The King's Uncles

During the last months of Henry VIII's life he had come under the influence of a clique of lords with reformist or Protestant sympathies, who had effectively undermined the Catholic faction at court by engineering the downfall of the Howards, its leading members. When the King made his will on 26 December 1546, he left the government in the hands of a council of regency that comprised sixteen 'entirely beloved' executors, none of whom were accorded any precedence as Lord Protector or Regent. These men were to rule jointly in the young king's name until he came of age, and Edward was commanded by his father 'never to change, molest, trouble nor disquiet' them. These executors were all men who had only recently been raised to high office, and the most prominent amongst them were the Earl of Hertford and John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, both of whom had won renown through their military victories in Scotland, and Archbishop Cranmer. All except four were committed to the concept of royal supremacy over the Church in England and to the Protestant faith.

Henry VIII had been a great champion of the English Church against heresy, but even he discerned how the tide of opinion was turning. Already, by 1540, the English Bible had replaced the Latin one in many churches, the monasteries had all been closed, their wealth confiscated and their lands distributed amongst those lords who had supported Henry's reformation of the Church, and the King had chosen notable religious reformers to educate his younger children. Nevertheless, the religion of England was still officially Catholic, mass was celebrated in Latin, celibacy enforced among the clergy, and those who rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation were still burned as heretics. Yet while the provisions in Henry's will paved the way for England to turn

Protestant, his death removed the last brake on faction fights between the advocates of the opposing faiths, for only he had been strong enough to ensure that a certain cohesion was maintained despite the deep political and religious divisions within the Council.

Archbishop Cranmer for one believed that the late king had meant to establish a Protestant government, and he and his fellow councillors were committed to carrying out his wishes, if only through self-interest, for all of them had profited as a result of Henry's religious policy.

Hertford, of course, had no intention of sharing the government of the kingdom with his fellow executors. As the King's uncle, he felt he should enjoy no less a role than that of Lord Protector, and in this he was supported by Paget and others, not only through self-interest, but because it was felt that the Council was too large to wield power effectively without a leader. Hertford's connections, his military reputation and his commitment to the reformist cause made him a natural choice.

Henry VIII 's death was kept secret for three days. As Hertford rode with Edward VI towards London, the Council met at the Tower, where on 31 January Paget persuaded his fellow executors to disregard the provisions of the late King's will and name Hertford Lord Protector of England and Governor of the King's Person. By unanimous consent they agreed. A public announcement of King Henry's death was then made, followed almost immediately by the proclamation of Edward VI as king. Edward rode into London with Hertford that same afternoon, and was greeted by a deafening salute by cannon as he entered the Tower, where his councillors, headed by Cranmer, were waiting to pay him homage. Later that day the boy signified his approval of Hertford's appointment by signing the commission authorising the Earl's appointment as Lord Protector.

Edward Seymour was at this time around forty years old, tall and dignified with fair hair and a full beard. He had first come to prominence after Henry VIII married his sister Jane in 1537, and thereafter his rise to power had been swift. Ambition drove him, and as well as being determined to succeed he was convinced that he alone was right. This made him insensitive to the opinions and feelings of others and high-handed in his manner of handling affairs. The Emperor Charles V's ambassador, van der Delft, described him as 'a dry, sour, opinionated man'. Nevertheless, he was also intelligent, hard-working, averse to cruelty, generous and well-intentioned, though his austere, stiff manner and his pomposity did not endear him to those around him. As a statesman and soldier he had undoubted ability, and he enjoyed considerable popularity with the common people, although his record of service was indelibly marred by his greed and his rapacious self-interest.

Hertford's best qualities were his religious tolerance and his genuine concern for the sufferings of the poor. These contrasted with his insufferable arrogance towards his fellow councillors, who resented the favour he showed,to the lower orders of society. With the young King he was excessively strict, keeping the boy continually short of pocket money and banning any pursuits that might tempt him to be extravagant or frivolous.

