Did Anne Stanhope, Edward Seymour’s wife, really have scandalous affairs?

In the latest edition of my Tudor Fan Q&A series on YouTube, I answer a question about a character featured in Showtime’s “The Tudors” series.

Colleen (and King Louis, her beautiful cat!), from California, wanted to know whether Anne Seymour (née Stanhope), wife of Edward Seymour, really had scandalous affairs with Sir Francis Bryan and her own brother-in-law, Thomas Seymour, and if Thomas really fathered one of her sons.

If the show was anything to go by, Anne was a bit of a man-eating she-wolf! But was she really like that?

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13 thoughts on “Did Anne Stanhope, Edward Seymour’s wife, really have scandalous affairs?”
  1. I always thought that it was Edward Seymour’s first wife (Katherine Filliol) who was supposed to have had a scandalous affair (with his father no less), not his second (Anne Stanhope). Maybe, the TV show gave Edward’s wives the same treatment they gave to Henry’s sisters … combining two into one.

    1. Apparently, that probably didn’t happen either as the story only dates back to the 17th century, there don’t seem to be any contemporary sources for it. It’s now thought that Catherine Fillol died and Edward simply remarried, rather than repudiating her. But, yes, perhaps that idea sparked off this one.

  2. Retha Warnicke mentioned about Anne Stanthorpe not getting on well with her sister by law, as does Susan James and Claire kindly answered a question for me on this over on the Tudor Society, which you really must all sign up for and is giving a 14 day trial and discount on Medieval Courses Anne Boleyn Course. All good excellent stuff.

    Yes, Anne Seymour, whose biography is due out later on this year or early next year, depending on Covid, was a naturally haughty woman but she was also supportive of her husband, in the extreme. A woman who seeks a feud with another woman isn’t having an affair, her husband probably is. She might not go after the sex rival but a more dangerous rival, as an ex Queen obviously was. The political downfall of Tom Seymour was his own doing but it has been suggested that Anne was partly responsible for it turning into a charge of treason.

    Anne no doubt had a number of unsavoury characteristics, picked up through the ambition of her own husband, the hell fire atmosphere of the English Royal Court and through female cat infighting. It seems that Katherine Parr was no saint either and could give out as much as came her way. Haughty and proud, her elevation to the wife of the Lord Protector no doubt went to her head. That doesn’t make her a sexual predictor.

    In the Tudors she went through half the Court and became an enemy of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. I do believe his poem was about Anne because she was a She Wolf. She was strong, ambitious, led the hunt in many ways, supporting Edward in everything, she stood up for herself, she protected her fold and she brooked no challenge or rivals. There is nothing wrong with a She Wolf, long may we reign. The Seymour family had a hand in the downfall and execution of Henry Howard. They seized the Protectorate with the support of others, against the Last Will and Testament of Henry Viii and Anne saw herself, probably correctly as the First Lady. KP was an ex Queen and no longer had that status as it wasn’t her son on the throne. Anne was the wife of the man who acted for the King and so technically should be the First Lady. She was correct to rebuke KP but to argue over her jewellery was pretty petty and shows a jealous streak. I agree that she has been maligned, possibly because her character was poor. The Tudors did it a lot. Mixing her with her husband’s first wife would not surprise me. However, the story about his first wife, Katherine and his father was later and probably false as well. In any case we have no evidence thst Anne S had these affairs, juicy as they may be for drama.

