1st duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour

(c. 1500—1552) soldier and royal servant

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The foundation of Somerset's career was that he was elder brother of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife, and therefore uncle to Edward VI. His progress was by no means spectacular until his sister's marriage in May 1536. A week later he was made Viscount Beauchamp and the following year earl of Hertford. Great honours followed—the Garter in 1541, lord high admiral 1542–3, lieutenant‐general in the north 1544–5, when he waged war against the Scots. On Henry VIII's death in 1547, with his nephew aged 9, he became protector of the realm and duke of Somerset. For 2½ years he was the effective power in the land. In August 1547 he consolidated his position with a victory against the Scots at Pinkie Cleugh.

During 1549 Somerset's position collapsed completely. The prayer book issued under his auspices provoked a serious rising in Cornwall and Devon in June, and was followed in July by Kett's rebellion in Norfolk. The second was put down by Northumberland, who now emerged as Somerset's chief rival. In October Somerset was deprived of his protectorate and sent to the Tower. Though he was pardoned the following year and restored to the council, he was again sent to the Tower in October 1551 and executed in January 1552.

Subjects: British History.

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