Hertford had been twice married. His first wife, Katherine Fillol, had been caught in an incestuous affair with his father and banished to a convent. After her death Seymour married Anne Stanhope, who bore him nine children. Edward VI's biographer and contemporary, Sir John Hayward, described her as 'a mannish or rather a devilish woman, for any imperfectibilities intolerable, but for pride monstrous, exceeding subtle and violent'. She was haughty and volatile, and very conscious of her position as the Protector's wife. Mary Tudor was friendly towards her, and wrote frequent letters to her, addressing her as 'My good Nan' or 'My good Gossip'.

On 16 February 1547, Henry VIII was laid to rest in the choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor, in the presence of the new Protector and other members of the Council. Stephen Gardiner, the conservative Bishop of Winchester, celebrated the obsequies, as Katherine Parr watched unseen from Katherine of Aragon's closet in the chapel gallery. None of the King's children were present.

On the following day, Edward VI was knighted by Hertford, who was himself created Duke of Somerset, a tide in keeping with his new dignity that brought with it sufficient emoluments to bring his income to a vast £7400 Per annum. He was also made Earl Marshal, an office left vacant as a result of the Duke of Norfolk's imprisonment in the Tower by Henry VIII. At the same time, John Dudley was created Earl of Warwick and appointed Great Chamberlain of England. During the month that followed, several other supporters of the new regime were promoted. Somerset's younger brother, Thomas Seymour, was appointed Lord High Admiral in place of John Dudley, and created Baron Seymour of Sudeley. He was also made a councillor and a Knight of the Garter. Paget remained Chief Secretary, while Sir William Petre continued as Secretary and Sir Anthony Browne as Master of the Horse. Thomas Wriothesley was created Earl of Southampton but deprived of his office of Lord Chancellor, which was bestowed the following October upon Sir Richard Rich, while Katherine Parr's brother William was created Marquess of Northampton.

Yet despite this distribution of the spoils of office, there were tensions on the Council. Warwick, hitherto Somerset's ally, now began nursing ambitions of depriving him of his authority as Lord Protector, and Thomas Seymour was already seething with resentment at having been ousted by his brother from the centre of affairs, for Somerset had been quick to make it clear that he had no intention of permitting Seymour to interfere with the government of the country or allowing him any position of responsibility within the Council.

There was concern also about the heiress to the throne, the Lady Mary. Her father had entrusted his executors with the supervision of her household, and it was soon arranged that a priest was to be always in attendance to say the offices of the Church, which might be attended by local people, who were to be summoned by a bell rung by Mary's clerk of the closet. Every member of the household was to attend these services unless they had a good excuse for not so doing. All persons joining the household had to swear an oath of allegiance to Mary, and undertake to give six months' notice if they left. Those senior attendants who were permitted servants of their own were to engage only 'cleanly young men' over eighteen, who were forbidden to brawl, bicker, swear or gamble at all times except during Yuletide. Mary was allowed to lay down any other rules for the guidance of her staff, and apart from imposing these few restrictions, which could only be to her benefit, the Council left her alone during the early months of Edward's reign.

It suited them very well to have her living quietly in the country, for they were aware of her popularity and her political importance, and feared that she might one day become the focus for opposition against the reformist policies that the Council was determined to introduce. Already there were rumours in France that Charles V was plotting to declare war on England in order to overthrow Edward and set Catholic Mary on the throne. The Pope was known to be working through his agents for the overthrow of what he regarded as the heretical regime in England. Should there be any rebellion in England on Mary's behalf, she could always look to Charles and Rome to support her, which made her a potentially dangerous rival to the new government. She should therefore be encouraged to stay away from court and remain on her estates. Paget wisely urged the Protector to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards Mary, which was not difficult because until now relations between the two had been friendly. Pressure could be brought to bear on her later to make her conform, if necessary.

Unaware of the Council's fears, Mary spent the early part of 1547 at Newhall, Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, or the royal manors of Wanstead and Havering-atte-Bower in Essex. Charles V's ambassador, van der Delft, found himself frustrated in his attempts to gain an audience with her, and wrongly concluded that the Council held her 'in very little account'.

