Seymour, Edward

, duke of Somerset, and uncle to Edward VI. was eldest son of sir John Seymour of Wolfhall, in the county of Wilts, knt. by Elizabeth daughter of sir Henry Wentworth, of Nettlested in Suffolk. He was educated at the university of Oxford, whence returning to his father at court, when martial achievements were encouraged by Henry VIII. he joined the army, and accompanying the duke of Suffolk in his expedition to France in 1533, was knighted by him Nov. 1, of that year. Upon his sister’s marriage with the king in 1536, he had the tide of viscount Beauchamp bestowed upon him, in consequence of his descent from an heir female of that house; and in Oct. 1537 was created earl of Hertford. In 1540 he was sent to France to dispute the limits of the English borders, and on his return was elected knight of the garter. In 1542 he attended the duke of Norfolk in his expedition into Scotland, and the same year was made lord great | chamberlain of England for life. In 154-4, being made lieutenant-general of the north, he embarked for Scotland with two hundred sail of ships, on account of the Scots refusing to marry their young queen to prince Edward; and landing in the Frith, took Leith and Edinburgh, and after plundering and burning them, marched by land into England. In August of the same year, he went to the assistance of the king at the siege of Boulogne, with several German and Flemish troops; and after taking it, defeated an army of 14,000 French, who lay encamped near it. By the will of Henry VIII. he was appointed one of the sixteen persons, who were to be his majesty’s executors, and governors of his son, till he should be eighteen years of age. Upon Edward’s accession to the crown, it was proposed in council, that one of the sixteen should be chosen, to whom the ambassadors should address themselves, and who should have the chief direction of affairs, though restrained from acting without the consent of the major part of the rest. The lord chancellor Wriothesly, who thought the precedence in secular affairs belonging to him by his office, opposed this strongly, and urged, that it was changing the king’s will, who had made them equal in power and dignity; and if any was raised above the rest in title, it would be impossible to keep him within just bounds, since greater titles made way for exorbitant power. But the earl of Hertford had so prepared his friends, that he was declared governor of the king’s person, and protector of the king*, dom, with this restriction, that he should not act without the advice and consent of the rest. In consequence of this measure, two distinct parties were formed; the one headed by the new protector, and the other by the chancellor; the favourers of the reformation declaring for the former, and the enemies of it for the latter. On Feb. 10, 1547-8, the protector was appointed lord treasurer, and the next day created duke of Somerset, and on the 17th of that month, had a grant of the office of earl marshal of England for life. On March 12th following, he had a patent for the office of protector and governor of the king and his realms. By this patent he had a negative in the council, but they had none on him; and he could either bring his own adherents into it, or select a cabinet-council out of it at pleasure; while the other executors,‘ having thus delivered up their authority to him, were only privy-counsellors like the rest, without retaining any authority | peculiar to themselves, as was particularly provided by Hemy Vlllth’s will. In August 1548 the protector took a commission to be general, and to make war in Scotland, and accordingly entered that kingdom, and, on Sept. 10, gained a complete victory at Musselburgh, and on the 29th returned to England triumphantly, having, with the loss of but sixty men in the whole expedition, taken eighty pieces of cannon, bridled the two chief rivers of the kingdom by garrisons, and gained several strong places.

