into Scotland in September. In March 1546 he was sent back to Boulogne to supersede Surrey, whose command had not been a success; and in June he was engaged in negotiations for peace with France and for the delimitation of the English conquests. From October to the end of Henry’s reign he was in attendance on the king, engaged in that unrecorded struggle for predominance which was to determine the complexion of the government during the coming minority. Personal, political and religious rivalry separated him and Lisle from the Howards, and Surrey’s hasty temper precipitated his own and his father’s ruin. They could not acquiesce in the Imperial ambassador’s verdict that Hertford and Lisle were the only noblemen of fit age and capacity to carry on the government; and Surrey’s attempt to secure the predominance of his family led to his own execution and to his father’s imprisonment in the Tower.
Their overthrow had barely been accomplished when Henry VIII. died on the 28th of January 1547. Preparations had already been made for a further advance in the ecclesiastical reformation and for a renewal of the design upon Scotland; and the new government to some extent proceeded on the lines which Chapuys anticipated that Henry VIII. would have followed had he lived. He had no statutory power to appoint a protector, but in the council of regency which he nominated Hertford and Lisle enjoyed a decisive preponderance; and the council at its first meeting after Henry’s death determined to follow precedent and appoint a protector. Hertford was their only possible choice; he represented the predominant party, he was Edward VI.’s nearest relative, he was senior to Lisle in the peerage and superior to him in experience. Seven weeks later, however, after Lord-Chancellor Wriothesley, the leading Catholic, had been deprived of office Hertford, who had been made duke of Somerset, succeeded in emancipating himself from the trammels originally imposed on him as protector; and he became king in everything but name and prestige.
His ideas were in striking contrast with those of most Tudor statesmen, and he used his authority to divest the government of that apparatus of absolutism which Thomas Cromwell had perfected. He had generous popular sympathies and was by nature averse from coercion. “What is the matter, then?” wrote Paget in the midst of the commotions of 1549, “By my faith, sir, . . . liberty, liberty. And your grace would have too much gentleness.” In his first parliament, which met in November 1547, he procured the repeal of all the heresy laws and nearly all the treason laws passed since Edward III. Even with regard to Scotland he had protested against his instructions of 1544, and now ignored the claim to suzerainty which Henry VIII. had revived, seeking to win over the Scots by those promises of autonomy, free trade, and equal privileges with England, which many years later eventually reconciled them to union. But the Scots were not thus to be won in 1547: “What would you say,” asked one, “if your lad were a lass, and our lass were a lad?” and Scottish sentiment backed by Roman Catholic influence and by French intrigues, money and men, proved too strong for Somerset’s amiable invitations. The Scots turned a deaf ear to his persuasions; the protector led another army into Scotland in September 1547, and won the battle of Pinkie (Sept. 10) . He trusted to the garrisons he established throughout the Lowlands to wear down Scottish opposition; but their pressure was soon weakened by troubles in England and abroad, and Mary was transported to France to wed Francis II. in 1557.
Somerset apparently thought that the religious question could be settled by public discussion, and throughout 1547 and 1548 England went as it pleased so far as church services were concerned; all sorts of experiments were tried, and the country was involved in a grand theological debate, in which Protestant refugees from abroad hastened to join. The result convinced the protector that the government must prescribe one uniform order which all should be persuaded or constrained to obey; but the first Book of Common Prayer, which was imposed by the first Act of Uniformity in 1549, was a studious compromise between the new and the old learning, very different from the aggressive Protestantism of the second book imposed after Somerset had been removed, in 1552. The Catholic risings in the west in 1549 added to Somerset’s difficulties, but were not the cause of his fall. The factious and treasonable conduct of his brother, the lord high admiral, in whose execution (March 20, 1549) the protector weakly acquiesced, also impaired his authority; but the main cause of his ruin was the divergence between him and the majority of the council over the questions of constitutional liberty and enclosures of the commons. The majority scouted Somerset’s notions of liberty and deeply resented his championship of the poor against greedy landlords and capitalists. His efforts to check enclosures by means of parliamentary legislation, royal proclamations, and commissions of inquiry were openly resisted or secretly foiled, and the popular revolts which their failure provoked cut the ground from Somerset’s feet. He was divided in mind between his sympathy with the rebels and his duty to maintain law and order. France, which was bent on ruining the protector’s schemes in Scotland and on recovering Boulogne, seized the opportunity to declare war on August the 8th; and the outlying forts in the Boulonnais fell into their hands, while the Scots captured Haddington.
These misfortunes gave a handle to Somerset’s enemies. Warwick combined on the same temporary platform Catholics who resented the Book of Common Prayer, Protestants who thought Somerset’s mildness paltering with God’s truth, and the wealthy classes as a whole. In September he concerted measures with the ex-lord-chancellor Wriothesley; and in October, after a vain effort to rouse the masses in his favour, Somerset was deprived of the protectorate and sent to the Tower. But the hostile coalition broke up as soon as it had to frame a constructive policy; Warwick jockeyed the Catholics out of the council and prepared to advance along Protestant lines. He could hardly combine proscription of the Catholics with that of Somerset, and the duke was released in February 1550. For a time the rivals seemed to agree, and Warwick’s son married Somerset’s daughter. But growing discontent with Warwick made Somerset too dangerous. In October 1551, after Warwick had been created duke of Northumberland, Somerset was sent to the Tower on an exaggerated charge of treason, which broke down at his trial. He was, however, as a sort of compromise, condemned on a charge of felony for having sought to effect a change of government. Few expected that the sentence would be carried out, and apparently Northumberland found it necessary to forge an instruction from Edward VI. to that effect. Somerset was executed on the 22nd of January 1552, dying with exemplary patience and fortitude. His eldest son by his second wife was re-created earl of Hertford by Elizabeth, and his great-grandson William was restored as 2nd duke of Somerset in 1660. His children by his first wife had been disinherited owing to the jealousy of his second; but their descendants came into the titles and property when the younger line died out in 1750.
(A. F. P.)
SOMERSET, ROBERT CARR (or Ker), Earl of (c. 1590–1645), Scottish politician, the date of whose birth is unrecorded, was a younger son of Sir Thomas Ker of Ferniehurst by his second wife, Janet, sister of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch. He accompanied James I. as page to England, but being then discharged from the royal service, sought for a time to make his fortune in France. Returning to England he happened to break his arm at a tilting match, at which James was present, and was recognized by the king. Entirely devoid of all high intellectual qualities, Carr was endowed with good looks, excellent spirits, and considerable personal accomplishments. These advantages were sufficient for James, who knighted the young man and at once took him into favour. In 1607 an opportunity enabled the king to confer upon him a more substantial mark of his affection. Sir W. Raleigh had through his attainder forfeited his life-interest in the manor of Sherborne, but he had previously executed a conveyance by which the property was to pass on his death to his