Perkin Warbeck

On the 23rd of November 1499 Perkin Warbeck faced his death at Tyburn. He was sentenced to be hung until he was dead. His crime was attempting to escape the Tower of London where he was held a prisoner, but his story goes back several years and involves a tale of deception, treason and rumours of a young Prince come back to life!

In the Battle of Bosworth on August 22nd 1485 Henry VII had famously defeated Richard III in battle and won the English crown for himself and the future Tudor Dynasty. Richard III was dead and the fate of the Princes in the Tower, young Edward and Richard, sons of the late Edward IV, remained unknown. Many believed that they were dead, having last been seen two years previously. Others however hoped that maybe the young Richard, Duke of York had been smuggled out of the Tower and across the channel to Europe. This is where Perkin Warbeck comes into the story.

Warbeck’s younger years remain a confusing story but it appears the young man was born around 1474 to Jehan de Werbecque, a poor burgess of Tournai in Flanders, and his wife Katherine de Faro. Warbeck grew up in Antwerp and worked a series of jobs as a servant. After a time Warbeck was hired by a Breton silk merchant named Pierre Jean Meno and was brought to Cork in Ireland around 1491. It was here in Cork that Warbeck learned English and when people saw him modelling his master’s fine silks it was suggested that he was an illegitimate son of the late George, Duke of Clarence or perhaps even Richard III.

The exact details of Perkin Warbeck’s rise to claim he was Richard, Duke of York, the youngest of the Princes in the Tower are sketchy. As Richard, Duke of York, Perkin claimed that his older brother Edward had been killed in the Tower of London but he had been spared because of his young age and innocence. He had then been smuggled to Europe and protected by York sympathisers and sworn to secrecy.

Several European rulers including Charles VII of France and Maximillian the Holy Roman Emperor eagerly grasped onto Warbeck’s claims and proclaimed the young man Richard, Duke of York and true heir to the English throne. Even Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the widow of Charles the Bold and sister of the late Edward IV supported Warbeck’s claim that he was the youngest of the Princes in the Tower. Whether Margaret actually believed that Warbeck was her nephew remains unknown. Having not seen him for many years Margaret may have indeed believed that Warbeck was her long lost nephew or she simply may have grasped at the chance to seek revenge against Henry VII who killed her brother at the Battle of Bosworth. Whatever the exact reason Margaret took Warbeck in and saw him well educated in the way of the Yorkist clan.

3 July 1495 funded by his “Aunt” Warbeck took fourteen ships carrying around 6000 men to England in the hopes of claiming the throne for himself. However when the ships landed at Kent Warbeck’s men were routed before Warbeck could even get to shore. Warbeck and his men fled first to Ireland and then to Scotland where he was warmly welcomed by King James IV. Since England was aligning itself with Spain in a marriage alliance between young Arthur Tudor and Katherine of Aragon, James IV saw an opportunity to align Scotland with their old friend France. James IV bolstered Warbeck’s claim that he was the Richard, Duke of York and saw Warbeck married to Lady Catherine Gordon, a distant cousin of the King and granted him an annuity of £1200. It is unclear if James IV actually believed Warbeck’s claims or if he just grasped an opportunity to cause havoc in England.

In September 1496 James IV along with his army and Warbeck invaded England under the claim of restoring Warbeck/Richard, Duke of York as the rightful King of England. However the support they wished to find in the North did not materialise and with his armies defeated Warbeck quickly escaped to Ireland. Then in September 1497 Warbeck tried again. He and a small group of men landed in Cornwall where they hoped to raise men against Henry VII.  Many people in Cornwall were upset over the huge levying of taxes by their King to pay for war. Warbeck was somewhat successful and soon proclaimed King Richard IV. With an army of around 8000 men Warbeck passed Exeter and then Touton yet when he heard that Henry VII’s army was close Warbeck fled in panic. He was finally captured at Beaulieu in Hampshire.

Henry VII chose to show kindness to Warbeck’s wife Lady Gordon and placed her as a lady in waiting to his wife Elizabeth of York. Warbeck was forced to make two public announcements at Westminster and Cheapside in June 1498 that he was not the late Richard, Duke of York, son of King Edward IV and that he was in fact an imposter. When asked why he was impersonating the late Richard, Duke of York all Perkin could say was that he blamed Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy.

