Seymour, William (1588-1660) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51
Seymour, William (1588-1660)

by James McMullen Rigg
1904 Errata appended.

SEYMOUR, WILLIAM, first Marquis and second Earl of Hertford and second Duke of Somerset (1588–1660), born in 1588, was second son of Edward Seymour, lord Beauchamp, by Honora, daughter of Sir Richard Rogers of Bryanston, Dorset [see Seymour, Edward, Earl of Hertford, (1539?–1621), and Seymour, Catherine]. Lord Beauchamp died in 1612, in the lifetime of his father, the Earl of Hertford, but by reason of the doubt affecting his legitimacy, the title by letters patent of 1608 was entailed upon his eldest son Edward, and in the event of his death and failure of his issue upon the second son, William. William Seymour early showed both taste and aptitude for study, and was sent to Oxford, where he matriculated from Magdalen College on 16 April 1605, graduated B.A. on 9 Dec. 1607, was created M.A. on 31 Aug. 1636, and D. Med. on 12 Aug. 1645. He was chancellor of the university from 1643 to 1647, and again in 1660.

About 1602 Arabella Stuart [see Arabella] had formed an attachment for a member of the Seymour family, and probably for William, although he was a boy of only fifteen. Antony Rivers [q. v.], the jesuit, wrote on 9 March 1602–3: ‘Some say [Arabella] is married to the Earl of Hertford's grandchild, which is most false’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, p. 299). According to the improbable account of Scaramelli, the Venetian envoy (Edinb. Rev. October 1896), it was one Thomas Seymour who at this period attracted Arabella's favour. This Thomas Seymour has been erroneously identified with William Seymour's uncle, Thomas Seymour, the Earl of Hertford's younger son. The latter died some time before—on 8 Aug. 1600 (cf. Dugdale, Baronage, and Collins, Peerage), and he was survived by a wife who died on 20 Aug. 1619. In any case, the intrigue was frustrated by the rigour of Queen Elizabeth; and Lady Arabella, having relinquished what was designated by Elizabeth's successor as forbidden fruit, was taken into favour by the new king upon his accession in 1603. In 1610, however, though she had now attained the discreet age of thirty-five, Arabella once more infringed the royal prerogative by seeking a husband for herself from ‘her own rank.’ This time her lover was undoubtedly William Seymour.

While at Oxford William Seymour had opportunities of visiting Arabella at Woodstock, and on 2 Feb. 1609–10 the pair plighted their troth. The secret was ill-kept, and the lovers were summoned before the council. Seymour made submission in writing (20 Feb.) denying the existence of an engagement or intention of marriage without the king's consent. The explanation was accepted, the lovers continued to meet, and on 22 June were privately married at Greenwich. The affair got wind at once, and while Lady Arabella was committed to the custody of Sir Thomas Parry at Lambeth, Seymour was provided with lodgings in the Tower (8 July). Neither was closely confined; Seymour found means to pay occasional visits to Lambeth, and, after Arabella was removed to Barnet, the Countess of Shrewsbury concerted a plan of escape in order to enable her to join him. On 4 June Arabella rode in man's attire some thirteen miles down to the Thames, where she embarked in a French vessel, which promptly sailed for Calais, but was captured by a boat from an English frigate about a league from that port. Arabella was remitted to the Tower. Meanwhile her husband had sailed in quest of her. He effected his escape from the Tower by the help of his barber, one Batten. Batten, who was well known to the guards, presented himself on 3 June at the Tower, completely disguised, and asked for Mr. Seymour's barber, whom he professed to know to be within. On being admitted he transferred the disguise to Seymour, and then boldly sallied forth with him. The unfortunate barber was taken next day and committed to the dungeon of the Tower. Seymour was met at the Iron Gate by Rodney, and carried by boat down the Thames as far as Lee. There, missing the ship which contained his wife, he boarded a collier bound for Newcastle, induced the master to make for Calais; owing to adverse winds, he was landed at Ostend, and awaited tidings of Arabella at Bruges (Cooper, Life and Letters of Lady Arabella Stuart; Life of Lady Arabella Stuart, by E. T. Bradley (Mrs. A. Murray- Smith), 1889). On learning her fate he removed to Paris (September), and soon after her death in October he made his peace with the king and returned to England, 10 Feb. 1615–16.