It may easily be imagined how much these successes raised his reputation in England, especially when it was remembered what great services he had done formerly against France so that the nation in general had vast expectations from his government but the breach between him and his brother, the lord high admiral of England, lost him the present advantages. The death of the admiral also, in March 1548, drew much censure on the protector; though others were of opinion that it was scarce possible for him to do more for the gaining his brother than he had done. In September 1549, a strong faction appeared against him, under the influence and direction of Wriothesly earl of Southampton, who hated him on account of losing the office of lord chancellor, and Dudley earl of Warwick, who expected to have the principal administration of affairs upon his removal; and other circumstances concurred to raise him enemies. His partiality to the commons provoked the gentry; his consenting to the execution of his brother, and his palace in the Strand, erected on the ruins of several churches and other religious buildings, in a time both of war and pestilence, disgusted the people, The clergy hated him, not only for promoting the changes in religion, but likewise for his enjoying so many of the best manors of the bishops; and his entertaining foreign troops, both German and Italian, though done by the consent of the council, gave general disgust. The privy counsellors complained of his being arbitrary in his proceedings, and of many other offences, which exasperated the whole body of them against him, except archbishop Cranmer, sir William Paget, and sir Thomas Smith, secretary of state. The first discovery of their designs induced him to remove the king to Hampton Ctuirt, and then to Windsor; but finding the party against him too formidable to oppose, he submitted to the council, and on the 14th of October was committed to the Tower, and in January following was | fined in the sum of two thousand pounds a year, with thg loss of all his offices and goods. However, on the 16th of February, 1549-50, he obtained a full pardon, and so managed his interest with the king, that he was brought both to the court and council in April following: and to confirm the reconciliation between him and the earl of Warwick, the duke’s daughter was married, on the 3d of June, 1550, to the lord viscount Lisle, the earl’s son. But this friendship did not continue long; for in October 1551, the earl, now created duke of Northumberland, caused the duke of Somerset to be sent to the Tower, alledging^ that the latter had formed a design of raising the people; and that when himself, and the marquis of Northampton^ and the earl of Pembroke, had been invited to dine at the lord Paget’s, Somerset determined to have set upon them by the way, or to have killed them at dinner; with other particulars of that kind, which were related to the king in so aggravated a manner, that he was entirely alienated from his uncle. On the first of December the duke was brought to his trial, and though acquitted of treason, was found guilty of felony in intending to imprison the duke of Northumberland. He was beheaded on Tower-hill on the 22d of January, 1551-2, and died with great serenity. It was generally believed, that the conspiracy, for which he suffered, was a mere forgery; and indeed the not bringing the witnesses into the court, but only the depositions, and the parties themselves sitting as judges, gave great occasion to condemn the proceedings against him. Besides, his four friends, who were executed for the same cause, ended their lives with the most solemn protestations of their innocence.

He was a person of great virtues; eminent for his piety courteous, and affable in his greatness sincere and candid in all his transactions a patron of the poor and oppressed j but a better general than a counsellor. He had, however, a tincture of vanity, and a fondness for his own notions; and being a man of no extraordinary parts, was too much at the disposal of those who by flattery and submission insinuated themselves into his esteem and confidence. He made likewise too great haste to raise a vast estate to be altogether innocent. But to balance these defects, he was never charged with personal disofders, nor guilty of falsehood, of perverting justice, of cruelty, or oppression. Lord Orford remarks that his contributing to the ruin of the Howards hurt him much in the eves of the nation: his | severity to his own brother, though a vain and worthless man, was still less excusable; but having fallen by the policy of a man more artful, more ambitious, and much less virtuous than himself, he died lamented by the people.

He appears to have been an author. While he was lord protector, there went under his name, “Epistola exhortatoria missa ad Nobilitatem ac Plebem universumque populum regni Scotiae, Lond.1548, 4to, which lord Orford thinks might possibly be composed by some dependent. His other works were penned during his troubles, when he does not appear to have had many flatterers. During his first imprisonment he caused to be printed a translation by Miles Covevdale, from the German of Wormulus, of a treatise called “A spirituall and most precious pearl, teaching all men to love and embrace the cross, as a most sweet and necessary thing,” &c. Lond. 1550, 16mo. To thia the duke wrote a recommendatory preface. About thattime he had great respect paid to him by the celebrated reformers, Calvin, and Peter Martyr. The former wrote to him an epistle of “godly consolation,” composed before the time and knowledge of his disgrace; but being delivered to him in the Tower, his grace translated it from French into English, and it was printed in 1550, under the title of “An Epistle of Godly Consolacion,” &c. Peter Martyr also wrote an epistle to him in Latin, about the same time, which pleased the duke so much, that at his desire it was translated into English by Thomas Norton, and printed in 1550, 8vo. In Strype is a prayer of the duke “For God’s assistance in the high office of protector and governor, now committed to him;” and some of his letters are preserved in the library of Jesus colkge, Cambridge, and among the Harleian Mss.

Somerset left three daughters, Anne, Margaret, and Jane, who were distinguished for their poetical talents. They composed a century of Latin distichs on the death of Margaret de Valois, queen of France, which were translated into the French, Greek, and Italian languages, and printed in Paris in 1551. Anne, the eldest of these ladies, married first the earl of Warwick, the son of the duke of Northumberland, already mentioned, and afterwards sir Edward Hunton. The other two died single. Jane was maid of honour to queen Elizabeth. 1


Birch’s Lives. Collins’s Peerage, by sir E. Brydges Park’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors. —Strype’s Auuals. Buruet’s Hist, of the Reformation.