At first Henry VII showed some kindness to Warbeck and kept him at court until he tried to escape. Warbeck was quickly captured and taken to the Tower of London. There he and Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence planned to escape. Their plan was soon uncovered and finally Warbeck’s time had run out. On the 23rd of November 1499, under the charge of trying to escape the Tower of London, Warbeck was taken from the Tower of London to Tyburn where he met his end by hanging. While officially the charge was trying to escape the Tower of London in reality while still alive Warbeck posed a threat to Henry VII and his claim to the throne. For Henry VII it was better to be rid of Warbeck once and for all rather than have him forever looming in the shadows.

Interestingly Henry VII’s wife Elizabeth of York, older sister of the lost Princes in the Tower was never called upon to deny the claims of Perkin Warbeck. In fact there are no records or reports of her thoughts of feelings related to the whole affair. Did she believe that Warbeck was in fact her long lost brother believed to have died in the Tower all those years ago? Probably not, but the claim that he was must have brought back terrible memories for the Queen. Whatever her lost thoughts were regarding Warbeck, the man from Tournai was dead and now only a memory, yet one that had touched a little too close to home.

Perkin Warbeck


De Lisle, Leanda, 2013, Tudor: The Family Story, Chatto & Windus, London.

Goble, Rachel, 1999, The Execution of Perkin Warbeck, History Today, viewed 13 November 2015, <;.

Jokinen, Anniina, Perkin Warbeck (c.1474 – 1499), Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project, viewed 13 November 2015, <;.

Trueman, C. N. 2015, The Perkin Warbeck Rebellion, The History Learning Site, viewed 13 November 2015, <;.



The Tower of London

The Tower of London has a long and rich history filled with celebration, joy, tragedy and bloodshed. The Tower’s history began with William the Conqueror (1066-87) who believed that he had a claim to the English throne after the death of his relative Edward the Confessor. William was the Duke of Normandy and he sailed across to England and defeated King Harold Godwinson, brother in law to Edward the Confessor at the battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror recognised the need to fortify London and create strongholds which would help to protect against threats against his rule. It is believed that one of these strong holds was the first construction at the Tower of London – The White Tower. There are little details about the building of the famous White Tower but it was believed to have been completed by 1100.

Tower of London

Over the centuries additions were made to the Tower of London, with separate buildings being built close to the White Tower. In 1238 Henry III began the building of the massive walls around the north, east and western sides of the Tower which were reinforced by nine towers with the whole structure being surrounded by a great moat.

The Tower of London was used as a fortress and stronghold for protection but it was also at varied times a place in which the King and his court could reside. It also acted as a prison and the first prisoner to be held in the Tower of London was Ranulf Flambard in 1100. In addition to a prison and a place to stay the Tower held many various and exotic animals over the centuries including lions, a polar bear, an elephant and ostriches!

As well as acting as a semi zoo the Tower in the seventeenth century began to hold ravens. There is a legend that stated if the ravens left the Tower of London would fall. The legend states that Charles II believed in this story so much that he insisted that six ravens be kept within the great walls of the Tower at all times. Today the Tower holds seven ravens (one spare just in case!) and they are cared for by the resident Raven master.

The Tower holds the mysteries and tragedies of many lives including the disappearance of 12 year old Edward VI and his brother 10 year old Richard, sons of Edward IV. After Edward IV’s death, Richard III claimed the throne and sent both young boys to the Tower of London where they were mysteriously never heard of again. It is believed that both boys were murdered, but by who? And how?

The Tudors have a rich and long history with the Tower of London and two of Henry VIII’s wives would lose their lives (and their heads) within the tower walls. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife would be sent to the tower on May 2nd 1536 to be charged with adultery, incest and treason and would lose her head and her life on May 19th. Henry VIII’s fifth wife Katherine Howard would also be sent to the Tower for committing adultery and she too would be beheaded on the 13th of February 1542. As well as two of Henry’s wives many other famous people would lose their lives at the Tower including Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, sister in law to Anne Boleyn and lady in waiting to Katherine Howard. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, Lady Jane Grey who was Queen for just nine days, and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, courtier and favourite of Elizabeth I. Although not losing their life at the Tower, the Tower held many famous and important prisoners including The Duke of Northumberland, The Dukes of Norfolk, Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher of Rochester and even Elizabeth I!

The whole structure of the Tower of London is absolutely magnificent and impressively large. There are twenty Towers within the Tower of London as well as many other buildings and points of interest. There are many beautiful and at times spooky parts of the Tower to visit and I would strongly suggest that it would take at least a full day to see everything properly within the great Tower’s walls. I could talk about each part of the Tower individually but instead I have selected just a few parts of the Tower to discuss and that I would strongly recommend visiting:

The Beauchamp Tower

The Beauchamp Tower was built as part of the inner defensive wall by Henry III and Edward I. It was not originally built as a prison but over the years quickly became one. The Tower received its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick who was imprisoned within the Tower at the later part of the 14th century. When you enter the Beauchamp Tower and walk the vast and rather spooky rooms you can see carvings and inscriptions written over the walls. These words and images are a haunting reminder of all those held within the Beauchamp Tower.

Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula

The Chapel Royal is a magnificent place of worship built within the walls of the Tower of London. Although a relatively small chapel (compared to some) it is a place of beauty and serenity. Within the beautiful interior of The Chapel Royal are buried the bodies of many famous and tragic figures including, Anne Boleyn the second wife of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII who were both beheaded within the Tower. The Chapel Royal still acts as a place of worship for all the people that live within the walls of the Tower today.

Church of St Peter ad Vincula

Traitor’s Gate

Built for Edward I between 1275 and 1279, Traitors’ Gate is located along the river Thames and allowed barges to be moored next to the great gateway so that one could enter the Tower via the river. Contrary to popular belief Anne Boleyn, upon her arrival at the Tower of London after her arrest did not enter via Traitors’ Gate.

Traitors Gate

 The White Tower

The most magnificent and recognisable building within the Tower of London is clearly the White Tower. Standing at the centre of the Tower of London it is a magnificent structure which immediately captures the attention of anyone that enters the great walls of the Tower. The White Tower had many functions including acting as a stronghold to protect the King, a place of residency where the King could stay and live, a place to entertain and most of all it was built to impress and to show the great strength and power of the English Kings. The Tower contains a massive basement and three grand and impressive rooms, one being a stunning chapel. There are many breath taking displays within the White Tower including weapons and armour which was used during medieval battles.

White Tower


Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E and Spooner, J. 2009, Historic Royal Palaces Experience the Tower of London, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey.

Historic Royal Palaces 2011, ‘Tower of London’, viewed 25th October 2011, <>

Luminarium 2011, ‘Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature’, viewed 25th October 2011, <;



Edmund Tudor. 1st Earl of Richmond

Henry Tudor, King Henry VII, was the founder of the Tudor Dynasty. His mother was the imposing Margaret Beaufort who risked everything to see her son on the throne and in turn the houses of Lancaster and York united through the marriage of her son to Elizabeth of York. Yet who was Henry Tudor’s father? While so much is known about Henry’s mother his father is an elusive figure and sadly he would not live to see his only son and heir claim the English throne.

Edmund Tudor was the son of Owen Tudor and the Dowager Queen Katherine Valois. Young and beautiful Katherine Valois was the French Queen of the great King Henry V and the mother of the future Henry VI. She was just twenty years of age when her husband Henry V died on the 31st of August 1422 at the Chateau de Vincennes near Paris while in Europe campaigning. It was reported that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset sought to marry the Dowager Queen and it may very well have been that Katherine returned these feelings. In response Parliament set out a statue which stated that no man was allowed to marry a former Queen of England without a special licence and permission by the King. If a man dared to marry a former Queen then not only would he forfeit his lands and tenements he would also forfeit his life.

The Duke of Somerset paid attention to this statue and pulled back his intentions however Owen Tudor was a completely different story. Reported to be a Squire in the service of the Dowager Queen, Owen Tudor would soon catch the Queen’s attention. There are various stories as to how this happened, one being that while dancing Owen fell into the Queen’s lap, another being that she spied him while he was swimming naked – whatever the true story is the pair married in secret going against the statue of parliament.

The pair had several children together, the two most famous of those being Edmund Tudor and his younger brother Jasper. Edmund Tudor was born around 1430 at Hadham, Hertfordshire. It has been suggested that Edmund was the son of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset as there are no Edmund’s in either Owen Tudor or Katherine Valois’s families. However this is unlikely and it may simply be that he was named after the Duke in his honour or that both Owen and Katherine liked the name. Katherine would have several more children before retiring to the Abbey of Bermondsey in 1436 where she died less than a year later on the 3rd of January 1437.

At just six or seven years of age Edmund and his younger brother Jasper went to live with Catherine de la Pole the Abbess of Barking. Unfortunately there are very few details of Edmund’s younger years however it is known that both Edmund and Jasper were raised with Catherine de la Pole until around 1442 when they were taken to court to meet their older half-brother, King Henry VI. After this time the King took charge of Edmund and Jasper’s education and Edmund remained at court.

