The Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour Scandal – Dr Elizabeth Norton

Posted By on August 15, 2022

The Starz series “Becoming Elizabeth” recently brought to life a scandal that affected Queen Elizabeth I in her youth.

This scandal affected Elizabeth’s relationship with her beloved stepmother, Catherine Parr, the dowager queen, and saw Elizabeth surrounded by rumour and gossip. It’s something that must have had a huge impact on her.

What was this scandal?

Well, depending on your viewpoint, it was inappropriate behaviour from Elizabeth’s stepmother’s husband, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, or it was grooming and sexual abuse.

It’s a topic that we’ll be exploring in my forthcoming online event “Elizabeth I: The Life of Gloriana, the Virgin Queen”. Dr Elizabeth Norton, author a many history books, including “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor”, will be our expert on this. She’ll explore what we know about Thomas Seymour and Elizabeth in 1547 and 1548, what the primary sources tell us about Elizabeth’s relationship with Seymour, whether he sexually abused her, and if he wanted to marry her.

“Elizabeth I: The Life of Gloriana, the Virgin Queen” starts on 7th September. Register now at https://claireridgway.com/events/elizabeth-i-the-life-of-gloriana-the-virgin-queen-online-event-7-16-september-2022/

It’s completely online and open to everyone internationally.

Elizabeth Norton is just one of 8 historians involved in the event. As well as me, we also have Dr Linda Porter, Dr Estelle Paranque, Dr Tracy Borman, Dr Owen Emmerson, Dr Elizabeth Goldring and Christine Hartweg. Do join us!

1 thought on “The Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour Scandal – Dr Elizabeth Norton”

  1. Christine says:

    Sir Thomas Seymour is one historical figure I have never warmed to, he was handsome and charming and like many womanisers used his dubious charms to get what he wanted, he was overly ambitious in an overly ambitious age, which made him incredibly jealous of his older brother who was Lord Protector, and like with so many others of his character, ended up on the scaffold, his marrying of the Queen dowager so soon after King Henry V111 died shows the extent of his ambition. and a careless disregard for decency, I believe he coerced Catherine to marry him knowing she was still in love with him, and thus besmirched her name as well as his, the council were shocked especially the Lady Mary who wrote to her sister, requesting her to come and stay with her at her lodgings, we do not know what Elizabeth thought regarding the hasty marriage of her stepmother to the charming Seymour, for she was still only a girl on the steps of puberty, an unsettling time in a young girls life, with it brings mixed emotions she becomes aware of her sexuality and cannot hide her feelings as easily as an older woman, it could be the grief she experienced at her beloved fathers death was swept away by the new wave of excitement a change to her circumstances brought, but she was aware of one thing, she was undoubtedly attracted to Thomas Seymour and it was said she used to blush when his name was mentioned, Seymour of course when he glanced her way saw her cheeks redden, and found it amusing that a kings daughter was a victim of his charms like the queen was, it was something he decided to exploit to his own advantage, some historians have theorised that under his roof at Sudeley he sexually abused her, but how do we define sexual abuse? In those days girls grew up quickly and were wed very young, it was a different age, though consummating the marriage was considered too young at thirteen and fourteen it was acceptable at fifteen, what was mere horseplay to Seymour is defined as sexual abuse today, ripping her gown into shreds in the garden with the queen was just frolicking, however entering her bedchamber before she was awake in just his nightgown and slippers was not acceptable, neither then nor today in our easy liberated age,she was a high born lady never mind if the law deemed her a bastard, she was second in line to the throne and Seymour was abusing his position of trust, it was embarrassing to the young girl and her beloved maid Kat Ashley found it scandalous, she mentioned it to him but he declared he would not desist for he meant no harm, and he would tell his brother the protector how he was being slandered, one can see Seymour a tall dashing figure with his long chestnut beard and a twinkle in his eye silently mocking Kat and everyone around him, Elizabeth hastily made sure she was up and dressed before Seymour came in her room, maybe by this stage the girl was realising his behaviour was not that becoming for a married man and one whom was her stepfather as well, Catherine was now heavily pregnant and we can imagine Elizabeth’s mixed feelings in this rather heady atmosphere at Sudeley, she loved and revered her stepmother the only one of her stepmothers she had ever been truly close to, and her attraction towards her erring husband made her feel disloyal and confused, it all came to a head one day when Elizabeth and Seymour were discovered in an embrace by Catherine, then it was all over Elizabeth was sent away, and Catherine was left alone with her foolish spouse, when she is pregnant a woman needs her husband more than ever, and he had betrayed her, I do not believe Seymour was attracted to Elizabeth he was a worldly wise man, he had a beautiful woman in his wife, voluptuous and loving, I think it was the fact she stood near to the throne and he knew she had a fancy for him, that made him think it would be amusing to flirt with her, we do not know but Elizabeth was a pretty little thing, with her tall lithe figure, her elegant hands her little fair face with her cloud of Tudor red hair, and her mother’s dark seductive eyes, did he try to seduce her if so he was treading on incredibly dangerous ground, he wanted to marry her after Catherine’s death something which Kat teased Elizabeth about but it was something Seymours council would never have allowed, Elizabeth’s sexual awakening in Sudeley had made her realise she was vulnerable like all women, to the charms of men, a young girl of fourteen was not responsible then nor now, Seymour was about thirty years her senior and should have known better, but his behaviour makes me think he was very immature himself, he betrayed his wife and his stepdaughter whose reputation was sullied because of it, it may have been mere horseplay to him and I believe that’s all he thought it was, which meant he totally misread how his actions would be portrayed by his brothers council, Elizabeth was no kitchen wench yet he had treated her like one, it must have been a gloomy depressing household at Sudeley after she had gone, Catherine for her part never forgave her husband though she tried to, in her fever after the aftermath of childbirth she berated him for his treatment of her, her death caused him much grief and we can sympathise with this man who really was just a rather silly reckless boy at heart, Elizabeth possibly never forgot Seymour he was her first love, but she had nothing to do with him after that, though she corresponded with them both, Catherine was still her beloved stepmother and as she grew older and more mature she began to realise that there were many men like Thomas Seymour, charming handsome and foolish to, and rather too ambitious for their own good.

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