The Deaths of a Duke and a Duchess

On January 22, 1552, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, uncle and former Protector to Edward VI, was executed on Tower Hill. Somerset was a complex man, neither the “Good Duke” of one stereotype nor the greedy megalomaniac of another, but he was probably out of his element as Protector and had a knack for alienating his fellow councilors through his abrasive style. He does seem to have been quite popular, however, among the common people, many of whom flocked to his execution and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood for mementoes. The evening before his death, Somerset wrote these lines in an almanac: 

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Put thy trust in the Lord with all thy heart

Be not wise in thine own conceit, but fear the Lord and flee from evil

 From the Tower, the day before my death

E. Somerset

Somerset’s widow, Anne, had been imprisoned in the Tower at the same time as the duke, in October 1551, and remained there as a prisoner until Mary I entered London in 1553. The duke was buried at the Chapel of Peter ad Vincula between Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. On August 22, 1553, he was joined there in death by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.

John Dudley’s widow, Jane (one of the heroines of Her Highness, the Traitor) died on either January 15, 1555 (the date mentioned in her postmortem inquisition)  or January 22, 1555 (the date mentioned on her tomb), at Chelsea. I rather hope it was the latter date, for her sons received royal pardons that day, and it would be nice to think that she lived long enough to know of this. Since the death of her husband, whom she loved dearly and had known since she was about three, she had worked tirelessly on behalf of her imprisoned sons, first to free them and then to obtain pardons for them. She left a long, rambling will, written in her own hand, which because it was composed without benefit of legal counsel is much more revealing of the testator’s personality than many such documents.  In it, she warned, “And whoever dothe trust to this transitorie worlde as I dyd may happen have an overthrowe as I hadd.”

2 thoughts on “The Deaths of a Duke and a Duchess”

  1. So nice to see someone taking an interest in Somerset. It is rather strange there isn’t much literature on him, considering how much is written on Henry VIII’s queens and Elizabeth.

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