To strengthen the position of the King’s half-brothers on the 23rd of November 1452 Henry VI had Parliament begin the process to declare both Edmund and Jasper legitimate. The King then created Edmund Earl of Richmond while his younger brother Jasper was created the Earl of Pembroke; they were to take precedence above all the noblemen below the rank of a Duke. Then on the 5th of January 1453 at the Tower of London both Edmund and Jasper were Knighted. Finally on the 6th of March 1453 The Commoners petitioned the King to declare Edmund and Jasper as legitimate brothers to the King as they shared the same mother and the King graciously accepted. In 1454 The King made several large grants to Edmund to strengthen his land base and wealth and in addition to this on the 24th of March Edmund and Jasper were jointly granted the wardship of nine year old Lady Margaret Beaufort. Margaret Beaufort, daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, was the soul heiress to her father’s great fortune. She had originally been betrothed to John de la Pole, son of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk however the King annulled the marriage and sought a marriage for the young heiress elsewhere. To secure Margaret’s wealth Edmund married her on the 1st of November 1455, he was twenty four/five years of age and she just twelve.

Although the accepted age for marriage during the Tudor period was around twelve years for girls and fourteen years of age for boys, most believed that twelve was far too young for a girl to be participating in sexual intercourse. Thus many young married couples were ordered to wait to have sex until the girl was around fourteen to sixteen years of age. However Edmund decided not to wait until his new wife was fourteen and wished to consummate the marriage as soon as possible to secure its legitimacy. Shortly afterwards Margaret became pregnant. She gave birth before she was even thirteen years old. It is believed that due to her young age and slender frame the birth had a dramatic and lasting effect upon her body and despite marrying twice more she never conceived another child.

However Edmund would not live to see the birth of his son the future Henry VII. During this time the famous Wars of the Roses had begun. There were periods of time that King Henry VI was not able to rule effectively due to what was suspected to be some form of mental illness. During this time the Duke of York took control of the Kingdom and ruled as Protector of the Realm. When Henry VI returned to full sanity his wife, Margaret of Anjou and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset took control once more. Soon war was declared between the houses of York and Lancaster and while the Wars of the Roses are far too great to detail here it was in one of these battles that Edmund was involved and ultimately met his end.

Edmund, a Lancastrian and fighting for his King and half-brother was captured in 1456 by William Herbert, a Yorkist supporter. Edmund was taken to Carmarthen Castle in Wales where he was held captive. It was there on the 1st of November 1456 that he died of the plague, just two months before his only son and heir was born. There were rumours at the time that Edmund had been poisoned or perhaps succumbed to injuries sustained during fighting but nowadays it is generally accepted that he died of the plague rather than anything more sinister.

He was buried at Carmarthen Grey Friars. However in 1539, more than eighty years after his death, at the dissolution of the monasteries, Edmund’s grandson Henry VIII had his grandfather’s remains moved to the to the choir of St David’s Cathedral where they remain today.  At the time of his death Edmund’s lands were valued at around £600 a year and they reverted back to the crown however Edmund’s young wife Margaret would receive a dowager of £200 a year.

Edmund’s younger brother Jasper took care of his young sister in law and took in Margaret, having her stay with him at Pembroke Castle. It was here on the 28th of January 1457 that Edmund’s son and heir, Henry was born. Sadly Edmund would never see his son become King nor the great Dynasty he started.

Edmund Tudor

Tomb Effigy of Edmund Tudor (Image from Wikipedia)


Bayani, D 2014, Jasper Tudor Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty, Self-Published.

Gregory, P 2015, Edmund Tudor, Philippa Gregory, viewed 17 October 2015, <;.

Higginbothom, S 2013, Arms and the Man: Was Edmund Tudor Illegitimate?, History Refreshed, viewed 17 October 2015, <;.

Medieval Lives: Birth, Marriage and Death 2013, BBC Scotland.





In this spooky time of year let’s have a look at some superstitions that were believed during the Medieval and Tudor times…


During the Medieval and Tudor age people believed in witches and the powers they held. It was often believed that a witch was a woman who had slept with the devil. Women were liable to being labelled as a witch as they were seen as weaker and far more susceptible to the devil and his tricks. Women also held fewer rights than men in society and found it hard to defend themselves against allegations. Witches could make potions and perform spells that would put curses upon people or cause disasters to happen, such as poor crops, illness or the loss of a child. Some people even thought that a witch could perform a spell upon a man to make him fall in love with a woman! It was believed that witches could fly on broomsticks and even turn into animals such as a cat or a raven. In 1542 Henry VIII passed the first Witchcraft Act against sorcery, witches and enchantments. The act stated that it was forbidden to:

