Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley

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Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, KG (c. 1507[1] – 20 March 1549[2]) was an English politician.

Thomas spent his childhood in Wulfhall, outside Savernake Forest, in Wiltshire. Historian David Starkey describes Thomas thus: 'tall, well-built and with a dashing beard and auburn hair, he was irresistible to women'. A prominent Tudor courtier, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, described Thomas Seymour as 'hardy, wise and liberal...fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent, but somewhat empty of matter'.

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Family's royal connection through marriage

The Seymour family's power grew during Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, to whom Jane Seymour was a lady in waiting. As Anne failed to give King Henry a son, the Seymour brothers saw an opportunity to push their sister Jane in the King's direction. Henry married Jane eleven days after Anne's execution in May 1536, and she gave birth to their son and only child in October of the following year.

It was the elder brother, Edward Seymour, who benefited most from his sister's marriage to the King. Historians have speculated whether the division between Edward and Thomas began at that time, as Thomas unsurprisingly began to resent his brother and the relationship between them began to dissolve. Although Thomas was named Lord High Admiral, he was consumed by jealousy of his brother's power and influence.

In 1543, John Nevill, 3rd Baron Latymer, died leaving a wealthy widow, formerly Catherine Parr. An attachment then developed between Catherine and Thomas. Unfortunately for Thomas, Henry VIII also became interested in Catherine and eventually married her, having been impressed with her dignity and intelligence. Jealous of Seymour's attentions to Catherine, the King sent Thomas away on a diplomatic mission to the Netherlands.

Henry VIII died in January 1547, leaving Catherine one of the wealthiest women in England. Thomas had been made Master-General of the Ordnance in 1544 and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1545. He returned to court a few months before Henry's death and saw his brother Edward become Lord Protector of England and, in effect, ruler of the realm as Regent for his nephew, Henry VIII's minor son and successor, the short-lived Edward VI. As part of an 'unfulfilled gifts clause' left unmentioned in Henry's will, Thomas was granted the title Baron Seymour of Sudeley. However, Thomas' fervent desire was to unseat and replace his brother as Lord Protector.

Though Thomas Seymour's name had been linked to Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, he was still unmarried at the time of the King's death. One view is that Thomas schemed to marry either Princess Mary or Princess Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughters by his first two marriages, and there were rumours that he attempted to pursue a relationship with Elizabeth, still in her early teens. If he hoped for such a marriage as a route to power, he was unsuccessful, though his secret marriage to Catherine Parr, Elizabeth's guardian, in late April of 1547 was viewed by some as an attempt to become close to the young princess. Certainly, many regarded this marriage as having occurred too quickly after the King's death. Anne Stanhope, Somerset's proud wife, disliked Catherine and Thomas and began to turn many people in court against them. To demonstrate her hatred, Anne kept the Queen's jewels, which by right were Catherine's.

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