On 19 February, Edward VI made his ceremonial entry into London prior to his coronation, wearing robes of cloth of silver embroidered with gold thread and a belt and cap which glittered with rubies, pearls and diamonds. His horse was caparisoned in crimson satin, and as he rode through the crowded streets his subjects hailed him as a 'young King Solomon' come to restore ancient truth and do away with 'heathen rites and detestable idolatory'. As was customary on such occasions, lavish pageants marked the various stages of the royal progress through the City of London. One portrayed a phoenix — representing Jane Seymour, whose badge had been this mythical bird -descending from Heaven to mate with the crowned lion, representing Henry VIII. Then a young lion stepped forth to be crowned by angels, as the phoenix and the old lion retired. One spectacle that particularly impressed Edward was the Aragonese tight-rope walker in St Paul's Churchyard, who 'ran on his breast from the battlements to the ground'. The King, we are told, 'laughed right heartily' and was reluctant to drag himself away and proceed on his way to Whitehall Palace, where he spent the night.

The next day he was crowned in Westminster Abbey, which had been hung with rich tapestries and strewn with sweet-smelling rushes for the occasion. The nine-year-old King was splendidly clad in a gown of cloth of silver embroidered with rubies and diamonds, girdled with white velvet and Venetian silk, on top of which was a white velvet cloak threaded with Venetian silver; his shoes were white velvet buskins. Once enthroned in St Edward's chair, he was presented with three swords, symbolising his three kingdoms, England, Ireland and France, but, records Sir John Hayward, his first biographer, he demanded a fourth sword, the Bible, 'the sword of the spirit', which he 'preferred before these swords'. Archbishop Cranmer conducted the ceremony, and trumpets sounded as three crowns were placed, one after the other, on the King's head, and a gold ring on his marriage finger. He endured the long hours of ceremony with remarkable patience and gravity, and after the Te Deum had been sung, he

progressed with great dignity out of the Abbey to where his horse, 'with a caparison of crimson satin embroidered with pearls and damasked gold', was waiting, and greeted the cheering crowds solemnly. After the coronation came banquets and tournaments, in which Thomas Seymour excelled himself.

As king, Edward VI won golden opinions. His councillors hailed him as a new David or Samuel, or 'the youngjosias', Josias having been a boy king of Israel who had stamped out idolatry and established the true worship of God. Edward's beauty and intelligence were lauded to the skies, and he was deemed to be so in advance of his years that 'it should seem he were already a father'. Perhaps consciously he took to emulating his own father, whose example he was expected to follow and even excel; in state portraits he adopted the same stance as Henry VIII, feet apart, hand on hip, staring piercingly from the canvas. He never forgot his royal dignity and remained remote and aloof from his councillors and attendants, never showing his emotions nor any affection towards those around him. In his journal, he recorded dispassionately sad or violent events in the lives of those close to him without ever betraying his innermost feelings.

Nicholas Udall spoke for many when he wrote: 'How happy are we Englishmen of such a king, in whose childhood appeareth as perfect grace, virtue, godly zeal, desire of literature, gravity, prudence, justice and magnanimity, as hath heretofore been found in kings of most mature age.' This was not mere flattery, for Edward was indeed remarkably intelligent and had benefited from a fine education. He had a precocious grasp of politics for his age; he knew what was going on in his realm, even if he did not yet fully comprehend all the issues involved.

One issue he very quickly came to understand, though, was religion. In the National Portrait Gallery in London there is a panel painting showing Henry VIII on his deathbed presenting the enthroned Edward VI to his subjects. Beside Edward sit the prominent reformists on the Council, and at the boy's feet lies an open book inscribed The word of the Lord endureth for ever'. Crushed beneath the throne are the figures of the Pope and two friars named Idolatry and Feigned Holiness. Here, for all Englishmen to see, was the Protestant champion, whom the Scottish reformer John Knox would describe as 'that most godly and virtuous King that has ever been known to have reigned in England'.

Edward rapidly became a passionate Protestant, bigoted and intolerant. He loathed the Roman Catholic Church and all it stood for, and wrote several tracts defending the royal supremacy and advocating the eradication of abuses within the Church. He loved long,

complicated sermons, and would scribble notes in Greek as he listened. It is said that on one occasion he refused to stand on a bible in order to reach a high shelf. During his reign only a few people were burned as heretics, yet this boy did not shrink from signing death warrants when necessary, as in the case of Joan Boacher, executed in 15 50 for denying that Jesus Christ had been a human being. As Edward's reputation spread, persecuted Protestants from all over Europe sought refuge in England.