“… use devise practise or exercise, or cause to be devysed practised or exercised, any Invovacons or cojuracons of Sprites witchecraftes enchauntementes or sorceries to thentent to fynde money or treasure or to waste consume or destroy any persone in his bodie membres, or to pvoke [provoke] any persone to unlawfull love, or for any other unlawfull intente or purpose … or for dispite of Cryste, or for lucre of money, dygge up or pull downe any Crosse or Crosses or by such Invovacons or cojuracons of Sprites witchecraftes enchauntementes or sorceries or any of them take upon them to tell or declare where goodes stollen or lost shall become.” (Gibson, 2003, p.2)

If a person was convicted of the crime of witchcraft their belongings were forfeited and they were sentenced to death – usually hanging. It was believed that horseshoes could ward off witches.


(Image from Wikipedia)

Black Cats

Cats were often associated with witches, being kept by them, or even that a witch could turn into a cat. Black was also seen as the colour of evil. Some believed that if a black cat that walked across their path it would mean something bad would happen to them.


Many people of the Medieval and Tudor periods believed in ghosts. It was often thought that ghosts were souls that had not gone to heaven and still haunted the earth. It was commonly believed that these souls belonged to people who committed suicide as suicide was believed to be a sin against God. If a person committed suicide their body was often buried in a crossroad so that their soul could not find their way back and they were pinned to the ground with a steak to keep the soul in place.

Lucky Horseshoe

Many people believed that horseshoes were lucky. The first reason for this was because they were made of iron, a metal that could ward off evil spirits. The second reason was that it was believed St Dunstan was working as a blacksmith when the devil entered his shop. He pretended not to know it was the devil and collected horseshoes and then nailed them to the devil. This caused the devil great pain and St Dunstan would only remove the horseshoes if the devil promised not to enter a home with a horseshoe on the door. Therefore people would keep an iron horseshoe in their home to protect against the devil.

Spilling Salt

During the Medieval times spilling salt was seen as bad luck. Salt was a precious commodity, it was used in cooking and for medicine and spilling salt was seen as a waste. In addition to this in the painting of the Last Supper by da Vinci, Judus can be seen spilling salt and therefore it was believed that if salt was spilt something bad would happen. People would collect the spilled salt and throw it over their shoulder as a means to ward off evil spirits.


Had a sneeze? Make sure someone says “God Bless You” or the devil might enter your body! It was believed by some that a sneeze opened up the body to the devil or evil spirits and so saying God Bless You would protect you from evil entering your body.


It was believed that candles, specifically the flame of the candle, would ward off evil spirits. Often when a person was dying or a child was being born candles were lit so that evil spirits could not get to the soul of the dying person or the newborn child.



Elizabethan Witchcraft and Witches, viewed 6 October 2018, <;.

Gibson, Marion, Witchcraft and Society in England and America 1550-1750, (London: Continuum, 2003).

Lamb, Victoria, Tudor Superstitions: The ‘Witching Time of Night’, viewed 6 October 2018, <;.

Malandra, Ocean, Ten Facts on the Elizabethan Times, viewed 6 October 2018, <;.

Schoppert, Stephanie, Centuries of Fear: 6 Superstitions from the Middle Ages, viewed 6 October 2018, <;.

Superstitions of Medieval England, viewed 8 October 2018, <;.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset is one of the most well-known of Henry VIII’s courtiers. Although the Duke was most influential under the reign of his nephew, King Edward VI, it was during the reign of Henry VIII that Seymour started his ascent at the Tudor court.

The exact date of Edward’s birth has not been recorded however it is generally believed that he was born around 1500 at the family’s home of Wolf Hall, Wiltshire to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. John and Margery had ten children, six sons, John, Edward, Henry, Thomas, John and Anthony; and four daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Margery and Dorothy. [1] Edward Seymour descended from the ancient family lines of the Percy’s and the Cliffords and his father served both King Henry VII and King Henry VIII as sheriff of Wiltshire and of Somerset and Dorset cementing the family’s loyalty to the Tudors.[2]

Edward Seymour was introduced to court by his father in 1514 at the age of approximately fourteen years. In 1514 he was appointed as a page to Mary Tudor, younger sister of Henry VIII, when she journeyed to France to marry King Louis XII. In October, after the wedding, Louis VII dismissed many of Mary’s servants however he retained a small number, including young Edward.[3]

