Seymour, Thomas (DNB00)
SEYMOUR, THOMAS, Baron Seymour of Sudeley (1508?–1549), born about 1508, was the fourth son of Sir John Seymour (d. 1536) of Wolf Hall, Wiltshire, by his wife Margery (d. 1551), daughter of Sir Henry Wentworth of Nettlested. Edward Seymour, first duke of Somerset [q. v.], was his elder brother. He must be distinguished from Sir Thomas Seymour who was sheriff of London on ‘evil May day’ 1516, was lord mayor of London in 1526 and 1530, was mayor of the Staple at Westminster, was employed by Henry VIII on various commercial negotiations, and died on 11 Dec. 1532 (cf. Letters and Papers, vol. iv. passim; Greyfriars' Chron. pp. 30, 33; Ellis, Shoreditch, p. 54). The future lord high admiral first came into notice in 1530 as a servant of Sir Francis Bryan [q. v.], who during his frequent embassies employed Seymour to carry despatches (Letters and Papers, v. 323, 325). But the marriage of his sister Jane [see Jane Seymour] to Henry VIII in May 1536, and of another sister, Elizabeth, to Cromwell's son Gregory, opened the way to rapid preferment. On 1 Oct. following he received a grant in survivorship of the stewardship of Chirk and other castles and manors in the Welsh marches, and in the same year he became a gentleman of the privy chamber. In 1537 he was granted the manor of Holt, Cheshire, and on 18 Oct. he was knighted (Wriotheley, Chron. i. 69). Grants of Coggeshall, Essex, Romsey, Hampshire, and Coleshull, Berkshire, followed in the next two years (cf. Addit. MS. 15553, f. 72), and in July 1538 the Duke of Norfolk suggested a marriage between Seymour and his only daughter Mary, widow of the Duke of Richmond. The suggestion failed, owing probably to the vehement opposition of Norfolk's son, the Earl of Surrey, and in 1543, soon after the death of Lord Latimer, Seymour sought the hand of his widow, Catherine Parr [q. v.]; but Catherine was destined to become Henry VIII's sixth wife.
Meanwhile, in 1538, Seymour accompanied Sir Anthony Browne (d. 1548) [q. v.] on his embassy to the French court, and in October was present during the negotiations at Cambray, carrying despatches thence to London on the 21st. On 12 June 1539 a bill, introduced by Cromwell, was passed, securing certain lands to him (Lords' Journals, i. 116 a, 119 a). He was one of those appointed to meet Anne of Cleves at Calais on 13 Dec. 1539 (Chron. of Calais, pp. 168, 173), and was one of the six knights selected to challenge all comers at the tournament on 1 May 1540. A few weeks later he was sent to Ferdinand, king of Hungary and brother of Charles V, to enlist support for Henry against France and Scotland. He arrived at Vienna in July, and remained there two years, describing, in his letters to Henry, the progress of the war against the Turks. He was recalled in October 1542, but was sent in December to Nuremberg to engage two thousand horse and three thousand foot for the English service. Failing in this object, he was recalled in January 1542–3, but in the following May was appointed ambassador, with Dr. Nicholas Wotton [q. v.], to the regent of the Netherlands (State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. ix. passim). War breaking out between England and Spain on the one side, and France on the other, Seymour was on 26 June made marshal of the English army in the Netherlands, being second in command to Sir John Wallop [q. v.] On 24 July 1543, with a strong detachment, he captured and destroyed the castles of Rinquecen and ‘Arbrittayne’ [? Ardinghen] (ib. ix. 452). At the beginning of August he was sent to the regent to ask for reinforcements; on his return he held for a short time the chief command during Wallop's illness, and besieged Bohaine; he went into winter quarters at Calais in November (ib. ix. 460–2 et seq.). As a reward for his services he received further grants of land, and on 17 April 1544 was made master of the ordnance for life. In this capacity he served in France during the campaign of the following summer. He returned to England at its close, conveying large stores of ammunition and ordnance. In October he was appointed admiral of the fleet, and on the 29th was directed to revictual Boulogne, and then await the French fleet in mid-Channel. These plans were frustrated by storms.
