Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Seymour, Edward Adolphus (1804-1885)

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608996Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51 — Seymour, Edward Adolphus (1804-1885)1897William Fraser Rae

SEYMOUR, EDWARD ADOLPHUS, twelfth Duke of Somerset (1804–1885), statesman and author, born on 20 Dec. 1804, was eldest son of Edward Adolphus Seymour, eleventh duke of Somerset [q. v.], by his first wife, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, matriculating on 11 Oct. 1823, but leaving the university without a degree. He then travelled abroad, visiting Russia among other countries. He married, on 10 June 1830, Jane Georgiana, the youngest of the three beautiful daughters of Thomas, only son of Richard Brinsley Sheridan [q. v.], by his marriage with Miss Linley. Her two elder sisters married respectively Price Blackwood, fourth baron Dufferin, and the Hon. G. C. Norton [see Norton, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah]. Lord Seymour, as he was commonly called, fought a duel in 1835 with Sir Colquhoun Grant, who challenged him because he would not deny having been privy to the elopement of Sir Colquhoun's only daughter and heiress with his wife's brother, R. B. Sheridan. After shots had been exchanged without injury to either combatant, Seymour avowed his ignorance of the transaction. His wife had helped her brother to obtain the hand of the heiress, and she did so without informing her husband. In August 1839 his wife presided as ‘Queen of Beauty’ over the tournament at Eglinton Castle [see Montgomerie, Archibald William, thirteenth Earl of Eglinton].

Seymour entered the House of Commons as member for Okehampton in 1830, and for twenty-one years, from 1834 to 1855, was member for Totnes. He was a consistent liberal. In 1835 he was appointed a lord of the treasury in Melbourne's administration. In 1839 he was promoted to be secretary to the board of control, and in 1840 he carried through the house a bill which received the royal assent, for establishing a board of superintendence for railways. He was under-secretary for the home department during two months in 1841. He voted for the repeal of the corn laws. Lord John Russell appointed him first commissioner of works in 1851, with a seat in the cabinet, but he was out of office for several years following the resignation of Lord John Russell in 1852. During the campaign in the Crimea he served on a committee of the house to inquire into the state of the army. When the borough of Totnes was disfranchised in 1855 he ceased to be a member of the House of Commons, but took his seat in the House of Lords, as Duke of Somerset, on his father's death on 15 Aug. in the same year.

When Palmerston formed an administration in 1859, the Duke of Somerset was appointed first lord of the admiralty, an office which he filled till 1866. Although not very popular, he was an efficient administrator. He was created K.G. on 21 May 1862, and Earl St. Maur of Berry Pomeroy on 17 June 1863. After his retirement in 1866 he took an active part, out of office, in supporting most of the liberal measures which came before the house, including the bill for the abolition of purchase in the army. He gave an intermittent support to the other measures of Mr. Gladstone's administration of 1868–74, which he declined to join. Subsequently his liberalism grew lukewarm.

In his younger days he sought recreation in yachting cruises in the Mediterranean. His later life was embittered by the loss of his two sons, after which he sought consolation in a study of the historical aspects of Christianity. In 1872 he published a small book on ‘Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism.’ Another by him, on ‘Monarchy and Democracy,’ appeared in 1880. He died at Stover Park, Torquay, on 28 Nov. 1885. His wife had predeceased him on 14 Dec. 1884.

His elder son, Edward Adolphus Ferdinand, Earl St. Maur, died on 30 Sept. 1869, and his younger son, Edward Percy, who was in the diplomatic service, on 20 Dec. 1865. Both were unmarried. The dukedom therefore devolved successively on the twelfth duke's two younger brothers, Archibald Henry Algernon, thirteenth duke (1810–1891), and Algernon Percy Banks, fourteenth duke (1813–1894).

[Ann. Register for 1885; Letters, Remains, and Memorials of E. A. Seymour, twelfth Duke of Somerset, K.G., ed. W. H. Mallock and Lady Guendolen Ramsden, 1893; Spencer Walpole's Life of Earl Russell, ii. 423.]

F. R.