The Seymour Brothers
From a very young age, both Seymour brothers were gifted with lands and titles. Then to add to those titles, the elder brother Edward was given the title of Viscount Beauchamp after his sister Jane married Henry VIII. At the same time, Thomas became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. A year later, Thomas was granted the castle of Holt in Cheshire and knighted into the Knight of the Bath prior to the christening of his nephew Prince Edward. Although Thomas continued to be the recipient of lands and manors, no further titles came his way. They were saved for his elder brother Edward.
Probably due to this arrangement, the two brothers’ relationship had always been tense. It didn’t improve at all when Henry VIII died and Edward Seymour became the regent to Edward VI. Wanting a piece of the action as well, Thomas demanded that he be made governor to the young king, who after all was his nephew as well.
Edward Seymour, who had now become Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, tried to buy his brother off with the title of Baron of Sudeley and the appointment of Lord Admiral, as well as several pieces of land and a seat on the Privy Council, but Thomas would have nothing to do with it. As uncle to the King, he felt he should receive more, at least an earldom. It was even suggested that Edward was the one behind the lack of titles coming his way.
When looking back in history, Thomas’ demands seem understandable. When kings were in their ‘minority’, it was common that any remaining uncles were given much greater titles than what Thomas received. And with his brother as Lord Protector of the Realm, Somerset had the power to recommend that his brother be granted a greater title than the one of baron. But he didn’t. It’s almost as if Somerset had an idea that his brother would attempt to over-throw him at some time in the future, something not so outrageous when you think about it, considering the antics of past monarchs.
So Thomas never believed he’d been given enough. Wanting a far greater share of power than the two titles given to him, his plotting began in earnest.
And that was his weakness. Although seen as a greedy villain in history books, it’s easy to see that he was also a victim of his elder brother’s ambitions. Imagine seeing his elder brother as King’s Protector, gathering titles, land and power, and seeing his younger sister married to Henry VIII, getting everything her heart desired, and then there he was, stuck in the middle, feeling left out and forgotten.
Thomas was nearly 40-years-old when Henry VIII died and there’s no doubt he could have married any noble woman he wished. But his ambitions were always greater and higher than most would have expected. What Thomas wanted was a marriage that would give him money, property and political standing. And this is where Kateryn Parr enters the scene.
Before Kateryn and Henry had married, she and Seymour had hoped to marry after the death of her third husband, Lord Latimer. But after only a couple of months after Latimer’s death, while still in mourning, Henry had asked Kateryn to marry him and of course, who would have been brave enough to turn down Henry VIII? Had Thomas proposed to Kateryn right after the death of her husband, it would have been seen as improper so he gave it the appropriate time before proposing. Henry however, did not have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Subsequently, and perhaps shrewdly, after their marriage, Henry sent Thomas abroad several times to battles and embassies, which sufficiently kept him away from Kateryn.
This probably fuelled Thomas’ internal fire to strive for what he thought he justly deserved and should have been his. With his nephew Edward on the throne, it opened a new door of opportunity for Thomas.
Thomas’ next step was to write a letter to the young king, via an advisor John Fowler, requesting permission to marry Kateryn Parr.
It was a clever, conniving plan since Kateryn’s household also included 11-year-old Lady Jane Grey and the 13-year-old Lady Elizabeth. The letter was secretly given to young Edward for his signature and when Somerset found out about it, he went ballistic.
But by then, it was already too late. The letter had been signed, sealed and delivered and the couple had not wasted any time with a heady courtship. They’d headed straight to the altar. The happy couple then took Elizabeth and Jane into their household at Chelsea.
But that's another story.