So complete was his restoration to favour that when the Prince of Wales was created K.B., 3 Nov. 1616, the same honour was conferred upon him. In April 1618 he remarried Frances, eldest daughter of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. On the death of his elder brother, Edward (August 1618), he took the courtesy title of Lord Beauchamp. On 22 Dec. 1620 he was returned to parliament for Marlborough, but vacated the seat almost at once on being called to the upper house as Baron Beauchamp, 14 Feb. 1620–1. On the death of his grandfather in the following April he was summoned to the House of Lords ‘to take his place according to the new creation of that earldom and not otherwise.’ He was a member of the committee of privileges appointed on 15 Feb. 1625–6, and brought in the reports on the petitions of the Earls of Bristol and Arundel, 30 March and 5 April 1626 [see Digby, John, first Earl of Bristol; and Howard, Thomas, second Earl of Arundel].

Though by nature and habit a scholar rather than a man of action, and little in favour at court, Hertford was too influential in the country to be ignored by the king as the prospect of an appeal to arms drew near. He was appointed on 23 March 1638–9 lord-lieutenant of Somerset and the cities of Bristol, Bath, and Wells; in 1640 he was sworn of the privy council, and was created (3 June) Marquis of Hertford. Still dreaming of a peaceful settlement, he joined with the Earls of Essex and Bedford in petitioning for a return to constitutional methods of government (28 Aug. and September 1640), and was selected as one of the commissioners for the abortive treaty of Ripon (October); but the attitude assumed by the Long parliament converted him from a lukewarm into a staunch royalist. On 17 May 1641 he accepted the post of governor to the Prince of Wales, with whom he joined the king at York in April 1642. The insolent demand of the parliament that he should give an undertaking that the prince should not be conveyed out of the kingdom, he met with a dignified and decisive refusal (3 May). Having subscribed the engagement for the defence of the monarchy and protestant religion (13 June), he was appointed (2 Aug.) commissioner of array and lieutenant-general for the western counties, from Oxford to the Land's End, and from Southampton to Radnor and Cardigan, and, attended by his younger brother Francis, lord Seymour of Trowbridge, John, lord Paulet, afterwards fifth marquis of Winchester [q. v.], Sir John Stawel, and Sir Ralph Hopton (afterwards Lord Hopton [q. v.]), made an attempt to put the commission in execution at Wells, but had hardly raised five hundred horse when he was driven out of the city by Sir Edward Hungerford (1596?–1648) [q. v.] He retreated to Sherborne, Dorset; but, finding the place untenable, withdrew to Minehead, and so by ship to Cardiff (September), sending his levies into Cornwall. In Wales he raised some two thousand men, with whom he crossed the marches, and drove the Earl of Stamford out of Hereford (14 Dec.) [see Grey, Henry, first Earl of Stamford]. Reinforced from Oxford by the royal princes, he reduced Cirencester (2 Feb.); in the summer, after the battle of Stratton (16 May), he marched into Somerset, captured in rapid succession Taunton, Bridgwater, and Dunster Castle; and, having effected a junction with Sir Ralph Hopton, left before Exeter an investing force under Sir John Berkeley (afterwards first Baron Berkeley of Stratton) [q. v.]; and marching upon Bath, the headquarters of Sir William Waller [q. v.], drew him to an engagement, and defeated him after an obstinate struggle at Lansdown (5 July); but, being too weak to improve his advantage, he withdrew with the cavalry to Oxford, leaving Hopton with the infantry at Devizes. From Oxford he despatched Lord Wilmot to Hopton's relief, and marched upon Bristol, which surrendered on 26 July. Upon this success, disputes with the princes as to the disposal of the command of the city caused the king to recall Hertford to Oxford; and in January 1643–4 he was made groom of the stole. He joined in the overtures made by the council in that month to Essex and the Scots; was nominated commissioner for the treaty of Uxbridge on 28 Jan. 1644–5, and of the council left in charge of Oxford on the king's departure in the following May. On the surrender of the city, 24 June 1646, he compounded for his estates on the terms of the articles. He was in attendance on the king during his confinement, was one of his commissioners for the treaty of Newport (September 1648), united during his trial with the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Southampton in praying the court to lay upon them as his advisers, the exclusive responsibility for his acts, and in procuring upon his execution permission to bury his body at Windsor. During the interregnum, after a brief confinement in his own house at Netley, Hampshire, Hertford was suffered to go at large. On the Restoration, the dukedom of Somerset and barony of Seymour, which were declared forfeit by act of parliament of 12 April 1552, were revived and conferred upon him by act of parliament passed 13 Sept. 1660. He was among the lords who welcomed Charles II at Dover on 26 May 1660, and on the following day received the Garter from the king at Canterbury, having been elected into the order at Jersey on 13 Jan. 1648–9. He died on 24 Oct. following, and was buried on 1 Nov. at Bedwyn Magna, Wiltshire. An anonymous portrait of Somerset belongs to the Duke of Beaufort; another by Vandyck (in Lord Clarendon's possession at The Grove, Watford) was engraved and prefixed to vol. iii. of Lady Theresa Lewis's ‘Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon,’ 1852.