Edward VI's court, however, was anything but godly; in fact, it dismayed the reformers who visited it. Unlike the King, most courtiers were bored by the long sermons favoured by Protestant preachers, preferring to absent themselves in order to indulge in more earthly pleasures such as gambling, drinking and fornicating. Many would have liked to see the King take part in tournaments and other sports, as his father had done, but he seems not to have been that way inclined, and even if he had been, the Council was too concerned for his safety to have allowed it. Indeed, his court was altogether less splendid than his father's had been, even though it inhabited the same sumptuous palaces - Hampton Court, Greenwich, Pvichmond, Whitehall and Windsor being the most magnificent.

Occasionally, water pageants were mounted, or acrobats and jugglers engaged for the King's amusement. He enjoyed masques and plays, especially if they portrayed the Pope as a villain, as at Shrovetide and Christmas in 1549. Edward was not musical like his father and kept only five musicians on his payroll, engaging others at holiday periods. Twenty-one other personal servants waited on him, ministering to his daily needs. As he grew, his literary interests came to influence the court, as did his piety. John Bale wrote that it was now fashionable for courtiers to pursue 'literature and the elegant arts', while many young noblemen, such as the sons of John Dudley, became sincere converts to Protestantism.

Many might have hoped that Katherine Parr would continue to exert a benevolent and godly influence over the court, but at the beginning of March 1547 the Imperial ambassador reported that she would shortly be taking up residence at Chelsea with 'Madam Elizabeth, daughter of the late King'. Henry VIII had left Katherine well provided for in his will, and the house and manor of Chelsea were her own property. She also owned the manors of Wimbledon and Hanworth. Although Henry had not allowed her any control over the regency or the young King, he had left her £3000 in plate, jewels, household goods and clothing, as well as £1000 in cash, above the jointure allocated by Parliament. He had also granted her precedence before every other lady in the kingdom, a privilege which caused the Protector's wife to seethe ineffectively with jealousy.

Chelsea Old Palace occupied the site of the present Cheyne Walk. Built by Henry VIII, it had been completed around 1540, and boasted many amenities including piped water from a spring in Kensington. The house itself was an attractive red brick building, with windows overlooking the River Thames. When Katherine Parr took up residence here she brought with her a staff of 200, including 120 yeomen who wore her own livery. Having been a loving and responsible stepmother to the Lady Elizabeth, it was natural that the girl should be entrusted to her care. Elizabeth, wrote van der Delft, 'will remain always in the Queen's company', and Katherine would continue to supervise her education. Elizabeth's household, headed by Mrs Ashley and William Grindal, came with her to Chelsea. The Queen also took charge of the late king's great-niece, nine-year-old Lady Jane Grey, whose affection for her may plainly be seen in surviving letters.

On 21 March 1547, Somerset was formally appointed 'Protector of all the realms and domains of the King's Majesty and Governor of his most royal person' and granted full power and authority to rule in the King's name 'until such time as we shall have accomplished the age of eighteen years'. Somerset, however, lacked the presence and authority of Henry VIII and many came to resent his liberal policies and his compassion. He established a court of pleas at his own London house in order that he might hear the cases of poor people, who soon began calling him 'the Good Duke'. Some of his fellow councillors thought him 'so moderate that all thought him their own'; others resented him taking 'the place of a king'. In his turn, Somerset failed to control the more headstrong among the councillors and was reluctant to address himself to the routine business of government. Paget complained on one occasion that the Protector had 'snapped' and 'nipped' so fiercely in Council that one colleague had been reduced to tears, appearing 'almost out of his wits'. At other times Somerset could be unusually tolerant, yet his refusal to allow anyone to be tortured or burned for their religious views was seen in his own age as a sign of weakness. Those who disagreed with him, notably Bishops Gardiner and Bonner, were confined in the Tower but then left unmolested with certain creature comforts; Henry VIII would never have been so lenient. Somerset, however, had no sense of political pragmatism — he was too much of an idealist, and the progressive social policy he favoured in Council, which included fixed rents and the abolition of enclosures, met with derision and suspicion among his own caste, who managed successfully to oppose it.