On the 15th of July 1517 Edward and his father were appointed the joint constables of Bristol Castle and the surrounding lands.[4] On August 25th 1522 the secret Treaty of Bruges was signed between Charles V and Thomas Wolsey on behalf of Henry VIII declaring that Henry would support Charles V in the war against France. In May 1523 England officially declared war upon France.[5] Edward travelled to France under the service of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and participated in the capture of Bray, Roye, and Montdidier. He was knighted by Brandon at Roye on the 1st of November 1523.[6]

Seymour’s star continued to rise and in 1524 he was created an esquire of the King’s household and then on the 12th of January 1525 he was elected as a JP for Wiltshire as well as being created the Master of the Horse for Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond; illegitimate son of King Henry VIII. Seymour gained his first taste of ambassadorial duties in July 1527 when he accompanied Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to France when the Cardinal began secret discussions regarding Henry VIII’s “Great Matter” – a possible annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.[7]

On the 5th of March 1529 Seymour was made a steward of the manors of Henstridge, Somerset, and Charlton, Wiltshire.[8] Two and a half years later on the 12th of September 1531 Seymour was appointed an esquire of the body to Henry VIII with an annuity of 50 marks. On New Year’s Day 1532 Seymour presented the King with a gift of a sword with a guilt handle and in return Henry VIII gave Edward money.[9]

Towards the end of 1532 Seymour was riding high within the King’s favour and he accompanied Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to Calais where they met with King Francis I of France. At Anne Boleyn’s coronation banquet on the 1st of June 1533 Seymour had the honour of acting as a server to the Archbishop of Canterbury. [10]

In October 1535 Seymour had the great honour of having the King and Queen visit him and his family at his manor of Elvetham in Hampshire. Less than six months later on the 3rd of March 1536 Seymour was invested as a gentleman of the privy chamber. This position put Edward within close proximity to the King and provided him with regular opportunities to converse with Henry VIII. Shortly after this Edward, his wife Anne and his sister Jane were given rooms at the Palace of Greenwich.[11]

There has been much written about Edward’s sister, Jane and her courtship with King Henry VIII. Far to much to detail in his small biography of Edward. It has been proposed that Edward coached his sister to turn Henry VIII away from his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Others have suggested that Jane was coached by Sir Nicholas Carew, a distant relative of the King. Weather Jane was coached or if she acted on her own she went on to marry Henry VIII on the 30th of May 1536 in the Queen’s Closet at Whitehall.[12] Seymour was now brother in law to the King.

On the 5th of June 1536 Seymour was created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache with an annuity of 20 marks and a grant of lands and manors in Wiltshire.[13] The following year on the 22nd of May Seymour was admitted into the Privy Council and also to Parliament where his new title ranked him higher than the Barons.[14]

Seymour was quick to cement his new position and on the 7th of July he purchased the position of Captain and Governor of Jersey for £150. Following this in August he was appointed as Chancellor of North Wales.[15]

On the 12th of October at two o’clock in the morning Jane Seymour gave birth to a baby boy named Edward. Seymour was now not only the brother in law of the King he was also uncle to the future King. On the 15th a grand procession took place at Hampton Court taking the newly born Prince to the Chapel Royal where he was christened. Seymour had the honour of carrying little Elizabeth, Henry VIII’s daughter with Anne Boleyn during the coronation procession.[16] Three days later on the 18th he was created Earl of Hertford with an annuity of £20.[17] Tragically Jane died just twelve days after the birth of her son of what was most likely puerperal fever, an infection of the vaginal passage or womb.[18]

After his sister’s death Seymour’s rise stalled briefly yet he continued to hold the King’s favour. In March 1538 his son and heir, Edward, was born and the King and Thomas Cromwell stood as Godfather’s to the infant.[19] In August of the following year the King sent Seymour to defend Calais and Guines against the French and he was granted the distinct honour of meeting Anne of Cleves, the woman who would become Henry VIII’s fourth wife, at Calais and escorting her to England.[20]

After a period of relative inactivity Seymour’s star rose once more during the final years of Henry VIII’ life. He was elected to the Order of the Garter on the 9th of January 1541, England’s highest order of Chivalry and was included on a small council to govern the affairs in London while the King went on his Northern progress between July and November. The following year in September Seymour was appointed to the position of the Warden of the Scottish Marches although he spent only a few weeks there before returning to London. On the 28th of December 1542 he was created Lord High Admiral and then on the 16th of February 1543 he was created Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the highest positions within the court.[21]