By his second wife he had, with other issue, two daughters—Mary, who married Heneage Finch, second earl of Winchilsea [q. v.], and Jane, who married Charles Boyle, lord Clifford of Londesborough, son of Richard Boyle, first earl of Burlington, and second earl of Cork [q. v.] —and two sons, viz.: (1) Henry, lord Beauchamp (d 1654), leaving, with other issue, by his wife Mary, eldest daughter of Arthur, lord Capel of Hadham, a son William, who succeeded as third duke of Somerset (d 26 Sept. 1671, aged 20); (2) John, lord Seymour, who succeeded as fourth duke of Somerset on his nephew's death, and died without issue, 29 April 1675, when the dukedom passed to the grandsons of his father's brother, Francis, first baron Seymour of Trowbridge [see under Seymour, Charles, sixth Duke of Somerset].

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Complete Peerage, s. n. ‘Hertford;’ Collins's Peerage, i. 474 et seq.; Courthope's Hist. Peerage; Hutchins's Dorset, i. 250; Rymer's Fœdera, ed. Sanderson, xvi. 710; Edinb. Rev. July 1896, art. x.; Harl. MS. 7003, ff. 122, 132; Birch's Memoirs of the Reign of Elizabeth, ii. 506; Court and Times of James I, i. 127; Winwood's Mem. iii. 201, 279–81; Nichols's Progresses of James I; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Clarendon's Rebellion; Parl. Hist. ii. 75, 126, 1212, 1374–5; Lords' Journal, iii. 4, 98, 130, 499, 544, 552, v. 49, xi. 171, 358; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, pp. 342, 349, 401, 514–15, 1638–45, and Cal. Comm. for Compounding, and for Advance of Money; Notes of the Treaty of Ripon (Camden Soc.) App. p. 79; Rushworth's Hist. Coll. pt. ii. vol. ii. pp. 1200, 1276, pt. iii. vol. i. pp. 627, 672, 685, 766, vol. ii. 130, 284, 561–573, 792, 805, pt. iv. vol. i. p. 280; Whitelocke's Mem.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 308, 9th Rep. pt. ii., 10th Rep. pts. iv. and vi., 12th Rep. pts. ii. and ix., 13th Rep. pt. i.; Bates's Elenchus Motuum Nuperorum (1685), p. 142; Nicholas Papers (Camden Soc.), ii. 66; Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages, ed. Bohn, v. 99; Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature, 9th ed. iv. 361; Gardiner's Histories of England and of the Great Civil War.]

J. M. R.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.245
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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335 i 26 Seymour, William, 2nd Duke of Somerset: for Lanesborough read Londesborough