  3. Anne Stanhope does seem to have had some animosity towards Catherine Parr, her sister in law why I cannot imagine, but rivalry is often there with women and Anne seems a lady who considered herself one above the others so to speak, certainly her character appears rather overbearing and yes, she was pious and fiercely protective of her husband, no doubt enjoying the status of being the Lord Protectors wife, but she was arrogant as well, a human trait that is very unpleasant, she was an evangelical and in the queens circle of women who were also evangelicals so why they did not get on is strange, one would have thought a common interest would have bound them together, it probably was envy, envy towards Catherine who was Queen consort and therefore of a much higher status than her, when Henry V111 died and little Edward became king, her husband became Lord Protector and so Anne must have greatly enjoyed lording it over everyone, her husband effectively ruled the country for the young boy king and so Anne was as Bq explains, First Lady, the refusal however to hand over the queens jewels to her shows her in a very poor light, she had no right to hold onto them and she comes across as vindictive and yes petulant, the Tudors had the very attractive Emma Hamilton playing the part of the overbearing Duchess of Somerset, Emma was quite possibly far more attractive than the real duchess had been, like all of the actresses who played Henry’s wives were, really the series though highly enjoyable was nonsense, everyone seemed to be having affairs with everyone, these illicit affairs were added for drama as happens time and again, I have heard the tale of Edwards’s first wife being unfaithful with his father but apparently that has no basis in fact, so it makes one wonder, how on earth do these stories come about, through enemies of the maligned maybe? If a woman is of a rather strong character it is really more easy to dish the dirt so to speak, Anne was arrogant and haughty, therefore she is morally weak, thus was her namesake Anne Boleyn so maligned, these women were not popular amongst their contemporaries so it is easy to blacken their characters, the Tudors as Claire suggests probably did take the tale of Edwards first wife and wove it around his second, I do not understand why these so called historical dramas cannot stick to the facts, if one makes a programme about history then show it as it was, one does not have to indulge in bed hopping to add excitement to the screen, really The Tudors reminded me of a 16th c Dallas or Dynasty, yes extremely enjoyable with gorgeous men and beautiful women but all utter nonsense!

  4. The Tudors was probably the best piece of historical entertainment since Blackadder, never really meant to be taken seriously but really got people back into history. To give them credit they said from the outset it took real liberties and yes, o. K it went too far at times, but it obviously had the desired effect as here we are talking about it more than a decade after it first aired. I loved it despite its hundreds of errors because most of them were harmless. It also did some things really well like bringing to light the women as Reformers, as more than obedient wives, as scholars, as socially bright and highlights like the Château Vert and Anne dancing in France and the vivid Coronation in ways only a lavish drama can do. We saw much of the young Princess Mary, hidden from most dramatic stuff and how people might interact in the Court and a lot more of those behind the scenes. Yes it wrote a number of people out but I suspect that was for dramatic purposes. Too many characters can be confusing, especially if they all have the same name. At the end of the day as long as a drama doesn’t set out on a character assassination and states its dramatic licence its fine. Unlike the OBG, which does not say its all invented and whose author actually believes most of the rubbish she shows, the Tudors makes certain we know its entertainment and if we take it as that, its really about enjoyment and escape.

    1. Yes I agree it did for one thing have lots of events which we know are true, for one there was Anne lecturing her household very strictly on the do’s and dont’s she felt strongly about, after she became queen, they showed her with a copy of Tyndall’s book and how she took it to Henry and found the solution to all their problems, kings were not answerable to any pope but god alone, they showed her as the true evangelical she was and the actress who played her Natalie Dormer gave a passionate performance, but they portrayed her as setting out to trap Henry V111 which sadly is how she is shown in TOBG, too lengthy to write the title in full, and yes the reenactment of the chateau vert pageant was done very well, I also thought her execution was brilliant and her arguments with Henry and when she declared she cared nothing for the queen and wished all Spaniards were in the sea, these words we know she did speak, above all it did show the passion and turbulent relationship between these two doomed lovers , the frustration as the long years passed and still Katherine refused to give way, it showed the field of the cloth of gold whereupon Francois threw Henry in a wrestling match, which was true and how they nearly came to blows before the two wives hurriedly tried to pull them apart, schoolboy antics or what? I liked it when Anne Stanhope argued with Bishop Gardiner when he rebuked her for her friendship with Anne Askew, he accused her of casting gunpowder under the faggots, when she was burnt so to hasten her dreadful end, it showed Henry being distraught at Jane Seymours death and vowing to her lifeless body that he would lie with her for all eternity, I did laugh though at Reyes Mayors who played Henry V111, because he remained thin all through the series, and where was his famous red hair and beard, as he aged the king grew so obese and became quite bald, his hair was wisps of cotton wool white and so was his beard, the sketch of him when he was near the end of his life shows a very corpulent man who has indulged in every vice imaginable, cruelty is etched in his face his eyes seem to glare and his arched eyebrows are more pronounced, his huge face is jowly and hangs in folds over his neck which has all but disappeared, the pain from his legs and constipation was most unpleasant, The Tudors did show the king as being in dreadful pain with his legs, and it also showed the dreadful accident at the last joust he ever took part in, when he became unconscious and it is still disputed today how long he was actually out for, it also showed the torment of Catherine Parr when she was shown the document of her arrest, it was a very fine series but yes it did mix the characters up a bit, but at least as Bq says it did admit it was not a true factual account of the people who lived at the Tudor court, what happened to them etc, it showed so many of them jumping into bed with each other, and I hated the way it showed George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton having a homosexual affair, as I said it was more like a 16th c Dallas or Dynasty, highly enjoyable though ashamed to admit I did love it, though it was a gross parody of quite a lot of the truth.