During the summer of 1545 Seymour was stationed at Dover, with orders to defend the Kentish coast against the projected French invasion. In August apparently he joined the main fleet under Lord Lisle at Portsmouth, but on 17 Sept. was directed to proceed with all haste to the narrow seas. On 15 Oct. the French fleet having finally dispersed, he was directed to bring into the Thames all the English ships, with the exception of a few left to guard the narrow seas. On 29 Nov. he was granted Hampton Place, outside Temple Bar, which he seems to have renamed Seymour Place. In the following year Norfolk again sought to disarm the enmity of the Seymours by pressing for the marriage of the Duchess of Richmond with Sir Thomas, but was once more foiled by Surrey (Bapst, Deux Gentilshommes Poètes, pp. 338–9; Cotton MS. Titus B. i. f. 94). In October 1546 Seymour was named commissioner to arrange terms with France about the frontier of the Boulonnais and the fortifications of Boulogne (Corr. Politique de Odet de Selve, 1546–9, ed. 1888, pp. 47, 181; State Papers, Henry VIII, xi. 319, 346–8, 355). On 23 Jan. 1546–7, five days before Henry's death, Seymour was sworn of the privy council (Acts P. C. ed. Dasent, i. 566).
Henry left him 200l. by his will, and, according to Paget, desired that he should be made a peer and lord high admiral. He was accordingly created Baron Seymour of Sudeley in Wiltshire on 16 Feb., and made K.G. and lord high admiral on the following day. He took a prominent part in the tournament at Edward's coronation on 21 Feb., and in the evening entertained the court at his house near Temple Bar. On 4 March he was put on a commission to negotiate a defensive league with France (Corr. Pol. de Odet de Selve, pp. 109, 114). On the following day he was sent to take the seal from the chancellor Wriothesley. There seems to have been some intention of making him governor of the king (Greyfriars' Chron. p. 54; Lit. Remains of Edward VI, p. cxiv), but it was not carried out. Seymour's ambition was not satisfied with his subordination to his brother, the Protector, and he began almost at once to intrigue for a share in his authority. Immediately after Henry's death he sought the hand of the Princess Elizabeth (Wood, Letters of Royal and Illustr. Ladies, iii. 191–2), and, according to the French ambassador, De Selve, he also made advances to the Princess Mary and Anne of Cleves (Corr. Pol. pp. 154–5); but being refused, he secretly married the queen dowager, Catherine Parr, two or three months later [see Catherine Parr]. When the news leaked out the Protector was ‘much offended’ (Lit. Rem. Edward VI, p. 215), and there were frequent disputes between the two brothers as to the precedence of their respective wives. Seymour now began to examine precedents by which in cases of a royal minority one uncle had had the protectorate of the realm, and the other the governance of the king's person (cf. Haynes, State Papers, pp. 74–5); he tampered with the king's attendants, and sought to win Edward's favour by supplying him liberally with pocket money; he endeavoured to stimulate a dislike of the Protector in the king's mind, and urged him to take the government into his own hands. He also tried to persuade Edward to write a letter on his behalf to the parliament, which met on 4 Nov., and he threatened, if parliament refused his demands, to make it ‘the blackest parliament that had ever been seen in England.’ In the same parliament he seems to have been mainly instrumental in procuring the act which made the duration of the protectorate depend upon the king's pleasure, instead of being fixed until the king should be eighteen years of age. About the same time he formed a project for marrying Edward to Lady Jane Grey, who was then a member of Seymour's household.
Seymour used his position as lord high admiral with the same object. On 5 April 1547 he set out to visit the western ports, and prepare an expedition against one ‘Thomessin,’ a pirate who had seized on the Scilly Isles and used them as a basis for privateering operations against the trade of all nationalities (Corr. Pol. pp. 130, 189). Notwithstanding his superior force, Seymour left the pirate unmolested, and apparently came to an understanding with him to share the spoils and the control of the islands. He made a similar attempt to occupy Lundy Isle, and, in spite of the protests of the French ambassador and the remonstrances of his brother, he systematically connived at privateering, thereby seeking to win over the pirates to his own ends (Oppenheim, Administration of the Navy, 1897, pp. 101–2, 104; Chron. of Henry VIII, ed. Hume, 1889, pp. 161–2). In August he declined the offer of the command of an army which was to be conveyed by sea to Edinburgh to co-operate in the Protector's invasion of Scotland. He remained behind as lieutenant-general of the south, in order to defend the coast of the Isle of Wight against a possible French invasion. In the Protector's absence he endeavoured to ingratiate himself with the landowners whom Somerset had offended. He urged his personal friends like Dorset and Northampton (Haynes, pp. 78–80) to secure adherents among the young gentlemen and yeomen who had no interest in the maintenance of the existing state of affairs, while he himself sought to gain influence in various counties by acquiring stewardships and manors. He began to store ammunition in Holt Castle, and to boast of having ten thousand men at his command. To provide funds for the maintenance of this force he obtained, through Sir William Sharington or Sherington [q. v.], control of the mint at Bristol.
