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Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (1539 – 1621) was the son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, by his second wife Anne Stanhope.

Following Somerset's disgrace and execution, his son was also created 1st Earl of Hertford, the earldom being recreated for him in 1559 by Queen Elizabeth I, but he lost it again shortly afterwards for secretly marrying Lady Catherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey.

A series of clandestine marriages

His first wife, Lady Catherine, was a potential claimant to Elizabeth's throne, and law established that it was a penal offence for her to marry without notifying the Sovereign. They were married by a Catholic priest at Hertford House, Canon Row. The marriage was kept secret until August nearly a year later when Catherine became visibly pregnant and she confided the reason to Lord Robert Dudley. They were sent to the Towermarker (this began while Seymour was in France — he was imprisoned upon his return). While in custody, they were questioned about every aspect of their marriage, but they both claimed to have forgotten the date.

A commission was begun, headed by Archbishop Parker in February 1562. Under this pressure, Lady Catherine finally declared that they had waited for Elizabeth to quit the capital for Eltham Palacemarker. Servants were questioned, and none of them could remember the exact date either. John Fortescue said it was 'in November'. The priest could not be located, but by consulting the accounts of the Cofferer of the Household the marriage date was decided to be 27 November.His son Edward was declared illegitimate and the father was fined 15,000 pounds in Star Chamber for "seducing a virgin of the blood royal."

Despite all this, the Earl apparently found a way to continue marital relations with his wife in the Tower. In February 1563, Thomas Seymour was born. Lady Catherine died in 1568, and Seymour was finally allowed out of the Tower and allowed to re-appear at court. Officially his sons remained bastards.

His eldest son was Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache (1561–1612) whose son William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset was imprisoned for secretly marrying Arbella Stuart. In fact, Edward, William, and William's elder brother, another Edward, were all, at various times, considered possible matches for Arbella.

In 1582, he married his second wife, Frances Howard. Their union was in secret, and remained a secret for nearly a decade, with Frances serving as a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Hertford attempted to have this marriage set aside in 1595 (hoping to clear his still illegitimate sons' claim to the throne). He was arrested again, and Frances died in 1598.

May 1601, he secretly married once more, to a widow named Frances Prannell (born, interestingly enough, Frances Howard).

References

  • Haynes, Alan. Sex in Elizabethan England. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited, 1997. ISBN 0-905-778-359



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