Reading to Grandmother

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford

A while back when doing research on the Seymour family, I came across what I found was a rather amusing letter from Robert Tutt to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (the one who secretly married Katherine Grey). The ill-fated marriage and Katherine’s early death left the earl with two sons, Edward Seymour (Lord Beauchamp) and Thomas Seymour. In 1582, they were living with their paternal grandmother, Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, at Hanworth.

The letter is dated June 10, 1582. Edward, born in the Tower of London on September 24, 1561, was a few months short of his twenty-first birthday when the letter was written; his younger brother Thomas, born in the Tower on February 10, 1563, was nineteen.

10 June, 1582. My humble dutie unto your honour remembered. It may please the same to be advertised that Her Grace remayneth still troubled with the cough which with her age maketh her feble and weak. Her Grace will not desire your [Lordship] retorne, but yet I know, willing enough to see your L. here; neyther request a Buck, but will take more [in] thankfull part one Buck voluntarily sent, especially at thys tyme of the yere, than a leash hereafter. And although your {Lordship] dothe conceyve, that it is no meat for Her Grace, being as she is, yet to have it in her house and to pleasure her neighbours and friends with venison at this tyme of the yere, it is no small pleasure. Those pinates whereof your [Lordship] maketh mention, Her Grace receyveth to ripen the flewme. Touching my Lord Beauchamp and Mr. Thomas, they continue for their dispositions after one sort. They have read my fellow Smith’s last letters in Latin, to Her Grace; and afterwards put the same into English to Her Grace, as your [Lordship] willed. With my L. Beauchamp Her Grace had speciall speeches, to what effect I know not, but without all doubt for his great good if he have a prepared mynde to follow grayve and sound counsels. Her Grace made him fetch his booke, entituled, ‘Regula Vitae,’ & out of the same to read the Chapiters ‘De veritate et mendaciis.’ Your L. shall do well in wonted manner to acknowledge her Grace’s great care of them and their well doing.

Now if your L. hath any meaning that Her Grace shall visit Totnam this summer, then is it necessaries your honour acquaint my fellow Ludloe with your L. determination therin: that all necessaries may be thought upon and provyded in tyme.

I rather like this business about the buck; it’s nice to know that the old duchess (who was in her seventies) still enjoyed having guests over to sup on venison. (The buck, however, might have another point of view altogether.)

The “Smith” referred to was probably Robert Smith, the sons’ tutor. Since the young men were reading Smith’s letters in Latin to the duchess, does this mean she understood Latin, or was she just an uncomprehending audience? The duchess and her husband had given their daughters an excellent humanist education, so it wouldn’t be surprising if at some point the duchess had learned Latin herself.

I have tried in vain to locate the Regula Vitae that young Lord Beauchamp was sent to read. I am convinced that I found it Google Books at one point, but I could be mistaken.

Finally, what, you may wonder, had Lord Beauchamp done to merit these “special speeches” from his grandmother? The speeches almost certainly involved his romantic life, for in 1581, Lord Beauchamp had fallen in love with a young lady named Honora Rogers, a kinswoman who had been in the duchess’s household. Although the Earl of Hertford was carrying on his own love affair at the time, with Frances Howard, one of the queen’s ladies, he was remarkably unsympathetic toward his son’s romance, especially when it transpired that Lord Beauchamp had married Honora.  Hertford nicknamed Honora “Onus Blous” and directed an investigation of the couple’s courtship that would have done Thomas Cromwell proud. No Seymour servant or family member escaped interrogation, not even on Christmas day.  Hertford also busied himself with jotting down memoranda of the young lady’s misdeeds, such as “when she was 15 or 16 years old in Barrowes she would pin up eggs in her smock so that her mistress should not find them.” It would be only after several years of family drama, in which the queen eventually intervened, that Lord Beauchamp and his wife were allowed to cohabit. Even the hapless Robert Smith was enlisted to write a letter to Beauchamp (in Latin, of course) urging him to follow his father’s wishes.

The duchess herself (who had sent for her grandsons in December 1581 “to profit their learning and virtuous exercises and to learn the truth from them of this last brabble”) called the hapless Honora a “baggage,” a fine word that in this usage really needs to make a reappearance. Eventually, however, she was reconciled with her grandson and his wife, for she remembered both  in her will and left Honora ” a booke of gould kept in a grene purse, and a payer of bracelets without stones.” Hopefully, the book wasn’t Regula Vitae.

Sources:

Marjorie Blatcher, ed., Report on the Manuscripts of the Most Honourable the Marquess of Bath Preserved at Longleat, Vol. IV, Seymour Papers 1532-1686. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1968.

Rev. Canon J. E. Jackson, “Wulfhall and the Seymours,” Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 15 (1875). (Note: As Blatcher points out, Jackson misidentifies “Her Grace” in the letter quoted above as Elizabeth I.)

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4 Responses to Reading to Grandmother

  1. Kathryn says:

    I love the word ‘baggage’ too, and ‘brabble’ is fantastic! :)

  2. bluffkinghal says:

    Those old time insults were the best! We simply can’t compare with our F words.

  3. Denise Moore says:

    I am not on twitter, sorry. you have been collecting information on the seymour family i believe, can you possibly tell mr how wolfhall in Wilrshire was passed throu the generations, i believe that the seymour family had no funds to keep the up keep and i believe the crown purchased it, they also had no money, it is now in the hands off the Holgate family furniture family, can you possibly tell me what their conection to the seymour family is

  4. boswellbaxter says:

    Hi, Denise! You might find this article, “Wulfhall and the Seymours,” helpful (it starts on page 140):

    http://archive.org/details/wiltshirearchaeo15arch