In December of 1543 Scotland broke ties with England and Seymour was appointed as Lieutenant General in the North. He left for the border in March 1544 and began a series of skirmishes against Scotland and an attempted invasion of Edinburgh.[22] In June 1544 England went to war with France.[23] While Henry VIII was overseas his sixth wife, Katherine Parr was appointed regent. Seymour was instructed to act as one of the Queen’s councillors. One of Seymour’s first duties was to dismiss the women of Edward Tudor’s household, now almost seven years of age, and install him with a male dominated household, including his own son Edward.[24]

Seymour’s time as councillor under Queen Katherine was short lived as on the 13th of August 1544 he travelled to France to serve in the King’s army. He was present at the capture of Boulogne on the 14th of September and took command of the city when the French made an attempt to recapture it.[25]

Upon returning England Seymour was once more appointed as Lieutenant General of the North in Mary 1545 and instructed to organise an invasion of Scotland. Once more he conducted a series of skirmishes and battles along the Scottish border which came to be known as ‘rough wooing’. Leaving Scotland in October Seymour returned to Parliament until he left for Boulogne in March 1546.

Seymour was influential in negotiating a treaty with France which would see England occupy Boulogne until 1554 when the French would buy it back. In the final years of Henry VIII’s reign Seymour travelled between France and England. He witnessed the fall of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Seymour and Howard had fallen out several years previously and with Howard’s fall from grace Seymour’s position rose.

By the end of 1546 Henry VIII was seriously ill and not likely to live long. On the 26th of December he drew up his will, appointing sixteen men to be the executors of his will and councillors to his son, the future Edward VI; one of these men was Edward Seymour.[26]

Henry VIII died on the 28th of January 1547, his son was just nine years of age. The late King’s death was kept secret for several days and it was during this time that Seymour put a plan into action. With the support of Sir William Pagnet Seymour sought to become the ‘Lord Protector’ of the King and the head of the council that would rule England until Edward VI came of age.[27]

On the 1st of  February 1547 Seymour was officially created Lord Protector of the Realm and the Governor of the King’s Person. He also acted as High Steward of England for Edward VI’s coronation, and held the positions of Lord Treasurer and Earl Marshal. Then on the 17th of February he was created Duke of Somerset.  Seymour was now the most powerful man in England, a King in all but name.[28]

He sought religious reform, rejected the idea of debasing the coinage to counter price inflation and brought about the treasons Act which sought that two people must witness an act of treason rather than one. He also sought to increase grain production and reduce sheep grazing by enforcing enclosures. This was met with great resistance as the people relied upon the common ground to let their sheep graze. In a period of approximately two years Seymour also allowed around £20,000 of the crown’s annual income to be granted to members of the court in the form of gifts and entitlements.[29]

There were those at court that resented Seymour’s power, including his own brother Thomas. Thomas Seymour acted irrationally marrying the Dowager Queen Katherine Parr without the young King’s permission and possibly behaving inappropriately towards the young Princess Elizabeth. In a desperate attempt to obtain the King’s ear even made an attempt to kidnap him and spoke out against his brother. Ultimately Thomas was arrested and Seymour agreed to the decision to have his own brother executed. This act ultimately harmed Seymour’s reputation.[30]

War with Scotland always loomed on the horizon and in 1547 Seymour personally led about 19 000 men north. Seymour and his men won a decisive victory at Pinkie, located nine miles east of Edinburgh on the 10th of December. France quickly came to Scotland’s aid and in June 1548 the French army landed at Leith, attacking various posts held by the English. As this was happening England’s defences of Calais and Boulogne were attacked. In a desperate effort to defend their cities in England Seymour was forced to hire mercenaries to fight on England’s behalf. The huge costs were disastrous for England and saw the crown debasing the coinage, selling off crown lands and seeking large loans. For such great expenses the results were little with English forces withdrawing from many garrisons surrounding Boulogne. Ultimately the great cost of defending Boulogne saw its return to France in 1550.[31]

Meanwhile in 1548 rebellions broke out in Cornwall and spread to Devon and Somerset. People protested against the Book of Common Prayer and other religious changes that had been put in place when Edward VI came to the throne. Instead of responding to the rebellion straight away Seymour seemed to delay and it was not until August that the rebellions were finally stopped.[32]

Only a year later in July 1549 another rebellion broke out in East Anglia, this time the common people protested against landlords who enclosed land and misused their power. The leader of this rebellion was Robert Kett, a tanner from Wymondham. The rebels managed to occupy Norwich, the second largest city in England at the time. Instead of raising an army against the rebels Seymour wrote a number of letters, sympathising with them and offering them pardons and even a promise to bring up their grievanes in Parliament. Members of the King’s council were furious at such undecisive actions and it was not until John Dudley, Earl of Warwick lead an army against the rebels that they were finally stopped on the 27th of August.[33]

