Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, received his power when his nephew ascended the throne as King Edward VI of England. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour. Edward Seymour was the young king’s uncle, as he was Queen Jane’s eldest brother.
Before the death of Henry VIII, Edward Seymour was the Earl of Hertford and Viscount of Beauchamp. He enjoyed favor with Henry VIII as the brother of his wife, and continued to remain in favor and close to the King after Jane’s death (she died after childbirth). This favor lasted the whole of Henry VIII’s reign.
Edward married two times. His first wife, was heiress Catherine Fillol. She bore two children, but if was public knowledge that she had an affair. For this reason Edward disinherited the children from this marriage, and made the children of his second wife, heiress Ann Stanhope, his heirs. Ann gave birth to ten of Edward’s children.
It is said that Edward was named Lord Protector in the will of Henry VIII, as who would better guide and protect the nine year old king, but the king’s mother’s own eldest brother? Seems like as good as choice as any, however, this is not even remotely true. The fact is, Edward Seymour, with the backing of bribed powerful nobles, named himself Lord Protector. It is recorded that many titles, lands, and monies were distributed to Edward Seymour’s supporters. Henry VIII’s will actually named sixteen executors that were supposed to act as King Edward’s council. Well… that did not happen.
One of the first things that Uncle Edward did was Lord Protector, was give himself the high and mighty title of Duke. Duke of Somerset to be precise. He also got the young king to decree that he could make important decisions for the realm. Pretty much he obtained the monarchical power of a king regent. He could even appoint privy council members.
One person who was against him was his own brother, Thomas Seymour, who felt that he should be Lord Protector, or protector of the kings person. One should not be both, as Edward was doing. Edward tried to bribe/placate his brother with a barony, by making him Lord Admiral, and giving him a seat on the privy council. This still was not enough for Edward’s brother, who went behind his back and tried to befriend and influence the young king. When his brother went to far in planning to marry Princess Elizabeth, the king’s half sister, Edward had Thomas arrested and eventually executed.
Edward Seymour was a skilled military leader. What he lacked in governing, he made up for on the battlefield, keeping the ever problematic Scots at bay. Also, a few rebellions surfaced that Edward put down.
As time went on, the powerful nobles began to resent Edward’s power. When it was suspected there would be a possible power struggle, Edward took possession of the King (really took him hostage), but power lasts only as long as the powerful nobles allow it. Every King learns that in order to protect his throne, that he must keep his nobles happy, something that the Lord Protector had forgotten.
Edward found himself arrested and the King was freed. The King himself accused him of mismanagement and abuse of power, as he was just a little bit upset that he was taken prisoner. Edward Seymour was forgiven and released, but eventually, Edward Seymour would be executed when he attempted to take power from the King’s new man who led the council, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick.
Edward had two wives and twelve children. With his first wife, Catherine Fillol, there were two sons whose paternity was questioned.
John Seymour (1527-1552)
Lord Edward Seymour (1529-1593), Sheriff of Devon
With his second wife Ann Stanhope:
Edward Seymour (1537-1539), Viscount Beauchamp of Hache
Edward Seymour (1539-1621), Earl of Hertford
Lady Anne Seymour (1538-1588)
Lord Henry Seymour (1540-?)
Lady Margaret Seymour (1540-?)
Lady Jane Seymour (1541-1561)
Lady Catherine Seymour (maybe died in infancy)
Lord Edward Seymour (1548-1574)
Lady Mary Seymour (1552-?)
Lady Elizabeth Seymour (1552-1602)