Although the Protector made a point of criticising wealthy, self-seeking men, his own greed and rapacity were notorious. By 1549 he had built for himself a sumptuous London residence, Somerset House, at the exorbitant cost of £10,000, significantly more than any subject had ever paid for a house. He also converted a former nunnery at Syon in Middlesex into a country house for himself, and had foundations laid for another mansion at Bedwyn Brail in Wiltshire, near Wolfhall, his ancestral home. He was even planning at one stage to demolish Westminster Abbey in order to build another town house. His accounts reveal that he spared no expense in emphasising his status and political pre-eminence.

Somerset was committed to establishing a Protestant state. Henry VIII might have broken with Rome and made himself head of the English Church, but it was still a largely Catholic church, and the King's will bears testimony to his continuing orthodoxy in forms of worship. Both Somerset and Cranmer were eager to carry the Reformation to its logical conclusion; many other lords had profited by it, having received church lands, and were greedy for more. London and some other cities and towns, as well as a core of intellectuals in the universities and gentry in the south-east, were already largely Protestant, though the rest of the country remained Catholic. Relying on religious sentiments in the capital, and ignoring the objections of conservatives on the Council, such as Gardiner and Wriothesley, the Protector and the Archbishop took steps very early in the reign to establish the Protestant faith as the official religion in England, and at Easter Compline was sung in English in the Chapel Royal to signify the King's endorsement of their policies.

The main thorn in the Protector's side during the first months of Edward's reign was his brother, Thomas Seymour, whose elevation to the peerage as Baron Sudeley had brought with it the acquisition of vast estates in Wiltshire and the Welsh Marches. But even this, and a seat on the Council, were not enough for the rampantly ambitious Seymour. His chief desire was to oust his brother from power and rule in his stead, or, if that failed, at least to share the protectorship.

Thomas Seymour was in his late thirties, dashingly handsome and charismatic, and a philanderer. He was tall and athletic, had a luxuriant red beard, and dressed like a peacock; he was boisterous and flamboyant, had a loud, penetrating voice, and a brilliant reputation in the tournament lists. He liked to present an affable and friendly image

that was in direct contrast to his brother's Calvinistic gravity, and to reinforce this he displayed an ostentatious generosity that, on the surface, won him many friends. According to Sir Nicholas Throck-morton, a courtier, he was 'hardy, wise and liberal... fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent, but somewhat empty of matter'.

He was, indeed, shallow, irresponsible and dangerously unstable. He thought only of himself and his overweening ambition, and could be unscrupulous and even violent in the pursuit of it. He had even less political judgement than Somerset, of whom he was obsessively jealous, claiming that Henry VIII had never intended that one man should rule both king and country, and through this malice, wrote Throckmorton, 'he went to pot'.

Seymour's festering resentment at being denied any real power led him to contemplate a number of extravagant schemes. First he attempted to suborn the young King, who was already resentful of the restrictions laid upon him by the Protector. Seymour decided to adopt the role of an indulgent and loving uncle, and bribed one of Edward's servants, John Fowler, secretly to take the boy gifts of money. Fowler was also to praise Seymour to the skies and put in a good word for him whenever the occasion arose, so that, when the time came, Edward would support his favourite uncle's bid for power. In the meantime, Seymour was poring over legal tomes and records in an attempt to find a precedent for a joint protectorship.

He was also planning to advance himself by way of a spectacular and advantageous marriage. It seems likely, although there is no direct evidence, that shortly after Henry VIII's death Seymour had asked the Council for permission to marry the Lady Elizabeth, and was refused. Mrs Ashley is said to have been disappointed to learn this, because she herself had encouraged him, saying that he and her charge were well matched. Gregorio Leti, an Italian who wrote a scurrilous biography of Elizabeth in the seventeenth century, reproduces a series of passionate love letters, purportedly written by her and the Admiral during February 1547, in which Seymour proposes marriage and she regretfully refuses, knowing that the Council would never allow it; these letters are almost certainly fictitious, as is much of the other material in Leti's biography.

Undaunted, for there were other fish in the sea, Seymour asked Fowler to sound out the King's opinion with regard to his uncle's marriage. Who would Edward recommend as a suitable wife?