      1. Yes, that was one really good thing in the series, perhaps one of the first series to show Anne’s role in reform, although aspects of just how influential she was during her short reign are still hotly debated. Very few people would have known that Anne actually owned a copy of William Tyndale’s New Testament, let alone that she kept it open in her chambers for her staff to read. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Tudors has been shot to pieces because of their willingness to push the boundaries in other areas and it’s easy to see where fact and fiction have become rather confusing. I know a bit about history, as you know, and even I had to double check the facts at times. However, we did see some good aspects of Anne Boleyn and her part in the political and religious and theological life that changed England forever. Yes, many would argue, those things were not good because they resulted in a disastrous annulment, the break of a devoted Catholic country from the rest of the Christian world, many dying as martyrs and total chaos, but they were pivotal changes nonetheless. We actually see Anne acting as Queen, not hovering in the background, taking part in negotiations and speaking with Ambassadors, holding Court, her role in charity and giving out the Maundy Money and her instructions to her household, receiving ladies into her service, in this case Jane Seymour, her discussions with Henry over their daughters future, the highs and lows of their stormy relationship, there is mention of her visit to religious houses and her views on their lives, we see her relationship with Thomas Cromwell, little known incidents like the sermon about Queen Esther, the execution of Elizabeth Barton, the fears Anne experienced and the times she lost it and made threats. The Tudors in season two provided a more rounded view of Anne than we had seen in season one and that was partly due to Natalie Dormer because she had studied Anne Boleyn and was angry at being shown as a temptress. However, at least we got to see a hidden side of Anne Boleyn, that of an active and real interest in reform, not a Protestant, but some aspects which she saw as contrary to the Gospel.

        It was a great pity that the Tudors made very little effort to portray the Boleyn men in a more positive light. Thomas Boleyn was shown as a money grabbing pimp with no scruples whatsoever and the ambition of a ruthless mafia boss, while George was shown as an idiot, rapist and bawdy toy boy, with enthusiasm for everything including homosexuality, without any evidence. This was distasteful and too many people believe it. Neither Mary or Anne was thrown into the path or bed of King Henry and Thomas didn’t owe his rise to them either. He had been in royal service since at least 1497. Elizabeth Boleyn had served Elizabeth of York and Katharine of Aragon and both were talented people and well educated. Anne was educated more than most women of her class and she attracted Henry because she was sophisticated, not because she had a nice body and a pretty face.

        We did see the relationship of Anne and her daughter in a bit more detail, her visits on Progress, her concerns over her moving to her own establishment and her hands on style of motherhood. We also see tender moments between Henry and Elizabeth, his enquires over her eating as a baby and development, his playing with her and his affection for her. Henry is also shown in season one being a proud father to the young Princess Mary, which of course was very true. There’s so much that they did well, but there was alas a number of things which they really eent a bit too far on. The difference between the Tudors and TOBG is that the production team and writers admitted they not only changed numerous things but played around with the characters, whereas Philippa Gregory believed what she wrote and the adaptation was with her assistance.

