This day in Tudor history, 13th October 1549, in the reign of King Edward VI, was the beginning of the end for the king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset.
On this day in 1549, Edward VI’s council abolished both Seymour’s protectorate and his membership of the council.
Social unrest in England and tension between him and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and Warwick’s supporters had left Somerset vulnerable. He took action, action that would see him being branded a traitor.
Let me explain exactly what Edward Seymour did to provoke his downfall and what happened next.
Edward Seymour ended up being executed on 22nd January 1552 and you can find out more about his execution in my video at https://youtu.be/yrztjxs92B0
On this day in Tudor history, 13th October 1549, King Edward VI’s council abolished the protectorate of the king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his membership of the council.
Somerset had made himself Lord Protector in February 1547, shortly after King Henry VIII’s death with the agreement of 13 out of the 16 executors of the late king’s will, men who were supposed to form a regency council of equals to help the new nine-year-old king rule. Somerset then went on to rule by proclamation, making all of the decisions himself.
However, the king’s council eventually turned against Somerset, blaming him for the widespread social unrest in England, namely the Prayer Book Rebellion and Kett’s Rebellion. On 5th October 1549, due to the mounting tensions between Somerset and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who had recently defeated Kett’s Rebellion in Norfolk and who was now known to be negotiating with Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Somerset issued a proclamation. This proclamation was for a general array of troops to gather at Hampton Court Palace for the defence of the realm, or rather the defence of the Lord Protector and his nephew, King Edward VI.
According to the imperial ambassador, François van der Delft “The result was that over 4,000 peasants immediately assembled at court, where the Protector was without any members of the Council except the Archbishop of Canterbury, Controller Paget and Dr. Smith, one of the secretaries.” Van der Delft, went on to state that on the same day, “the Earls of Warwick and Southampton, the Great Master of the Household, the Earl of Arundel, Mr. Baker, Mr. North, the first secretary Dr. Petre, other councillors, the Marquis of Northampton, and several more lord” all assembled in London “and summoned the Lord Mayor and all the city authorities, all of whom at once came to an agreement, seized the Tower of London, and put a garrison of their men into it.”
The next day, Somerset took the king to Windsor Castle. Van der Delft recorded that “Somerset persisted in his wickedness and called in the peasants to oppress the nobility and make himself master and tyrant of all”. The Lords of the Council were forced to act decisively against the Protector now as he had called on the English people to rise and defend the Crown against those he saw as trying to depose him, members of the king’s own council.
On 8th October 1549, Somerset was proclaimed a traitor by the King’s Privy Council and on 10th October 1549, he was ordered from the king’s presence. He surrendered and was arrested on 11th October and brought in front of Edward VI who summarised his charges as “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, etc.” On 13th October, his protectorate was dissolved and on 14th October he was taken to the Tower of London. He confessed to the charges laid against him and on 14th January 1550 his protectorate was taken off him officially by act of Parliament.
Somerset was released from the Tower on 6th February 1550 and pardoned on the 8th. He became a member of the king’s council once more on 10th April 1550 and on 14th May he was restored as a gentleman of Edward VI’s privy chamber. Unfortunately, in 1551, Somerset was recorded as quarrelling with John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who had become Lord President of the Council in February 1550, and it was rumoured that Somerset wanted to regain his former power and position. Following allegations made by Sir Thomas Palmer on 7th October 1551, who said that Somerset was planning to “invite Northumberland [Dudley], Northampton [Marquess of Northampton], and others to a banquet, and either to kill them there, or set upon them by the way”, to secure the Tower of London and “raise London”, Somerset was arrested. He was tried for high treason by a jury of his peers on 1st December 1551 and was executed on Tower Hill on 22nd January 1552.