Edward was in no doubt. His Uncle Thomas should marry either Anne of Cleves or 'my sister Mary, to change her opinions'. Bolstered with royal approval, Seymour again approached the Council, proposing to marry Mary, but Somerset 'reproved him, saying that neither of them was born to be king, nor to marry a king's daughter'. They should both 'thank God and be satisfied' with what they had and not presume to advance themselves any higher. Mary, he knew, would never consent to such a marriage. Seymour replied angrily that all he sought was conciliar approval for him to marry Mary, and he would win her in his own fashion, but at this Somerset exploded with rage, and a violent argument ensued, which ended with Seymour being warned not to pursue the matter further. At this the brothers fell out, and the rift between them grew wider.

Knowing it would be useless to pursue the matter further, Seymour's matrimonial ambitions settled upon an earlier love, no less a person than the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr. Born in 1512, Katherine had been twice widowed before she married Henry VIII. Around 1542-3, before the King had made his intentions clear, she had become romantically involved with Thomas Seymour, but, as she later wrote, although they planned to marry she was 'overruled by a higher power'. Now, four years later, she was still only thirty-five, comely, and also very rich. Moreover, by virtue of her rank, she was greatly respected throughout the kingdom. Marriage with Katherine would confer upon Seymour considerable status and, he hoped, influence, and so he began to call secretly at Chelsea to pay court to her.

It seems that Katherine had never forgotten her earlier love for the Admiral, for in no time at all she was responding passionately to his addresses. Confronted by his charm and masculinity, all her piety and learning, and her innate good sense, failed her. By May 1547, the lovers had decided to marry and were engaged in an affectionate correspondence. In one letter Katherine wrote, 'I would not have you think that this mine honest good will toward you proceed of any sudden motion of passion. For as truly as God is God, my mind was fully bent before the other time I was at liberty to marry you before any other man I knew.' Now that they had been given a second chance of happiness, she could only conclude that 'God is a marvellous man.'

With little conviction, she protested that they should wait two years before they married, knowing full well that the Council would disapprove of her marrying so soon after the late King's death, but Seymour had little difficulty in overruling her scruples, and they were married secretly, possibly in late April or early May. Afterwards, he would visit her at Chelsea in the middle of the night, she having arranged to leave a gate unlocked to facilitate his secret entry to the grounds.

Queen Katherine had insisted that the marriage not be made public until she had had a chance to seek the King's blessing on it in person, but servants gossiped and rumours spread quickly. Early that summer Mrs Ashley met Seymour by chance in St James's Park and could not resist chiding him for failing to pursue his suit to the Lady Elizabeth.

'I have heard someone say that you should have my lady,' she told him archly.

'Nay,' he replied, in affable mood, 'I love not to lose my life for a wife. It has been spoken unto, but it cannot be. But I will promise to have the Queen.'

'It is past promise,' retorted Mrs Ashley, 'as I hear you are married already.' The Admiral said nothing, smiled and moved on.

Katherine Parr was anxious that the King should not think her disrespectful of his father's memory by remarrying so soon after his death, and fearful of the consequences of what she and Seymour had done. In May she paid a visit to the court and confessed all to her stepson, who seems to have taken the news well. On 30 May, he wrote to her, 'Since you love my father, I cannot but much esteem you; since you love me I cannot but love you in return; and since you love the Word of God, I do love and admire you with my whole heart. Wherefore if there be anything wherein I may do you a kindness, either in word or deed, I will do it willingly.'

He had agreed not to disclose Katherine's secret to the Protector until relations between Somerset and Seymour had grown less frosty; remembering his brother's reaction to his other marriage proposals, the Admiral had no wish to provoke further hostility. Nor did Katherine Parr wish to be a suitor for Somerset's favour. She told her husband, 'I would not wish you to importune for his goodwill. I would desire you might obtain the King's letters in your favour and also the aid and furtherance of the most notable of the Council.'