        1. Philippa Gregory I think is incredibly stupid with her naive views that Anne and George Boleyn did actually commit incest together, also she is often taking part in television documentaries about the Tudor period and Anne Boleyn, alongside proper historians, Starkey dismissed her once as just a ‘novelist’, and really that is all she is, I just cannot believe that a reasonably intelligent woman would actually not realise that the horrendous charge of incest was just to blacken the poor queens name, her own contemporaries did not believe it only her enemies, and many of them did because they wished to, when someone is hated and /or feared, it is far easier to believe that person is capable of even the most sickest vice imaginable, Eustace Chapyus himself declared he did not think Anne was guilty of most of the charges, plotting the murder of the king was another such ludicrous charge, and I doubt if he thought that was true either, after all why would Anne wish to kill her protector? Without him she would be vulnerable, they had to make her out to look so depraved so corrupt that death was the only option, yet Miss. Gregory alone out of all historians and other writers prefers to believe it, citing for her reasons Anne’s own ruthlessness and desperation for a male child, Anne and George were both intelligent and deeply pious, they had a very real fear of the fires of hell if they stayed from the path of righteousness, they must have known also although the 16th c mind was more primitive than ours, that the offspring of two siblings may well have been deformed or a half wit, apart from the very real revulsion concerning incest, close relations were not allowed by law to marry or have children, so many of the English and foreign nobility were related to their monarchs that many had to get dispensations for them to marry their brides, the law also said if you had a relationship with your wife’s sister, as what Henry later used regarding his affair with Mary Boleyn, to end his marriage with Anne, then that was ample enough reason to annul the marriage, it was a very superstitious age and both Anne and George both pious and god fearing, were very much a product of that age, and although Anne was no traditional Tudor wife, being strong minded and opinionated and ambitious, she also possessed the belief that to indulge in such vice would no doubt like the old bible story of Soddom and Gemorrah, bring the wrath of the almighty down upon her house.

  5. I know PG is a fiction writer as her fans point out and that’s perfectly fine, but she says in her notes and on her blog that she believes this stuff. Anne’s innocence was well established years ago by Professor Ives. In any event you would need to be insane to believe that Tudor people who believed they were punished by God for breathing the wrong way, would indulge in illicit sexual activities like incest. Well yes it did happen within families, but it wasn’t normally by choice and two devout Bible believing adults who had their own agency would not have sinned in this way. If people don’t believe PG believes her claims see the documentary The Real White Queen and Her Rivals. In it PG states she believed the item in the White Queen that Elizabeth Woodville replaced her son Richard Duke of York with the son of a kitchen maid and that was who was killed in the Tower, not the Prince. She has Queen EW hide the real Prince abroad and then he turns up as the claimant later identified as Oerkin Warbeck. I know there are many theories about the two main Pretenders that threatened Henry Vii but that one was swapped and then the real Prince turned up and was executed is probably the daftest. That’s fine as a harmless bit of fiction but changing long dismissed charges to say Anne slept with her brother takes the biscuit.

    Anne and George sleeping together would have been dangerous even if she wasn’t married to the King, because of the liklihood of any children being deformed. You know about the story of Tutankhamen and his sister wife and the tragedy of their unborn children. Incest was terrible and divine judgment would come down on those who chose that life. As you say, Christine, you needed a dispensation to marry your cousin several decrees removed, so it was horrendous to think of anyone having sex with a sibling.

    The other theory about Anne having an affair just to get pregnant is nonsense, especially with her brother or a servant. Henry would have known if Anne had slept with someone if he was impotent. It was just too much of a risk, it was treason to pass of the child of a lover as an heir to the throne. Besides which the Queen was never left alone and she would have needed help to sleep with anyone. As nobody else was prosecuted for aiding her, that makes it even less likely that she committed adultery.

    You mentioned Chapuys and his dislike of Anne was pretty consistent. Had she really had lovers, especially her brother, he would have lampooned her internationally. That he actually dismissed the evidence as none existent speaks volumes. That to me is a big factor in her innocence.

