the grandmother of King Edward VI of England.

Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos English noblewoman

Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos was an English noblewoman, who served as a Maid of Honour to three queens consort of King Henry VIII of England; Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. From 1541 to 1543, she had an affair with the latter's brother, William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, whose own wife, Anne Bourchier, 7th Baroness Bourchier had eloped with a lover.

Sir Henry Seymour was an English landowner and MP, the brother of Jane Seymour, queen consort of Henry VIII, and consequently uncle to Edward VI. He was created a Knight of the Bath after his nephew's coronation.

Sir Edward Wotton (1489–1551) was the Treasurer of Calais and a privy councillor to Edward VI of England.

John Zouche, of Ansty, Wiltshire, was an English politician.



Further reading

Military offices
Preceded by Master-General of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
With: Sir Thomas Cheney
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Seymour of Sudeley