It was not Seymour, as Maclean states, but Clinton who was sent in command of the fleet against Scotland during the summer and autumn of 1548. Seymour remained at home busy with his intrigues against his brother's authority. In August he was back at Sudeley, where, on 5 Sept., Catherine Parr died in childbed. Seymour at once renewed his suit for the hand of Elizabeth, whom he had treated with indelicate familiarity during her residence in his house, and who had consequently been removed by Catherine. But his proceedings had become known to the council. Russell and others had repeatedly warned him, and at length the Earl of Rutland brought an accusation against him. After various conferences with the council the Protector summoned Seymour to an interview. He refused to come, and on 17 Jan. 1548–9 the council sent Sir Thomas Smith and Sir John Baker to arrest him at his house near Temple Bar. He was imprisoned in the Tower, whither he was followed on the 18th by his adherents, John Harington [see under Harington, Sir John], Sir William Sharington, Sir Thomas Parry, John Fowler, and Mrs. Ashley, the governess of the Princess Elizabeth. On the 20th the lord privy seal, Southampton, and Petre were deputed to examine him and his confederates. As a result of these examinations (printed in Haynes, pp. 65–107) thirty-three articles of accusation were drawn up (printed in Acts P. C. 1547–50, pp. 248–56), and on 23 Feb. the whole council, except Somerset, Cranmer, and Baker, waited on Seymour in the Tower to receive his answer. He refused to reply unless confronted by his accusers in open trial, and on the following day the council reported the result to the king and Protector. A deputation of both houses of parliament failed to obtain from Seymour any answer to the charges other than the first three. The council then unanimously declared that his offences amounted to high treason, and on the 25th framed and introduced into the House of Lords a bill of attainder (printed in Statutes of the Realm, iv. i. 61–5). An act of 1547 had swept away all treasons created since the statute of 1352, and the council's decision has been generally regarded as illegal; but Seymour's dealings with pirates and measures for securing adherents might plausibly be construed as ‘levying war upon the king,’ and his connivance at Sharington's frauds as ‘counterfeiting the king's money,’ while his general conduct was undoubtedly a menace to the peace of the realm. The bill passed the House of Lords on 27 Feb. without a division, after the evidence against him had been heard, and the judges had agreed that he was guilty of treason. The commons appear to have made some objection, and the question was fully debated in a house of four hundred members; but the bill passed its third reading on 4 March, with ten or twelve dissentients (Lords' Journals, i. 345 et seq.) Seymour was executed on Tower Hill on the morning of 20 March, and, according to the doubtful authority of Latimer, his last act was to instruct his servant to convey two letters to the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, urging them to conspire against the Protector. He was buried within the Tower.
Lingard, Maclean, and others have maintained that Seymour's abilities were superior to those of his brother, but the evidence is not conclusive. He was undoubtedly a capable soldier, of great personal prowess and handsome features, and he won the affections of many of those with whom he was brought into contact (cf. Lady Jane Grey to Seymour, printed in Maclean, p. 71). But these qualities were marred by unscrupulous ambition, an overbearing disposition, and, according to Latimer, moral profligacy. He was accurately described by Elizabeth as ‘a man of much wit and very little judgement.’ A letter to him from Roger Ascham is extant in Addit. MS. 33271, f. 36.
His portrait, painted by Holbein, belongs to the Marquis of Bath; a miniature, by Holbein, is at Sudeley, in the possession of Mrs. Dent, who has reproduced it in her ‘Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley;’ she also possesses an anonymous portrait of Seymour, and two others, also anonymous, are respectively in the Wallace collection and that of Sir G. D. Clerk, bart. (cf. Cat. Victorian Exhib. Nos. 185, 209, 443, 1077; Cat. First Loan Exhib. No. 181). Seymour's portrait, with some lines, entitled ‘The Hospitable Oake,’ written by Harington after Seymour's death, and printed in ‘Nugæ Antiquæ,’ p. 330, was presented by Harington to Elizabeth after she became queen.
Seymour's daughter Mary, born on 29 Aug. 1548, was committed to the care of the Duchess of Somerset, and restored in blood by an act passed on 22 Jan. 1549–50 (Lords' Journals, i. 381, 383). According to Miss Strickland, she married Sir Edward Bushel, and was ancestress of the Johnson Lawsons of Grove Villa, Clevedon, who possess some personal relics of her mother, Catherine Parr; but the evidence of Wriothesley's ‘Chronicle’ and the silence of contemporary records as to her subsequent existence establish almost beyond doubt that she died in infancy.[Sir John Maclean's Life of Sir Thomas Seymour (privately printed in 1869, and not in the Brit. Museum Library) is written mainly from contemporary sources. See also Addit. MSS. 5751 (ff. 295, 307), 5753 (ff. 20, 48, 137), 6705 (f. 62), 19398 (f. 52), authorities mentioned in the text, and under art. Seymour, Edward, first Duke of Somerset.]