    1. Yes Gregory ignores these vital points that justify Anne’s innocence, in fact there is a whole weight of evidence against the queens charges and that was why many people murmured against Henry V111, after her death the murmuring went on as the common belief was she had been treated very badly and innocent blood had been spilt, and not just hers, but of the five alleged lovers to, yes Chapyus her enemy also was a fair minded man, and he would have made sure the whole world knew had he believed in her depravity, but much much more than that, was her so called wronged husband who promptly became engaged to his soon to be queen the day after her wedding, and married her two weeks later, it was this that was a very strong basis for the innocence of Anne Boleyn, and in her daughters lifetime when her first biography was published, the rehabilitation of her name began, speaking of Gregory’s other trashy novel The White Queen, I cannot believe she actually believes that Elizabeth Woodville passed of the son of a kitchen maid as Richard Duke of York, there have been theories about Perkin Warbeck and others claiming to be the lost prince but surely Richard 111 would have recognised his own nephew? Her books are more like 18thc bodice rippers, the mistress of the house had her son spirited away for his own preservation, and she dressed Betsy the cooks son in his velvet coat and hat and breeches and lo and behold, no one was none the wiser, except the evil butler who decided to blackmail her lady ship for her gold and silver, all complete and utter nonsense, and I think this author has very outlandish claims and she ignores the whole weight of evidence against her theories, since young I have also been interested in the Egyptian pharaohs and I remember seeing a few documentaries of the boy king Tutankhamen, there was rumours he had been murdered but now it is thought his death was natural due to malaria and the many health issues he had, he was the result of inbreeding himself, his parents being brother and sister, and he had married his half sister, they had two daughters who both not surprisingly died as babies, King Tut had necrosis of the foot, and his other leg had a club foot, damaged metatarsals would have been the result of the necrosis, and speaking from experience I know how painful that can be, several walking canes were found in his tomb, and he is depicted as walking with canes in the paintings on the walls in the pyramids, he also suffered from mild scoliosis,as well as a partial cleft palate, he also suffered from several severe strains of malaria and it is believed it was this that finally caused his death, a computer generated image shows him to have been quite physically deformed, he was of slight build and yet he had quite rounded hips, more a female trait than a males, his legs were short and he had a large head, it just goes to show how damaging inbreeding can be and if the whole world indulged in it, the human race would become so weak it would eventually die out, other countries had the same belief that it was not a good thing to cohabit with a close blood relation, so we can see how by the days of the Tudors it was considered unhealthy as well as morally and unchristian like, and both Anne and George would have thought the same, really I think Miss Gregory should just stick to writing romantic fiction, at least then it does not matter what the characters in her books get up to, writing about real historical flesh and blood people is just not her forte !