With the series of rebellions, great financial costs of war against Scotland and France many of those on the council had lost faith in Seymour. Seeking support Seymour sent out letters requesting men take up arms and head to Hampton Court to defend the King. Seymour then took Edward VI to Windscor Castle to better defend him. Seymour was no fool and with the majority of the council against him he finally surrendered himself on the 11th of October 1549 and his title of Lord Protector was dissolved on the 13th. He was sent to the Tower of London the following day and on the 14th of January 1550 Parliament officially dissolved him of his title and deprived him of his positions at court, his land and grants worth around £2000 a year.

Edward VI stated that his uncle’s crimes were: “ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority.”[34]

John Dudley, Earl of Warwick tightened his grip on the council and began to oversee the running of England. Seymour was released from the Tower on the 6th of February and received a pardon on the 8th, however he was still under house arrest. Finally on the 8th of April Seymour was admitted back into the council. He was restored as a gentleman of the king’s chamber on the 14th of May and on the 17th his lands were returned to him. Seymour was then made Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and Hampshire on the 10th of May 1551.[35]

Soon after rumours began to spread that Seymour sought to regain his former power. Sir Thomas Palmer alleged that Seymour was planning to invite Dudley and the Marquess of Northampton to dinner, kill them, take control of the Tower of London and have the people of London rise up in rebellion. Although there is doubt that there was any truth to such rumours John Dudley, now the Duke of Northumberland, was not going to take any chances. After a dinner with Edward VI on the 16th of October 1551 Seymour was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

On the 1st of December 1551 Seymour was tried by his peers and pleading not guilty. He defended himself skilfully and was acquitted of treason but found guilty of bringing men together to riot against the King. Seymour’s execution was set for the 20th of January 1552. Such was the concern that there would be rioting people were ordered to stay in their homes and a thousand guards attended the execution.[36]

At eight o’clock in the morning Seymour was beheaded upon Tower Hill. Before his death he denied that he had ever offended the King but that he was condemned to death by the law. He was buried at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London between the graves of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.[37]

Edward Seymour had been a controversial figure throughout his life. He started his life at court under the rule of King Henry VIII and his favour grew with the marriage of his sister to the King. Seymour was politically astute and held a strong understanding of military tactics. However he appears to have been a man who overreached himself and was unable to hold his grasp upon ultimate power.

Edward Seymour


Bernard, G.W. 2015, Seymour, Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley (b. in or before 1509, d. 1549), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, viewed 19 February 2017, <;.

Beer, B 2009, Seymour, Edward, duke of Somerset (c.1500–1552), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, viewed 18 February 2017, <;.

Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court 2015, Documentary, BBC, United Kingdom, Presented by Dr Lucy Worsley and Dr David Starkey.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932.

Lipscomb, S 2015, The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII, Head of Zeus, London.

Richardson, Douglas 2011, Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, CreateSpace, USA.

Scard, M 2016, Edward Seymour: Lord Protector Tudor King In All But Name, The History Press, Gloucestershire.

Skidmore, C 2011, Edward VI The Lost King Of England, Orion Books, London.

Wilson, Derek 2009, A Brief History of Henry VIII, Constable and Robinson Ltd., London.

[1] Richardson 2011, p. 82

[2] Beer 2009

[3] Letters & Papers Vol 1, 3357

[4] Letters & Papers Vol 2 3474

[5] Wilson 2009, p. 124

[6] Beer 2009

[7] Beer 2009

[8] Beer 2009

[9] Scard 2016.

[10] Scard 2016

[11] Beer 2009

[12] Scard 2016

[13] Letters & Papers Vol. 10, 1061

[14] Scard 2016.

[15] Beer 2009

[16] Letters & Papers Vol. 12, 2, 911

[17] Beer 2009

[18] Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court 2015

[19] Scard 2016

[20] Beer 2009

[21] Beer 2009

[22] Beer 2009

[23] Wilson 2009, p. 325

[24] Scard 2016

[25] Beer 2009

[26] Lipscomb 2015, p. 85-86

[27] Lipscomb 2015, p.127-128

[28] Beer 2009

[29] Beer 2009

[30] Bernard 2015

[31] Beer 2009

[32] Beer 2009

[33] Beer 2009

[34] Skidmore 2011

[35] Skidmore 2011

[36] Scard 2016

[37] Beer 2009