Thomas Seymour, 1st Earl of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral, was the brother of Henry VIII’s Queen Consort, Jane Seymour, and thus another Uncle of King Edward VI of England.
Thomas Seymour was the son of a common knight, Sir John Seymour and Lady Margery Wentworth. His sister, Jane Seymour, died after the birth of the only male heir of England, Prince Edward Tudor. Thomas well known for his scandalous marriage to Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife (and eventually his widow). Before marrying the King, Katherine was also married and widowed to two other elder Lords. After the death of her second husband, and being assigned to Mary Tudor’s (Henry VIII’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon) household, she and Thomas Seymour struck up a flirtation/romance. It was snuffed out abruptly when Henry VIII became interested in Katherine as his next wife.
As the brother of Henry VIII’s favorite Queen and uncle of his only heir, Thomas Seymour was favored by the king, and continued to be favored after his sister’s death. He went on several diplomatic missions for the King, and was often the King’s chosen companion. It must have been known by Henry VIII that Thomas had proposed once to Katherine, because he was made ambassador of the Netherlands after the King married her, probably to remove him from court. Like his brother, Edward, Thomas was also a successful military leader. Weeks after the King’s death, Thomas and Katherine secretly married. When it became known, it was a great scandal.
When Henry VIII died, Thomas’s elder brother, Edward Seymour, sized power by naming himself Lord Protector, Guardian of the King’s Person, and giving himself the title of 1st Duke of Somerset. Even though Henry VIII’s will named a council of men to govern until Edward VI’s majority, he managed this because the young king was just nine years old. He also bribed all the other powerful Lord’s of realm with titles, lands, and money.
Thomas Seymour became his brother’s most significant opponent. Not only did Edward Seymour disregard the will of the previous king, but he also tried to consolidate all the power with himself. At no time in History was it prudent for a Lord Protector to also be Guardian of the King. Edward was as powerful as a regent and Thomas was jealous of this power. Thomas demanded that he be made Guardian of the King, if he brother assumed the role of Lord Protector. Edward refused to share power with Thomas, and instead tried to placate him with a Barony and making him Lord High Admiral. This was not enough.
Thomas first attempted to befriend young Edward VI. It was known that Edward Seymour kept a tight leash on the young king and even limited his pocket money. Uncle Thomas started slipping him some, which when discovered looked as though Thomas was trying to bribe or buy Edward’s favor. Another scandal erupted when Thomas was found in the compromising position with Princess Elizabeth. Princess Elizabeth had been living with Katherine Parr, her step-mother, after her father’s death. Katherine and Elizabeth had always been close. It was Katherine’s intervention that restored Elizabeth and her sister Mary to the succession, as they had both been removed when Henry VIII discarded their mothers.
Some suspect that Thomas had been romancing the Princess for some time and that he intended to marry her one day in order to gain power. It was believed that his wife Katherine Parr was not in the best of health, and should she die, Thomas wanted to use the opportunity to marry the Princess. Elizabeth seems to have been pretty infatuated and welcoming of the Baron’s attentions. Rumors intensified when Katherine Parr became pregnant and sent Elizabeth away from her house. Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour, but succumbed to childbirth fever. She left all her possessions to Thomas in her will, making him one of the richest men in England.
Although Thomas proclaimed his remorse at his wife’s death, his pursuit of Elizabeth continued. But for some reason she cooled toward him. Perhaps she found his attentions so soon after his wife’s death distasteful.
Thomas’s continued schemes to undermine his brother’s authority and usurp his position led to his downfall. He used his position as High Lord Admiral (his command of the Navy) to consort with pirates and rebels in what seemed to be an attempt to revolt against his brother. Edward asked his brother to defend himself and make clear his motives before the council, but he never showed. Instead he was caught trying to breach the King’s apartments (perhaps to kidnap him). Thomas was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. He was tried, found guilty of treason, and then executed.
Thomas Seymour had one daughter with his wife Katherine Parr:
Mary Seymour (1548-c.1550)
*As her mother’s wealth was left entirely to her father and later confiscated by the Crown, Mary was left a destitute orphan in the care of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who appears to have resented this imposition. After 1550 Mary disappears from historical record completely, and no claim was ever made on her father’s meager estate, leading to the conclusion that she did not live past the age of two. (PBS Documentary: The Six Wives of Henry VIII.)