  6. That indeed is a downfall of her theory, because it was Richard who was the easiest of the Princes to recognise. If I was going to pass someone off as one it would be Edward because he was sent to Ludlow when he was two. He was a complete stranger to the majority of people, including his brother. But yes, you would think Richard would know Richard of Shrewsbury, seeing him at family reunions at least, even though he himself was rarely at Court. Prince Richard was in sanctuary with his mother and sisters and he was requested to be handed over by Richard Duke of Gloucester in order to join his brother in the Tower. Now you have to remember the Tower was the main residential palace at this point in London and Edward V was in the Royal Apartments. Even if Elizabeth was reluctant, it does seem a bit bizarre swapping him for a child of a servant. How on earth was this kid supposed to act like a Prince? He wasn’t trained as Lambert Simnel was and he wasn’t trained as Perkin Warbeck was supposed to be in order to pass as a Prince. He was quickly wrapped up in a coat and handed over. Of course he was. Someone else would have recognised him for certain. The doctor who visited them every day would surely have known Richard well, as would his tutor and servant. However, this is were it gets even more bizarre. The boys were seen for weeks after Richard iii replaced Edward V either playing or shooting bows and together in their rooms. They appear at ease with each other, even if the Victorian vision of them as one entity is a load of rubbish. Forget about two blond and small kids clinging together, thats nonsense as well. Edward V was tall for his 13 years. The boys are not described in any sources as clinging together, although Edward was visited during the Summer because he was ill and thoughts of death concerned him. The source for this is Mancini who was an honest Italian reporter who understood no English and wasn’t an eye witness, except to what people around him said and did. The translation of Mancini isn’t great either and a new one has just been done. So just what was going on is hard to fathom, Edward could have been ill, unhappy, depressed, fearful or any number of things. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he was in danger for his life, but he did have some medical issues. We hear nothing of Richard, Duke of York feeling the same way as his brother. Whatever the conditions of the two boys, its highly unlikely that their would have been this amount of interaction if one was a common kitchen boy. Although the brothers had only rarely seen each other during the previous seven years, they would have been aware of any blood relationship and how a Prince should behave. I doubt a sudden exchange to a stranger would have gone totally unnoticed as time went by. For example, would a kitchen boy be a good archer? Even if every boy in England practiced every Sunday as the law required, Richard was too young. As a royal child, however, he certainly would have trained from an early age, probably as young as seven. No the whole thing is too bizarre. There are expense accounts which have tailors arriving to measure the boys up for coronation robes. What if the measurements were already known? Yes, O. K the boys were growing up and changing, but it probably wasn’t that long since the Duke of York had new clothes. As Princes they would constantly have new clothes made. In any case, it is likely that Richard iii or someone else would have recognised the boy from the kitchen as a fake. It’s too bizarre and in fact it’s the Lambert Simnel tale in reverse.

    The other part of the PG theory is that Margaret Beaufort killed them. Now even though Margaret might not have direct access, her husband did as did many people. The guards and servants were removed and replaced by those whom Richard could trust after his coronation. However, even with them being closely guarded, the Tower was a busy place and someone could be paid to gain access. Normally it would have been with Richards authority but Richard was on his way North to York. So he left deputies behind. Buckingham and Stanley could make arrangements. In the White Queen production its ambiguous with several plots coming together and we are left uncertain. However, in the White Princess its made perfectly clear that MB had them killed. She gets a shock when she learned that one lived and Elizabeth of York and her mother knew it all along. There isn’t any evidence for any of this but because nobody actually knows what happened, there is a good deal of imagination one can have with the Princes in the Tower. An attempt to rescue them and restore them also goes wrong in the White Queen and rumours do exist about such an attempt but no contemporary evidence actually has an attempt being made, just that some plot was discovered about it and those involved punished. PG painted MB as an evil and conniving woman who was all consumed with ambition and Henry Vii. This is totally ridiculous because no opportunity even existed for Henry and the throne before 1483. The evidence does not support any such plot to kill the Princes and Margaret in reality wasn’t anything like she is in the White Princess or Spanish Princess. Margaret did plot with Elizabeth Woodville to marry Henry to Elizabeth of York and to help Henry to invade for which Richard had her Attainted in Parliament but actually refused to accept the Bill and put her under house arrest instead. Female noble head chopping was left to Henry Viii. The entire theory got even more bizarre when the real Richard of York in the series turned up and the crown pass a commoner off at his hanging and he is beheaded in secret. Totally nonsense of course but when you have a weird theory you need the storyline to go with it.

    1. I think Gregory got her tale from Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince And The Pauper ‘, I never saw that series about the Woodville’s when I read it was an adaptation of Gregory’s novel I thought give it a go, watched about ten minutes of it, then when I saw the way it was going I switched over, I thought another load of rubbish like the OBG!

      1. The White Queen isn’t too bad but the White Princess is nonsense and really bad. Margaret Beaufort is very badly maligned and there is no evidence for any of it. We had a magnificent debate on YouTube Live last night with Matthew Lewis and Nathan Amin and Nicola Tallis and Mike Ingram who is a military historian, for an hour and a half on The Wars of the Roses. Team York won. It was fantastic. Swipe through history host these events apparently and this was well attended. The chat going on was heated as well but all four historians did a great job. Really enjoyed it.

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