The Death of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

Hi, there! Between taxes and a lovely weekend in Washington, D.C., with the family, I haven’t had much time to blog, but I did want to stop in and commemorate the death of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. She’s an important character in Her Highness, the Traitor (coming out on June 1!), and I’m seriously considering giving her a novel to herself. What would you think of that?

Anne died at Hanworth in Middlesex on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1587. Her epitaph claims that she was ninety, but her year of birth has been more recently estimated as 1510, which seems more likely given her gynecological history (she bore her last child in 1550, after which her childbearing was interrupted by her husband’s imprisonment in October 1551 and execution in January 1552).

Anne herself had been arrested soon after her husband was seized and remained as a prisoner in the Tower until August 1553, when she was released by Mary I, with whom she had long been friendly. Over the next years, she managed to rebuild her fortunes; Retha Warnicke gives the value of her goods and moveables at her death as £9,829 19s 8d.

In 1600, William Dethick, Garter principal king of arms, recalled the duchess’s funeral:

At the sompteous and stately funeralls of the last Anne duchesse of Somerset, which were performed by the right honorable Edward earle of Hertford hir executor, anno 1587, there was a portraieture of the same duchesse made in robes of her estate, with a coronicall to a duchesse, and the same representation bore under a canopie; and all the other ceremonyes accomplished; and bycause there was no duchesse to assist thereat, the queen’s majesty gave her royal consent that the countesse of Hartford his wife should have all honour done to her after that estate during the funeral. As by warrant directed to me under her majesty’s hand appears.

The Earl of Hertford, who had married Frances Howard some years after his first marriage to Katherine Grey landed both of the spouses in the Tower, erected a fine tomb to his mother’s memory in the Chapel of St. Nicholas. The English epitaph, which fills four plaques, reads:

Here lieth entombed,


The noble Dutchess of Somerset,

Dear Spouse unto the renowned Prince

Edward, Duke of Somerset,

Earl of Hertford, Viscount Beauchamp,


Baron Seymour.


0f the most famous knightly Order of the Garter,

Uncle to King Edward the Sixth,

Governor of his Royal Person,

And most worthy Protector

Of all his Realms, Dominions, and Subjects.

Lieutenant-General of all his Armies,

Treasurer, and Earl-Marshal of England,

Governor, and Captain,


The Isles of Guernsey, and Jersey;

Under whose prosperous Conduct,

Glorious Victory

Hath been so often, so fortunately


Over the Scots,

Vanquished at Edinburgh, and Leith,


Musselborough Field.

A Princess

Descended of noble Lineage,


Daughter to the worthy Knight,

Sir Edward Stanhope,

By Elizabeth his Wife, that was Daughter to

Sir Foulke Bourchier,

Lord Fitz Warren:

From whom

Our Modern Earls of Bath are sprung.

Son was he

To William, Lord Fitz Warren,

That was Brother to Henry, Earl of  Essex,

And William their Sire,

Sometime Earl of Eu, in Normandy.

Begat on Anne, the sole Heir of

Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester,

Younger Son, to the mighty Prince

Edward the Third,

And of his Wife Elinore;

Co-heir unto

The 10th Humprey De Bohun,

That was

Earl of Hereford, Essex, and Northampton,

High-Constable of England.

This Lady bare many Children, To wit,

Edward Earl of Hertford, Henry, and

A younger Edward;

Anne Countess of Warwick,

Margaret, Jane, Mary, Katherine,

And Elizabeth.

And with firm Faith in Christ,

And in most mild Manner,

Render’d she her Life

At Ninety Years of Age,

On Easter-Day, the 16th of April.


The Earl of Hertford, Edward her eldest Son,

In this doleful Duty careful and diligent,

Doth consecrate this Monument to his dead Parent;

Not for her Honour wherewith living she did abound,

And now departed, flourisheth;

But for the dutisul Love he beareth her,

And for his last Testisication thereof.

The photograph here shows Anne’s effigy, but the tomb itself is much larger.  A photograph of the entire tomb can be found here.


William Dethick, Garter. “Of the Antiquity of Ceremonies Used at Funeralls.” in Thomas Hearn, ed., Collection of Curious Discourses, Volume I, 1773.

Retha Warnicke, Wicked Women of Tudor England: Queens, Aristocrats, Commoners. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

15 thoughts on “The Death of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset”

  1. Susan, have just read the larger overview link…fascinating…I never knew about her(and obviously have missed her tomb!)…mostly because this isn’t my ‘time period’ outside of the more recognizable characters…I’d love to see a book…there are so many personages we never hear much about unless the particular time frame is of intense interest. Thanks for this!
    Gaye Mack

    1. Thanks, Gaye! Glad you enjoyed it! I knew nothing about her when I was last at the Abbey years ago, so of course I didn’t give a thought to her tomb.

  2. and my family thinks i’m verbose!

    i hope it is released in kindle format at the same time! i promised dh not to bring another book into the house until i give away the massively over crowded selves we current have…but if is on kindle, it’s taking up no space whatever! well, that’s the story i’ll tell him!

  3. I’d love to see you write a book on Anne Stanhope! I think she must have been a fascinating woman! I wonder what you’ll make of her:)

    1. Thanks, Mary! I confess to having written a little of it–which is a Bad Thing because I should be working on something else!

  4. Yeesssss for a book on Anne Seymour. Also, a book on Edward Seymour.Oh, the delight!

    That said, I just felt a little bit of fleeting sadness that such a LONG epitaph for Anne had to contain her husband’s and father’s and brother’s achievements, and none of her own.

    She left a good amount of money in spite of her condition!

  5. As I understand it, Anne Stanhope as Duchess pf Somerset and wife of England’s Protector for Edward VI, thought herself first lady, above everyone else in the country, including Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. She had a terrible reputation for being mean, and may have encouraged her husband to deny his brother’s child by Katherine Parr, queen dowager, Mary Seymour. Poor babe

    1. Anne Stanhope did manage to make her share of enemies, but I don’t know of any evidence that she believed that she took precedence over Mary or Elizabeth. She was on good terms with Mary throughout Edward VI’s reign. I don’t know of any interaction she had with young Elizabeth, other than to express disapproval of the fact that Kat Astley allowed Elizabeth to ride on a barge by herself (and, of course, her misgivings about Elizabeth’s caretakers would prove to be well founded). Edward Seymour never denied his brother’s child; indeed, for a while after Katherine Parr’s death, Mary Seymour lived with the Protector. After Thomas Seymour’s execution, Mary’s new guardian, Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, did have some difficulty getting the council to approve a suitable allowance for the child and her retinue, but the council does appear to have agreed to do so eventually, and there’s no evidence that the Duchess of Somerset was the one who stood in the way.

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