This was exactly what Seymour was now engaged upon doing, and he was also trying to obtain the support of the King's sisters. Early in June he wrote to the Lady Mary, telling her only that he had asked Queen Katherine to be his wife, and praying her to use her influence on his behalf and that of the Queen, whose close friend she had hitherto been. But Mary was horrified to learn that Katherine Parr had encouraged another man's advances so soon after the King's death. She replied,

I have received your letter wherein I perceive strange news concerning a suit you have in hand to the Queen for marriage, for the sooner obtaining whereof you seem to think that my letters might do you pleasure. My lord, in this case I trust your wisdom doth consider that if it were for my nearest kinsman and dearest friend alive, of all other creatures in the world it standeth least with my poor honour to be a meddler in this matter, considering whose wife Her Grace was of late; and besides, if she be minded to grant your suit, my letters shall do you but small pleasure. If the remembrance of the King's Majesty my father will not suffer her to grant your suit, I am nothing able to persuade her to forget the loss of him who is as yet very ripe in mine own remembrance. Wherefore I shall most earnestly require you to think none unkindness in me though I refuse to be a meddler in this matter, assuring you that (wooing matters set apart, wherein I being a maid, am nothing cunning) if otherwise it shall lie in my little power to do you pleasure, I shall be glad to do it.

For all the courteous tone of her letter, Mary was furious, both with Katherine Parr and the Admiral, and from henceforth her relations with her stepmother were cordial but reserved; the two women never recaptured the intimacy of former times. Mary was worried also that her sister Elizabeth might be in some moral danger through residing in the Queen's household, and wrote inviting the girl to come and live with her, stressing why such a move was of urgent necessity and expressing her sense of outrage at seeing 'the scarcely cold body of the King our father so shamelessly dishonoured'. His memory, she assured her sister, 'being so glorious in itself, cannot be subject to those stains which can only defile the persons who have wrought them'. But she did not want to offend the Queen, who had been kind to her, and Elizabeth 'must use much tact, for fear of appearing ungrateful'. Elizabeth, however, dissimulated; she was happy at Chelsea and did not wish to leave, so she replied that she would see how matters turned out. This did not satisfy Mary, who was already convinced that Elizabeth was becoming as light morally as her mother had been.

The Admiral, meanwhile, was still in regular contact with the King through the offices of John Fowler, who now slept in Edward's bedroom every night and therefore had the opportunity of private conversations with him. Edward was unhappy, and made no secret of it. His 'uncle of Somerset' was very severe with him and allowed him few treats. His tutors were strict and left him little time for leisure pursuits. He had no money with which to reward those who performed small services for him, and thus felt less than a king.

Edward had come to hate Somerset during the last few months and turned for comfort to his other uncle, who was only too willing to send him pocket money, often as much as £40, and who had begun to correspond with him in secret. Once, when, to cheer the boy up, the Admiral voiced the hope that Somerset was older and might not live long, Edward replied, 'It were better he should die.' If that happened, he told Seymour, he would himself seize the reins of government and rule under the guidance of his favourite uncle, which was music to Seymour's ears. Before long, the King was sending demands for money through Fowler, which his uncle was happy to satisfy, believing that the boy would use what influence he had when the time came, and would work to further the Admiral's ambitions.

Edward was true to his word. When news of the Admiral's marriage to the Queen leaked out at the end ofjune, he publicly gave them his blessing.

'I will provide for you both,' he wrote, 'that hereafter, if any grief befall, I shall be a sufficient succour in your godly or praisable enterprises.' In the face of such an open demonstration of royal favour, an enraged Somerset could do nothing, although he had been 'much offended and displeased' by the news. Nor had the lovers committed any crime; there was no chance now of Katherine being pregnant by the late King or disrupting the royal succession by the birth of a child whose paternity was doubtful. Yet the Protector's wife had her petty revenge. Furious at having to yield precedence to the wife of her husband's despised younger brother, she persuaded Somerset to confiscate the Queen's jewels, which were kept in safety in the treasury, on the grounds that they were state property and could not be willed to a queen dowager. These jewels had, in fact, been handed down from queen to queen through the ages, and some were of great antiquity, but Henry VIII had provided that Katherine Parr should enjoy them until such time as the young King married. Now Anne, Duchess of Somerset, was determined to wear them herself. The Admiral and his wife must not think that they could offend her and get away with it.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!